The Gulf of Aden - my other gun's a Kalashnikov!!

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October 23rd 2011
Published: June 26th 2017
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This is our 4th day at sea. Rather than give a day-by-day account of our activity, which would be rather repetitive (i.e. got up, had breakfast, laid out in the sun for a bit, came indoors, had some dinner etc… I'm sure you get the picture), I will just outline some of the highlights and observations of 'goings on' whilst we head ever closer to our next stop - Salalah in Oman.

Whilst walking on the promenade deck 6, past our muster station, Roisin exclaimed: ‘Where's our lifeboat?' Sure enough every muster station had a double-hulled lifeboat with twin prop that hold a capacity of 109 persons. As our muster station was at the end of the deck, all we had were a few inflatables. (25-person max). If in the unfortunate event that we'll need to use them, I'm hoping they'll give us the oars as well! The muster station is stencilled on to each life jacket. Ours is muster station ‘R'. We're thinking of getting a felt tip marker and making the ‘R' in to a ‘B'. Their lifeboat looks in the best nick. It's only a precaution!!!

The entertainment team are pulling out all the stops to entertain. On our first night out of Aqaba, they held a ‘Pirates versus Buccaneers' event. Not sure how appropriate this was due to where we are heading. It was exactly the same format as the Beatles event held a few nights earlier but without the Beatles songs (or the French/Swiss woman!!). The cocktail of the night was called a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean' and the film they have been showing is that of the same name as the cocktail. I think they may be over-egging the pirate thing!!

During our 4 days at sea, the entertainment team held a daily quiz. There have been only 10 questions each time but having to ask each question in 5 different languages takes time.

Roisin and I were paired with a couple from Hampshire, Anne and Philip. I can't say that this was the new ‘Delta delays' but I felt that we could be on to a winner. Whilst Donny and Marie may be royal names in the world of pop, I concluded that Anne and Philip are just royal names!!!

Each team received a folder with a country name on it. We chose Bolivia. Before each quiz we also receive an array of balloons that we have to blow up and wave about for no apparent reason. Philip observed that sometimes he felt like he was on an 18-30 cruise. More like a 50-80 cruise if you ask me!!!

The final question of the first quiz session was ‘What was the name of the first woman on the moon?' It sounded like a trick question. Philip knew the name of the first woman in space so we wrote that there has never been a woman on the moon but the first woman in space wasValentina Tereshkova'.

We didn't win the quiz. We got 8 out of 10. Team Australia won. Just out of interest, I asked how many did they get as I like to know how close we were.

8!' came the reply.

Whoa!' I want a recount. I know it's only a game and if we were well off the pace we could have accepted this but we have a reputation to maintain!! They had apparently marked the Tereshkova question incorrect. We had the whole entertainment team googling the question. Sure enough they conceded that we were right.

Natasha, one of the entertainment team (from Russia) said that this answer didn't sound right as she thought that no Russians had ever landed on the moon but maybe the rest of the entertainment team knew something she didn't!!

By way of an apology, we received a goody bag with a t-shirt, ball cap and bum-bag all delivered to our cabin in very pretty packaging. Still no lanyard!! I think I'll have to buy one at this rate!!

The following days quiz was all geography questions. We once again scored 8/10 and, once again Team Australia won with 10/10. The 2 questions we got wrong were identifying the flag of the Seychelles and what is the capital of Honduras. We lost fair and square. We did manage to identify the capital of French Polynesia (having been there 12 months previously!)

During a cruise, every passenger is issued with a cruise card. This contains vital information about cabin number, dining options and muster station. (Damn I forgot about that!!) It is also your onboard credit card and cabin key card. I'm on to my fourth cruise card as I keep demagnetising it. I carry a voice message machine with me so I can note any observations for inclusion in the blog, as I would forget stuff otherwise! My cruises must be rubbing up against these rendering them useless!!

During our 4 days at sea, it was announced that Neptune would seek the pleasure of our company for the initiation of those passengers who had not crossed the Red Sea before. This sounds vaguely familiar. Surely this ceremony is for those who have never crossed the equator. The selected passengers and crew are usually put on trial, have to ‘kiss the fish' then are subjected to humiliation to the delight of all those NOT taking part!! This just sounds like an excuse for another couple of hours of frivolity on deck!! What will they think of next?? Trident's channel crossing party?? Poseidon's soiree across the Solent?? Where will it end??

Despite this impostor appearing claiming to be Neptune, it was a very funny ceremony with ‘kissing the fish' substituted by ‘snogging the octopus'!! It was like Tiswas on acid. Very fast and furious with eggs, cocoa, flour, milk and tomato sauce being used to initiate the unsuspecting victims. It was mesmerising entertainment. For some reason, I felt the urge to bake a soufflé!!!

