Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Kuala Lumpur

Our day here was 8am to 5.30pm and a taxi required into the city, about an hour and a half drive. Cost for 4 of us $80 US against £35 each on the bus arranged by P&O, although they did provide a free bus to a local shopping mall. KL was amazing, with the Petronas twin towers and a magnificent shopping mall with all the designer shops. Singapore tomorrow.

Monday, 30 January 2012

A Busy week

This is our third sea day since we left Cochin en-route to Port Kelang, (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia. We are now eligible to attend the Portunus Club, (P&O's loyalty club), parties, and Saturday evening was the first one of those for us. It is simply a pre-dinner cocktail party, the difference being there are free alcoholic drinks. Then yesterday we were invited to the Captain's Luncheon for the round the world cruisers. This is also different to the luncheon that is available free to anyone in the Penninsula Restaurant, as it is held in the (normally closed at lunch time) Oriental Restaurant, with a champagne reception, and wine served throughout the meal - again free. Then, of course, there is the opportunity to dine with Captain. Today saw the Portunus Gold Member's Lunchion in the same location. I can tell you it is not easy having breakfast at 7am, a 4 course lunch at 12pm followed by another 5 course dinner at 6.30pm after an afternoon nap due to too much (free) wine!
During this passage we have also disembarked our (ex British military) armed guards to a launch that met the ship 18 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka. We stopped dead in the water, and after a few minutes we could see their launch approaching on the port side horizon. They threw their kitbags and weapons cases aboard, and as they pulled away there was a burst of spontaneous applause from the many watching passengers, accompanied by 3 blasts of the ship's horns. We are now running normally at night, with all decks open and lit. Google "Solitas Maritime Security" and visit the company website to get an insight of the newly bolstered security arrangements that are now in place in conjunction with the Royal Navy and US Forces, to combat piracy.
Tomorrow we dock at Port Kelang, followed the day after by Singapore. There is one more day at sea before we visit Phu Mai and then Na Trang, Vietnam, the day after that. Then, next week we visit Hong Kong and Brunai.
Today, there has been what is called "The O Factor", a display by all departments of the ship, to give an insight into their operations. There is one of these on each segment of the cruise, so short term passengers also get to see it. This is our second. There are displays of bed making from the housekeeping department, with the opportunity to try it youself, if you feel you are able to do it to their standard, and within the time limit - a supervisor is watching and timing! The kitchen chefs also display their ice sculptures, and fruits and vegetables carved into flowers and animals. The engineering department also have a display of how Oriana's engine room operates, complete with the offending parts that caused our earlier "technical difficulties" with one of the main engines. I have included images of this event today. Until next time...........

Friday, 27 January 2012

Cochin, Southern India

Cochin - what can I say! What a fantastic place. First I must mention our hosts for the day who made it extra special for us. They are Nazeer and Achu, our Tuk Tuk drivers. They are the best drivers for a Cochin tour if you ever visit this interesting place. They are in one of the images with their Mercedes and Audi Tuk Tuks!
When we eventually left the ship after another prolonged, (and I think unexpected) battle with Indian immigration, we found our friends above, and made our way the short distance to the Malaba Hotel, a 5* Taj by Vivante establishment that Margaret had stayed in during her October visit. We enjoyed morning coffee and biscuits there (image), while Nazeer and Achu waited for us outside. The hotel boasts the most beautiful infity pool you could imagine (image). Once outside we climbed aboard our individual vehicles for a spectacular guided tour of Cochin, taking in all the tourist sights possible over a 2 hour period, getting back to the ship at around 2.pm, all aboard by 4.30. We then sail for Port Kelang, (Kuala Lumpur), tonight. The weather today has been fantastic - clear, hot sun, rising to about 35 degrees in the afternoon. Being semi rural, Cochin has been a different, and in my opinion, a much more enjoyable visit than Mumbai. Until next time......

