Sunday, 30 May 2010

Wednesday, April 7th

Today was the final day at sea before our long trip to Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings tomorrow. The temperature was 32 degrees so we did a spot of sunbathing after our morning walk and breakfast. I do not tend to spend as long in the sun as Keith does, mainly because I have very sensitive skin and often get heat rashes. Also, I need to be extremely careful and make sure I apply plenty of high factor sun cream, as I have had skin cancer previously. I now monitor every blemish and mole thoroughly and always wear a hat when out in such high temperatures.However, it does still feel nice to lie down with the sun warming your skin.As long as I'm sensible I feel happy relaxing with a book on a sun lounger. It's so much nicer to be able to do so in the privacy of our own balcony, too.

We managed to watch the lecture on Luxor/Karnak which was held yesterday on our TV in the cabin. They record each lecture and show it again throughout the next day in case anyone misses it. Just had some fruit for lunch - from the basket in the cabin. Today was the much-publicised Tug-of-War competition out on the Lido deck. We wandered out to take photos and some video footage. It was well attended but, to be honest, not much can happen really can it? Two teams tug, one team wins!  Keith got a few good action shots, however. I've no idea which team won, it was all over with so quickly and then I had to go to my choir rehearsal anyway.

Tonight was a formal night, which meant evening dress for me and dinner jacket, bow tie for Keith. At the dinner table, we had quite a laugh when Sylvia mentioned that she'd been talking to Val earlier in the day. "You see" said Sylvia, "I was telling Val that she would enjoy the companionship of a live animal". We all just burst out laughing and then of course all the alternatives to a "live" animal were thrown in to the conversation. Sylvia immediately joined in with the humour and we still laugh about it now!  I think taxidermists may have even been mentioned at one point.

Went to bed early as we have to be up at 5.30 in the morning! Early breakfast then disembark at 6.15am!

I have absolutely no idea what the man in the Spiderman Outfit was hoping to bring to the competition - he paraded around most of the time displaying a singular lack of Spiderman attributes. Not once did I see him scaling walls or even spinning webs. I guess the closest he got to actually behaving like a spider at all was when he clung on to the rope in the middle of the two teams! It's interesting to see how some competitors took it very seriously and even wore gloves with extra grip in order to assist the pulling action. However, when you look closer at that particular photo, it seems he needed all the help he could get on his side, as the older man in front of him just seems to be lightly holding the rope rather than wrenching arms out of sockets in order to win!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tuesday April 6th.

Another full day at sea. Still sailing up the Red Sea towards our first port of call in Egypt. We started the day with our now customary mile long walk around the promenade deck, passing by the usual people as we walked past them (we had given some people nick-names, as you do when you don't know their actual names). In the early morning shade down the starboard side of the deck, many people were always in the same loungers with their books or the daily crossword and/or sudoku puzzle. One of these men, I remember with hilarity because I really couldn't see the need for it, we christened "Underpant Man". He used to sit on his lounger, or sometimes he'd be standing up catching a few rays as we walked past, and instead of the usual shorts/ cargo pants/ swimming trunks you would expect men to be wearing, he would parade about in his underpants. Yes, you read it right the first time, his underpants! There really was no reason for it at all.

Another man reinforced my general impression that men with moustaches are quite often arrogant and tend to have characters I do not particularly like. I am not saying that every man who has a moustache is the same, or that there is anything wrong with men having a moustache - just commenting on a small observation of mine over the years. Anyway, back to the moustache man. He waddled along the deck in front of us this morning and suddenly stopped, gave an extremely loud phlegm-induced hawking noise and then disposed of the product produced by this action in the corner of the deck. Mmmm, how pleasant! I felt physically sick by this! I know sometimes coughing up phlegm is unavoidable, but usually don't people keep it private?

Another woman who we regularly saw on our walk was "Laundry woman". We only knew her by sight and because she'd given us some tips on how to use the machines down in the laundry room when we first went down there! There was "Arthur Two Sticks Jackson" - a man who needed two walking sticks in order to get about (although, to be fair, there were probably two or three likely contenders for this particular name) and just because I'm on the subject of nick-names, the best of all was "Passport Man" - but I will tell you how we gave him his name later on in my tale.