One of the ‘victims' deserves a special mention, as he tends to appear in all the games shows; Grease, the Beatles Quiz, Pirates v Buccaneers and Mr Italy to name but a few. I'm sure he would have even tried to gatecrash the Miss Lirica pageant if it wasn't for his bushy moustache!! He introduces himself as Marino from San Marino. If you ask me, I think his name is really something like Norman or Jeremy but Marino has a better ring to it!!!

Another character worth a special mention is Marco from the entertainment team. He is a man of a few words but his comic timing and facial expressions remind me of a young Harpo Marx!!

The straits of Bab el Mandeb separate the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean beyond. It is only 9 miles across at its narrowest point. On the port side is Yemen whilst on the starboard side is Djibouti. Once through these straits it's up past the Horn of Africa and Somalia. We were now entering dangerous ‘bandit' country.

An announcement was made over the tannoy in the early evening of 22nd October that we would be slowing down and another ship would be pulling up along side the MSC Lirica to offload ‘technical equipment' and there is nothing to be alarmed about. Whilst this was happening, the main decks were off limits although the top decks were still open. It was difficult to see what was happening as by this time, it was pitch black and we could only make out the shape of a medium side boat as it sailed off into the darkness having already off-loaded it's mysterious cargo..

Later that evening I was reading the daily programme. This mentioned specifically that an additional compulsory emergency drill would be carried out at 11am the following day. I burst out laughing. Roisin asked me what was so funny as this is probably the ‘pirate training' we had heard about.

I explained that immediately below this announcement was an advert for the Aurea Spa advertising a ‘ball' massage. Roisin had to read this for herself. She also burst out laughing and turned to me. I was already in the process of ringing my order through when she said, 'It doesn't say ‘ball' massage. It says ‘BALI' massage!!!' We both agreed it had been a long day.

So, it was the day of this additional emergency procedure. An announcement was make at shortly after 11am that all passengers should return to their cabin, collect their life jackets and proceed to the ‘Broadway Theatre' when the usual alarm was sounded. Was the theatre to correct place to congregate? It sounds like MSC are making a ‘song and dance' about this!!! (There's a joke in there somewhere!!)

On the way down to the Theatre, the crew were in the process of drawing the starboard side drapes. However, they weren't fast enough as both Roisin and I had a glimpse of a man in fatigues wielding an automatic weapon. Was this the ‘technical equipment' that was dropped off last night, we wondered??

We all sat in the Theatre with our life jackets on and once again listened how to put your life jacket on. I must admit. This life jacket felt pretty comfortable. It gave me the neck support I needed. I may start using this as a pillow as it can't be any worse than the brick we have currently to rest our heads up on!!

Roisin feels that as MSC are treating this very seriously, they should have some sort of card in the cabin explaining what to do if you spot anyone walking around the ship looking suspiciously like a pirate. How would you spot one?? Maybe the hook and the wooden leg would be a dead giveaway!!

I came prepared for this eventuality. I have a cunning plan. I sneaked a Pirate hat and Parrot aboard. Should Somalian pirates board us, I intend to ‘blend in' and infiltrate their gang!!! However, I also had to think what to do if my plan went ‘tits up' and I was captured by these swashbucklers. I, therefore left a message for Roisin on my voice recorder that said: ‘In the eventuality that I am captured by Pirates, I have put the front door key in the side pouch of the holdall!!!'

Later that evening Roisin and I were discussing the day's events with Myra and Mike over dinner. Mike said that on returning to his cabin, he happened to look out over his balcony to see several small boats that were approaching this ship. He also heard what sounded like gunfire (this has been subsequently confirmed by other passengers!).

Today Roisin was up on the top deck and saw what could only be described as a floating Bedouin tent!! It was a small covered launch. Minutes later, a helicopter flew over the ship and circled a few times before taking off. Men in blue uniforms with curly wires sticking out of their ears have also been reported wandering about on deck. All his excitement and we still never won the quiz again!!!

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25th October 2011

OMG Chris - PIRATES AHOY!!!!!!If any of them look like Captain Jack Sparrow will you stow them away and bring them back with you? - Love the hat by the way - the parrot would look great on your desk!!!!!!You certainy mix with the elite of s
ociety Donny and Marie and now Charles and Anne - We usually get Jack and Vera on our table !!!!
25th October 2011

Sorry folks !! of course its Philip and Anne - an age thing always get names wrong!!!!!!!!!!
25th October 2011

and in his left hand - a Bali Massage??
27th October 2011

How funny. I'll be takin u out down the village when u get bak :-) xx

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