Egypt 7
Home Up Egypt 8

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The Burning Question Revisited

There is one last loose end I wish to tie up, a very important loose end.

Before this trip to Egypt, I have been on five cruises that missed ports due to weather-related problems or something unfortunate like the Mississippi River Tragedy.  On five of those cruises, only once was any credit issued - a $100 OBC at Mardi Gras.

Our Egyptian cruise offered the same $100 OBC as well, but that backfired in my opinion because it led to a series of unpredictable confrontations.  The company ended up issuing full refunds.  I have never heard of this cruise line going this far before.

In other words, what happened here was unprecedented.

Immediately many people were outraged that the company had given in to the Mob.  The consensus was the compensation was far greater than called for. Here is a typical response.

We have been on many cruises where we have been hit with rogue waves and etc.  We have never expected compensation for them. People on this cruise should have been very happy with the 200.00 or 400.00 compensation.

Why should they get a free cruise for a 'mistake' that was admittedly made?  Maybe that was the problem - the captain should have never admitted that a mistake was made!!!!!

That is a little extreme. Next thing you know people will want free cruises for not being able to go to a scheduled port because of weather (which has happened to us more than once).

People need to suck it up and realize you are on a ship in the middle of the ocean and things happen!!!!    (Cruise Critic)

Let's repeat that one sentence from the letter above.

"Maybe that was the problem - the Captain should have never admitted that a mistake was made!!!!!"

By chance, when I returned home, my friend Charley wrote me an insightful letter.

Rick, I saw a video where a spokesman was trying to smooth things over with about 1000 passengers in the big atrium area.  The crowd was chanting "liar....liar....liar....". 

The video said the captain was putting partial blame on a weather report that underestimated the wind speeds.  It was reported that AFTER this confrontation is when the cruise line decided for a full refund for all.  

I don't know if you were present or not, but a link to that video would be a powerful example of just how dissatisfied people were becoming with the explanations they were getting.

I'm always interested in the infrastructure as to how these things work, but sometimes the true story isn't revealed till years later.  Usually it takes a series of things going wrong for disasters to occur.  

"Liar, Liar" - those are strong words. 
I'd be curious to know if you can explain why so many people felt deceived. 

By the way, please don't ever stop writing

You have led an interesting life and you write well.    

The Mystery Explained

I believe the Hotel Director was called a "Liar" because he told the crowd that no mistake was made on the part of the Captain.  

The crowd didn't accept that.  In their anger, the mob threatened to tell the entire world how the Captain's mysterious actions had nearly killed every single one of them.

I have seen this same cruise line refuse to give into the demands of angry passengers twice before (Mardi Gras 2004, New England 2006).  No one wants to give into the demands of a mob.  Do you blame them?   It's the old blackmail adage:  If you bargain with one mob, you have twice as many problems with the next one.

So why would the company hold firm in the past only to fold their cards this time?   Mind you, they didn't just bump up the OBC (on-board credit) a little, they went way beyond that to issue on board credit AND a full refund!   That was a complete and total surrender.  

So why did the cruise line cave in?   I think they knew something we didn't know... and were willing to pay a high price to keep it that way.

In addition to whatever secret the cruise line might be hiding, I can think of three glaring problems the cruise line had no apparent answer for. 

1. Everyone knows that cruise ships do not sail into storms.   Given that axiom, what possible reason would justify putting the ship into those rough waters in the first place?  

The Captain seemed to suggest that he approached Egypt under these conditions because he was somehow unaware of just how bad things really were.  In retrospect, I just wish Marla had gone to bridge to report the Hurricane-force winds she had noticed on her TV channel. 

2. People were dying all over Egypt thanks to this intense storm.  Not only did the hurricane winds whip up a terrible sandstorm, there were torrential rains at the same time!  This was no afternoon rain shower; this was a killer storm!

We no longer had any reason to make port.  Egypt was experiencing the Mediterranean equivalent of Hurricane Katrina.

Not once did the Captain ever mention how bad the conditions were in Egypt.  Are we to believe the Captain had no idea what was going on inside the country?   Are we supposed to accept that a multi-million dollar modern cruise ship doesn't have the ability to call ahead and ask what the weather conditions are like?  

Given Egypt's problems, we should have turned around hours earlier.  Had we done so, the ship would have made a more controlled turn with enough speed to allow the stabilizers to reduce the roll.  This would have avoided the costly damage the ship ultimately suffered.

