Today will be my 5th Suez Canal Transit, but my first on something other than an US Navy Aircraft Carrier when we went back and forth between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean 30 years ago aboard the USS Saratoga (CV 60). As you would imagine, security for an aircraft carrier was intense since being so close to shore we were vulnerable to small arms. Wherever possible, all along our path, there were heavily armed Jeeps riding shotgun on both sides of the canal in addition to a helicopter gun ship keeping watch overhead. We didn’t have razor wire lining our open decks, but 50 caliber machine guns positioned to give us complete coverage. On top of all that we had one of our cruisers up front with a destroyer right behind. Needless to say, we didn’t have any trouble on any of our transits.
Today on the Amsterdam, the razor wire was gone and we enjoyed munching on “Suez Canal” rolls, AKA “Panama Canal”, “Sydney” or “Hong Kong” rolls. They are always fresh baked and served whenever the bow is opened for a scenic port arrival.
We were scheduled to weigh anchor at 5 am and start moving toward the Canal at 6 am. Fortunately when I woke at 6 am we were still stationery so I didn’t miss anything. We are on deck 6, so I went forward to the observation deck right under the Bridge. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had established a Coffee, Juice and Suez Canal Roll Station here in addition to the bow.
I was joined by our tablemate Susan, whose cabin is quite close to the chain locker, so she never sleeps through any anchoring event. I spent an entire 6 month deployment on a carrier, with my bunk right behind the Forecastle, also near the chain locker – and it was like being next to a freight train whenever they let go the anchor as it raced to the bottom.
As we approached the entrance to the canal, we could tell that we would be number two behind an Egyptian Frigate. She was formerly in the French Navy but was sold to the Egyptians years ago. We would later learn that the ship behind us was one of the largest container ships in the world, over twice as long as the Amsterdam with a load of 17,000 containers and room for more.
Unlike the Panama Canal, there aren’t signature moments like entering a lock, that standout with the Suez Canal. The canal appears to be exactly what it is, a long, straight channel that doesn’t have a well-defined beginning or end. Entering the canal is rather anticlimactic: there isn’t any whistle, bell, or even a marker or signpost that signifies the start of the canal. You simply start down the narrow channel and then you are in the Suez Canal.
After passing Port Suez, there isn’t much to look at along the way. There is a lot of sand on the eastern side and more green with occasional towns on the western side. Watch towers and other security look outs are everywhere. About halfway thru the canal we entered the Great Bitter Lake which is a place where convoys can pass.
Unlike most times when we are close to land, the shops and casino remained open all day and the activities were typical of any other sea day. We spent most of the day in our cabin relaxing and catching up on the blog. We kept the TV tuned to channel 41 to listen to Barbara’s commentary, and occasionally the Captain would join in when he would point out some interesting tidbit regarding navigation or other ships in the canal.
Around 4:30 the Captain announced were approaching the canal exit and would soon be in the Mediterranean. We hurried up to the deck 6 observation in time to see another non-descript exit appear. It was quite windy and made standing around quite difficult, so we didn’t spend much time here and hurried back inside.
We joined another couple in the Pinnacle Grill this evening. I had the 10 oz filet which is my favorite of all the cuts of meat available. Judy had one of their fish dishes which was moist and flaky and she enjoyed it very much.
Laura Broad, a singer from the UK, provided the entertainment this evening. She was a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent a few years back. She joined the ship in Jordan and will be leaving in Greece. Unlike most singers who enter the stage after being announced, Laura was already on stage behind a closed curtain when the show started. When the music started, the curtain was raised and Laura, in a beautiful blue sequined dress, was already center stage and started singing her first song. She went on to sing a wonderful rendition of Pie Jesu and then some of my favorites from Phantom of the Opera – “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and “Music of the Night”. She concluded her show with the hit from the Body Guard by Dolly Parton “I Will Always Love You” which brought the audience to its feet with a thunderous standing ovation.This entry was posted in Uncategorized