Colombo to Safaga – Part 2

The last few days have been pretty relaxing and pretty exciting all at the same time.  We are at sea still and are heading towards the straight between Yemen and Somalia.  With the Bombings on one side and the Pirates on the other we expected to see some military activity and were weren’t disappointed.

First sign was a war ship patrolling the area. It was a fair way off in the distance and we couldn’t really tell which side they played for.  Based on the fact that the UN has a standing mission of patrols in this region and our ship was headed in their general direction, we were going on the assumption that they were friendlies.

It was around lunch time and we were sitting at the back of the buffet and all of a sudden a helicopter swung past the rear of the ship, very closely.  We were assuming that it had taken off from the navy ship we’d seen in front of us, as Rob was up on deck at the time and saw it come from that general direction.
It zoomed past, and continued on a trajectory that saw it buzz a few other ships over on the horizon to the north east.  Then it swept to the north west way off in the distance towards Yemen and after about 5 minutes we lost sight of it.  I went and grabbed the camera in case it came back.  Meanwhile the ship that we believe it had taken off from was slowing down and all the other ships were passing it.  I say ‘all the other ships’ as there was a lot of ships near us, at least 6 other tankers and freighters, no other cruise ships though.

As the naval vessel was dropping out of view Rob and I were on the outside deck comparing lenses, when all of a sudden we heard the noise of the chopper again.  It came zooming arround from the right and passed across the back of our ship, it then did a funky 180 degree turn and came back past again. I think I fired off about 30 shots all relatively close up, it was impressive to see.

It was at this point I could see that this was a Russian helicopter, not only because of the counter rotating blades, common in Russian choppers, but also for the Red Star on the tail and the Russian writing on the side.  This leads us to believe that the war ship is also Russian as the chopper flew off to the east where the ship had ended up and that was the last we saw of it. Talk about exciting!

Tonight there was a staff party up on deck 13.  Apparently it is the first time in history on an MSC Ship that the staff have been allowed to party with the guests. Staff have a party once in a while however it’s usually down below. The main reason for a combined party is the easy going nature of Aussies and Kiwi’s.  We don’t really have class distinctions and therefore would see no issue in having a drink or partying with the staff.  This can’t be said for the usual European or American guests.  It was a privilege to be able to see the staff cutting loose on the dance floor and enjoying themselves.  They were all getting photos with their friends that said “look at me, I’m on a cruise”, just like the guests do.

The following day we spent almost the entire day out on the pool deck.  This is something we’d been planning to do and as we were running out of sea days, this was the day.  We secured a table in the shade, which can be difficult at times, and basically stayed there all day.  We had breakfast there, lunch, snacks, not too many drinks, maybe 6 in total, plenty of water. We had three swims in the pool and all up had a top day outside.  There was a nice breeze blowing which made it quite nice.

At about 9 in the morning I was chatting to the bloke sitting on the next table when out of nowhere what I believe was a Sea Hawk helicopter flew past the window right where we were sitting.  It was so close and low, it banked off away from the ship and continued on its way.  It must have been launched from a navy ship somewhere however there was a heavy mist around that day, due to the heat and humidity.  I didn’t get a photo of this one, and it never circled back.  I believe the Australian Navy use the Sea Hawk chopper these days but I wasn’t able to verify its identity.
Tonight we saw Normie Rowe in the Coughing Garden Theatre.  He put on a good show and the older crowd loved his songs and were singing along.  We had to see him at least once as he lives in Paradise Point and it would be awesome if we bumped into him one day to be able to say we saw him while on the cruise.

Today was a relatively quiet day.  Gym at around 10:30, then we had lunch with Sharon and Rob in the specialty restaurant which was again very nice..  Still not feeling the best with a cough and other flu like symptoms. The ship is lurching about is bit at the moment. We’re in the Red Sea now and it is very windy, with a head wind of about 60klm/h blowing.  Swells are as big as we’ve seen them and lots of white caps.

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