There Be Pirates in These Waters

Cruise Flashback; Galveston to Dubai 2013

At Sea; May 15-20, 2013        

MARCH 25, 2021, DALLAS – As we left Aqaba, Jordan, in 2013, my cruise was nearing its end. I would get off in our next port, Dubai. It is on the Persian Gulf on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula. We would spend six days at sea before arriving.

My previous long stretches at sea were crossing the Atlantic Ocean, with nothing to see except the rare ship in the distance. This time we occasionally saw land, especially when we left the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb, or “Gate of Tears,” to enter the Gulf of Aden. We could see Yemen on the port side and the Horn of Africa with Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia on starboard.

What might lie in between is what interested us. Pirates.

Over the past decade, piracy in the area had escalated from attacks on fishing vessels to the capture of large commercial ships. Four years earlier the attack on the Maersk Alabama and subsequent rescue drew headlines in the United States. We were still six months before the release of the movie “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks.

In actuality, incidents of piracy had fallen by 2013. Still, the question I heard most often from home was “aren’t you afraid of pirates?”

I wasn’t. I figured these pirates didn’t want to mess with 6,000 passengers and crew when they could instead capture a commercial ship with a crew of about 20 and a single owner or insurance company prepared to barter.

Still, the Mariner of the Seas took precautions. We were a fast ship and stayed safely offshore. In Aqaba a team of private security militia – “hunky men in tight shorts” as described by my friend Barbara – joined us. She said they hung out at the Champs bar when not on duty. Once we were in the international waters of the Red Sea, a boat came alongside to deliver boxes of armaments.

Among the precautions was a safety drill during which all passengers with outside cabins moved somewhere inside the ship. I hosted friends Robin and Helen for a little cocktail party in my inside stateroom. At night the outside decks and balconies were off limits, and drawn drapes blocked the light. Water hoses and water cannons lined the promenade; sound disks were deployed; and razor wire was installed on the lower aft decks.

Of course nothing happened. But it did provide a new topic for conversation during our sea days. The day before we arrived in Dubai the security company boat came alongside to retrieve the guns and ammunition. I joined other passengers taking pictures of the maneuver.

Considering that we were at sea for 19 days of the 30-day cruise, you would think that I would have taken part in every ship activity. Yet near the end of my cruise I wrote about 30 things I never did. I thought about summarizing the best of the list here, but I think I’ll just let you read the entire list:

Things I Haven’t Done on This Cruise.

It’s a fun take on the activities on a mega cruise ship, and reading the list brought back great memories.

Original final sea days post, 2013