QM2, Singapore to New York
The last part of our trip was thirty one days on board the QM2. Many days were spent "at sea" which was very relaxing, with little to do except eat, sleep , read and attend some of the lectures. Also every evening there was some kind of entertainment to enjoy.
The QM2 at anchor
Kris relaxes in our stateroom and a view from the back of the ship on a "sea day"
Lots of food choices both healthy and unheatlthy
Kris, Mark, Chris, Tony, Julia, Paul (picture on the left ) and Kris, Bob and Kathy (on the right)
Our evening dining companions from Dubai to New York and our hosts from the America Express Mariners Club
One of the many lectures we attended (this one about flight attendants) and a round the clock watch as we passed through the Gulf of Aden, just in case we were attacked by pirates.
Phuket & Cochin
All our stops were very brief - never more than a few hours - so we never really had time to see much of the places. However, we always did SOMETHING, even if it was a only a quick taste of what the port had to offer. Our first stop was Phuket, Thailand. where we had stayed a few weeks earlier. We went ashore for some shopping and a massage, but didn't take any pictures.
The next stop was Cochin in India. We have been talking about taking a riceboat trip on the backwaters of Kerala for some time, so we thought we would take the Backwater Cruise to see what it's all about. Our brief stop in Kerala has wetted our appetite for another trip to India - maybe early next year.
A Rice Boat (really a House Boat) at anchor. Note the aircondtioner !
Scenes along the backwaters of Kerala
Life along the canals of Kerala
We only had a few hours in Dubai, so we chose to see the new part of the city, rather than the old traditional part.
The Burj al Arab, an iconic building and possibly the most expensive hotel in the world, and some of the many skyscrapers being built in central Dubai
The ski slope INSIDE the impressive Mall of the Emirates
The Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world
The view from the top of the Burj, showing the desert stretching into the distance
The view straight down from the Burg Khalifa
Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings
We had wondered if events in Egypt would have settled down enough for us to visit Luxor as we had planned. A few days before we arrived, the Captain announced that everything would proceed as planned. Phew ! It turned out a LOT of passengers were going as well. It was a three and a half hour bus ride to Luxor and the same coming back, so more than seven hours just sitting on a bus ! Fortunately the settlements along the route were extremely interesting and it was fasinating to see people riding donkeys and scenes that reminded us of pictures depicting life in biblical times.
Lots of buses on the quayside at Safaga waiting to leave for Luxor and our first sight of the Valley of the Kings from the parking lot
It turned out that we weren't even allowed to carry our cameras into the Valley itself, so the only pictures I could take were from the bus parking lot.
Valley of the Kings
Some of the local "characters" who hung around the buses selling souvenirs
Of course, the tomb interiors (we saw three) were very impressive although we had to move quickly as we only had fiteen minutes at each tomb, before we had to move on.
After the Valley of the Kings and after lunch, we went to the Great Temple at Karnak, a few miles away, where we COULD take pictures.
Some of the restored pillars at Karnak
Sphinxes line the entrance to Karnak
Panorama of the pillars
One of two large obelisks and another view of the massive pillars
Hieroglyphics on the underside of a beam, still brightly colored after over 3,000 years and our last view of the Temple as we left.
Kris bought a souvenir:
The characters spell out "KRIS"
After leaving Karnak, we had a long drive back to the QM2, arriving about 8:30 pm. The ship left about 30 minutes later.
The next day, we arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, which is a resort city built by the Israelis when they controlled the Sinai Peninsula. When we were there, Mubarek had just resigned as President and was under house arrest in his palacial home at Sharm, but we didn't see any activity while we were there. Our main activity was to take a 4WD drive in the desert, followed by a camel ride and tea and snacks in a bedouin camp.
The 4WD drive vehicles stop so we can admire the desert scenery
The camels and their very young drivers, await the arrival of the tourists
The locals thought it was all very amusing. I felt quite sorry for the camel on the left.
Lawrence of Arabia would have been proud, but Kris wasn't really sure about this camel riding business. I think she would have preferred to walk.
After the camel ride, we were taken to a bedouin camp for tea and light refreshments.
Tea is served
We sat on the ground under a large tent, Arab style (or more realistically, Tourist style)
On our way back to the ship, we visited the small town of Sharm el-Sheikh, but there wasn't much to buy. We bought some overpriced tea from the local spice and tea store. No wonder he was smiling.
