A Travellerspoint blog

Salalah, Oman - Thursday, 28 March 2019

Salalah by 4x4

sunny 26 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

Today we went ashore in Salalah and explored the area by jeep - a totally new experience for us. Salalah is the capital city of Oman's southern Dhofar region and the main port in Southern Oman. Often referred to as "Arabia's Perfume Capital" due to the fragrant groves of frankincense trees, Salalah is a city of contrast, surrounded by a barren desert landscape.

Our Greek friend Aghi's son, Elias lives in Muscat and is the vet to the Sultan's horses and has recently been made the Greek Consul in Muscat. We were going to meet up with Aghi, Elias and his family while our ship was in Salalah, but then discovered it was a nine hour drive from Muscat to Salalah, so decided against it!!

We were up at 6am to be dressed and ready for our breakfast when it arrived at 7am. The ship docked in Salalah precisely at 7am and our breakfast arrived then too. Today's dress of the day - shoulders and knees must be covered. It is also expected to be about 26 degrees which will be very nice. Looking forward to our Salalah by 4 x 4 excursion. Robin and Chris and Yemi and Fiona are doing it too.

All those going ashore congregated on Deck 2 at the Golden Lion Pub to receive our tour group stickers. Ours was the first group to leave.

All our Toyota Land Cruiser 4 wheel drives were lined up on the dock - four per car. We went with Robin and Chris. Our driver's name was Mohammed who was quite a pleasant young chap, with pretty good English. I think there were about 11 cars.

We drove in convoy out of the port area for about 45 minutes east of Salalah to the old town of Taqah on a fantastic road before we turned off onto a dirt road and drove up onto the cliffs. This was just a photo stop but pretty impressive being perched up on some very high cliffs with magnificent views both ways.

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We were roaring along the highway at speeds of 130/140 kmh. It is very dry and dusty. The houses are quite large, three and four story and look reasonably new, but there are no gardens, trees or grass around them which doesn't look very nice. Of course I realise that water is a huge issue here.

We were told to wear clothes today that covered our shoulders and knees and yet still one woman was in short shorts and another in our group had her shoulders bare. Some people!

Our next stop was an archological site at Sumhuram. It was originally thought that the Queen of Sheba's palace was here but after they worked out the dates, they were out by about 600 years. This was where the White Gold was grown - frankincense was grown. The bark of the frankincense tree is cut and a white sap leaks out. It is left to harden for a couple of days and then harvested.

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It is getting hot but there is a nice breeze blowing which makes it quite bearable.

We visited a spring at Wadi Darbat which is the home to many donkeys, camels and goats. We saw many herds of goats along the way and lots and lots of camels, that seem quite small. There was a warning sign about a snail in the water that can transmit the disease bilharaziasus. There was the cutest little bird nest in the tree.

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Our last stop was at another lovely natural spring at Ain Razat which had some beautifully manicured gardens. There was also a cave not very far up and I climbed up there with some other travellers. Nice view from up there.

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I actually ventured to the loo here and of course, it was a public toilet, squat style. That was okay except there was no flushing water or any water for that matter and it was pretty smelly, especially because I was squatting, my nose was quite close to the ground!

We have FINALLY met some other Aussies, and would you believe they, Pam and Ron, live at the Central Coast of New South Wales at Terrigal but Pam grew up in Canberra and went to school with my golf friend Jocelyn and knows another friend from Royal Canberra! Small world!

We arrived back at the ship in time for lunch and for the first time since I left home, I was hungry. Even Yemi and Fiona joined us for lunch and they never eat lunch. They were hungry too.

Back to our cabin for reading/resting/sleeping and waiting to leave Salalah port at 3.30 pm. Of course, there are always some people who haven't had their card swiped once they boarded the ship, so after several announcements looking for these people, we were underway just after 4pm. The poor captain must get so sick of this.

Happy Hour, as usual, is a G&T on the balcony, watching the sun set on the horizon. Life is good, very, very good.

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Tonight for dinner we have ordered Romeny Rack of Lamb for two. Our table is getting special attention from Osman, the maitre de who is a Turk from Ankara and he and Phil speak Turkish together.

