As I write we are crossing the Tasman Sea heading towards the Land of the Long White Cloud. But more on that later.
We have rounded the very northern tip of Australia and travelled down the entire east coast taking the inland route through the Great Barrier Reef. Our first stop was Darwin in the Northern Territories then Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Islands, Mooloolaba, Sydney, Phillip Island and finally Melbourne. Unfortunately I had to cancel Mooloolaba due to the swell being too much to ensure a safe transfer for our guests onto the tenders.
We had an overnight in Cairns. Debbie went touring into the hinterland on a train and cable car and whilst the first day was hot and wet the second day was hot and dry. With easy access to the corals of the barrier reef this is a popular spot for taking boats out to see the natural wonder.
I on the other hand used the time in port to catch up with my inspections and paperwork, walk the ship and talk to the guests that chose to remain onboard. A quiet night in was just what was needed as well. Nothing exciting but most relaxing! The run though the barrier reef is stunning. It is difficult to capture the colours of the waters caused by reefs just under the surface. Patches of turquoise water give their presence away. There are only a very few navigable routes through the reef hence the reason we employ the services of a specialist pilot to guide us. Ian perry joined us in Darwin and left with the Mooloolaba pilot at the northern end of Moreton Bay.
We anchored for the day at Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Island group. It was an idyllic spot. Spring tides sluiced the water at a great rate between the coral heads which gave our tender boat drivers a few challenges. Rates up to 3 knots meant the water swirled, twisted and turned all around us. When the guests got ashore an island paradise awaited them.
The next stop was Mooloolaba in Queensland. When we got to the anchorage it was evident that the swell running in from the open sea was going to be too much to safely run our tenders. However, I launched the tenders and rigged the platform and ran the stern thrusters to see if there was any way we could operate a service safely. My sister in Law was waiting ashore for my wife, her sister to meet up. No pressure! As soon as a wave washed over the platform that was it. I had to cancel.
We picked up our boats and anchor and set off south to Sydney where we docked the night before we were scheduled too. At least it gave the guests a chance to enjoy the run into this truly iconic harbour even though the weather did its best to spoil it.
We said farewell to many guests, some who had travelled from Athens or Dubai or Singapore or Bali.
Next stop was Phillip Island and Melbourne in the State of Victoria.
As Aotearoa gets nearer I am getting quite excited. The prospect of visiting Milford Sound again is very exciting. I have been into that sound so many times but I never ever get tired of it. Its magnificent.
I am nearly home.
Good Lord! Is that the date. It has been a while since my last update. Thank you for the emails prodding me into action to update the blog. Thank you to the kind lady who wrote asking if I was still alive due to the inactivity on the blog. I can confirm madam that the last time I looked in my mirror there was some semblance of life although at 4am getting up for an early arrival I use the term life loosely. I am not a morning person.
Anyway I digress. Since my last update we perambulated on down the West coast of India visiting New Mangalore and Cochin and continued the sensual assault that is India. Old mangalore must really be a sight to behold. The crossing of the Bay of Bengal was benign for which I give thanks to the person in charge of weather for the bay can be a beast of a place at times. On this occasion it was not. Granted we had a few celestial sprinklings but not the vertical stair rods of rain I have experienced in the past.
We visited Langkawi in Malaysia where we met the Seabourn Sojourn and ended up alongside the rather swish cruise terminal in Singapore. We met the Seabourn Sojourn again. Here our Godmother, Sarah Brightman named our good vessel Seabourn Encore and bestowed the Good Lords blessings upon myself and the good crew and all others who sail in her. I was on stage with her. I was very proud.I was very nervous. I did not stuff it up despite my inner voice telling me that on no account should I do so in front of the worlds travel media.
We sailed, following the Seabourn Sojourn out of Singapore bay and headed for the Indonesian archipelago.Whats more, my good wife Debbie was along for the ride. Happy am I. It is monsoon season. Then again when is it not in this neck of the woods. The word Monsoon to me conjures up a feeling of some exotic far off land.
We visited the ports of Semarang, Surabaya, Probolinggo, Celukan Bawang and Komodo before finishing the voyage in Bali.
On the way to Semarang we crossed the Equator and traditions were upheld. Members of the ships Company who had not crossed the line before were subjected to the ritual summoning before the judge and a trip to the barber, surgeon or both. Ships Doctor Tim was promoted to surgeon although some of his diagnoses were a little inaccurate. His medicine of copious amounts of sickly coloured goo seemed to do the trick though.
It was another great day at sea.
Whilst I remained onboard to carry on the ships business Debbie escorted tours and met the guests on the way. She will have seen more of Indonesia than I have already.
Today we are lying at anchor at Komodo island home of the dragon. Actually a rather large lizard. In fact a huge lizard.The guests go ashore with a ranger as this whole area is a protected natural marine reserve. Whilst at anchor we are surrounded by noisy people in colourful canoes coming for a look at us.
We leave in a few hours for Darwin Australia. The sun is setting over a real life Jurassic park.
We have arrived on the continent of sensory bombardment. India. Eyes, ears, taste, touch and smell all get a hammering in India. And I love it. Many people don’t. Thats ok. But I adore this place. Once you get past the stifling paperwork that is.
Whilst we were in Abu Dhabi a guest on a ship ahead of us took a photo which made it way to me. I am sure they won’t mind we sharing it.
