Apr 3 – A Sea Day in the Suez
Our itinerary changed with the cancelation of the Egyptian ports. Not only were Israeli ports added but also the sequence of sea days and port days was altered. Under the first revision of the schedule, we were to leave Aqaba and have a leisurely sea day on the way to the Suez Canal.
This changed yesterday when the captain announced that we were going all out to get to the Suez as soon as possible. He had hopes of arriving by 10 a.m. today, getting a Canal pilot on board and being in the queue to travel north by 11 a.m. The captain upheld his end of the bargain, but the Suez Canal authorities changed the schedule once again. We were told that we would not enter the Canal until around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Most passengers took the news well; however, the captain later announced that he received a nasty letter about the adjustment to the schedule. He explained that a full transit of the Canal in daylight was impossible because of the traffic and that a later arrival [i.e., tomorrow] would have required us to miss the stop in Ashdod, Israel, completely. By arriving early, he saved the next port of call and we will spend tomorrow making slow, lazy circles in the Mediterranean while we wait to dock in Ashdod Sunday morning. We have burned off a lot of fuel and need to conserve what’s left, so slow and steady is the word for a few days after racing here and, earlier, outrunning the mythical pirates.
The Suez Canal is the original Big Ditch. Connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, it is 120 miles long with no locks. The sea levels at either end are the same, so there is no reason to raise or lower ships which are traversing it. However, transit time is between 10 and 12 hours depending on traffic and the tides. We entered it around 4 p.m. and the captain expected us to exit at Port Said around 3 in the morning.
Tonight was the beginning of Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. Talk about ironies! One of the last passages of the Seder celebration is “Next year in Jerusalem” which became “The day after tomorrow in Jerusalem!” The ship hosted a Seder for everyone who was interested and 150 people signed up for the festivities which were led by Arthur. It was done well and the HAL staff deserves credit for making it work. The food and wine were provided by HAL, of course, but the food was good and the waitstaff was excellent. We sat with Kathy and Bob, who are not Jewish, and tried to explain things as we went along. Despite the pedantry, we had a good time.
TOMORROW – A sea day before we land in Israel
Apr 4 – A quiet day at sea
We killed time in the Mediterranean today before making port tomorrow in Israel. Even if the captain had enough fuel to waste by speeding to Ashdod, we would have arrived on Saturday and found nothing open. There would have been no shuttle to a closed shopping mall and taxis, operated by non-Jews, would have doubled their prices; a trip to Jerusalem, an hour away, would cost over $100 each way. So we “strolled” the waters at 10 knots, fast enough to operate the stabilizers and slow enough to conserve fuel.
TOMORROW – Israel at last