On April 5, we were still on the way to Al’Aqabah. It was another busy sea day, with lots of paperwork on my new bookings, as well as talking to people at the desk. I went to the front desk to advise them that we would be in Israel overnight and to have them email the Port agent so that Aviva could get her car in as close as possible. We are really looking forward to spending a little time with her. Harvey Schneider’s wife has become my very good friend.
We had dinner with Paul Kerr and Sharon, and Alan Laurin and Lynn Blair. It was good fun. The entertainment was a variety show of last week’s entertainers, Donna Groom, Bernie Fields and David Kidd. It was very good.
April 6, in Al’Aqabah, Jordan, was going to be an Internet day, and I knew just where to go. We had breakfast in the Lido with the Yetkes. We started with one Eggs Benedict each and a cheese and fresh blueberry crèpe. Is that ever good. Good thing we waited until the last month to start that habit. Then we went to the gym, and I left Elvon in a deck chair, while the Yetkes and I got on the shuttle. For a small tip, we got the driver to take us a couple of blocks more and drop us right at the door of the Kempinsky.
It’s a beautiful hotel, and where I spent my day last year. The Internet is fast and safe and the people are very nice. Jan and I sat at the bar doing lots and lots of business. When we stretched, we took a look at the beach and I observed that there were less hijab-clad ladies this year. Either the novelty of the hotel has worn off for locals and they aren’t coming anymore, or the women are defying the men and getting comfortable. I hope it’s the latter, but fear it’s not.
When I got back to the ship, I took Elvon for Pizza and ice cream, which didn’t stop us from having dinner at eight and going to sailaway after. We left Al’Aqabah at 11:00pm, on a perfect night. It was good to be outside with the city lights receeding.
On April 7, we were on our way to the Suez Canal. Otherwise, it’s a normal sea day. After office hours and gym time, Elvon and I went to the Queen’s Lounge for the belly demonstration and show. Two of our DV people had taken the classes and were up there on stage. It was fun. I made a very expensive call to HAL, on behalf of my clients, who had paid more than their sailing was now being offered for. I got them $400 each in the form of a future cruise credit, but I am not done. I am still working on an upgrade. It’s unrealistic to expect the cruise line to give you your money back, just because they put your cabin on sale within a month of sailing. You can, however, expect a good travel agent to get it back in kind, and that’s the plan. A nice upgrade will make them whole.
Stan and Marilyn had a party, for us table mates, in their suite before dinner. You should have seen the food the ship gives you for seven people. It was a tad obscene, but it was delicious. We ate all we could and donated the rest to the crew mess. The Casablanca Steps, a male quartet, put on a good show.
We were the second ship to enter the Suez Canal on April 8. The first one was a French destroyer. I suspect the last one was military, too. The world’s ships are cooperating in patrolling the canal, to keep it safe for passenger traffic and shipping. The Amsterdam moved slowly through the canal, while our travel guide, Barbara Heanni, provided interesting narration. Elvon spent a lot of time out on deck, as did almost everyone else.
I had the electrical connection in my desk fixed and made plans to go out in Civitavecchia with Wells Wescott to activate the copy on MS Office that I had loaded on his computer when mine was in trouble. I had a spare license, now that I only have one computer myself, and had over-bought a number of years ago.
I have a table of my own in the dining room, now, and I have to keep them appraised of where I will be and who, of the crew, is coming to mine. So I documented all that and emailed it to Tom, the DR Manager. Then I worked on our buses for Cadiz. I put all the handicapped people on Bus 1, so I could arrange taxis for them, instead of the long walking tour. Then I wrote and delivered the weekly letter.
It’s another day of nightmare Internet, but I managed to do most of what I had to. We had Chief Housekeeper, Shiv Charan, for dinner, at our big table upstairs, as he had long been promised to our original table mates. Everyone loves Shiv, and his team has kept us all healthy this year, with its vigilance.
On April 9, we docked in Haifa. Aviva picked us up at the ship, around 10:00 am. We were delighted to see her. She had a lovely day planned for us. First she took us into the Carmel mountains, not far from Haifa. I can see why our Carmel Highlands were named after this gorgeous place. On the way I asked her about the status of Palestine. One of our guests had been chuffed to purchase handmade souvenirs in Al’Aqabah, marked “Made in Palestine”, because as far as we know, there is no such place. Aviva says that conquered territory could have gone back, but Jordan didn’t want it, like Eqypt didn’t want the Gaza strip. Israel has basically adopted these places, just so it can keep the peace.
We visited EnHod, an Arab village, which has turned into an artist’s colony. The artists are mostly Isreali, and the art is very good. The houses are pretty upscale for starving artists. It looks like richer people actually live in them and the artists rent studio space on the ground floor, until they become famous and rich enough to live there. There is sculpture all over the place, much of it humorous, and a proper museum and event space. Only residents and the handicapped can drive around in there, and it’s easy to see why. It would become a very odd shaped, hilly parking lot in short order. So they cleared a real parking lot and everyone, but us, walks in. We can thank Elvon for our nice inside tour of EnHod.