3. The words of the Captain simply make no sense.  

First the Captain indicated he was surprised to find the weather conditions in the harbor were far worse than had been predicted.  Then later the Captain told MSNBC "it was the worst storm he had ever seen". 

In the Captain's written words, he said

"On our approach to Alexandria, we experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, beyond what was forecasted.  In fact, we experienced winds in excess of 70 knots (80 mph) which was nearly double what was forecasted."

Is he serious?  Saying his problems were caused by a 'bad forecast' might possibly be the worst excuse since 'my dog ate my homework'.  

This ludicrous comment suggests that as the Captain scanned the morning paper over coffee, he noticed there was a possibility of intermittent showers throughout the day with variable medium to strong winds.  Gee, not the best sailing conditions, but acceptable.

Then during our trip from Rhodes over to the Egypt, as the ship lurched from side to side so badly that the elevators were ruled too dangerous to use, the Captain somehow failed to notice that the intensity of the raging storm outside was increasing.  Too bad he didn't get an afternoon paper for an update.  



How does a storm of this magnitude sneak up on anyone in this day and age? 

The Captain indicates it wasn't till the ship was on its final approach to the coast of Egypt that  he first realized that he had been given a bad forecast.  It wasn't just your average "bad forecast" either.  That forecast was so bad it missed a small detail known as a HURRICANE!!! 

Yes, the deadly hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900 did indeed take the city by surprise.  They had no idea it was coming.  Blindsided by 135 mph winds that flattened the city, 8,000 people lost their lives.  But that was over a hundred years ago.  Thanks in part to tragedies like that, today we have modern equipment that tracks dangerous storms 7-10 days ahead of time.

If this situation ever went to trial, I imagine the poor Captain would be hammered endlessly.  So I suspect the real reason the cruise line offered refunds was to sidestep an avalanche of bad publicity plus a never-ending series of nasty lawsuits.  But maybe there is another explanation.

Maybe there is a secret so terrible that the cruise line would willingly offer full refunds even though no one was hurt.  What sort of secret could be so bad the company would choose to accept such terrible financial losses?   I think I might know the answer.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the Captain is telling us the truth.  He claims he was somehow misled as to the true strength of the storm until it was too late.

"In fact, we experienced winds in excess of 70 knots (80 mph) which was nearly double what was forecasted."

That statement has always baffled me.  How does one account for Captain's seeming "surprise" at just how intense the storm had become? 

One explanation is that communications were down.  Let's say the Captain was indeed given a morning forecast that underestimated the worst storm to hit Egypt in a century.  Then the weather cut off communication and prevented further updates.  With communications down, the Captain had no idea that people were dying all over Egypt.  Therefore, even though it had become highly inadvisable to continue the effort to make port, the Captain was in the dark.  

I think we can agree a communication breakdown is the kind of secret that any cruise line would pay serious money to avoid revealing.   But this explanation is unsatisfying.

Most people would say that even if communications were down, then why wouldn't the Captain simply look out the bridge and notice the massive storm raging around him?  And if that didn't work, why didn't he simply call down to Marla's room and ask her what the current TV wind speed was?  In other words, if Marla's TV was working, then can't we assume the Captain's TV was working too?  Given the fact that both Turner Classic Movies and the weather channel were working,  I think that suggests the ship still had access to the satellite.

Struggling for answers, people have suggested that perhaps the Captain was asleep.  Maybe so, but that forces us to assume the poor Captain not only had the worst forecast in history, but he also had the worst second-in-command in history.  Possible, but highly unlikely. 

I doubt the Captain was asleep in a real sense, but what if he was asleep in a different sense? For our last possibility, let us turn to the Occult.  

What if the Captain didn't have eyes?   What if the Captain was somehow blinded?  No, not blind in the real sense, but blinded in the same way that Oedipus was blinded to the truth in ancient Greece.  It wasn't until Oedipus solved the Riddle of the Sphinx that he was cured.

To  accept this explanation forces us to believe in the existence of some sort of Mysticism.   What if an ancient curse somehow blinded our Captain? 

What if the Hurricane was metaphorically hiding behind the Pyramids poised to make its terrifying appearance just as the ship approached?  This would explain how a highly experienced and competent seaman could indeed be surprised by the worst storm he had ever seen!!!  Maybe the Captain was telling the truth when he said he was blind-sided!

 Perhaps unseen forces were behind the Egyptian Poseidon Adventure.