Our lamb for dinner was just delicious and after dinner we went with Chris and Robin to see a show in The Queen's room. It was four young sopranos singing opera and pop. They were four opera singing friends from Scotland, London, Jersey and Somerset. They sang some popular songs and well known opera songs but it was all a bit too screechy. They really needed a couple of altos in the mix as well to balance the sound. But it was nice to see a show.

At the end of the show, I spoke to the young soprano from Scotland whose name was Wendy. She said she had never met another Wendy, but at least knew our name came from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy, written in 1922. In a couple of years, our name will be 100 years old.

Into bed by midnight.

Posted by gaddingabout 15:28 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

At Sea - Wednesday, 27 March 2019

sunny 26 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
Another day at sea. The ocean is very calm and QM2 is just gliding through the water. So far, so good for me!

Last night, and for the next few nights, because we are sailing through pirate infested waters, we have to keep our curtains closed and the external lighting on the ship is kept to a minimum. It seems quite bizarre.

I had my usual pink grapefruit for breakfast, followed by eggs benedict today. It was very nice. Chris and Robin joined us for breakfast but Yemi and Fiona don't eat breakfast.

At 11.00 am we went to a lecture by Captain Richard Hayman entitled When China Ruled the Waves. I slept through most of it and Phil nodded off as well. We found the ship's photo lab and looked up our photo with the captain from last night's cocktail party. It's not the greatest photo ever taken of both of us but at least it's a memento.

We had a light lunch with Chris and Robin and ordered Lobster Thermidore for dinner tonight. Being in the Queen's grill is just wonderful. They are so obliging and attentive. If it's not on the menu, just ask and give them a bit of notice and they will make it up for you. Wonderful service.

So, this afternoon we go back to the Illuminations Theatre to hear General Sir Simon Mayall speak about The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire. Phil's choice. Well, he slept all the way through and didn't hear a thing. At least I didn't nod off until the end. We are both shockers!!

We have decided not to attend afternoon tea today as we want to enjoy our lobster thermidore tonight.

Dinner tonight was delicious. Four of us had lobster, one had salmon and one had Dover Sole. We are eating VERY well!

Early to bed tonight as we are going ashore tomorrow at 8.30 am on a four wheel excursion of Salalah.

Posted by gaddingabout 14:57 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

At Sea - Tuesday, 26 March 2019

sunny 26 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
Gala Evening - Black and White Ball

We had a lovely sleep and woke with the alarm at 7am but promptly went back to sleep and woke after 8am. Breakfast was from 8 to 9.30 am today.

Chris and Robin were at breakfast.

This morning at 10 am, we had another drill in case pirates attack the ship. Those of us in outside cabins with balconies have to move into the corridor and sit on the floor or a chair until the "all clear" is sounded. Between 26 and 30 March, either side of Salalah, we will be transitting the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el Mandeb. This is an area well documented in the world's media with regard to the threat from piracy. Therefore, when at sea during this period, a higher level of security is operated.

QM2 will be routed through an internationally recommended transit corridor and will be under the protection of an International Task Force, assigned by a United Nations mandate to protect merchant ships from a piracy threat. Deck 7, the external Promenade Deck will be closed from dusk to dawn during the next few days.

A helicopter arrived this morning and the rifles were brought on board, plus a British Naval Officer and about three or four SAS/marine soldiers/sailors. It's nice to know they take these threats seriously and that the passengers' safety is paramount.

After the piracy drill, Phil and I explored the ship to get our bearings. We went down to Deck 3 and found the shops and wandered all over the ship, up and down. There is the Commodore Lounge at the front of the ship on our level, Deck 9 and I checked out the Laundrette on Deck 8 where I can do some ironing.

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I am very glad that we are in a Queen Grill Room not just because we have a bigger room and butler service, but our dining is top class, not like the "feeding time at the zoo" buffet meals.

The ship is full of pommies. For those of you who don't understand the Australian venacular, "pommie" is a term of endearment that Australians use when speaking about people from the United Kingdom. There are a couple of explanations of where the term came from - one is that when the English arrived in Australia, our climate was so hot compared to theirs, so their cheeks went red, just like the colour of a pomegranite, or the one I prefer and think is probably the correct one, is that when the convicts arrived in Australia on the First Fleet, they has POME stamped on their clothes which stands for "Prisoner of Mother England".

