Friday, December 6, 2019

Port Kelang, Malaysia

It was almost over. The last port and last tour on the month-long cruise. All through the night three words permeated my brain. Must. Press. On.

When I woke up several times drenched in sweat. Must. Press. On.
As I tossed and turned, trying to find the right spot for my painful knee. Must. Press. On.
During the coughing attacks. Must. Press. On.
As I woke up in a start, trying to gasp for breath. Must. Press. On.
While attempting to drown out the sound of the blowers outside our cabin. Must. Press. On.
When the alarm went off at 5:30 this morning. Must. Press. On.

So when E came out of the bathroom and said let’s not go today I had only three words for him.

That sounds great.

He felt the need to defend his decision but he really didn’t need to tell me. I knew what he was going to say.
  • We had a long walk to get to the terminal building.
  • To take a three hour roundtrip bus ride just to get to the city of Kuala Lumpur.
  • To start a tour lasting a good chunk of the day.
  • With one of the stops requiring 50 steps with no handrails.
  • In stinkin’ hot weather.
  • And the most important one - we needed to save our energy for two very long travel days ahead.

Yes, I knew. When I booked this cruise I worked hard at making sure I only scheduled tours I knew he could handle. Ones that wouldn’t wear him down. Tours not too taxing for him. I think I’ve done a great job at it and he’s been a trouper. But here, in this last port, I’m faced with the whole hindsight is 20/20 thing. I shouldn’t have booked a tour on the last day of the last port. It was a moment of selfishness, I guess. An I know I won’t get back here ever so I want to see it now selfishness. Lesson learned.

While I could have gone to the medical center to get the excursion tickets stamped in order to get a refund, I didn’t want to. There are sick people in the waiting room down there and I don’t need any additional germs in my system. Anyway they would have mostly likely prescribed me a Z-Pak, which I already have thanks to my multiple cruises to Mexico this year. And I’d rather not have to pay for a doctor visit, submit it to my health insurance, wait for the denial letter, then have to submit it to the travel insurance company. I was just fine eating the cost of the excursion instead and start taking my straight-from-Mexico Z-Pak.

So we stayed onboard where I saw nothing resembling Kuala Lumpur.
It looks like a long hot walk just to get to the terminal.
There is a bit of a smoke smell in the air but it may be from the chemical plants near the port.
I later learned the area has a significant number of illegal plastic recycling factories -
factories that many times just burn the plastic instead of recycling it.

I can attest it really is stickin’ hot today. I can also attest I started on my Z-Pak this morning. And that yes, I really am sick because I can’t bring myself to get dressed in my swimsuit and spend the day at my go-to spot for the cruise. 
I love this pool.
I also couldn’t stay in bed all day, so I did manage to make my way to the Internet Café to get some cell service so I could use my phone as a hotspot to get the blog posted. I remember this Internet Café from our first cruises years ago when there wasn’t Wi-Fi throughout the ship. The days when we had to come down here to Deck 7 to go online. (Which we never did back then. How did we ever do without the Internet?) 

It’s nice and big and bright with plenty of seating and open space. Makes you realize how times have changed. Heck, we didn’t even have a cell phone back in those days.

Tomorrow we’re off to Singapore where we’ll be disembarking the ship. Yep, still sad. I’ll be back in the next couple days to finish up the trip reporting and will be posting a trip wrap-up as well. See ya then.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sea Day Times Three

I’m putting all three days’ worth of at-sea info into just this one post so apologies for the random smattering of thoughts…

These three sea days have gone by fast. As the ship is heading east we are flying through the time zones. Three times we’ve moved the clock forward in the last three days. Whew. If you’re keeping track we’ve now moved the clock forward eight times in the past month for a total of seven (7!) hours lost. For those thinking of this itinerary, consider doing it in reverse so you gain seven hours instead.

As predicted, since the Internet was switched to the southern satellite, service has been sloooowww. I have a slew of emails I can’t even get to load and most websites, including the blog, won’t show anything but a blank screen. I’ve tried logging in several times a day, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when things finally do go through. I’ve read five emails, sent three, and listened to two voicemails. Internet minutes used to do those few things? Almost 100. I contemplated going the Internet manager to get minutes reinstated but at this point it really doesn’t matter.