Thursday, 26 January 2012

India - Mumbai

After two days at sea, and getting the port engine fixed, we arrived in Mumbai at around 11.00 am. The authorities had been, in my view, unnecessarily thorough in their immigration processes, resulting in further delay to us getting ashore. Howevever, we were not due to be back aboard until 9.00pm, so we had plenty of time. Our first job was to find the Britannia Cafe, and the owner, the elderly Mr. Kohinoor, who Margaret had spoken to on her last visit in October. At 92 years old, he remains very patriotic to the British, and collects anything related to the monarchy, so we took him gifts - a Diamond Jubilee book with pictures, and Jill had sent with us a keyring with the Queen's head, from a London gift stall. He was thrilled. After drinking our sweet lime sodas, we made our way by taxi across town to the Taj President Hotel, where Jill had lived during her 10 months there last year. The taxi fare was just 40R (50p) for the four of us. Guess who had the jeweller in there show us his diamond and emerald rings. Then it was off up Colaba Causway, a shopping street with outdoor markets. On here we visited Adamis, a high class leather goods shop, where the owner was relieved of several of his Hermes style bags, all in beautiful soft leather, complete with that 'new leather' smell. Turning right at Regal Cinema, we made our way down to the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, (image), and Gateway to India landmark, (image). The lobby of the hotel is spectacular, again containg designer shops. Margaret then negotiated an hour's sightseeing trip (10$ US), with a taxi driver, and he, actually over two hours, showed us Marine Drive, Mani Bhaven, Gandhi's residence, Dhobi Gat, the huge open air laundry, then the Hanging Gardens, Victoria Terminus, then back to the ship at about 5.30pm, ready for dinner at a delayed 7.00pm, which was to give us more time ashore. The day was made by the fact Margaret had only recently been there, and, consequently, we knew the "ropes".
We now have a new Captain, Robert Camby, who is newly promoted, and not only is he a ringer for John Travolta, but also looks no older than 35. He is excellent, walks around speaking and socialising, and yesterday, against the immigration authorities, insisted on having his pic taken with any single passengers who requested him to do so, while we waited to go ashore. He took over in Dubai.
We now have a further sea day before we reach our second India destination - Cochin. Then it is on to Malaysia. Until then.....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Repairs at sea

We are now starting our second and final sea day before we reach Mumbai. I reported last time that we had experienced "technical difficulties" (P&O speak for a major breakdown), which had resulted in a 2 hour delay in docking at Dubai, which decreased our planned time there with Margaret's cousin somewhat, but we still had a great day out. The problem started at Oman, and meant that we had to run on one main engine only from Oman to Dubai, and as it still hadn't been resolved at Dubai, also reduced speed on our passage to India, which will result in a 2 hour delay in docking there tomorrow. I can now report that the fault has been rectified, and we are now able to travel once again at maximum speed.
There has been no announcement as to exactly what the problem was, but, last night at the Captain's party, I collared him and asked him directly. Whether his answer is the whole truth I can't say, but he did tell me that there had been a catastrophic failure to one of the big end bearings (crankshaft bearing), in the port side (Man B & W) main engine. I can also tell you that the power line set up on Oriana is as follows. There are two large main engines, driving two prop shafts. Each main engine is supplemented by its own smaller secondary unit. This set up is known as "father and son". There are also electric power in / out take offs on each prop shaft which can either be fed by spare electricity from the 4 main generators that are banked on the bulkhead forward of the engines, or feed back spare generated electricity to the ship's supply when full speed is not required. Each of the father and son engines can also be configured to work together for full power, or independently as required. During the breakdown, the starboard engine was operating at maximum thrust, using all available options, while the port engine was using only the supporting "son" engine and the shaft motor, supplied by the generators. This gave a maximum speed of 19 knots, as opposed to the normal 24 knots, which I suppose isn't too bad in the circumstances. One of the drawbacks of this configuration was very high vibration levels, resulting in many complaints from passengers. Unfortunately in this world s**t happens, so there was nothing that could be done. The moaners should be grateful that everything was done to ensure things remained as normal as possible, and I commend the engineering staff who worked around the clock for 3 days to strip the engine and make the necessary repairs. We are now back to normal.
Our day in Dubai was tremendous, with the six of us travelling in Ron's 4X4 sight seeing, and visiting places of interest. We had lunch at the exclusive Madinat Juraimah, part of the Burj Al Arab and Palms complex. For those in Australia with an interest, we also visited the Panerai watch boutique in Dubai Mall, but, unfortunately, the 386 limited edition was out of stock and with a very long waiting list. The attached images are of the Port Rashid tug assisting us into Dubai, and a view from the stern terrace of Oriana as we passed the port entrance. More next time......