During the piracy drill, we met our next door neighbour, Mike from the Midlands. He has been a widower for 15 months and he and his wife had done some cruising before and decided to try it on his own. Very sad - he and his wife were booked on a round the world cruise and she left the doctor's surgery as a healthy 65 year old and dropped dead on the pavement from a blood clot! Cunard immediately refunded ALL his money. Now, that is a company that wants to keep its customers.

After lunch we attended a couple of lectures. One by Captain David Wilkinson, OBE, RN (Retd) about the piracy threat of modern day pirates and the next one by Captain Richard Hayman, Maritime Sea Captain on the Ancient Trade Routes of the Indian Ocean: the Maritime Silk Route".

We then headed up to the Queen's Grill for afternoon tea that Chris and Robin had told us about and they were so right. The scones were yummy.

Tonight is a Gala Night so we are donning the glad rags and going to the Black and White Ball after dinner. We have also been invited to the Captain's Cocktail Party at 7.45 pm which we will attend for a short while before dinner. We have ordered a Beef Wellington for dinner tonight.

Phil is having a rest before this evening's frivolities and I am sitting on the balcony, catching up with my blogging, drinking a G&T!

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It has been a day of drinking and eating! Better slow down tomorrow.

So far, and it is only Day 1, but the ocean has been like a mill pond and you wouldn't even know you were on board a ship. Let's hope it stays like that.

This is where our cabin is located.

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Tonight was a gala evening - the Black and White Ball. So we were very happy to be invited to a cocktail party to meet the Captain. He was very nice and we had a photo taken with him. We had one champagne at the cocktail party with Chris and Robin and then joined Yemi and Fiona upstairs for dinner. Phil and I had ordered a Beef Wellington for two and it was delicious.

Lots of lively chatter at our table. It is nice to get to know our fellow travellers better. Apparently there are about 150 Australians on board. We haven't met one!

Yemi is 65 and Fiona just turned 60 a couple of days ago which makes her a Pig like me and Robin. Phil and Chris are Virgos and Yemi is a horse. Robin and I are both Libran Golden Pigs and I am six days older than Robin. We didn't finish dinner until almost 11 pm, so we didn't go to the Black and White Ball after all.

A lovely day with too much eating and drinking. Better slow down tomorrow!

Posted by gaddingabout 14:19 Comments (0)

Dubai - Monday, 25 March 2019

Embark the Queen Mary 2

overcast 31 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

Today is the day we join the Queen Mary 2 for our luxurious three week cruise down the Arabian Peninsula, through the Red Sea, up the Suez Canal, through the Mediterranean to Southampton. Whoo hoo! Getting very excited, if not a little apprehensive about seasickness, but everyone says I won't feel a thing!

For the stats lovers, here is a little bit of info about the ship.

RMS Queen Mary 2 is a transatlantic ocean liner. She is the largest ocean liner ever built, having served as the flagship of the Cunard Line since succeeding the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2004. As of 2019, Queen Mary 2 is the only passenger ship operating as an ocean liner. She is 345 m long; is capable of 30 knots (56 km/h or 35 mph) and can accommodate 2,695 passengers after the 2016 refit. It cost 460 million UK pounds to build her (or US $687 million).

When we went to breakfast this morning, I looked out the window and there she was - The Queen Mary 2 in all her glory. She is huge! Starting to get very excited now.

After acquiting our account, we went down to the foyer and waited with the others for some instructions about boarding the bus that would take us to the Queen Mary 2. There was a bit of confusion but finally someone announced that all those who were to board at 12 noon, were to take their luggage out to the bus and board it. After about ten minutes we arrived at Terminal 3 and proceeded inside with passports in hand. We passed through immigration okay and then were asked for our tickets, which we didn't have. Phil had them in the folder in his carry on which, for the first time ever, he had left to be taken on board by the staff. At least we had our luggage tags on my backpack so we knew what our cabin number was. We passed through two security checks and then out to the wharf, where there was a queue waiting to board which moved quite quickly and before we knew it, we were aboard.

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Dubai was very windy today and engulfed in a dust storm.