Only 29 degrees today, so slightly cooler than yesterday!!!! Did a spot of relaxing on our private balcony this morning before having a "civilised" lunch in the dining room. It's so pleasant to be waited on at meal-times! Today's meal was a rather delicious Cullen Skink soup followed by a roast beef sandwich. Read a bit more of our books after lunch, then I went to my 2nd choir rehearsal this afternoon. Sang "Edelweiss", "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho", "Flying Free" and "Ascot Gavotte". We were told to pencil in a date for the concert of April 18th. Edelweiss brought back some memories for me, since that was the song I sang almost a year ago exactly as my audition piece to join Hull Musical Society.

Keith not feeling too good all day, but still joined me at dinner. He just had a very plain meal of consommé followed by an omelette. No doubt I had fish of some description, but I've forgotten which one it was exactly tonight! The waiters always addressed the men as either "Mr Davison" (or whatever their surname happened to be) or, if the men were happy to be addressed by their first name, it was always "Sir Keith" which seemed rather regal, somehow! At the end of every meal, whether we were having a dessert or not, the waiters brought around a selection of Petits Fours, not dissimilar to these:

However, one of the waiters just kept getting it wrong and every night without fail, he would bring the tray to me, then say "Petit Pois, Madame Davison?" and I just couldn't tell him he was wrong - not because I didn't want to correct him, but because I rather liked the idea of eating some rather small green peas at the end of a meal! Oh, perhaps I should have mentioned that most of the cabin crew, in particular the waiting, kitchen, and cabin staff were Filipino people, extremely hard working and very eager to please at all times. They often made me laugh the way they never seemed to stop singing, either, especially at breakfast time.

Monday, April 5th

Another scorcher of a day was on the cards as we took our mile long walk before breakfast this morning. After a leisurely feast of orange juice, poached eggs, mushrooms, bacon, beans and toast (washed down with a cup of earl grey tea), we went to the destinations lecture in the ballroom. Given by Dr Peter Crimes, it was interesting to learn about the actual proximity of the pyramids to the city of Cairo - I'd always had an image in my mind of the pyramids being in the middle of the desert and nothing but sand all around. We would soon find out differently, but at least now we were prepared!

Had a bite to eat in the Lido cafe at lunch-time, then sat on the deck for a while, reading and enjoying the sunshine with a temperature of 30 degrees and a lovely cooling breeze. Yesterday, as we'd walked through the Preview bar at some point in the afternoon,  there were a group of passengers in there singing. It dawned on me, after reading through the "Today" bulletin, that this was the Saga Ruby passenger choir. Missing my weekly rehearsals with Hull Musical Society back home, I decided to take the plunge this afternoon and joined in half way through the rehearsal. I sat next to a woman called Gillian who let me share her music for the rehearsal. I got chatting to the musical director afterwards who at first assumed I was a member of the crew on board. Her name was Jacky March and she'd joined the cruise at Mumbai like us - but most of the other choir members had been singing together since January when the cruise began. They'd already done 3 or 4 concerts (with a different musical director) and there was a plan to perform one more towards the end of the tour. I was really pleased to be able to take part in this, since I was already missing a couple of concerts with my local society in Hull. Everyone was really welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed my first rehearsal with them.

After the rehearsal I joined Keith back in the cabin and read another book until dinner time. Keith was trying to learn some of his lines for the play we will be doing in June. I helped him a bit by testing him on the ones he'd learned already. At the dinner table tonight, as we all told each other what we'd been doing during the day, I found out that Geoff is also a singer in the Dalston Male Voice Choir in Cumbria. They perform quite regularly and have even made a couple of CDs. I tried to persuade him to come along to the passenger choir, but he doesn't want to! One of the pieces we are singing in the choir is "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho" which I had been rehearsing at home, but a slightly different version. I have been allocated a couple of second soprano notes in that piece, along with one of the other altos, a woman named Joy. We are planning to sing approximately 10 pieces in total at our concert - today I only sang 3 of them, so I'm looking forward to getting the rest of the music tomorrow in my own folder!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday, April 4th