Of course, one of the emails that did load was from the Jury Commission reminding me jury service starts Monday. Yes, I know. I’ll be leaving Singapore late Saturday afternoon, arriving for a late night connection in Taipei, cross more multiple time zones until we get to our overnight stay in Seattle and arrive home in time to make it to jury duty. Thanks for the reality check.

The other night the cabin right next to us had a flood. They moved the passengers out so the crew could spend the night sucking up all the water. It was quite a loud night with the machines running, crew yelling over each other while they were doing it, and the blowers trying to dry things out. By the next morning they gave up on the sucking machine and pulled up all the carpet in the cabin. They need to do the same for the hallway as the flood also made its way to the hallway and the carpet is squishy and splashy. They still have the blowers running on it. Right outside our cabin. While the noise is bothersome, it’s nothing compared to the noise we had in our original cabin on the ship so there will be no complaints from me.

One thing I may have mentioned during this cruise but is worth mentioning again is the Sterling Steakhouse’s availability. It’s closed a lot. Since it shares space with the back part of the buffet, it’s closed during the busy buffet times. Embarkation day, port days, and Crab Shack days are those days on this ship.

Today was our very last day at sea. Sad. I knew I loved sea days, but now I realize I really love sea days when the weather is warm. I got to swim every day, work on my tan every day, and swim some more. My left knee isn’t happy about all the swimming and neither is my right shoulder. But the rest of my joints have been just fine with it. I’ve also certainly enjoyed all the Movies Under the Stars options during my pool time. With this being a super-long cruise we are getting plenty of choices we don’t usually see on other cruises like Pride and Prejudice, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, World’s Fastest Indian, Big, and so many, many more. All of the movies go to the on-demand system on the TV the next day and as of today we have 62 extra movies that have been added.

Last week (or was it the week before?) I mentioned there were no chair hogs on this cruise. Well, I found them this week. They’ve been in the covered pool area. We had one stormy sea day when I couldn’t get to the outdoor pool (it’s monsoon season here) and found it was difficult to get a good seat at the indoor pool at 9:45 in the morning because of the chair hogs. I even found someone had placed their cane over two lounge chairs to hold them. Hmm…guess someone doesn’t need a cane that bad.

We received our passports back today with several new stamps. This trip has been the most passport-filling trip of our cruising history. Cruise to Canada, Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean, or around Europe (at least at the ports we’ve visited before) and you don’t get one stamp. The only time you even show your passport is during cruise check in or at the airport from your international flight. But at the ports on this itinerary? Immigration is serious business here.
Some stamps are on top of stamps on top of stamps.
Most Traveled Guest for this cruise has 1,503 days with Princess.

Like I said, random thoughts here!

Tomorrow we are in Port Kelang, Malaysia. It’s the port where we’ll take a Princess excursion to Kuala Lumpur, our last stop of the cruise before Singapore. Sad. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Colombo, Sri Lanka

I love days full of new sights, sounds, and learnings.
Ever see a sunrise over Sri Lanka? You sure have.
Remember yesterday I wrote there was a lady who wasn’t going to get off the ship today because there was nothing worth seeing? Well, I’m glad she stayed back and left it all for us. Our early morning city tour in Colombo, Sri Lanka was great. We had heard so many things ahead of time – things we were glad hadn’t deterred us.

