2006 Red Sea Revisited

Thursday 23rd February

I arrived at The Elms by 3.45am to make coffee & await Andrew’s parents Carole & Peter.

We set off to Stansted by to catch our 6am flight to Sharm el Sheik in Egypt, where we will be transferred to the Thomson Spirit cruise liner, our home for the next week.

It started snowing as we sat in the departure lounge and we waited while they de-iced the wings of the plane, the flight was predictably boring and 5½ hours later we landed at Sharm el Sheik and walked out into wonderful bright sunshine.

Our cabins 816 for us & 834 for Carole & Peter were fairly large, with a porthole in each and plenty of storage. The luggage arrived about 1 hour after we did and I unpacked before we explored the ship.

Spirit has 9 decks, 5 bars, 3 restaurants, 2 pools, a jacuzzi, a sauna, a beauty parlour, a cinema, a casino, some shops and a library cum internet room. Enough to keep us occupied for a week.

We checked the agenda & discovered that we sailed overnight to Aqaba Jordan & can book ½ day outing to Wadi Rum Jordan’s largest nature reserve, we booked this for all of us.

Then we strolled around the ship trying to familiarize ourselves with the lay out, got lost, gave up & headed for a bar instead. Later we went to the Compass Rose restaurant for a formal dinner. Carole & Peter retired to bed afterwards & Andrew and I found a nice bar called Horizon on deck 9 good views, decent scotch, nice cocktails & jazz music quietly in the background.

Friday 24th February

We collected cameras & headed for deck 2 to the coach & Wadi Rum.

Madeleine our tour guide is Jordanian & gave us a history lesson on the way.

This is the area that Lawrence of Arabia lived in & also the location for the film.

Miles of lovely pink & gold desert later, we transferred to 4WD jeeps that looked old enough to have been driven by Lawrence himself. We clambered into the back of the jeeps & set off to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Mountains.

T.E. Lawrence {Lawrence of Arabia} when he wrote his autobiography, called it The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Wadi Rum is an incredible area we stopped at the mountains for a while to walk, climb & take pix, then we got entertained by Bedouins singing & dancing for us.

Our next stop was another desert area with around 40 Bedouins with very skinny looking camels. We watched as other people were persuaded to go for a ride.

I saw a huge blue beetle and filmed it for a while as it looked very much like the lapis lazuli scarabs that they sell.

We were driven to the area where Lawrence lived and were shown tents like he would have lived in. The scenery was wonderful, mountains and huge gorges, two King’s heads and Lawrence’s head were sculptured into the rocks here.

Carole and I went into a Bedouin tent, where they were selling trinkets, herbs etc. There was a large camp fire inside where the Arabs cook, & lovely rugs everywhere. Granny was asleep in one corner. We could still smell the wood smoke on our clothes the next morning.

We headed back and had an exhilarating roller coaster ride down some steep sand dunes to our last stop of the afternoon. A large Bedouin camp in a lovely oasis where we were given “tea and piscuits” as Madeleine so quaintly put it.

We sat in the sun eating yummy sesame seed biscuits, fresh dates & figs and drinking lemon tea. A couple of Bedouins entertained us playing mandolin and drums and singing, then of course we could buy trinkets from the stalls set nearby.

The Lido restaurant was serving an Arabian buffet that evening so we decided to try it, a very good dinner, some decent Shiraz and we were happy. It’s early to bed for all of us tonight as we leave for Petra at 7.30am. On returning to our cabin Ionella our cabin steward had sculpted our towels into two swans with their heads meeting forming a heart.

Saturday 25th February

To the coach for our trek to the wonderful Petra, ancient city of the Nabateans and over 2000 years old. Sam our tour guide was very informative, but walked too fast so we lost him.

We walked down through the old city of As-Siq through the chasm with the rocks towering above us and the water channels running alongside us.

The first sudden view of Al-Khazneh the Treasury built in 1BC at Petra is even more stunning than I remembered. It is carved into the rock and is nearly 43 metres high & 30 metres wide.

We spent some time admiring it and looked at the newly dug out lower floor which had not been discovered back in ’97 when Andrew & I were last here. We walked all the way down taking in the Royal tombs, the Roman amphitheatre as it seems to be called now and down the Colonnaded street where they are rebuilding the walls and shops that used to be there. The Nymphadium is above the wall and stones lie numbered ready to put back in place. Jordanian trees are being replanted and a 1st to 6th century church had been newly excavated.

The temples cut into the rocks glowed pink in the sunshine. We sat at a cafe & drank some excellent Turkish coffee, then Andrew haggled for two lovely bracelets for me, both are silver, one with turquoise insets and the other with lapis lazuli.

