This is our second day at sea since departing Mumbai, India. We will arrive in Dubai, UAE around noon tomorrow. We had a time change for 1 hour back on the night of the 21st and then another half-hour back last night. As a result I was up a 5:30 this morning to watch the beautiful sunrise over the Arabian Sea.
Since there is not much activity aboard, which I will explain later in the blog, I am taking this opportunity to talk about a number of sundry topics.
The health situation on the ship is strange. We have had some restrictions now for almost a month. It started with no longer allowing buffet style serving in the Lido, which didn’t affect us much since we seldom eat in the Lido. They also instituted no salt & pepper on the tables in the dining room and your bread is served by your attendant rather than placed on the table. Again, these were no big issues. The captain and the cruise director continue to daily stress hygiene in regards to frequently washing your hands and Purell is everywhere! The strange thing is that we have actually seen or talked with hardly anyone who has had GI problems. We learned a couple of days ago that since March 1st or in 20 days there had been 53 passengers and 16 crew members who have been diagnosed and quarantined. That doesn’t seem like a great number considering there are over 1600 crew and passengers onboard, but if left unchecked it could become rampant.
The captain seems most frustrated that we can’t get the outbreak eliminated. It is his belief that there is one or a few who creating the problem. The situation is now beginning to affect our routine. They have closed the Thermal Spa, which to our knowledge only about a dozen of us have a membership to. Just two days ago the gym was closed. All table games have been discontinued. You can’t check out a book at or even pick up a Sudoku sheet without getting it from the librarian. They are not allowed to place the on the open table.
What is most irritating though, is that you can still go to the Casino (they even had a big event last night), you can still shop in the shops and you can go to the gym if you are paying for a personal trainer. You can’t get a Sudoku sheet but it is no problem to pick up a shore excursion form from the rack outside the desk. You can still peruse the photo shop. If the situation is this serious, why are they only closing the non-revenue producing venues and not the revenue producing venues? Despite the continuing outcry for more hand washing and the closing of selected activities, if they are really serious EVERYTHING should be shut down, both revenue producing as well as non-revenue producing. End of my rant.
· We just received a notice that during the port of Dubai, special procedures will be taken to super-sanitize all staterooms tomorrow. Everyone is asked to vacate their cabin between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM. Hopefully this will help alleviate the problems. Our cabin attendant, Budi, told me that he understood there were currently 6 cases of GI onboard.
On a positive note regarding the health issue, the crew has been fantastic. Both our cabin stewards and the dining stewards have had to take on an immense load in addition to their normal full days. The cabin stewards daily sanitize every hard surface in our cabin in addition to their normal cleaning. They also sanitize EVERY hall handrail and every outside door HOURLY and sanitize all the hall walls at least once a day. They do this while still maintaining a cheerful and courteous manner. I just can’t say enough about the ability, curtesy, and friendliness of the crew and especially our stewards.
Below are a few of the many people who help to make this cruise both a fun and memorable adventure.
Budi, one our most excellent Stateroom Attendants
Didi, one our most excellent Stateroom Attendants
Laika one of our dining room Stewards.
Ali, our head dining room steward.
Ernie, who takes care of all our wine needs.
Eka, the happy face you see as you leave the dining room each evening. He is there to dispense a mint, a date, a toothpick or just a smile.
Presty, our Assistant Dining Room Manager, who has assisted us in so many ways they can’t be enumerated. Here he is doing double duty as a greeter and helper on shore.
On another note, it still amazes me how the crew continually maintains the ship. In the past three months our veranda has been completely painted at least once and the bannister has been varnished at least three times. It is thoroughly hosed at least weekly and our glass windbreak is cleaned daily. This is just our veranda. The same procedure is seen everywhere on the ship.
One of the best and occasionally not the best things about long cruises is the entertainment. You have the opportunity to see some extremely talented and sometimes famed performers. You occasionally even find a new gem. That was the case with a group which have performed twice in the past week. It is a group of 5 young men from Liverpool, London who call themselves Ukebox. They all play different versions of the ukulele, tenor, alto, bass, banjo and soprano. I never knew there were so many varieties. We almost didn’t go to hear their performance the first time, after all – a ukulele band? Well what a surprise. They performed so many different genres of music and performed them well. We heard everything from country to of course the Beatles. Their performance was very refreshing.
I mentioned in a few posts back that water cannons had been installed on the promenade deck after we left Sri Lanka. On the 21st we received a letter from Captain Mercer outlining the precautions which were being taken as we transit the Arabian Sea towards the Persian Gulf and until we reach the Suez Canal. The captain emphasized that it was VERY unlikely that an incident would occur due to the much increased vigilance and corporation of the many nations who have shipping interest in this area, but the following procedures were being implemented.
1. The Amsterdam will be reporting regularly to UKMTO in Dubai. UKMTO is the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization who co-ordinate all of the coalition warships in the area assigned to anti-piracy operations. We are being tracked during our entire transit and although we may not see them, warships and AWACs will be monitoring us.
2. A close radar watch will be kept on the Bridge.
3. We have extra Security Guards on deck 24/7.
4. We have 4 LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) rigged, manned, and ready for immediate use.
5. We will also have charged water hoses ready for use on both sides of the Lower Promenade deck.
6. We have rigged razor wire on our freeboard deck, if a boarding were attempted, it would be on deck 3.
We also had a practice drill for the event there was even a suspicious spotting of a vessel. We are instructed to vacate our cabins and sit in the hallways. If the captain has to increase to full speed and makes avoidance maneuvers, you need to be sitting…
Although it is very unlikely we will see any of this excitement, the precautions taken do instill confidence in our crossing.
We just this afternoon received a letter from the captain with a slightly revised schedule for the next few days. Due to the short distance from Dubai to Muscat, Oman (our next stop), the captain was concerned that our speed would be so slow that it would increase our venerability to any possible pirate attack. He requested from management ashore and received permission to extend our stay in Dubai from 5 PM on the 24th until 6 AM on the25st. This will allow us to proceed at 18 knots speed and arrive in Muscat at 1:00 AM on the 26th instead of 8:00 AM. This is good news since it gives us an extra night in Dubai.
Water cannon and razor wire.
Fernandez, one of the security officers which stand watch on the deck around the clock, working six hour shifts.
Mr. Stein Krouse, CEO of Holland America Group and Mr. Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America Line will be joining the cruise for a segment. They have invited us to attend (with a large group of others, I am sure) a special event in Ephesus featuring the Aegean Chamber Orchestra. Heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a hosted bar will be provided. We will leave at 6:00 PM and be returning around 10:30 PM. It will make for a long day since we have a seven hour excursion that morning, but it should be fun.
I will close now, having assaulted you with a cacophony of information and tidbits. Some of which hopefully you will have found interesting.