We found our way to our cabin and were greeted very warmly by our Butler Joel and his helper Dennis. Our cabin is gorgeous. We have an entry passage with an enormous cupboard, a floral arrangement and a fruit and coffee station. We have a lounge room and bedroom combined then an office/passage way through to a walk in wardrobe with a million coat hangers and a large bathroom with a spa bath. We also have a verandah with two deck chairs. We are on Deck 9 Room 9047 mid ships.

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Joel and Dennis told us everything we needed to know.

We then headed off the the 7th deck to find the Queen's Grill for lunch. This was quite difficult to find because we went down the wrong stairs, but we came back the correct way, so that's one hurdle we have crossed.

The Queen's Grill, where we will be eating all our meals, is exquisite. Most of the tables are for two people, but we opted to sit at a table for six. We haven't met our other diners yet. So far, all we have met are pommies.

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Lunch was a light snack which consisted of a crab salad and lemon mousse with berries for me and a mushroom ciabata and icecream for Phil. It was just enough.

After lunch, our luggage had been delivered to our room and we unpacked and settled in for three weeks of heaven. All the drinks in our bar fridge are complimentary and will be replaced as we use them. Also, we are entitled to two litre bottles of our choice of alcohol, but it must be consumed in our cabin. Yes, we can do that! And when they are empty, they are replaced.

At 5 pm we had a life jacket drill and assembled with our group downstairs. We haven't seen any of the people who were staying on the QE2.

We were supposed to leave Dubai just after 6.30 pm but they kept making announcements asking for about five people to urgently contact reception. Then they kept calling for Mr and Mrs Rogerson to urgently contact reception. I wonder whether they made it back on board or whether we sailed without them.

We were siting on our balcony having a drink and the call to prayer started at 6.30 pm and it was lovely. There were many different calls and they were echoing all over Dubai. It was lovely to hear.

We were waiting to watch the ship leave port but had to get ready for dinner and while we were getting dressed, the ship left port and we didn't feel a thing. We are part of a table of six - Chris and Robin from a small village called Liere in the Midlands and Fiona and Yemi from Alberta, Canada. Very, very nice people and we all got on very well together. We all can't get over why most of our dining room is filled with tables for two. How boring!

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Our meals were all lovely. I am so glad we are in a Queens Grill Suite. It is really a la carte dining.

I am going to have a nice relaxing bath, maybe even a spa and see what tomorrow brings.

Posted by gaddingabout 13:45 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Dubai - Sunday, 24 March 2019

Free day in Dubai

overcast 31 °C
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QE2 Floating Hotel - Room No 2075

We were both in bed and asleep by 9 pm, had a good night's sleep and woke naturally just before the alarm which was set for 7 am. The bed is a huge king sized bed and is very comfortable. So are the pillows.

Breakfast was held in The Lido, which is a huge room overlooking the port. Not many people around. Either they are all sleepy heads or don't eat breakfast! There is a group of 70 pommies staying here, who will be sailing with us on the Queen Mary 2 tomorrow. We met and chatted with some at breakfast. No name exchange yet.

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After breakfast we wandered around the ship. Most areas are deserted.

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The theatre has the most exquisite wall paper.

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This is the Queen's Grill Dining Room, the best restaurant on the QE2.

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We have met up with Paul, who will be on the Queen Mary 2 with us and has been on 32 Cunard cruises.

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Oh no, Phil is sailing the ship!

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Agi, our lovely friend from Greece, who worked at the Australian Embassy in Athens when Phil was on posting there in the seventies, flew over to Dubai from Muscat, Oman to have lunch with us today and left a few hours later to fly back to Muscat. Now THAT is friendship! We last saw Agi in Greece in 2014 and were planning to go to Greece in June of this year, but our trip to the Norwegian Fjords has been postponed until June 2020, so we will see her again following that trip when we call into Athens on our way to Croatia.

We had a buffet lunch in the Lido and there was every type of food imaginable there. But the same thing happened at lunch as it did at breakfast. About half way through meal they started playing loud rock and roll music through the speakers. Weird! You can hardly hear yourself think.

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We have had far too much food today and have decided to skip dinner this evening. Tomorrow is the big day - boarding the Queen Mary.

Posted by gaddingabout 09:50 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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