We went up the hill to Ayn Hawd for lunch. This is where the Arabs relocated. It’s called an “unrecognized Arab town”. Believe it or not, there is actually a Council of Unrecognized Settlements”. It lobbies the government to get basic services, like power, water, roads and telecommunications, that we take for granted. About ten years ago, an enterprising Arab lady, who was the secretary of the council, set up a restaurant in her house to feed them. They all loved her food, and encouraged her to go commercial. It started in the living room. It squeezed them out of the existing space and they added rooms. Eventually, they gave up and built a new building, hanging over the side of the hill. You can just imagine the views. They are almost at the top. They moved the old living room furniture in for atmosphere. Aviva has used it for family celebrations, so they know her.
There is no menu. They just start bringing food out, and then they bring more, and more. It’s all delicious. I even ended up eating eggplant and cabbage rolls. There were a lot of meat dishes, chicken and chicken livers, mutton and veal, tahini, veal by itself, stuffed peppers, relishes, spices, halvale, woof. We were stuffed and happy. The name of the restaurant is “Albeet” and it means My Home”. You’re served by the owner and a large number of family members. There are a few hired staff now, and you can tell them from the family, who all look alike. The town is also known as “Ein Hud”. It has an Arab name and an Israeli name.
Well fed, we moseyed along to Jerusalem, where Aviva had us staying around the corner from the Dan Panorama, at the Prima Royale (formerly The Windmill) on Mendale Street. When we got there, it was still Saturday (Shabbat), just coming on sundown. There had been a wedding party, but no one could leave as observant Jews do not drive before sundown on Shabbat. So they were all waiting around that and the kids were running wild in the lobby. Mose managed to check us in, though, and cautioned us on which elevator to use. The other one was set to stop on every floor, so the observant Jews would not be operating something mechanical. It’s an interesting way to make the old laws fit a modern world. We holed up in the room, until well after sundown.
We wanted a nice dinner and more face time with the wonderful Aviva, so we used our hotel down time to figure out where to go for dinner. We hit on sushi as a good bet. It’s light, but you still feel like you are eating out. We found a nearby sushi restaurant and went there. It was a beautiful night and the place had a number of outdoor tables, so we asked for one. Aviva went to find a parking space, while Elvon and I got settled. Before she got back, we felt a drop, then another, and another, and another, and another. We decided to move indoors. It was a good thing, too, as Aviva had no sooner arrived when the deluge hit. It came down in buckets.
The restaurant filled up, and it was mostly young people. We brought the average up a good bit. Israeli army soldiers carry their weapons with them when they are on leave, so there were a good few arms in the place. You feel very safe here. Every public place can defend itself. The food was good, even if there were no shrimp, clams or scallops to be found. The tuna and salmon items were yummy, as was the Israeli Sauvignon Blanc. It was a very good day. Thanks, Aviva.
We woke up in Jerusalem on April 10. Sunday is a work day in Israel, and so Aviva dutifully reported to her job with the Antiquities Authority, at the Israel Museum. She’s the English Editor for their publications. We got up and ate the buffet breakfast offered by the hotel. It was lavish, but odd to us. No bacon or port sausage, of course, a lot of cold cuts, humus, cheese, vegetables, etc. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I always find enough to eat.
We are in the middle of applying for a place in Fountaingrove Lodge, in Santa Rosa, where we can have our own apartment, but I can still get some good help caring for Elvon. Susan, bless her heart, did all the ground work and had sent us a couple of documents to finish filling out, sign and return. We had done all that on the ship and wanted to upload them from Jerusalem, with good Internet. Aviva had taken the 79 pages in to work this fine Sunday morning, and I was planning to meet her around lunch time to get them, and my USB stick, back.
I set off on foot, but soon got myself a taxi. A half hour walk is easy for me, but this one was all uphill and the air was thick with dust. The cars were all filthy, as last night’s five minute downpour had just served to make mud on every car in town. The taxi driver I got said he had washed his, early in the morning, but that there had been another five minute downpour, just after he finished. I had a cup of tea with Aviva, got my papers back and a big hug to boot. Back at the hotel, I uploaded them, used the Internet as long as I could, checked out and took another taxi, back to the ship.
We sailed away at 5:30 pm and got back into ship’s routine. We had dinner at eight and were entertained by Francisco Yglesia, harpist, former member of “Los Paraguayos”.
After having all my Pinnacle dinners oversubscribed, I came to the end and had to scramble a bit to fill the one on April 11. I took a few repeaters, and it worked out fine, in the end.
I went to see Christel for tips on Amsterdam, and she promised them. They will be back on board by the time we get to Holland, so we won’t be able to get together, but she has her ideas somewhere in her computer and will send them along.
I made up a few birthday cards and corresponded more with the yacht clubs of Greece and Monaco. I cancelled Greece, because it’s tomorrow and I only had the Yetkes, who had been before, and one other. Elvon would still be recovering from Jerusalem, and the Yetkes came with us in 2014. I had a talk with Jan and we decided to focus on Monaco, instead. It wasn’t more than a few days away.
We had a good time at the Pinnacle, where I served 7 bottles of wine to 13 people, all repeaters, except for the one couple. This may have been one dinner too many, but, it’ only money, and they are still fun. We finished in time to see the 10:00 pm show. It was a production show: Jazz, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Our dancers are amazing.