Yes, now that I think of it
, as ridiculous as it seems, this disturbing possibility could be the answer we are looking for.   You see, there's one more thing I haven't told you...












  The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb!! 


Over the course of the trip, I nodded toward Matt, the Cruise Director, on several occasions.  Matt and I passed each other on the staircase and in the hall almost daily.  We also exchanged glances when he was finishing up his Trivia Contest in the same room where I held my dance lessons.  Now that I think of it, that room had a nickname - The Egyptian Room.  How odd.

Although we never spoke, I could tell from Matt's expression that he recognized me.

Matt and I go all the way back to my Jubilee Cruise in 2003.  He was just a rookie back then, nothing like the polished Cruise Director he is now.   What a difference seven years makes!

During that cruise, the Jubilee suffered a terrible Listing incident.  The degree wasn't as serious as this latest incident, but it was just as frightening at the time.  Now, by an amazing coincidence, Matt had been present during yet another terrible Listing incident.  Maybe I should point out that the coincidence involved me too...  yes, I was present at both incidents as well.

Two days after the "event", I accidentally ran into Matt in Malta as he walked through the city with John and Cherry, his two magician friends from Australia.  Matt saw me and turned white.

Matt came over and pulled me aside.  He said he remembered me from the Jubilee cruise many years before.  He said I was the leader of that dance group, right?   Of course.

Matt asked if I remembered the Listing Incident on the Jubilee.  Sure.  How could I forget?

Matt asked if he could confide in me.  Of course!  Matt hesitated a moment, then told me he felt terribly guilty.  On a cruise shortly before the Jubilee Listing incident, Matt said he had been on another ship that had visited Egypt.  Matt lowered his voice.  He whispered that he had visited the haunted Tomb of King Tut.  Matt looked around to make sure no one overheard him.

Now, seven years later, Matt had done it again.  Two weeks ago he had visited the Tomb of King Tut when the ship stopped in Egypt on the previous voyage. 

Now Matt felt very worried.  Was he responsible for our problem in some way?  Matt looked me in the eye and asked in a whisper, "Rick, you don't suppose I caught the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, do you?"

How absurd!  I told Matt that was ridiculous.  No one thinks the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb really exists.  Just because all those men died shortly after opening King Tut's Tomb, there is no scientific reason to believe in all that nonsense.  Get a grip.  Don't be so superstitious!

Matt smiled wanly.  He appreciated my reassurance.  Matt said that his magician friend John totally believed in the Curse.  All day long as they walked around Malta, John had laid the blame on his shoulders.  Matt didn't know what to believe.  Matt added one more thing.  "If only I didn't have dinner with the Captain last night..."   I could see Matt was consumed with guilt. 

I told Matt this was utter nonsense.  He should put it out of his mind.  Matt nodded.   He was about to leave, but hesitated.  "Can I ask you a question, Rick?"   I nodded.  Go ahead.

"Rick, have you recently visited a tomb or seen a mummy?" 

I smiled.  No way Matt was going to pin this one on me. I'm too slick for that.  Then I thought back to that awful crypt in Mysterious Palermo just a few days ago.  Memories of all those gruesome hanging mummies on the wall came back in sickening detail. 

Now a horrible feeling came over me.  Oh, damn!   Just my luck!   "Well, sort of".  I wasn't at all happy to admit this, but Matt deserved the truth.  

Matt nodded with relief.  He smiled knowingly.  "Yeah, I thought so."

Too weird.  After we parted, I gave it some more thought.  Maybe there really was more to this ancient curse stuff than I realized.  That Captain should have been smart enough to see we were headed into danger.  Cruise ships never sail into danger.  So what were we doing there? 

Think about it.  What made more sense - a Captain whose mind was befuddled by a poor weather forecast or a Captain whose eyes were blinded thanks to an ancient curse?

After all, any Captain worth his salt should be able to tell the difference between a rainstorm and a hurricane.   The truth is out there.  You decide.





The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that maybe there was a curse after all.  We suffered more problems than Odysseus trying to get home to Houston.

Poor Marla.  She suffered so much on the way home!  She was so frustrated she even said there must be some sort of dark cloud over her head.   I didn't dare tell her it might be my fault.

Throughout this trip, Marla was involved in a deeply frustrating sub-plot.  Her lovely daughter Marissa was pregnant. Marissa was due to deliver sometime around Christmas.

Lucas would be Marla's first grandchild. Since Marla and Marissa are about as close as a mother and daughter can possibly be, Marla was intensely tuned into her daughter's experience. Unfortunately, right from the start, the pregnancy had been fraught with one complication after another.