We crossed the Arabian Sea from Oman spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day on the ocean wave. There were rather a lot of ocean waves actually. A stiff NE wind upset a few guests and crew on Christmas Day but a combination of Stollen Cake and plum duff bunged up the best of tummies. This was the first time this ship had encountered any seas of note and she was very stable.
Christmas Eve dinner in the Sushi restaurant with the Hotel Director, Daniel was very agreeable. What I really liked about it was that you can sit and watch the chefs prepare the sushi. We tried and bit of everything and it was first class. My son Leo is a sushi lover and he will love this when he gets a chance to visit.
Christmas dinner was excellent. I had the usual turkey and plum duff and even a few Brussel sprouts. My mum would have been proud of me. After that in the Colonnade restaurant we served the crew their Christmas dinner where Chef Dexter did his best to hack turkey into edible slices for the wonderful crew. All in all it was a wonderful day full of naughty treats and chocolates and great company. I was even coerced into singing a duet with the beautiful Jaqueline, our Assistant Cruise Director at the Christmas show. We did Baby its cold outside. I hope it never makes it to youtube! The entire entertainment team are brilliant and were even kind enough to help a ship driver get over his nerves. I was more nervous singing that song than bringing this ship out of Venice for the first time. Well out of my comfort zone.
Now we are in Mumbai, the first of our three ports of call in India. I won’t get a chance to visit but I have been coming here on and off for the last 30 years. It has changed enormously in that time. The people are still very friendly and it's amazing to watch the Indian Navy docked close by doing their drills.
While the guests are away one job that needs to be done is to land our garbage to the recyclers. We separate and bundle everything on board and send it ashore for processing.
Now we are heading south to New Mangalore. The humidity is rising and the smell of woodsmoke lingers in the air. Ah India!
The six days at sea since Aqaba have seen us travel the length of the Red Sea, transit through the Bab El Mandeb which is the narrow exit at the bottom, traverse across the Gulf of Aden and today, arrive in Muscat, Oman. I can’t believe where the time has gone. Seems like only yesterday we set sail from Aqaba! It was a chance to catch our breath after the shipyard. I managed to get rid of all the boxes of ‘stuff’ from my office. By mainly moving it into other peoples office really. But my office is clean and my filing system is up and running. Sounds a bit tedious but an essential part of the operation of running a ship like this.
We also had a chance to celebrate the birthday of Florien. He of turquoise polo shirt fame hidden by Daniel the Hotel Director. He is our Public Health guru and a fine job he has done for us in setting up our inspections and checking the ship for compliance with various legislation. Kreso, our Staff captain gave him a name badge with his new title being First Public health Officer. A bit tongue in cheek for he has aspirations of being a First navigation officer.
It is a very busy day for us here in Muscat. We need to refuel, dispose of our garbage which we processed onboard and take on new stores to recharge the fridges. We will take on 5 container loads in Dubai in a couple of days time but this will see us through until then. I will leave you with some images from Muscat. I was experimenting with the camera so apologies for the images. I will just put it on point and shoot next time. Sorry about that.
Since my last posting we have visited the port of Ashdod in Israel and passed through the Suez canal. It was a windy stay at the Port Said anchorage but in the Gulf of Suez conditions were rather pleasant.
Today we docked in Aqaba, Jordan. It is the port for Petra. By 10:30 the ship had emptied as both guests and some crew went on tour to visit the ancient site.
I on the other hand remained onboard to test some of our safety systems which included our emergency generators and a full closing of all our fire doors. A ship as complex as this needs constant checking although it has to be said she does a lot of self checking herself.
It was also a chance to take a wander along the quay side to check out the ship side where already we are getting black smudges on our beautiful paint from dock wall fenders. If someone could only invent white rubber dock fenders our troubles would be over!
Despite the blue skies and location a stiff wind coming from the desert made for a chilly start. It never really got that warm.
The guests are starting to interact with the ship now. Favourite spots are being found or sought out. I can see already the same people in the same locations. A great sign.
As I write we have sailed for Muscat. The stiff winds of last night have dropped and we have 2551 nautical miles to go travelling the full length of the Red Sea. We are due to arrive next Sunday morning. The weather forecast looks good. With these sea days ahead we will really get to see how the ship performs now and how the guests enjoy her.
I will leave you with a final photo of the ship docked in Aqaba.
Today we are in Haifa, Israel. We left Piraeus on the 4th December with our very first guests, spent the 5th at Aghios Nikolaus in Crete, 6th was a sea day and now here today.
Team trivia has started, we enjoyed our very first formal dinner and life onboard Seabourn Encore settles into the routine befitting a Seabourn sister. All is well.
Work routines are being sorted in all departments.
I am rather glad to put the chilly autumnal days of the north Adriatic behind me as we steam the first miles heading to the Land of the Long White cloud. New Zealand. My home. There is so much to do between now and then including the festivities in Singapore so we will take this blog step by step and I hope to share some of our experiences along the way. A few tempting glimpses of the finished ship will come in due course although I am in no doubt that by now the present guests are beaming such images worldwide already by various means of transmission to homes and websites. Never the less I hope to contribute some of my own from a rather different perspective.
So come along and join Seabourn Encore from the comfort of your armchairs where ever you may be. There is room for you all!