April 1, 2022. 97°F/36°C
The lunar month of Ramadan begins today, which means refraining from eating, drinking (or smoking) in public between sunrise and sunset. Yanbu is quiet this morning, which is not much different than usual, although even more stores are likely to be closed until after sunset.
We opted to stay on the ship today. It’s lovely and quiet on board, and air-conditioned, so we’ll just enjoy the serenity.
Passengers got news about more changes yesterday, the first of which was that effective today we are no longer required to wear masks on board! There was general jubilation, although undoubtedly some folks will prefer to continue wearing them out of an abundance of caution, and staff and crew must still wear theirs. In some ways, it seems almost disrespectful for us to be unmasked while the crew cannot be.
There is a tacit expectation that people will be sensible, and wear their masks on buses and on tours where distancing is not possible. If we ever want to see our hardworking crew’s faces, we need to be sure not to bring Covid on board.
The other changes announced relate to our itinerary.
We learned that Israel is continuing to maintain very stringent Covid protocols, and prefers not to accept our daily onboard PCR results; they will be sending their own health authorities onto the Star to perform Covid tests. That means Viking needs to create an “extra” day to be anchored off Ashdod while tests are completed. We’ll be losing our day in Alexandria in order to maintain our 4 days in Israel. I’m disappointed, because I personally would gladly have given up a day in Israel, or one of our 2 days in Barcelona, for Alexandria – but individual preferences are not really a factor when travelling with 500 other people. World cruisers have to go with the flow!
We’re also losing Messina Italy in favour of Livorno (which hopefully means we’re able to get on a tour to Florence), and losing Lisbon Portugal in favour of Porto. Ted and I have never visited any of those places, so the changes simply mean a different adventure than what we’d expected. Italy and Portugal are both countries we hope to more widely explore on our own in the future anyway.
Before dinner, many of the the ladies on board who now have an abaya in their wardrobe (and a few of the men who purchased throbes and headscarves) got together for a group picture. That’s our new friend Karin to the right of me in the front row, and the incredibly photogenic Katherine in the gold medallions and hat front and centre,
Tonight Chef Thomas went all out to create an “Arabian Nights” theme centred around Arabian cuisine. Based on the Destination Menu options in the main restaurant the past few evenings, I was looking forward to some wonderful food – and was not disappointed! There was a live cooking station with shawarma, plus lots of wonderful Arabian entrees and desserts.