April 14, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Within two days, guests on board Queen Victoria were able to enjoy two marvels of design separated by over two thousand years, the Ancient City of Petra and the Suez Canal. Another contrast was leaving Dubai, one of the most modern cities in the world, to go to the ancient city of Petra just a week later. Queen Victoria docked at the port of Aqaba, the only major port in Jordan, and over 800 guests, and about 100 crew, crossed the dessert to reach this incredible city. On the way it was remarkable to see Bedouin camps looking the same as they probably have been for centuries.
The only thing I had seen of Petra before was on the “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” movie with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Needless to say there was no sign of them, but they had at least left something of their visit in their wake………..
Yes every major tourist attraction has to have the “Gift Shop”, with locals eager to help you spend your money on a variety of souvenirs that will probably eventually end up in the attic. To get to the city you have to walk (or take a horse if you like), for nearly a mile through a narrow ravine. But then, that initial view of the magnificent Treasury building is as breathtaking now as it was when first seen by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt back in 1812.
This is the iconic view, seen by thousands of visitors since Johann Burckhardt as the first Westerner, saw it. Since then UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage” and in 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site. Amoungst the attractions was an opportunity to ride a camel and I have to say despite their reputation they all seemed to be in a good mood on the day we saw them.
The Treasury was so named according to our guide, because the early western visitors believed treasure was hidden in the stone bowl at the top. However after firing several rounds of ammunition at it they discovered there wasn’t! We soon found out that this building is just the beginning of the ancient city, as a short walk later we saw much more carved in to the side of the beautiful sandstone rock.
Of course I had to climb up the many steps to be rewarded by a magnificent view of yet more of the city below, which you can see in the distance.
Our guide told us that they are continuing to excavate the area, and archeologists estimate that we only saw about 20% of what has yet to be uncovered. What an amazing day and despite the walking (about five miles or so), it was definitely worth it. Surprising enough it was rather quiet on the bus on the way back to the ship, but two hours later when we got back to Aqaba some of our bar staff (Carlos, Phil and Robin), decided to show off their latest purchases!
After a day at sea it was time to transit our second canal of the World Cruise. This is always a highlight of the circumnavigation as we transit the Suez Canal in to the Mediterranean. I thought it would be interesting for readers of the Blog to hear about the transit from the perspective of one of our Bridge Officers. The task was duly delegated to Ned Tutton, so here is his report.
Ned Tutton – Third Officer - Queen Victoria – Guest Blog
We anchored off Port Suez at about 0430 to await our pilot and for the northbound convoy to form.By 0640 all was in order for us to heave up the anchor and get underway in eighth position with a clutch of container ships ahead of us and a sailing yacht behind. We entered the canal at 0700 and set a speed of about eight and a half knots, but this fluctuated throughout the day depending on the pilots request and the ship ahead of us, as we maintained a distance of about one and a half nautical miles astern of her.
The first leg of the Suez Canal is relatively straight and narrow and allows for one direction of traffic only. The first widening in the canal is the Little Bitter Lake which we reached at 0845 and in turn the Great Bitter Lake. It was here that we passed the southbound convoy, which was anchored waiting for us to pass. By 1100 we had passed through the Great Lake and at 1200 we reached Lake Timsah and the City of Ismailia with its two imposing war memorials. Here we slowed down to exchange our pilots. Here’s a typical transfer we conduct during a transit.
There’s another boat aft as well, so at one stage we had the boats 3 deep with all sorts of agents, officials and pilots transferring! This photo is looking astern with one of our pilot boats behind us.
Beyond Ismailia we passed the El Ferdan Railway Bridge, which is apparently the longest swing bridge in the world. This was of course open to allow us safe passage and at 1345 we passed the more impressive El Qantara Bridge. This is a high cable stay bridge supported by four obelisk-like towers. Queen Victoria passed under this with a clearance of 14 metres, though it seems much less than that as you pass underneath!
When first sighted it looks as if this bridge connects two empty deserts, but on getting closer, the city of El Quatara itself lines the bank on the starboard (west) side. After this we followed the canal to its divide just before Port Said and followed the Bypass Channel as we were not stopping at Port Said on this occasion. We disembarked the pilot and at 1640 left the canal for the open waters of the Mediterranean Sea, nine hours and forty minutes, and eighty nine miles after leaving the Red Sea.
Thank you very much Ned for your Blog, it’s great to involve other people on the ship. In fact Ned has agreed to be a guest Blogger again in a few weeks when he’ll talk about his career so far. Ned joined Cunard as a cadet in 2005 and was made Third Officer in June 2009, and I’m sure many of you will be interested to hear about the training and career progression for seafarers today. That’s it for now but I’ll be back on Thursday with more news on Queen Victoria’s as she comes to the end of her second World Cruise. Cheers for now – Alastair