Today was half at sea and half on land. This is our half way point to Dover. Remember our itinerary has been changed and this was initially a 2012 destination and we didn’t arrive until midday. So, there was time to have our normal breakfast, write up yesterday’s blog and attend the morning trivia session. We joined past joint winners, Norm and Marion and once again we had lecturer Peter to assist. We did manage 14/20 but this was enough to put us in second place. The one question that caused an uproar was ‘Where are Chinese Gooseberries from.’ We all knew that was the alternative name for kiwi fruit, but we are pretty sure that they are an introduced species, but NZ was the answer they were looking for, so we didn’t get a point for that. Boooo.
By the time the trivia was over, we were just about in Salalah.
The initial impression of the skyline was of a high rise city in the distance, but this was an illusion created by the permanent mist or heat haze. What I thought was high rise was in fact a mill of some sort, just up the road! Just about all the photographs we took (over 200 between us) needed a colour correction (particularly those taken through the bus windows).
Joanne, (see pic) our group’s diligent and hard-working voluntary tour director, had been in constant touch with the on land tour organiser, regarding the changed ports and arrival schedules and had even managed to get us off the ship first! Other than those on official Princess tours, everyone else had to queue for a shuttle ticket, as Salalah only gets about two cruise ships a year and they are not geared up for a regular influx the way other ports are. There is no passenger terminal and therefore no stalls, no money changers, no cafe, no welcome band etc. It is a working container port and Princess eventually managed to round up nine 25 seater shuttles to the port gates only, as the local taxi union are protective and will not allow the cruise line to run a shuttle to town. Mal & Megan and their Kiwi table companions, Mick & Pat hired a car – from Chesterfield (UK) based company, SixT. A small world, as they are the company we use in England. We have to coach to the Heathrow branch when we arrive at Dover, as there are no hire car companies operating in Dover on a Sunday... A business opportunity there if anyone is interested.
We had a great tour and Joanne will have posted contact details on her blog. A couple of highlights. The first was a local shopping stop, notable for the number of men’s barber shops. At every step we were (politely) asked if we wanted a haircut. (According to one passenger, his haircut cost him about 3 dollars!) The area is famous for the production of Frankincense but what tickled our fancy was the local headgear and I think about 5 were purchased by our group. Now I can’t spell the name of this headgear without looking it up, nor the slightly more formal style, made with a large square of fabric that I now need to learn to tie... Google may well be my friend.
On to the fun part of the day. The tour company owner apparently has this farm producing coconuts and bananas – we were treated to free samples. The water is bore water and is pumped up into an aqueduct irrigation system. The lads extending it didn’t need spirit levels nor string lines. (see pic.) We were then led inland where the owner had several young camels and a pen containing cows and calves. Casanova Arnold seemed happy enough to attract young camels using the horse whispering technique of blowing into their nostrils, a technique he assures us is foolproof. It certainly worked for him. I wonder if that is his technique for attracting the ladies? (see pic)
The static scarecrow is apparently there to scare marauding humans but I am sure that our noisier and more animated version would be far more effective. (see pic) A trip to the beachfront was an education, as many seafront properties were abandoned and derelict. (see pic) Quite why I am not too sure. Another short coffee stop back at the original market was appreciated by several, whilst others completed their shopping.
The museum visit was the last call, as in Salalah, just about everything closes from 1pm to 4pm and we had to be back on board by 5:30pm. Needless to say, the place was packed with 250 Dawn Princess cruisers, so we wandered the archaeological site first.
A great day and big thanks to Joanne for organising it. Our group of 14 (all from cruise critic remember) had a lot of laughs (as always) with Colin taking up the microphone and assisting with the commentary. (see pic)
Our impressions of Salalah? Friendly people and having the opportunity to browse the market was long overdue. Being bullied into high priced emporiums in India was of no use at all, yet going into a local market with an Arab guide was totally without pressure and made for a pleasant experience. It wasn’t hot, but was hot enough to prefer shorts to long trousers and regardless of what we heard from Princess, once again, we could have relaxed the dress code anyway and worn shorts, though Roger managed to cover himself anyway with his long shorts. What are we going to do if we do go again? No idea. Probably just a taxi into town a wander and back again, but with most shops shutting for the afternoon, it does make for restrictions.
Back on Board for a 6pm sailaway
After a quick dip in the pool, a snack from the buffet and pics of the wharf, we were turfed off our regular sailaway location on deck 11 at the rear of the ship, as the security staff reassembled their anti-pirate equipment, which is one of those sonic devices emitting a deafening noise when pointed at pirates. I could think of a few targets back home for one of those if I was really pushed. An empty container ship heading for port must have been glad to arrive, as it was really rolling badly.
The evening meal was OK but it appears we are already in ‘repeat menu mode’, which is a bit disappointing on such a long cruise. A 28 cruise around Australia is one thing, but a 104 day cruise is a different animal altogether. The late show entertainment was a ‘Tom Jones’ act from Jacques Renae. Pleasant enough, but not the best act we have seen. Malcolm had bought whole Arab rig and with his tanned face and trim beard, could easily pass for an Arab. He also seemed intent on adding to his tally of wives (see pic). Although most crashed early, we had a couple of dances to Alana & Alana, though doing the quickstep on such a tiny floor is somewhat restrictive. Once again, bed after 12, with 4 days at sea to look forward to.