Thursday, November 24, 2016

Up–Up And Away

Map picture

Up-Up And Away!

We are finally ready to put behind us a really hectic summer, and once again set sail to distant lands! Lisa has now been cleared of her pulmonary emboli, and her knee surgery was completely successful. She has just been released from rehab, and anxious to try out her new and improved body parts. As many of you may know already, we have purchased a new home, however, it is in the process of being remodeled, and will not be ready to occupy until probably late February – so in short, this is a perfect time to “Up-Up and Away.”

But, before I share our travels, since today is Thanksgiving, may we wish each and every one of you the best that Thanksgiving can bring.

So, once again we will be embarking on an “expedition cruise,” and in fact, it is on the very same ship that we left at Palau in the South Pacific in June. The ship has since undergone an $8 million overhaul, and we will get to see the changes when we join up at Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is a small island located off the southern coast of Thailand. It is a popular resort destination for that area of the world.

But, of course, we first have to get there! The days of hassle-free long-distance air travel are for the most part a myth that survives in our memories. The phrase “Up-Up and Away” actually originated with Superman, but has been used by many airlines over the years to evoke the mystique of air travel. Today’s reality is somewhat different. For us, it begins with a short flight to Dallas, where the fun begins in earnest. From Dallas, we fly overnight on Emirates Air to Dubai in the Persian Gulf. But wait – you can’t transfer in Dallas from American to Emirates, at least not directly? No, first we must fly domestically to Dallas, where we claim our luggage, exit the terminal, and then find a way to transfer all of our stuff to the International Terminal. Once at that terminal, we once again go through the check-in procedure, and another full security screening. Even though Lisa and I are enrolled in the Trusted Traveler Program of the TSA which grants us TSA Pre-Check status and thus expedited screening, Emirates does not participate in the program, so it is shoes off and laptops out for us.

The flight, itself, should be pleasant enough. We leave Dallas about noon, and then 15 hours later land in Dubai at noon local time. Our connection on to our destination does not depart until almost midnight so we have a layover of almost 12 hours. BUT, and this is a first for us, Emirates Air has arranged for a limo to meet us at the airport, and transport us to Le Meridien Hotel where a room will be waiting for us to relax before we will then be met by a limo and returned to the airport for our onward connection. Pretty cool! Of course, the tickets were not cheap either. After a six hour overnight flight, we finally arrive on Nov. 28th in Phuket where we have arranged to spend a few days to reset our clocks before joining our ship on December 2nd.

It has taken me the longest time to wrap my mind around exactly where we go on this cruise. For whatever reason, I keep thinking that we are cruising to the East, when in point of fact we will be going mostly West. We depart Thailand, and cruise north along the Thai border until we reach the former country of Burma, which is now known as Myanmar. Until fairly recently this country was largely closed to the outside world, but today it is beginning to embrace tourism. We will cruise up the Yangon river to dock in the ancient city of Yangon, or as it used to be called, Rangoon. The ship will remain in port for two nights, while we will be offered a very exciting but long shore excursion to the city of Bago. Lisa and I were very fortunate to go to this country just before it had started to open up, and we were able to visit the famous city of Bagan. That is a tour option that is also offered on this cruise, but unfortunately Bagan was struck by a major earthquake about a year ago, and most of the ancient temples in that city have been badly damaged. We prefer to have our memory as it once was, and therefore we selected Bago as our destination. In truth, I know absolutely nothing about the city, but from what I’ve read and can see online, it looks to be quite exciting.

Once back on board we will sail Southwest to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These islands are technically a part of India, and before this trip, I had never heard of them. I don’t know what to expect, but they are described as pristine and outstanding in scenery. From there, we head almost due west to the country of Sri Lanka formerly known as Ceylon. Sri Lanka is a small island just off the southern tip of India. In our journey, there we will transit the full length of the Bay of Bengal. Neither Lisa nor I have ever visited this country before, and so this will be a first. Continuing southwest we visit the Maldives islands, followed by the Seychelles. Next we visit Mayotte. Now I had to look that up only to learn that Mayotte is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean that is a full Department of France – in other words it is equal to one of our states. Here again this is yet another new destination. Moving westward we visit the Island of Mozambique before moving on to the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, after which, we end our adventure at the coastal city of Dar es Salaam, again in Tanzania.

The return flights home are basically a repeat of our outward journey except that we do not have long layovers. Once again we travel on Emirates through Dubai, and then into Dallas, where once again we have to transfer our own bags between terminals and go through security again.

Since we will be gone for both Christmas and New Year’s, let us be the first to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the best for the coming year.

Jim and Lisa

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