Centenary World Cruise Days 18-20: Oh, I Sea

Day 18:

The weather is getting warmer as we go further south and east. We’re in the southeastern part of the Mediterranean, and tomorrow we’ll get to Port Said, where we’ll wait for clearance through the Suez Canal.

Thus far, the coffee bars and lounges have been completely full of people, but today they were relatively empty because everyone is out on deck enjoying the warmer weather. But let’s be clear: when I say “warmer,” I mean that the high was 72 degrees. I’m still wearing sweaters and drinking hot tea at every opportunity, but the British folks are all in their shorts, getting some sun on their blinding white knees.

The other nice thing is that, after the turbulence of the Bay of Biscay, the water has been completely calm and lovely. Standing on the deck and looking at the water feels almost the same as standing on the shore of a river and watching the water flow past. I can’t feel any motion on the ship at all – but I guarantee you that at the next port, I’m going to get off the boat and be all unsteady on land.

Day 19:

Today, we did our pirate drill. Yesterday, I went by the library and asked if they had old newspapers, because I wanted to fold myself up a nice pirate hat for the drill. They didn’t. For the drill, everyone with an outside-facing cabin had to go into the corridor and wait while the stewards counted us. Since we knew the drill was going to be at 10am, I took the wise precaution of making sure my phone was fully charged and I had a hot cup of tea so I could sit in the corridor, sipping my tea and playing a stupid game. Everyone in the corridor speculated about the likelihood of even seeing a pirate ship, and I think it’s unlikely. Why go after a bunch of over-80s when they could go after any of the skillion of container ships laden with consumer goods?

Later, I ran into a woman I knew and asked her how the drill went for her. She has an inside stateroom, and she said that she just got to hang out in her room. She expressed regret that on this trip, we will not have a complement of hunky NATO guards like they had the last time she’d done this run. Now I feel cheated.

Day 20:

Today we were transiting the Suez Canal. The Pirate opened the door to our balcony, made a face, and shut it again. That part of the canal is apparently where cabbage goes to die.

Transiting the Panama Canal takes about 6 hours, and there are lots of ships going both ways, since a lot of it is very wide. Suez, on the other hand, is extremely narrow. Ships travel in a single long line going each way (there are two separate channels) with no locks to change the water level. Transit time through Suez is 12 hours.

As the day progressed, most people were out on the decks checking out the canal banks. When I travel, I always map the landscape to similar landscapes back home. A lot of the Suez Canal looks like Bakersfield. Or maybe Riverside. Hanging off the side of the railing was a warning to stay at least 50 feet from the ship. It struck me as funny, because about 50’ from our ship, the water was so shallow that any ship trying to pull around us would have to have wheels.

Because we traveled in a long line of other ships, we could see the ones in front and behind. It turns out that the ship behind us was the largest container ship in the world, with 19.5 thousand containers aboard. It looked like a Borg cube.