Be ready for a country opposite of what you’ve experienced so far. 
It sure was and we saw so much that was new. Temples and churches and buddas.
Buildings and businesses and green spaces.
Like the laundromat sign?
And the people. So interesting to watch.
The sign said saloon but by looking at the picture in the corner I think it meant salon.
The cleanliness you saw on the streets of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Muscat will not exist in Sri Lanka. 
While the streets were not spotless, they weren’t left trashy either. There were workers all around the city cleaning up. 
Look at the brooms they were using.
Plan on toilet paper to be absent from restrooms and for them to not be Western style. 
We made a couple stops. I used the ones in the hotel where we had a little snack. Restrooms there were immaculate. And Western-styled.
Look at the beautiful entryway of the Kingsbury hotel. Those are real roses.
Nervous Nellies will not want to sit near the front of the buses or transportation or tours because of the way the drivers will be driving
We had a great driver. But yes, the traffic was crazy. Cars and buses and tuk tuk drivers all going in all different directions.
Plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting outside the port gates.
Air conditioning in the transportation – Princess tours included - may take quite some time to cool things down, so expect to be hot and sticky and wet.
The air conditioning worked great and we didn’t get overheated at all.

Weather forecast calls for 89 degrees, high humidity, and a 100% chance of rain, most likely from intermittent downpours. 
Not during our early morning tour. It was a beautiful, comfortable day.

We had a grand time. I’m glad grumpy-pants lady stayed behind and we didn’t.

Tomorrow we have another sea day. Then another one after that and another after that. Three sea days in a row before our next port. Like I mentioned yesterday, the Internet in the southern hemisphere is painfully slow. While I’ll be writing the blog each day, it may not let me post it. But if I can, I will. (I was actually surprised when I checked my phone today and saw that yesterday’s post had made it. I thought it was lost in space somewhere.) So if you don’t hear from me for three days, I should be able to get them posted once we hit Kuala Lumpur. (Gotta love it when your cellular network allows you to use your phone as a hot spot no matter what country you’re in. Now if they could just make it work at sea that way!)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sea Day, December 1

It was a dark and stormy night. Lightning was brightening up the cabin and the thunder was reverberating throughout the ship while this gal coughed her way through all of it. I’ve been trying to stave off the sickness going around the ship but I think my healthy days are running out. Note to self: Must. Keep. Healthy.

I was late waking this morning and missed the sunrise but soon found there wasn’t a sunrise to see anyway. The dark and stormy night turned into a dark and stormy morning with even more thunder and lightning. We watched it from the Promenade Deck but as the clouds moved in closer, the torrential rain blowing sideways chased us away.
It was a wet one out there today. Add it in with a few other things and it made for an interesting way to spend a sea day.
  • The outdoor pool area was drenched and deserted and the indoor pool area was full. Can’t go there. An FYI on the pools on this ship…they are open from 7 am-11pm with the exception of the Neptune Pool where the Movies Under the Stars is held. That pool closes at 5:30pm.
  • One section of the buffet seating has been closed due to water coming through the ceiling. No one will be sitting there for lunch or dinner.
  • As we are heading towards the southern hemisphere, the satellites were being switched over and the Internet was out. Not like I have plenty of minutes to use anyway.
  • The TV in the cabin was fixed yesterday but is back to a black screen today. Again I’ve reported it and again I’m told they’ll send up a technician. I do think they’re getting tired of my calls day after day. So no on-demand movies on a rainy day.
  • What about today’s Pub Lunch? I’m trying to stay away from all the sick passengers (and there are a lot) in the indoor spaces so we didn’t go. On this ship Pub Lunch is in a dining room. It’s such a better venue than the Wheelhouse Bar.
  • Head to the library? The library here is small – and loud. It shares space with the Captain’s Circle Desk and Future Cruise Consultant and all the people waiting for both those ladies. Also, the library only has certain hours where the books are available for checkout – or even for browsing. Outside those specific hours the book cabinets are locked.
So what to do? Stop by the 2 for $20 t-shirt sale to pick up Rome and Abu Dhabi shirts for E for Christmas. We don’t do presents, but Santa does fill stockings for those at our daughter’s house on Christmas Day. (You’re welcome, Santa.) Speaking of the holidays, I know some Princess ships are seeing Christmas decorations going up already, but not here. I wonder if it’ll happen once we hit Singapore and the ship moves onto its Asia itinerary for the season. 