I love Petra, & am so happy to be here again, but our time was all too soon up so we took a camel ride back to the Treasury, the steepest part of the journey.

My camel was slapped across the rump & took off like a rocket, I couldn’t believe how fast it went with me jiggling about that high up & clinging on for dear life.

At the top it was time to have a late lunch at the Crown Plaza, a 5* hotel on the outskirts of As-Siq. We ate a stunning Arabian meal, I saved some lamb stew to feed the starving kittens which were gazing in the window meowing at us. They certainly enjoyed it, and we sat with them whilst having coffee.

We got treated to more Arabs playing drums & bagpipes on the way back to the coach, we didn’t have this experience on our last trip here.

Back at the ship we had time to wash the lovely red Petra dust off before dinner. Afterwards a walk round the promenade deck to see Aqaba all lit up at night, then on to Horizons for a night cap before bed….

Sunday 26th February

This was our full day at sea, we will dock at Sokhna Port near the entrance to the Suez Canal about midnight. Monday will be Carole & Peter’s day out in Cairo. We had a lie in & coffee in the cabin. Later we met up with Carole & Peter for brunch. A real lazy day, we sunbathed and read books, lay around in the jacuzzi, walked around the promenade deck etc.

There was a Captain’s cocktail evening which we avoided, instead we sat out on the almost deserted sun deck & enjoyed a drink watching the sunset. Chinese buffet at the Lido restaurant followed then Carole & Peter went to watch a show on Africa.

Andrew and I retired as usual to Horizon where we were joined by Hamish, Joan and their son Michael. This lovely couple have been married for 62 years & we discussed their various different cruises. Veterans at this game as they do three or four cruises per year. A really pleasant evening, and a lot of tips for future cruises too.

Monday 27th February

Carole & Peter were on the coach by 7.15am to visit the Pyramids at Gisa, the boat that has recently been excavated & the lovely serene Sphinx.

After stopping for lunch, they went on to the papyrus institute, followed by Cairo’s National Archaeological Museum to see Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus etc.

We had decided to stay on board it would have been good to see the pyramids again, but not for just 1 hour out of the whole day.

So we settled for a relaxing time on sun loungers, read books & I went for a wonderful aromatherapy facial, an hour of pampering did my face a power of good. Madeleine is an excellent masseuse, I booked a massage for the following day.

We strolled around the promenade deck then for dinner when Carole & Peter returned.

The Lido was serving a seafood buffet, so we went there to eat again, lovely fresh fish, squid and king prawns – yummy.

We set sail to Hurghada at 10.30pm so were on deck to watch the ship leave port. So far we’ve set sail after going to bed, so it good to watch the ship leave. It was a lovely clear evening & we could see Elat in Israel across the water.

Predictably we went to Horizon later, Carole & Peter joined us as there is no early start tomorrow so we could chat about our day & listen to some jazz, it’s much quieter than any of the other bars & the view is better too.

Ionella made us a crab out of towels tonight, bottle tops for eyes & chocolates for claws.

Tuesday 28th February

After brunch we went on a shopping outing to Hurghada, we were told that the first stop was tourist shops, but the second would be traditional shops and markets. Hurghada is coastal with pretty beaches & stunning mosques with brightly coloured roofs.

Our first stop was disappointingly the hard rock cafe, we sat in the garden for a drink then wandered around the shops & saw a camel waiting at a bus stop.

Our second stop was more tourist shops, but at least in a main street. We wandered & bought some beach towels for the next day & lovely Egyptian saffron.

We were disappointed that we were taken to two tourist places as we may never see a souk now. No brownie points for Thompson’s today, we can go to a hard rock cafe anytime at home.

Back on board we had a Tex-Mex buffet, a promenade round the deck & a nightcap before bed.

Wednesday 1st March

We are up and off to Paradise Island by 8a.m. Unbelievably this is our last full day, we are going to spend it on the beach. Were coached to the jetty where we transferred to a boat. Andrew & I went snorkeling, lots of pretty fishes.

We had an excellent lunch at a pretty beach side cafe with a thatched roof. Relaxed under the thatched parasols or a while after lunch, then did more snorkeling.

Walking along the beach Carole & I found some beautiful little shells tiny candy twists in pink & white or blue & white some of which we took home as mementos. This was a fabulous day on Paradise Island. Buffet dinner followed and a last evening at Horizon with jazz.

Ionella had made us a monkey towel this evening on return to our cabin.

The flight home is tomorrow, another lovely holiday over already….