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Dubai

Today's call was Dubai and a visit with Margaqet's cousin Ron and Beo. They gave us a great day out which included sight seeing, shopping at Dubai Mall, and lunch at Madinat Jumairah, which is close to the Dubai landmark, Burj Al Arab, the 7 star hotel that looks like a sail. Unfortunately our day was shortened by the fact we were 2 hours late arriving due to one of the ship's main engines breaking down at Oman, causing a slower than planned overnight passage. We left the ship at 11am and arrived back at 5.45, all aboard by 6.30. 540 passengers left the ship today, 500 new ones join. We now have 2 sea days until Mumbai, hope they got that engine sorted! The weather today was a little cool at 20 degs. A fantastic day, thanks Ron and Beo.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Muscat, Oman

Today we docked at Muttrah, in Muscat, Oman. After a leisurely breakfast we left the ship around 9am to visit Muttrah market and gold souk. A very bustling place, we had great fun jostling with the traders. However, I am now the proud owner of my own dish dash, the preferred attire of the locals. Bill bought himself a cap badged Oman, and the ladies various cashmere items. Now back in the sanctuary of the ship, we visit Dubai tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A visit from the Royal Navy

Thursday 19th January.
0900hrs we had a visit from one of the Royal Navy ships that are operating in this area for our protection against pirates, RFA Wave Knight, a Royal Fleet Auxilliary tanker ship, see Royal Navy RFA Wave Knight. The Captain announced the liaison which was to be for a photo shoot by both parties. The Navy launched a small tender with their own photographers, a Navy helicopter flew low overhead, and there was generally lots of waving and blasting of the ship's horn, before we waived her on her way for the day. As usual, we will most likely meet up with another frigate at dusk. Read about our liaison here: RFA Wave Knight escorts Oriana Until next time....

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sharm El Sheikh to Muscat, Oman

Monday 16th January
We left the Suez Canal to start our overnight passgage to Sharm at about 4.00pm. As I suspected, we were escorted by two naval ships, one on each stern quarter, for the whole duration of the passage, arriving in Sharm El Sheikh bay at dawn. The disembarkation here was by tender, as there was already a cruise ship alongside - Costa Voyager. After a leisurely breakfast in hot sunshine now, we obtained our time slot ticket for the trip ashore. Ours was 10.10am, and the whole thing ran like clockwork. Sharm itself was quite pleasant, much more of a resort than Port Said, and we had a browse around the shops and market, again being pestered to buy, and take taxi rides, but not unpleasantly. We returned to the ship at around 2.30pm, all aboard by 4.30pm. Today's experience was very enjoyable and now in hot sunshine. Before I leave this section, the captain has just announced that during today's visit, whilst we tendered ashore all day, the ship could not be anchored as we were lying in 200 metres of water. The main engines have been running all day, and the officer of the watch has been constantly manouvering using thrusters to keep position.
When we leave at 5.30pm, there will be another sail away party on deck 12 before we embark on 4 sea days to reach Muscat, Oman. The weather will now be hot enough to spend our days on deck.
Tuesday 17th January.
Our first sea day en route to Oman, and with hot sun and clear skies. Last night we received a lovely gift from P&O, a china breakfast tea service for two, by Veritas, and in a boxed set, with P&O insignia. This was in appreciation of our patronage for the whole of the world cruise. A nice thought. Today was also what is called chocoholics. This is a day on every segment where the executive chef shows off and his team produces cakes and patisserie on a wholly pure chocolate theme during the afternoon, all laid out with chocolate sculptures. I should have opted out, but Margaret and Robyn had been good enough to return to deck 9 stern with plates full of the stuff, so it would have been churlish of us men to refuse :-) Smart dress code tonight, so time to get out the Gieves and Hawkes double breasted naval blazer and grey flannels - seemingly the staple dress code for all males currently on board.
Wednesday 18th January.
Another day of hot sun and clear skies. We are now headed for what is considered to be the most dangerous part of the passage through this area, and passed through the straights that take us from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean around 6.00pm tonight. Guards have been on duty all day, body armour and helmets at their side, at their stations manning the anti boarding weapons on deck 7. We have now started blackout procedure during the hours of darkness, and we were once again joined by a naval frigate at dusk, but I couldn't make out whether it was Royal or US Navy in the failing light. Tonight's entertainment was a show by the ship's Headliners theatre group, who did a review of musical theatre called "Stage Door", and it must be said, was worthy of any West End stage. Tomorrow evening is again black tie, but themed "black and white", so I think it is time I pulled out the cream tux from the wardrobe. It is also "parade of chefs" night where we are introduced to the Executive chef and his team, during the evening meal. The entertainment will be courtsey of UK comedian Roy Walker, who is already on board.
There really is no other holiday like a cruise, both for value for money and interest, to give an insight into many countries around the world - even the more risky ones, which would never appear on any ordinary holiday itinerary. Until next time.........