Today was the first of 4 days we would be spending purely at sea. The weather was glorious, if not a tad humid. When I went out on deck with my video camera to try and film some flying fish, the camera seized up on me. I saw an error message come up on the screen, which I thought read "TAPE EJECT" so I duly took the camera back to the cabin in order to try and rectify the fault. I thought the tape had got jammed and was not looking forward to having to try and extract it. However, that was not the problem. It was only when I could actually read the message properly that I realised it had said "DEW DETECT" - similar to "TAPE EJECT" if you say it really quickly with your eyes closed!!! Anyway, after leaving the camera in the cabin for an hour or so, it recovered - but by then the flying fish had all flown away!!! They were amazing to watch; shoals of them at the side of the ship emerging from the water at great speed and with a seemingly endless flight path, only to submerge once more with grace some time later. It was probably not that great a distance, their flight, but when you are not used to seeing fish flying, it really is a remarkable sight!
Unfortunately, Keith never managed to get a decent enough photograph of them as they moved so quickly, but to give you an idea of what they look like. here's a beautiful photo I found on frogview:
The fish we saw were very much in shoals, but I clearly remember that sweeping movement they had as they flew across the sea.

When we returned from our walk after breakfast today, Marven (the cabin steward) was just leaving our cabin after cleaning and making the bed. We had a nice surprise waiting for us on the bed - an Easter egg each from the Captain! We'd not even thought about what day it was, as you tend to forget when you are on holiday, so it really was a surprise to us to see these:

The rest of the morning was spent doing a bit of clothes-washing down in the laundry-room of the ship - a trek down several decks and long corridors to a small but well-equipped place in which you took your chances with the system. We'd overheard one or two tales of the "whites" not getting washed properly and coming out with brown marks on them, but not really taken much notice. We should have done, obviously. The whites had slight yellow tinges in places - not sure if this was due to the rust in the pipes feeding the machines or something more sinister, but to be honest it wasn't that much of a problem as it was mostly underwear and we knew the tinges would wash out next time we did a wash at home. 

We had our lunch in the Lido Cafe today for the first time. We don't have much to eat at lunch-time so only really wanted a bit of salad and cold meat or cheese. However, we didn't really study the form properly, as when Keith went up to a table containing all the paraphernalia you would expect for such a dish (lettuce, cucumber, pickles, bread rolls, cold meat, tuna, cheese) he seemed to get a strange look from the serving staff. When it came to my turn to get something similar, the man in charge of this area told me I was in the "sandwich making" area - if I only wanted salad, that was somewhere else entirely. I went back to my table suitably admonished and not wanting to venture to any other food area within the lido for fear of doing the wrong thing! I didn't even get any bread with my meagre bits of "salad" (let's face it, they were really sandwich fillings, so what could I expect???). We spent some time after lunch on our balcony, reading and (in Keith's case, at least) learning lines for the next play.

We also went to the afternoon tea today for the one and only time on the cruise. Each day at around 4pm, a huge display of delicate cakes, buns, croissants, sweets, savoury snacks hot and cold was laid out in the ballroom. The attention to detail was spectacular and we just had a small amount of what was on offer - tea included, obviously. I was surprised at how popular this tradition is - I guess afternoon tea really is a British tradition that, for some people, will never die out. I just don't know where people manage to find the room for yet more food in their daily consumption!

We did our mile long walk at 5pm as well today, this time in reverse for a change. We then went back to the cabin to get showered and ready for our first "formal" night of the cruise. I really looked forward to these nights, as I thoroughly enjoy getting "dressed up" for dinner. There's something so romantic about it, in my mind - it makes me feel good, to get dressed in a long (or short) "posh" dress, do my hair and make-up, put on matching jewellery and evening bag. This evening I decided to wear the dress I'd originally wore at my sister's wedding in 2006 - I didn't have my photo taken in it on board but here's one taken at the wedding. You can just see my mum and dad behind me!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Saturday April 3rd

Today we docked at the General Cargo Terminal of Salalah in Oman at 9am. It was a very dry day with a temperature of 36 degrees by late morning! The excursion we'd booked onto today departed at 9.15am and was entitled "Scenic Salalah". Salalah is a coastal city, which is a traditional stronghold and the birthplace of the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said. We were looking forward to a trip to see the alleged resting place of Job in nearby Jabai Gadu also.

