Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Leave the real world behind: Go Cruising

"Watch you don't catch the menopause” was one of the nicer comments I received from peers when I informed them of this year's big holiday: A Cruise to the Holy Land.


The Holy Land is not really your regular vacation destination and for good reason – it certainly is anything but regular! But that is worth a few posts of explanation!

Cruising is quite a stereotypical holiday, not usually associated with those looking for adventure, youth, excitement or culture. Middle aged Americans are the typical clients, large families gather to celebrate a big occasion and some honeymooners have been starting to hop on board – but what can it offer to the rest of us?
Everything, Anything and more!

Vision of the Seas docked in Istanbul (c)fifiheavey

As usual, this year's holiday was supposed to be a cheap sun holiday firstly because of budget restraints but also because I just wanted to relax and not rush around trying to fit every single thing of cultural and historical interest into my itinerary But that was soon scraped and next thing we found ourselves booked on to a 10 night Royal Caribbean Cruise to the Holy Land: relaxation with a dash of culture and spirituality, history, conflict and context!

It was me who had the apprehension about the cruise, the clientèle, the lack of things to do, the somber night life, the monotony ...
And how wrong I was.
 It was like entering a different world, one of luxury, relaxation, stress and hassle free. No money carried on board, no luggage to be tolerated from place to place, no tough decision over places to eat and drink, no language barrier .... total bliss!

Open deck
The cruise ship was amazing (despite being 13 years old) glamorous and spacious with fabulous outdoor and indoor pools, jacuzzis, sun bathing space, bars, a casino, lounges, creative open spaces, a spa, a gym, a shopping mall, theater and some fine dining rooms.
Even our cheapo last minute room was superb. Small but adequate, with loads of storage and wardrobe space, a TV and the option to turn off all the on ship announcements! (And enough room to host some parties!)

Yes the majority of people on board are over 60 and are American, but there is everyone and anyone mingling around the ship. The young and old from all over world mix, eat, drink and dance in perfect harmony.
We were not a few hours on board getting to know our surroundings when we had met fabulous people we became best friends with for the next ten days (and hopefully longer!)
Dining room mates, pool side pals, stool bar buddies, disco divas, theater companions and on shore excursion travellers formed our whole new world.

Showboat room

The destinations (Istanbul, Haifa, Jerusalem, Athens, Kusadasi) were obviously a huge part of the cruise, but even on all day cruising periods it is impossible to get bored. There is so much to do, that relaxation even takes back seat. The night life is of course what you make it – if you stay within your group of friends or couple well then you will be missing out. Everyone is so open, everyone wants to talk and have fun, to learn about different countries and cultures without ever getting off the ship.

The food was excellent, buffet or formal there was so much choice. There were two formal nights on board which allowed us all to dress up and pretend we were on Titanic (without the iceberg and drama ...) I loved that everyone joined in, donned their best and enjoyed the fine life.

Take off - leaving Istanbul behind (c) fifiheavey

No you don't need to win the lotto to go on a cruise, it is actually quite cheap keep a look out for deals on line. And yes you can bet your American dollar (the currency used on board) that I will be going on a cruise again ... soon!

Cruising is a stereotypical holiday for those looking for an unconventional good time!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cruising to the Holy Land

Sorry for the lack of posts in the two weeks I was living the high life cruising to the Holy Land!
It was quite the experience, and one I will be delighted to tell you all about.

Here was the schedule:
Details to follow .....

Itinerary Information:

30 Nov (Tuesday)ISTANBUL, TURKEY
08 Oct (Saturday)ISTANBUL, TURKEY14:00
09 Oct (Sunday)CRUISING--
10 Oct (Monday)HAIFA, ISRAEL09:0023:59
11 Oct (Tuesday)JERUSALEM (ASHDOD), ISRAEL07:00
12 Oct (Wednesday)JERUSALEM (ASHDOD), ISRAEL19:00
13 Oct (Thursday)CRUISING--
14 Oct (Friday)ATHENS (PIRAEUS), GREECE07:0018:00
15 Oct (Saturday)EPHESUS (KUSADASI), TURKEY09:0019:00
16 Oct (Sunday)CRUISING--
17 Oct (Monday)ISTANBUL, TURKEY05:00

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

No photography allowed

You have waited in line for a few hours in line, saved for years, sacrificed your social life, left your loved ones behind and travelled over seas and continents to see (insert landmark, painting, iconic, historic item etc) only to be greeted with the “no photography allowed” sign.

What do you do?

Option 1: “Yeah fair enough, I suppose the (*insert item*) is a really big deal and I don't want to disrespect the (Gods/ ancient tribe/ locals/ museum management) by taking a picture. The memory of seeing this (*insert*) will last forever, the feeling of being here, of standing it it's presence – nothing can take that from me, the pictures in my mind will be 100 times better than any measly effort to try and capture the essence of this (*insert*).

Option 2: “What?!? – no F**ing way – I don't care I am going to take a sneaky photo anyway.”

In my case, both of the options have applied in different circumstances.

My illegal photo of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Rome
(c) fifiheavey
I understand that flash photography can ruin ancient manuscripts and I can also understand that museums and such places need people to come and see their items instead of just looking at a photo. They also don't want any crap blurry shots circulating around the globe ruining their reputation.
And I respect their ideals.

Skulls from Kutna Hora, Sedlec Ossuary, Prague
(c) fifiheavey 
But sometimes, it just doesn't cut it with me, as I have described above there were times when I sacrificed and put in a hell of a lot of effort to go and see items and therefore feel I deserve to take back a picture.

Right of wrong (probably wrong) I know I am not alone, everyone does it. And with sophisticated camera phones now, looking inauspicious has become a lot easier. Photos are taken and nobody knows – no one gets hurt.
Check out http://www.strictlynophotography.com for all the illegal photos of things you are not allowed to photograph!

As I said I do respect the ideal of no photography and a lot of the time I obey it, but it depends on my frame of mind and the amount of respect I hold for the place or item (or how scared I am of the security people!)
Sometimes it is better to reflect on the memory of the visit, than to stare at an illegitimate photo or video footage – it gives it more meaning.

No photography allowed inside the passage tomb at Newgrange.(c) fifiheavey
So what do you think let me know do you obey the no photography sign?