Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mar 11  -- In Port But at Sea

When D told the guide in Yangon that we would be here for two days, the guide, Han, replied that there really was not enough to do in Yangon to fill two days.  We booked the one-day tour and planned to relax on board on the second day.  We did just that today, but there were crazy people who have planned to be off the ship at every opportunity.

Yesterday, we toured with folks who returned at 4:45 and left again at 5:45 to return to the city – an hour’s drive – so they could see the sites at night.  They had only an hour to shower, dress and grab some dinner before they had to start the shuttle dance to get to the van to go to the city.  These same people were out touring today and then returned only to turn around and go back for dinner.  When HAL extended our stay because of tidal conditions, they booked a ship’s tour for tomorrow.  It’s tiring just thinking about it.

We know our limits and thought five consecutive days ashore would be more than enough.  We had not planned on MA’s missing three of the five days, yet felt no pressure to sign up for something today just to do it.  Some people planned on two-day tours and went to Bagu [Bago?] on yesterday and Yangon today.  They reported that they saw lots of temples and Buddhas on both days and feel overloaded.

When almost everyone on tour, a cruise ship is a little like a ghost town or The Flying Dutchman.  As noted here earlier, it is really quite nice.  We just pretended it was a sea day and read and relaxed.

We finally heard from Avinoam, the tour operator in Jerusalem.  He said that he can accommodate us on April 5 and 6 and even assign the same driver/guide we had in 2011.  We wrote back with our time schedule and a list of places we would like to visit on our tours.  There are some things we hope to repeat, but we will be in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday during Passover, so we are prepared to deviate from the prepared program.  Our intention is to “do” the Old Testament sites on Sunday when we are docked in Ashdod and the New Testament sites on Monday when the ship will be in Haifa.  Even if we could get a room at this late date, we did not want to spend the night in Jerusalem.  Stay tuned for further developments.

TOMORROW – Another port day at sea

Mar 12 – Wherein Not Much Happens

Originally, we were scheduled to leave Thawila, Yangon’s port, at 3:30 this morning.  We were notified the other day that we would not leave until 12:30 in the afternoon, so HAL threw together tours for the diehards [see yesterday’s entry].  The river we are on is a tidal one and the water level rises and falls; we need a high tide to clear some of the sand bars in the river unless we want to look like the Costa Concordia.  All well and good, but then the captain announced that we would not leave until after 4 p.m.  The ship did back away from the dock so that the shops and casino could open, but we did not start moving downstream until almost 4:30.

Now we are about twelve hours behind schedule and the captain will move at warp speed to get us to Colombo, Sri Lanka.  We are sure we will arrive later than the published time of 7:00 o’clock; the question is “How late?”  All of the HAL tours will operate as planned but at a different time and those of us with private tours need to notify our guides of the change in schedule.  We also have to let the others in our groups know the new assembly time.  There’s always something.

There was more mail from Jerusalem.  Avinoam has sent a tentative itinerary and price based on four people with the option of adding more passengers and lowering the per person cost.  While we are docked in Ashdod, he proposes that we visit the Old City of Jerusalem, the jewish Quarter [and, we assume, the Western Wall]; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher [which might be impossible on Easter Sunday]; Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum; the Children’s Museum; the Israel Museum; and the Shrine of the Book which houses some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The plan for Monday is to visit Nazareth, the Church of St. Joesph, Mary’s Well, Cana and the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of the Beatitudes and Capernaum.  We should be very busy.

Since some of MA’s former students live in Israel, she posted a note saying when we would be there and several replied that they could meet us when we are in Ashdod.  Once we know the parameters of Sunday’s tour, we can try to make more definite plans.  When we were here on a cruise in 2011, two of the girls came to our hotel to visit.

In the meantime, D spent some of this afternoon contacting Cruise Critic members to see if they were interested in joining these tours.  Some have decided to avoid Israel during the Holy Day season and others he spoke with wanted to go other places with HAL, he did find two couples to share the tours and expenses.  There is still room for two more people, but we will not have more than eight in the group.  We hope to get more concrete information from Avinoam tomorrow.

Nothing else of importance happened today.  The ship was not as empty as yesterday, but everyone was on board by noon, so the peace and quiet did not last all day.  We spent time before lunch on the Lido deck where MA read while D placed pictures in our copy of this journal.  We always convert the blogs to PDF files and then print them, so anyone who wants one can ask for the file once we are home.

TOMORROW -- A Sea Day at Sea




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