Tag Archives: Travel

The Cruise Ship Chronicles

Our heart goes out to all the victims of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank yesterday, Friday the 13th, off the coast of Tuscany.  The vessel was carrying more than 4,000 people, among them 1,000 crew members of various nationalities including Filipinos. 
This disaster touched our hearts deeply as cruise holidaymakers are a regular sight to where we are in the South of France and to every port cities we went to like Corfu (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Venice (Italy) among others.  

It’s quite interesting meeting these people of different backgrounds and while we are pleased to play the role of tourist guides when they come asking for directions, we also get to hear their life-aboard-a-ship stories, sometimes hilarious and oftentimes disastrous.  

Just last summer, while having our lunch at a restaurant in Beune,  we got chatting with an American couple who were part of a Rhone river cruise that stopped over in this wine capital of the Burgundy region and how all-ears we were in listening to their cruise experience which started in Arles, in the south of France, culminating in Paris eight days after that.  In the end, they were so appreciative of finally meeting an English-speaking couple like us who gave them a quick introduction to French life, culture and traditions. 

H and I, even if our travelling preference is via the car that also serves as our mobile home, we do dream of going on a cruise holiday when the right time comes.  And if you will ask me where – it had to be the Norwegian Fjords Cruise where we could get to witness the spectacular Northern Lights and the stunning scenery of the Norwegian fjord coast with its steep mountains and charming fishing villages. 

Before I get carried away dreaming, here are some photos about Cruising:

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While waiting for the ferry that would take us to a 24-hour Adriatic crossing to Corfu, Greece, I couldn’t help but gawk at this pretty jaw-dropping sight!

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This P&O M/v Aurora moored in Venice port is a mid-sized cruise ship ideal for world cruising. It can accommodate up to 1,878 passengers in 939 cabins, with a maximum crew of 936.

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Like home sweet home.

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A cruising boat moored in Vienne along the Rhone River. 

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In September 2010, a cousin whom I have not seen for the last 35 years came to Monaco via this ship, Ruby Princess.   Monaco was one of the ports of call of their 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruise holiday.   This ship which has a capacity of 3,070 persons and 2.5 times heavier than the Titanic is so huge it could easily fit ten conventional hotels.

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After a stopover of six hours, they slowly sailed away accompanied by a “harbor pilot” whose role is to guide big ships so they can safely get out of the harbour.

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Cannes is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the French Riviera.  The port can accommodate up to three giant liners in a single day.

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We saw “The World” moored in Venice when we were there four years ago.  It is the world’s largest private yacht—a floating residential community owned by her residents. The residents, currently from 40 different countries, live on board as the ship slowly circumnavigates the globe—staying in most ports from 2 to 5 days. Some residents live onboard full time while others visit their floating home periodically throughout the year.

The World flies a Bahamas flag and has a gross tonnage of 43,524 tons. The vessel is 644 feet long, 98 feet wide, and has a 22 foot draft, 12 decks, and a maximum speed of 18.5 knots. The crew numbers is 250.

The ship has 165 residential units (106 apartments, 19 studio apartments, and 40 studios), all owned by the ship’s residents. The ship carries between 100 and 300 residents and their guests.

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This is our ferry sailing past the mountains of Albania as it slowly cruises its way to Corfu in Greece.

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While sailing on New Year’s Day from Corfu to Venice,  we got treated with cake and ouzo by the cruise management, unfortunately, there were no fireworks!

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A cruise ship moored in Corfu waters. 
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Filipino crewmembers having fun in Corfu town while on a brief stopover from their Christmas Cruise duties.

Note: As I write this, most of the victims have been rescued save for 60 unaccounted for and three confirmed dead.

Driving Out of Town

More photos at UAE 2011

Last Friday, we went on a sightseeing trip out of Dubai, around four Emirates i.e.,  Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah. It was a discovery trip of a different continent, at least, with my husband in tow. I have worked in the Middle East for several years (Bahrain and Dubai) but this is the first time I am seeing it in the eyes of a traveller (take note, not as a tourist).

 The UAE is not all desert. There is an amazing  diversity of scenery like mountains, rocky hills, the sea, vegetation and animals such as camels and goats.  Widely noticeable though are the skycrapers seemingly just mushroomed out of the desert sand, with styles of architecture that could easily rival that of Manhattan’s.  But sadly caught among the pre-recession boom are the hundreds of constructions sites that have stopped work midway, leaving them just empty shells of colossal magnitude and with that, our mental calculator gets busy with figures that could easily come up with billions of dirhams of investments gone bad.

But our excitement level goes back up again everytime we see friends and families of different faiths, different cultures doing the same thing – that of having fun time together in the park, playing with their children, enjoying a picnic, chatting, wading on the water….

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The five Emirates we drove around to are marked with the red star. The encircled one is Khor Fakkan where we stopped over for lunch.
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A happy couple

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The camel is a beautiful creature

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It’s a Friday afternoon, a holiday in the Muslim world, so desert camping is a favorite weekend activity.  We saw several of these sights just outside Dubai, in Sharjah.

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This is the cargo terminal in Khor Fakkan.  You can see the shipping containers getting loaded and unloaded.

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A water sports competition is going on…

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 Stopping by in Fujairah to buy some fruits imported from India, Iran and Saudi Arabia

More photos at UAE 2011

To the caravan park

“No vacancies” means this B&B is fully booked. Don’t bother to knock!

We drove round and round looking for a hotel/B&B to stay the night but all were fully booked! Luckily we came across this Caravan Park just outside Ayr, parked the car…. and slept in the car! Remember, we had no sleeping bags nor blankets so we slept with up to 4 layers of clothing! At least, we made the right decision to take winter clothing with us. They came very handy

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The Holiday Park (or campsite)

Notice the park. A glorified version of a car park since it has full toilet and shower facilities. Caravans and cars are parked closely side by side …..to maximize occupancy!
Our bill that night: ten pounds!

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Dunure Harbour

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We were so lucky to chance upon a mini-concert going on in the Culzean castle. And these students look very dainty and well-behaved! They played old traditional scottish music.

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another concert the previous night. we missed the genuine scottish playing band in just few minutes. we went home because i was falling asleep in my chair! so embarassing!

Where have all the churches gone?

My husband and I were horrified upon seeing churches in Scotland being turned into pubs or theaters or simply as tourist attractions.

Modern Scotland, being a very religious country in the olden days suddenly found herself the custodian of so many of these religious edifices that are becoming emptier and emptier during worship services. The maintenance costs is astronomical and they have to give some up or sell them to private individuals. But the new owners are only concerned about profits, never mind the spiritual repercussions.

And so here now are a couple of churches we saw in Ayr that made us cry in shame

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Where’s the cross on the top?

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But this church is now a pub!!

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just one of the many churches of Ayr, the capital of Ayrshire

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..now doing all their best to attract the faithful

Even an atheist would protest at such utter disrespect of God’s house. Out of curiosity, we entered the ex-church now-pub and could still see the bygone glory through the stained-glass window, the majestically high ceiling, the still resplendent altar which has been turned into a counter and the nave, where members of the congregation used to sit, is now jammed with tables and chairs whereupon seated strange-looking men, women with mugs and mugs of beer between them. and btw, they also serve pub food! but personally, even if i am starving and it’s the only pub open, i will never never give them the business! shame on them