Sunday, 15 January 2012

P&O Cruises Oriana Port Said to Sharm El Sheikh

We have now completed two uneventful sea days since we left Valletta, Malta, and have now arrived at the Mediterranian entrance to the Suez Canal at Port Said. We arrived in darkness at around 5.30am this morning, and passengers were allowed ashore at 7.00am after docking alongside. The people who had chosen to spend 4 hours on a guarded coach trip to view the pyramids set off at that time, and today it is "all aboard" by 10.30pm to allow them time to return to the ship. We had a leisurely breakfast before we went ashore for a wander around the city, which we found to be a little tedious both due to the constant pestering from the inhabitants to either buy something, or take a taxi journey, and they won't take no for an answer. The town itself was also looking very worse for wear, and infrastructure that had obviously once been quite spectacular was now looking very tatty, with election posters and graffiti everywhere - only to be expected in the present circumstances though. We spent the morning ashore before returning to the safety of the ship to continue with a restful day.
We saw the TV news today about the large cruise ship that had sunk off Italy, very sad for the passengers who lost their lives, but looking at the care our (British) crew put into running the ship, I find it hard to believe that their Captain managed to run aground, although Costa cruises is part of the same parent company, Carnival.
The itinerary for the next few days is to transit the Suez Canal during daylight tomorrow, arriving for a day in Sharme El Sheikh on Monday morning. Again, due to high internet costs, I will update this post after that before I post it to the blog.
Sunday - We had begun our Suez Canal transit before we got up. As we had breakfast, we sat by the window and watched the close proximity of the Egyptian countryside pass by. We then had a couple of hours to wait at anchor in the Great Bitter lake, while the north bound traffic cruised by in convoy. By around 12 noon we got under way again, the first of the south bound convoy, and by 3.00pm had reached Port Suez and the entrance to the Red Sea. The. Sea colour is now noticeably different, being a translucent turqoise.
You may have noted in the news recently that a joint British and American initiative had intercepted and arrested pirates in this area. We have been practising against unauthorised boarders over the last few days. We now have security patrols on deck manning specialist equipment, the promenade decks will be closed during the hours of darkness, and, I am led to believe, we will be escorted, during the overnight passage from Dubai, by a British military vessel. The Captain has also ordered all un-necessary external lighting to be turned off during the hours of darkness. All these measures remain in place until we leave Cochin, India.
Our next port will be Sharm El Sheikh on Monday, and then on to Muscat, Oman, and Dubai, where we hope to meet up with Margaret's cousin, for what looks being a memorable day out.