Once on board the coach we enjoyed the company of our guide for the day, Ahmed. He was extremely enthusiastic and easy to listen to - a great ambassador for his country and very knowledgeable as well as interesting. His English was not great, but my Arabic is non-existent so I wasn't complaining! He asked for us to correct him with any mistakes, which was actually an ongoing task, but quite endearing really! My favourite pronunciation was when he was talking about Noah, and he couldn't quite grasp the fact that the "h" at the end of the word is silent. His interpretation was therefore something like: "Noahuh". He also found the use of apostrophes confusing when talking about possessions. Instead of Job's Tomb, he kept referring to it as Job Toms! My opinion of him was probably biased because he took the time to single me out for thanks as we got off the coach for our first stop - he took my hand in both of his and thanked me for my support - he said that he could tell I was listening to him because I gave him eye contact all the time and looked interested in what he was saying. Obviously he went up in my estimation even further after that!

Anyway, onto the first stop of the morning's excursion - the beach and dramatic cliffs at Mugshail beach. The photo at the top of the blog shows the steps leading up to this cliff area - some of the shapes created in the rock look like the faces of mythical creatures. I particularly liked the sign that was placed at the foot of the cliffs for visitors - it should be something we all take note of where-ever we visit, but sadly it's not always the case.

We didn't take that many photographs today as Keith didn't fancy lugging his camera around in the temperatures we were experiencing, so these shots are all taken with my compact Canon Ixus - I took some video footage which I will be using along with the still photography in the DVD we finally produce.

There was a viewing area at the end of the cliff walk where there were blow holes through which the sea forces itself if the tide is high. These blow holes are perforations in the limestone rocks - some of the water fountains produced can be up to 100feet high. I got some footage on my video camera which portrays the sound of them as well, but here is a still photo just to give you a vague idea of the event:

Ahmed could never pronounce blow holes correctly either, and we now always refer to them as "bowl" holes like he did!

The coastline was beautiful, with nearly two miles of unspoilt, sandy white beaches beyond these cliffs. The views were inspiring. The journey to Mugshail beach was also interesting because of the number of camels just ambling along the road - they seemed to look at us with contempt as we slowed down to drive past them. Quite often I wondered how we avoided hitting them, actually, as they didn't seem at all put off by vehicles and even appeared to challenge them as they walked along!

We then travelled on up to the Qara Mountains where the site of Job's Tomb is said to be. This was less of a highlight and more of a damp squib, really. In order to go inside the building which houses said tomb, women had to make sure their shoulders were covered up and were advised to wear a scarf over their head and neck. Not too bad a task, in spite of the searing desert heat even up in the mountains! However, the tomb was in a building smaller than a garage and when we arrived there were already about 40 people inside. Added to this, we had to take our shoes off before going in. Again, this is not a big deal, but try to imagine taking your sandals off and stepping onto hot coals in your bare feet. OK, maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but the ground outside the tomb building was extremely hot and painful to walk on bare-footed. Once inside, we saw this:

 The best part of this little section of the trip was when Ahmed read out one of the notices on the wall, which was a transcript from the Koran relating to Job. He read it in arabic and it was more like a song than a recital of information. I only wish I'd had the foresight to ask him to do it again so that I could film him, it would have made a good piece of videography for our holiday DVD. Once we'd all looked at Job's exceptionally long tomb (he can't possibly have been 8ft tall, can he?) we were driven to see the walls of the Sultan's Palace. I stayed in the coach while Keith got off and took a photograph as quickly as he could before the other members of our party got out of the coach. That's the problem with coach parties - everyone wants to take photos of the same thing at the same time and invariably you end up with someone else's elbow/head/arse in shot as well as the object of choice! It was a shame we only got to see the walls of the Palace, not the Palace itself, and the only interesting feature of the wall was the tall clock tower.

