Monday, March 22, 2010

A Big Warm Fuzzy Welcome from Saudi Arabia


As expected, our transit of the Gulf of Aden was uneventful. When the ship entered the maximum zone of danger from the pirates, the outside decks of the ship were closed off and fire hoses were rigged. The ship then ran at full speed for the next 24 hours or so until we had cleared the danger area. Because of the risk, traffic in that area is very concentrated into the narrow corridor which is patrolled by security forces, so there was much to see. We were visited by several warships, and overflown numerous times by patrolling helicopters. Frankly, I never felt safer than during this “dangerous” transit. At this time of the year, the waters of this area are almost completely calm, which increases the risk from pirates, but it also insures a very smooth passage, even though the ship was moving at full speed. In fact, it was so smooth that the water was like glass, and then the only sense of movement was a slight vibration from the pounding engines.

That moment of excitement is behind us so we are turning our attention to our visit tomorrow to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I can only share with you now what we are being told, and you can form your own opinion about the upcoming experience.

First, we are to inventory all alcohol in our rooms and provide our room steward with the signed inventory. All alcohol will be removed from our cabins this evening and not returned until we depart Saudi Arabia. In fact, all alcohol throughout the ship will be stored under lock and key, and we are told that the Saudi officials are very strict in enforcing this policy.

Second, all women must wear Abayas at all times, inside and outside while in the Kingdom. Men may wear short sleeved shirts and long trousers, but everyone must wear closed shoes.

Third, there must be no public display of affection, no holding hands for example. Fourth, we may not photograph people without their permission, especially women, and we are not allowed to take pictures of government buildings, embassies or anything military in nature, including the airport.

No one, and I mean no one (not even the crew) are allowed off the ship unaccompanied, even if they hold in their possession an individual visa for Saudi Arabia. Everyone leaving the ship must be on a ship’s formal tour, and we will be required to carry our passports with us at all times, along with a landing card and an exit card. Unlike almost every other port, the ship will not conduct a shuttle into town, and no taxis will be available for people from the ship.

Our tour will be 8 hours in length, and it promises to be interesting to say the least. So hang on to your knickers, there will be more to follow.


PS: our blog is up now so you can follow along with maps at Remember, on the right of the page is a direct link to our photographs which are stored on Picasa. Or you can go directly to our photographs at

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