Wednesday, 11 January 2012

P&O Cruises Oriana Valletta, Malta

Today we had the opportunity to look around Malta. We came ashore at around 10.30am at Valletta, and decided to take an open top bus tour of the island. We had been given varied reports of Malta from different people. Some loved it, others loathed it. We loved it. Unlike Oporto or Naples, the streets were clean, there was no grafitti and the shops were varied, all open, and none boarded up! There are also many interesting buildings from Roman to medieval. The bonus of Malta, for us at least, seems to be that everybody speaks and understands good English, they drive on the left, and all road signage is British standard. The standard of driving and the volome of traffic are also excellent - unlike the previous two places, where you took your life into your hands just to cross at a pedestrian crossing, which seemed only to be advisory. The Weather today was bright sunshine, clear skies, and a top temperature of 17 degrees. I could spend a holiday here.
When we leave this evening, we will have a further two days at sea before we land at Port Said, Egypt. The Pyramid tours are still available, but not the ones into central Cairo. However, the tour buses have to travel the two hour journey in convoy, with an armoured vehicle both at the front and the rear, and each bus with its own armed guard. Not for us.
Speaking of armed gurads though, we have now embarked them on to the ship for our passage through the Gulf of Aden, The Red Sea, and The Indian Ocean. The Captain has briefed us, and they are here for our own safety, to supplement the anti-pirate measures that will also be in place. The ship's crew have been doing this drill for the last few days now. Until next time.......

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

P&O Cruises Oriana Naples

The evening entertainment after the Oporto day was the Headliner Theatre group's dance extravaganza in the Theatre Royal, then an early night ready for Sunday, the first of two at sea days before we reach our next destination which is to be Naples, Italy. Waking up on Sunday, the weather looked promising, and developed into clear blue skies and warm sunshine for our journey south towards the Staights of Gibralter and into the Mediterranian. We cleared Gibralter at around 3.00pm and passed Cabo de Gata, Spain, where I spent a week in October, at around 5.00pm. There was another sea day on Monday before arriving at Naples on Tuesday morning, acouple of hours later than planned due to rough sea conditions the evening before.
Sunday's breakfast was light, consisting only of toast and coffee. I defy anybody to eat freely on this type of holiday without putting on weight. My aim is to be static. However, lunch was taken in Al Fresco, an Italian themed restaurant, and the afternoon spent with the binoculars on the stern terrace of deck 9 (our deck), looking at the close proximity of Morocco and Gibralter on either side. The evening dress code was again black tie, and the entertainment was provided by Philip Browne, an excellent singer, who has appearances in West End shows such as The Lion King, under his belt. On arriving back at our cabin, the steward had again demonstrated her skills in towel sculptures by placing our nightly chocs on the backs of blue swans floating across the bed, (made from the beach towels kept in the shower room). Saturday night they were placed on lotus flowers made from the hand towels.
Monday dawned with a beautiful clear and sunny day with calm sea. Unfortunately, by lunchtime we had reached the Gulf of Lions and the Mistrale blowing from the north, which turned the sea quite choppy with a substantial swell, and lasted through into the evening so we gave the entertainment a miss. The theatre is located at the bow, and being an enclosed space, can be a quite uncomfortable place in rough weather. Unfortunately for the entertainers, they have to perform no matter what.
Tuesday was spent strolling around Naples, after our slightly late arrival. It is a city of interesting old buildings and manic road traffic. The weather was warm, sunny, with a very light breeze and temperature peaking at 17 degrees. The people who decided to do tours went to Pompelli and Hercullenium. Evening dress code tonight, as on most port days, is casual. Tomorrow, all being well, we should be in Malta for the afternoon.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

We are now aboard Oriana

Apologies, but no images as yet, as it has been a bit of a hectic day - remember the opening sequences in the film Titanic, - that's how it was. Hope the next bit isn't the same!
We are now aboard our cruise ship Oriana for the next 97 nights, sailing around the world, setting off East across the Mediterranian, Suez, Indian Ocean, Asia, Australasia, Pacific Ocean, Panama Canal, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and home. Part of our itinerary incudes 2 days in Sydney and 2 days in San Francisco, as well as the other 36 ports of call. The rest of today will be the "learn the correct way to drown" muster at 5pm, followed by sailaway, which includes military bands, fireworks and light shows. (From last years experience anyway). Then it will be dinner at 6.30pm (5 courses every night), show, cinema, then bed! I am currently using my Three mobile broadband as we are still in dock, but will try to update here as and when I can.