The final stop of the day was to the Al Husn Souk in Salalah. Basically this was a street lined with shops selling frankincense, myrhh, incense, perfumed oils, clothing and a variety of artefacts.  However, as we had not intended to buy anything on this excursion and therefore had no money on us, it was pretty pointless looking in any of the shops. Added to this, the sun was now at its height and we found it unbearably hot. There was no shadow at all and we were extremely glad to finally get back into the air-conditioned coach. The image here is courtesy of a seasoned travel blogger, whose words you can read at

Once back on board the ship, we had a quick lunch in the dining room then had a rest in the cabin and carried on reading my book, Chasing Darkness. I actually finished the book today - Keith took a few photographs around the ship while I carried on reading.
This evening we had booked a table in the restaurant which was very conveniently just next to our cabin, through a fire door and down a few stairs. This restaurant provides a lovely alternative to dining in the Lido restaurant (more like a cafe, really) or the dining room as it only has seating for up to 30 people. We were looking forward to "eating out" for a change and had heard good reports about the food. We were not disappointed - we were very well looked after by the staff and once we had ordered our meals, the first surprise arrived at our table. A long serving plate containing 4 oriental styled spoons was placed in the centre of the table. Two of these spoons had their handles facing me, the others facing Keith. On one of each of our spoons was a smoked salmon , on the other was a small meatball in a delicious sauce. We thought this was a neat way of serving the hors d'oeuvres and it set the tone for the rest of the meal. For starters, I had a spinach and ricotta ravioli, Keith had seared scallops. We then followed with a turbot for me and fillet steak for Keith. Both were excellent. Our wine choice for the evening was a light red for a change (we usually like a merlot) and it was very quaffable - A Fleurie Beaujolais. The wine also went well with the side dish accompanying the meal - ciabatta bread and a choice of parsley butter and/or balsamic vinegar and olive oil  - mmm! At the end of the meal we were served another dish on a spoon, this time a sweet raspberry mousse.  We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and planned to visit The View again during our cruise.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Friday April 2nd

A lovely sunny day with a  temperature of 30 degrees Celsius which was tempered fairly well by a predicted force 4 wind - on the decks this often seems much stronger. We completed our mile long walk around the promenade deck today before breakfast, which gave us a healthy appetite and we both had a lovely omelette. Mine was a mushroom filled one, which was excellent. Spent a bit of time on the deck reading our books, then it got a bit too windy to do so comfortably so we went back to the cabin. Keith went to have lunch on his own since I wasn't all that hungry - I had some pieces of fresh fruit from the bowl in our cabin.

After lunch I decided to join in on the Watercolour Class, since the last time I painted anything in watercolours was so long ago I've almost forgotten the techniques required! The title of the lesson today was "Wisteria & Blossom" so I was really looking forward to having a go. The onboard tutor was a lady named Marjorie Bishop, and she has been teaching watercolour classes for many years. As I arrived in the Britannia Lounge I noticed that most of the other people assembled were already sitting down painting so I was worried that I'd got the time wrong! I got chatting to another man who was obviously new and soon after that Marjorie arrived. However, what I didn't realise was that we had to buy all the equipment needed for the class - only £15, but I really didn't see the point in buying even more watercolour paints, brushes, a watercolour pad and pencil when I've got more than enough at home already! I told Marjorie this and decided to just watch her demonstration instead. I sat next to my new "friend", Michael and another lady whose name I didn't manage to get. We spent the first 10 minutes just trying to take the paper off Michael's paints so that he could use them! The lesson itself was a bit rushed for my liking - most of the people were working on other paintings anyway, but at least I had a laugh chatting to Michael and watching him describe his efforts as "really bad wallpaper". He also had this habit of making involuntary noises as he painted each stroke - a sort of squeaky "mnnmnmn" here and there, which seemed to go with the flow of the paint!