Thankfully by mid-afternoon things started working again. The Internet was back up and running (but oh-so-slooow) and the technician fixed the TV for the umpteenth time (and showed me how to reset it myself). The rain let up some but left us with 80 degree weather and 90 percent humidity. It was steam-room steamy, but too hard to for me to breathe in when it felt like an elephant (from the elephant orphanage on one of tomorrow’s Princess excursions, perhaps?) was sitting on my chest. I have a Z-Pak I’ll take if I don’t feel better after tomorrow’s excursion. (No, not the one to the elephant orphanage.)

It’ll be an early morning city tour in Colombo, Sri Lanka for us. We’ve already been cautioned not to expect too much. To be ready for a country so very opposite of what we’ve experienced so far. That the cleanliness we saw on the streets of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Muscat will not exist in Sri Lanka. Plan on toilet paper to be absent from restrooms and for them to not be Western style. Nervous Nellies will not want to sit near the front of the buses or transportation or tours because of the way the drivers will be driving. That the air conditioning in the transportation – Princess tours included - may take quite some time to cool things down, so expect to be hot and sticky and wet. The weather forecast calls for 89 degrees, high humidity, and a 100% chance of rain, most likely from intermittent downpours. All of those reasons probably contributed to why I heard someone today say they weren’t going out in port because there was nothing worth seeing. But we’re here one time and one time only, and we need to see it (whatever it is – or isn’t) for ourselves. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Sea Day and Pirate Drill Info

You know when it’s nine in the morning and 80 degrees with 85 percent humidity it’s going to be a hot one. I spent my swimming and sunning time at the pool but couldn’t last all day. With the steamy heat and my sunscreen bottle running low and me not wanting to have to ration it like I am Internet minutes, I didn’t stay in a lounger all that long. Even my swimming time was cut short. After yesterday’s swimming lap-o-rama, my shoulder hurt all night long. (It’s that same shoulder I’ve already had repaired once and the one I re-injured on the Crown Princess during our transatlantic voyage last year.)

Less swimming + less sunning = more time to get my thoughts together about the pirate drill experience.

As I mentioned during the Suez Canal portion of our voyage, when I was researching what to expect on a cruise ship during the transit, I found all kinds of conflicting information. In most of the cases I read about, the time in the Suez Canal sounded like a dire and pretty scary experience. I’ve traveled enough to know both cruise passengers and the news media exaggerate and dramatize certain things around cruising so I took what I read with a grain of salt.

First of all, the information I read online stated it was in regards to safety procedures during the Suez Canal transit. But it isn’t the Suez Canal requiring additional safety procedures – it’s the waterways before the Suez Canal if you’re traveling northbound or after the Suez Canal if you’re heading southbound. There is a High Risk Area in the waters near and around the Horn of Africa and where the Strait of Hormuz meets the Persian Gulf. These High Risk Area boundaries change depending on incidents in the area. The Suez Canal isn’t even close to the HRA.

But I did find there was some truth – but not all truth – in what I read in regards to anti-piracy procedures.

The Suez Canal is one way so it took forever for the Canal to open. Ship had to leave in the cover of night to stealthily avoid the pirates. 
Again, none of the anti-piracy procedures had to do with the Suez Canal. But yes, the Suez Canal used to be only one way. Now there are two Canals running alongside each other with some areas where they converge. Sometimes ships would be hanging out in those areas waiting for the area to clear before moving on. We did leave in the dark, but we had a convoy of 22 ships heading southbound and another convoy heading northbound so an early morning entry into the Canal was needed to get all of us through in both directions.

The ship is locked down and goes dark, with no one allowed outside or on the open decks during the day or night. All curtains had to be closed and no lights allowed at night and passengers were pretty much confined to their cabins. For several days, actually. 
This may have happened, but it is not the usual procedure. These types of security measures are followed if there is a recent incident, like the time when a Chinese cargo ship was fired upon in the Sinai Peninsula and a cruise ship was in the same waters not long after. These precautions are taken for the safety and security of passengers and crew, and if the situation requires passengers stay from open decks, they will be closed off. Again, this type of lock down is not typical.

