Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ship's Log - Sailaway and beyond

This should really be before the post 'Post from the Red Sea' but I kinda did things in the wrong order and can't find a way to alter the order of posts... so sorry about that any any confusion it may cause.

Sailaway was on Sunday 6th at 10pm; no band playing dockside this time but we did get a good firework display send off. Oriana was late back from the Caribbean cruise, and had come back up from Portugal and to the English Channel in a Force 11!!! This, as you can imagine, filled me with a little trepidation!

So, I arrived about 9.20am on the Sunday, but Oriana hadn't finished even docking. Usually the ship arrives in the wee hours of the night so it's ready for crew to board first thing and for passengers to disembark during the earlier part of the morning. Because of the late arrival there were no passes from the ship ashore and ready for the joining crew. The queue was already pretty long when I arrived and didn't start to move until gone 11am. I boarded the ship just before noon. Everything was then behind schedule. Spent the afternoon traipsing up and down the stairs (determined not to use the lifts) going to and from offices in efforts to get all relevant paperwork done, have lunch, attend both crew safety induction and passenger muster (emergency drill), read through most of paperwork working out where I needed to be for when and what as part of the joining process - like getting my Laminex (pass to get me on & off ship at ports)... oh and yeah... unpacked as well.Which brings me to the matter of my cabin......... For some unknown reason I have been allocated a passenger cabin.... not just any old cabin, mind you, but a posh inside cabin - so no windows - but I do have a MASSIVE double bed, a small corner settee and table, a fridge and a bath!! Quite the lap of luxury - no lugging all electrical equipment to be PAC tested before I can use any of it, no crew rounds (Officers check crew cabins for tidiness, food, breakages etc) and no watertight doors. I also get my bed turned down at night and a chocolate left on my duvet! Yup! Am being totally spoilt. Not sure how this came about - I've just been told 'it's the luck of the draw'.

So, back to Sailaway.... we were informed by a Bridge announcement that the weather ahead was going to be 'slightly uncomfortable'. But the good news was that as we head across the Bay of Biscay and down the Iberian coast it would get better. Having seen the fireworks I went back to my sumptuous cabin. I went to bed with my acupuncture travel wrist bands on and after swallowing 2 Sturgenon 15 (can't remember how tis spelt) tablets. I emptied the kettle and placed it on the floor, along with the bottle of water and secured all doors, drawers and odds and ends.... just in case they start clunking around in the night when it gets rocky.

Woke at 3am - We had found the rough stuff. I lay in bed feeling fine and even smug after switching on the Tv and looking on the navigation channel to see it was Force 10. The ship was pitching forward and aft - I wasn't exactly rolling in my bed but I was moving gently from side to side. Ha! No worries! Still I couldn't get back to sleep again so ended up drawing one of the cabin lamps to use in class the next day!Walking about was another matter, as I found out later when I went up for brekkies at 8am. It was like the ship was full of blind drunk people - no-one having much sense of stability or direction! (One poor guy nearly fell into my lunch in the restaurant as he stumbled in the ship's motion) Some of course were too ill to leave their cabin and there are the obligatory 'motion discomfort bags' placed on the stairwells. I was doing extremely well... not a smidgeon queasy or off colour or anything.... well pleased with that.

The first two classes went well with 60 and 78 respectively. I expect that to lessesn as it gets warmer and they're all out enjoying the sunshine. Had fun trying to draw in the first class, by that time it had dropped to Force 9 but it was still very rocky. I had a mike in one hand, drawing with the other on a loose piece of paper that kept moving and it was a little tricky trying to keep still and not lose my balance.

By the time we got down near the bottom of Portugal and it had lessened to a lovely Force 5.

Post from the Red Sea

Now done Civitevecchia (Rome), Piraeus (Athens), Port Said (Cairo/Giza) and Sharm El Sheikh. I escorted tours for the first three going to the Colosseum (outside only), wallked through the Roman Forum and down the Spanish Steps in Rome. Took a tour out of the environs of Athens to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon. And in Port Said to Cairo and the Giza Plateau to see the pyramids and the Sphinx.

In Rome I joined three other pax (passengers) in a taxi to see the Spanish Steps - after we did the whirlwind tour of the Colosseum and Forum. Unfortunately no time to really look around the places and was very disappointed not to be able to go in the Colosseum. At the Spanish Steps we met a lovely old Italian guy who got into conversation with us. I suspected there would be a catch but he just obviously loved to chat to tourists. The trip to the Temple of Poseidon was along the coastline. The road hugging the shore line all the way twisting round bays, coves and inlets. It was cloudy all the way until we reached the Temple and the sun came out and stayed with us til we were homeward bound back to the ship. Poseidon wanted us to see his temple in true splendour! Found where Byron carved his name on one of the stones supporting a column. Vandal!

Really wanted to see the pyramids. If I had put myself forward as escort I might not get my first choice and if I only put the one tour I might not get it. And you don't find out if you're escorting or not until the evening before. So to make sure I didn't miss out on them I asked to pay and muck in with the pax on that one. Found out the evening before that they had put me as escort on that I could go free. Which was really helpful of them. However now wish they hadn't been so nice. We were at the pyramids for about an hour and my escort duties meant I only got 5-10 mins to hurridly get some vid and photo's. Very Frustrating! Would rather have paid the £82 and been just like the other pax.

Didn't see much of the Suez this time either as I now have two classes a day. Managed to get out on deck for about our last half hour of the transit before we moved out into the bay.
In Sharm we were at anchor so to get ashore they were using the Tenders (lifeboats). With the crew office shut I wasn't able to get my passport, SD book, crew landing form and customs declaration form (for my vid) that I would need to go ashore and I wasn't given a tour to escort. So I stayed on ship and painted the mountains across the bay from the top deck. It was sunny and fairly warm but still a very chilly wind. In Cairo our guide had said 'Welcome to Alaska!' I enjoyed my day off... the first to myself since I got on the ship 12 days previous.
Classes are going well and as I mentioned before I'm now doing two. I suggested the second after so many came to the first and a lot of them just wanted to paint and not necessarily have tuition as they were more advanced. So I arranged a more relaxed art club session where they can come along and paint/draw whatever they fancy and take as long as they like. I'd be on hand to offer help and guidance should they want it.

In the structured classes we've now moved onto painting. I was getting a mixed reaction to using gouache. They were curious but not necessarly keen to try it. Yesterdays class was me showing them how to use the paint and the techniques I use to paint things like trees, rocks, foliage and fur. Everybody who saw the demo were suddenly enthused and now the onboard shop is fast running out of their stock of gouache!

Weather-wise it has at last warmed up and the chilly breeze has been replaced by a warm one. We are steaming at 22 knots down throught the Red Sea, extra security personel walking the decks and watching for any ships or boats attempting to come up too close. I think we are more to the southern end of the Red Sea now as its now rougher outside -Force 8; whereas after leaving Sharm it was very calm.

Next stop is Oman... Salalah and Muscat.

Signing off