And then back on the ship and on our way to the Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal
We passed through the Suez Canal without stopping, taking a little over nine hours to pass through. It was quite interesting, with towns and green fields on one side and unspoiled sandy desert on the other.
The Suez Canal
Unexpectedly, there were armed guards and guard towers all along the canal
And pontoon bridges just waiting to be launched. Perhaps they have been there for a long time, but it looks as though the Egyptian army is ready to cross the canal at any time.
We were the lead boat in a convoy of about twenty ships heading North. You can see about six of the ships following us in the picture
On some of the turns, the back of the ship did get a little close to the bank of the canal, but I assume they knew what they were doing !
Finally, we passed under the Japanese - Egyptian Friendship bridge (the only bridge across the canal) and a few minutes later passed into the open Mediterranean Sea.
The open sea lies ahead. Next stop will be Rome.
On our way to Rome, we passed through the Straits of Messina, which we had visited in 2010. After The Straits, we passed the volcanic island of Stromboli, which we hadn't seen before. It seemed to be pretty active !
Stromboli steaming or smoking (we never could decide which) in the afternoon sunshine
The QM2 docked at Civitavecchia, the main port for Rome. As we had been to Rome before, we didn't take a tour, but we jumped on the train to get to Rome.
We arrived in Rome on a beautiful day. St Peter's Square was packed and as we arrived, so did The Pope.
The Pope addressed the crowd but we didn't understand what he was saying (he was talking in Italian), so we left.
The clock on the top of St Peters and a member of the Swiss Guard in their wonderful uniforms
Next stop was the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps from the bottom
Kris thought it might be cold in Rome (and it was raining when the ship docked) so she looks a bit overdressed. On the right, the Spanish steps from the top.
Next stop, the Trevi Fountain.
The magnificent Trevi Fountain
I guess black was our color of the day that day !
Our next stop was going to be the the Galleria Borghese but when we arrived, they were sold out for the next eight days ! So we had to make do with a walk in the grounds of the museum.
We then took a short detour by taking a bus - the right bus but in the wrong direction. No problem - we found a subway station and made our way back to St Peters Square. By now The pope had left and St Peters was open, but the lines were HUGE and we decided that as we had seen St Peters before (albeit eighteen years before) we would give it a miss this time.
So back on the train, back to the ship and on our way to Montecarlo
The ship's next stop was Montecarlo. As we had stayed in Nice only last year, we weren't planning on taking a tour, but by good fortune, we were offered a free tour by American Express Mariners Club, to which apparently we now belong. We are still not quite sure how, but we didn't argue.
The QM2 at anchor just outside the harbor in Monte Carlo
Tina Turner's house in Vellefranche Sur Mer, just down the coast from Monte Carlo
Our first stop was the small village of Eze which we visited last year and then we took a tour of the coast, before stopping in Antibes for lunch at a mansion once owned by one of the Rothschilds.
The Eprussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens (outside and inside)
The rooms have been fully restored and are full of priceless antiques and objets d'art.
A rather risque wall decoration and a candle holder in the form of a fanciful animal (head of an elephant, body of a dog)
The grounds are also spectacular, with many different styles. This is very formal, with wonderful fountains
Great Fountains, which played every 20 minutes or so
A more casual, Spanish Style garden
Everywhere, great views of the bay and the ocean
After a wonderful afternoon at the Eprussi Villa, we returned to the ship and headed for Barcelona, our next stop.
We took a bus tour of Barcelona. The first stop was the unfinished Gaudi Cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction since 1877.
The Sagrada Familia, expected to be finished in 2026
There will be eighteen spires when the Cathedral is complete
The very "organic" design of the decorations - it looks like melted candle wax and the controversial crucifixion - the cross is horizontal, not vertical and Christ is naked
After the Cathedral, we took a driving tour of Barcelona and ended the tour at a small Spanish village with different quarters that replicate the style of houses and architecture from different parts of Spain.
The Poble Espanyol or "Spanish Village"
Then back to the QM2 for several days at sea, before our next and last stop before New York, Southampton
Southampton / Windsor
Our final port was Southampton. We had decided to take a tour of Windsor Castle, as neither of us had ever been there. As always, we didn't have enough time, but we did get to take a quick tour of the Castle, which was spectacular. Once again, no photography was allowed inside the castle so we only have photos of the exterior, which is a pity because the interiors were fascinating.
The Royal Apartments
St George's Chapel
The Coldstream Guards play
Finally, three months after leaving home , on April 26th, the QM2 docked in Brooklyn and we flew home from JFK the same day