The brush-strokes required for this lesson were carried over from the previous lesson on Oriental brush paintings of bamboo. I found it interesting just watching and Marjorie did take the time to go to each pupil once she had demonstrated how to do it - when she came to Michael's work, she realised he'd run out of water (he must have only put a small amount in the bottom of the cup to begin with) so I offered to go and fill it up. They were using paper cups and as I carried it back across the dance floor of the lounge, I realised there was a hole in the bottom of mine so I had to quickly run back to the bucket and get another one! It amused me, anyway! Michael let me have a go with his brush and paints, which I was glad to do but it just made me wish I'd known there would be a painting class onboard, then I could've brought my own watercolour paints and brushes with me.

This evening we went to the Welcome Cocktail Party which was held for all the new arrivals. We met several members of the crew, including the Cruise Manager, Jo Boase, or JoBo as she is affectionately known.  The Captain, Neil Broomhall, was on "Pirate Watch" so arrived at the party late, but still managed to speak to every one there, and he is a very likeable, approachable man ( even though Keith thought he looked like he should still be in school!).

Unfortunately, Keith was feeling unwell during the Cocktail Party - he had a Crohn's flare-up which invariably means a lot of pain and definitely no appetite. I didn't want to go to dinner without him so I ordered room service instead.

Tonight I decided to use the telephone in our cabin to call my parents. I spoke with my Mum for a few minutes just to let her know that we aren't able to text for the next few days but that we are OK. Even though technology is advanced these days, it's still impossible to get a mobile phone signal at sea!

We had an early night tonight after trying to watch a DVD in the cabin but giving up as the DVD player kept sticking. Looking forward to our first port of call tomorrow in Oman!

Here you can see the Shuffleboard area on the Bridge Deck. We never actually had a go but it was very popular with a lot of guests.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Thursday April 1st

Well, after getting accustomed to sleeping on a highish bed with a constant feeling of being rocked to sleep (only ever-so-gently, luckily) due to the movement of the ship along the sea, we decided to spend the day lazily - did a spot of sun-bathing on the deck (not too long, it was pretty hot out there today) and on our balcony.

 We also decided to try and send an email home, since I'd promised to let my sister know we'd arrived in Mumbai safely and our mobile phones had not been able to get a signal. The facilities on the ship for internet connection were frustratingly slow. I managed to log onto my Facebook account and send a message to my sis, but when I tried to log onto my hotmail account and email other family members, I simply could not do it. I think the system was struggling to cope with the number of people using the internet at that particular time, so I gave up after spending £4 getting nowhere! We are so used to just being able to connect immediately and without problems on a daily basis at home, that the computer room onboard the Ruby hardly interested us!

As you can see from the photos, the sky was blue with just a few clouds passing by and it was a perfect start to the cruising way of life.

On the Promenade Deck, there is a sign that tells us "7 laps = 1 mile". So we decided to try it for ourselves, and completed our first mile of the holiday in about 20mins.

Every day, the Captain would make an announcement over the tannoy at mid-day after the bells were rung. Today, he warned us that tomorrow we might be at risk from an attack by Somalian Pirates - although they were taking measures to ensure no such thing. Still, it was a potential threat and gave us something to think about!

During our lazing around in the cabin I spent some time reading one of my books, "Chasing Darkness" by a favourite author of mine, Robert Crais. Having nothing to do all day is a great way for me to read as much as possible, and I find myself really getting drawn into the world created by the author - it's a great feeling!

Here's the Promenade Deck, where we did our mile-long walk on an almost daily basis.

Each evening for dinner, we sit at a table with two other couples - this isn't compulsory, but when we booked the holiday, we opted to sit with either two or up to four other people, rather than spend each night dining with just each other. This isn't because we are not happy in each other's company but just that it makes for a more interesting conversation and it helps to swap information with other people on the cruise. The two couples were Dennis and Valerie Reavell, who live in Kent and Geoffrey and Sylvia Wiggins, who live in Carlisle. Dennis and Valerie had been on the Cruise since it began its World Tour way back in January and they had plenty of anecdotes to relay from previous ports and days at sea. Geoffrey and Sylvia, however, were newbies like us, as they'd flown to Mumbai, too and joined at the same time as us. Somehow or other, the conversation tonight got onto death and the morbid fact that there had been 5 deaths on the World Cruise so far!!! I suppose, given the fact that it is a Saga Holiday aimed at the older generation (I only qualify because Keith is a lot older than me!) then the chances of someone dying on board are fairly high! however, it made us change the subject rather quickly!