Forced to endure pirate drills and passengers required to huddle in the hallways. 
We did have a required pirate drill. (It was also called an anti-piracy drill.) On our ship we weren’t required to huddle in the hallways, but we were required to return to our cabins in order to be accounted for. (The stewards did the checking.) We were also required to shut and lock balcony doors and close all curtains.

Ships use several methods to ward off pirate attacks, with one being high speed. Our ship was at maximum speed as we traversed the High Risk Areas. Another method is maneuvering. These are a couple of the reasons we were required to be in our cabin for the first part of the pirate drill. The Captain told us that in case of a real pirate attack, the ship would be using its maneuvering capabilities at a high speed and the ship would be listing heavily. We would need to be away from the open decks and open areas of the ship. During the listing the safest place would be sitting on the floor of our cabin. A bit scary to think about.

As part of the drill, with passengers instructed to their cabins, crew were called to Deck 4 with a code. They were to behave as if pirates were boarding the vessel. Crew were then called to another area on Deck 4 for a simulated fire from the pirate attack. The ship even used synthetic smoke to give the crew a more authentic drill. Passengers were then supposed to be called to their muster stations as you would if the ship were on fire, but the synthetic smoke got a bit out of hand and wafted into one of the muster stations. We had to wait until the smoke cleared before the alarm sounded.

Call us ever-so-thankful we had a cabin on Deck 8 by the back stairway so we only had one flight of stairs for E to make his way down. It has made us rethink our cabin locations for future cruises. Typically on muster drill day we go early so we can take the elevators but we couldn’t do it for the pirate drill. If we had a real-life emergency where going to a muster station was required, walking down from a higher deck cabin wouldn’t work for E.

Then here’s where it got weird in the muster station – we had to listen to the regular muster station chipper presentation from day one. During a Pirate Drill. The hello everyone and the even though you’d look stunning in a life jacket and the spread joy, not germs one. The whole dang thing. Not only were they using this time in the muster station for a pirate drill, but they were using it to count as the muster drill for those folks who had been on since Southampton. (Those from Southampton were on a 38 day cruise and you have to muster every 30 days.) The stupid muster drill song in a Pirate Drill just didn’t work. All in all, from the time crew were first called to Deck 4 to the time we were dismissed from the muster station was about an hour.

Heavily armed guards onboard with water cannons set up on the open decks in case of attack.
We didn’t have armed guards onboard for our voyage. However, we did have additional eyes on the water. There was a high level of surveillance on the Bridge and around ship, especially at night. Because of the need for maximum night vision for those on watch, lights were dimmed on the Promenade Deck from 10pm to 6am. Therefore the deck was closed during those times.

Those on watch were looking for some typical telltale signs to identify pirates. Skiffs are towed behind motherships which can be spotted on radar miles away. Two skiffs travel together when targeting ships and can look like normal fishing boats from afar but once binoculars are used the difference can be detected. The skiffs carry grappling hooks, increased fuel, and no fishing gear. The pirates may also be in possession of AK-47s.

Our ship also had prerigged hoses along the Promenade deck. We saw these hoses hanging down all along the deck. They have a nozzle on one end, with the other end of the hose attached to the water supply across the deck. When in use these hoses will create a water wall, if needed.

We were also informed we would see an increased military presence during our time in the High Risk Area. If there had been recent issues in the area we would have been escorted through the area and may have had additional security personnel onboard. (All was good for us.) Shipping lanes were also more narrow than usual so we would see an increasing number of container ships closer to our ship.

It was a bit scary to think about what could have happened. I do have to mention this – on this voyage we knew what we were getting into. We also knew what kinds of safety issues could arise from being closer to Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Syria and the Persian Gulf than most of us have ever been before. But not once have I heard anyone say they didn’t want to be here or weren’t getting off the ship in port because they feared for their safety. But over the last 10 years on our cruises to Mexico? I heard it on a daily basis.

We have another sea day tomorrow and yet another time change tonight. This time we are doing 30 minutes forward. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I'm starting to think I’ve been pretty clueless on the ways of the world. You can bet I’ll be relying on the ship clocks, not my cell phone, to figure out the real time!