Some evenings are "themed" nights regarding the dress code - tonight was an informal/Indian theme (optional) and it was interesting to see how many of the guests had managed to purchase their Saris in India ready for the event. At the end of the night, the Ladies in costume paraded up and down a catwalk in the ballroom and had their photograph taken by the Staff Photographer. Valerie had a green and gold Sari outfit which suited her very well. Needless to say, we didn't partake!

Lectures were a popular attraction on board, today's offering was from Dr Andrew Baxter, a Scientist & Traveller, entitled "Around the Indian Sub-Continent - People & Places!". These lectures were held in either the ballroom or the cinema. Some guests went to every lecture going, we only went to two on the entire cruise. If you missed one, however, and really wanted to see it, you could always catch it the next day on the TV in your cabin!

Evening entertainment (again, not one of our particular pleasures) was often classical, this evening it was the turn of a "Cello Diva", Sarah Jessica Maer - as an "April Fool", the staff had written her name down in the "Today" information sheet as "Sarah Jessica Parker". Hmm, wonder how many were fooled by that!

We had an early night after our evening meal, all the sea air feels good but certainly tires you!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Mumbai to Southampton in 3 weeks

On 30th March 2010 my husband, Keith, and I embarked on a long-planned holiday to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary later this year. Since we'd had a particularly cold winter in the UK, we were both very much looking forward to feeling the sun on our faces for a change. Our holiday started in style as we were picked up by a chauffeur at our house on the afternoon of Tuesday March 30th for our drive down to Heathrow to catch the overnight flight to Mumbai.

Our arrival in Mumbai was at about 11.30am local time and as expected, it was overwhelmingly hot! I had developed an absolutely awful head-ache during the flight, however, and wanted nothing more than to hide in a darkened room. We assembled ready for our coach to  take us to the ship - a journey of more than 2 hours, which I couldn't fully appreciate due to my head pain. Having said that, the initial response to Mumbai was one of jaw-dropping mesmerisation (if there is such a word!).

The city is vast, with the majority of buildings being slum dwellings. I didn't manage to take any photos on this coach journey, but if you can imagine every available space being taken up by corrugated tin huts, with barely any space to walk between them you won't be far wrong. Every tin hut appeared to have a satellite dish on the top and of course there was the line of washing hanging outside each one too.

We were told by the guide on the coach that Mumbai has a population of approximately 18million people, with 5million of those being slum-dwellers. Apparently, 5000 new residents are migrating to Mumbai from surrounding villages every week, so the actual figures are constantly changing and practically impossible to verify.

The roads through the city are heaving with traffic and people, and are in a poor state - I made a mental note to myself not to complain about the pot-holes back home! Despite the fact that the slums are so obviously over-populated and not particularly pleasant as a choice of dwelling, Mumbai actually depends on them for part of the economy. A lot of home-made items - in particular, some of the most popular Indian snacks, come from small family businesses operating in the slums. Every tin hut (I cannot call them houses) has a water supply, electricity and a TV, which I was amazed at!

The local taxis that intrigued me the most were ones like this yellow and black "Auto rickshaw"  -there were so many of them! Image is courtesy of  "MumbaiDailySnapshot" on Flickr, you can view more of his images here: MumbaiDailySnapshot

We also saw some rather unstable methods of transporting goods and people and it made me wonder how many traffic accidents they must have on a daily basis. At one point, I looked out of the coach window and my heart nearly stopped - riding along on the road next the coach, weaving in between the other 6 lines of traffic (on a  road only wide enough to fit 2 lanes of traffic comfortably) was a woman on a moped with a small child just standing on the footrest in front of her - the child couldn't have been more than 3 years old!

Anyway, after our culture shock of India, we managed to board our ship, the MV Saga Ruby, by 3pm. We were shown to our cabin, our luggage was brought up to us soon after and we unpacked then I tried to sleep off my headache before our evening meal.