Marissa and her baby had come through each scare intact, but we all knew it was touch and go.  There was no guarantee of a happy ending.  Consequently Marissa, her husband Glenn, and Marla were always full of worry.

The latest crisis had hit in mid-November. Marissa experienced serious contractions. She was ordered to stop work and begin bed rest even though the baby wasn't due for another month.
We all took a deep breath. This wasn't going to be easy, was it? There were no guarantees. The suspense was killing everyone.

Marla was faced with an agonizing decision.  Marissa is Marla's only child.  Marla raised the girl practically singlehanded.  For many long years, it was Marla and Marissa against the world.  Consequently Mother and Daughter grew about as close as is humanly possible.

Therefore, the most important thing in the world to Marla was to be at her daughter's side for the delivery of her grandson Lucas.  It was clear to Marla that Marissa needed all the support her mother could give her.

Now thanks to this new development, the baby was likely to be born prematurely.  There was a 50% chance Marissa would deliver while we were on this trip in the Mediterranean.  If Marissa went into labor, there would no way for Marla to scramble back in time.

Marla had to decide whether to stay home or go to Egypt. 

What drove Marla nuts was our trip had been planned over a year ago! That's right. We had signed on for this gig back in late 2009. And now on the very eve of her trip, Marla was faced with this agonizing dilemma.

Finally Marla decided the right thing to do was to honor our commitment.  Trying to make the best of the situation, Marla got overseas service on her cell phone.  During the trip, Marla called Marissa once a day at 5 pm Barcelona time/ 10 am Houston time.

For twelve days in a row, Marla got the same answer - "Lots of signals, but he's still in there".

I guess it was the 13th or 14th day that Marla got the news that Marissa was beginning to dilate.  That meant the long-awaited birth was on "any day now" status.

So we landed in Barcelona on Friday, December 17. Marla and I got off the ship at 6:30 am. We were in the airport at 7 am for a 9:30 flight to Frankfurt, then a direct flight to Houston. If all went well, we would be home at 6 pm Houston time. The race was on!!

The Lufthansa agent said the 9:30 flight had been delayed. Overnight there had been a massive snowfall in Frankfurt and they were in the process of clearing the runways. Just be patient, the woman said.

Marla was not at all willing to be patient. In fact, she was frantic. By chance, Marla noticed a Continental airplane right outside the window that was headed on a direct flight to Houston. Continental and Lufthansa were Star Alliance partners. Marla begged the ticket agent to please switch us to that plane. Please!

The ticket agent said no. Marla began to cry. Those tears were not fake, that I promise. Again the agent refused. Just be patient. The runways will be cleared and the plane to Frankfurt will be on its way in time to catch the connecting flight to Houston.

"We will get you home in time!" she said.  Famous last words.

We sat. We sat some more. Then we sat some more. Word came to us that Europe had just suffered through the WORST SNOWSTORM IN 25 YEARS! Airports were shut down across the continent.

Nevertheless, that plane to Frankfurt would likely be taking off soon. However, there was no way we would ever get there in time to catch the connecting flight. Any chance of getting to Houston today was doomed.

Marla was crushed. She weighed her options. Since the weather in Barcelona was good, she decided to stay here. We would take a Delta flight to Atlanta on Saturday morning and then on to Houston.

What a disappointment. We had been stuck waiting in lines at this airport for nearly 12 hours and we were no closer to home than before. As for Marissa, it was good news/bad news. The good news was she was holding steady. The bad news was she had dilated more. This was going to be a close call.

Marla was depressed out of her mind. Marla ripped herself to shreds with guilt. Why hadn't she anticipated the possibility of December bad weather when she had booked Frankfurt, Germany, in the first place? And if only that awful Lufthansa woman had done what Marla begged for at 7 am in the morning!!

Then Marla began to wonder why the Gods had deserted her. After all the things she had suffered through on this trip, wasn't she due to have some luck? It just wasn't fair. Marla was about to have a breakdown with all her worry.

We spent the night at a nearby hotel in Barcelona. At 4 am Barcelona time (9 pm in Houston), Marla got the call - Marissa had gone into labor. Marla had lost the race.

Marla bravely encouraged her daughter and wished her the best, but broke into agonizing sobs when the call ended.

I tried to be the voice of reason. I reminded her that Glenn was there to reassure Marissa. In addition, Glenn's parents had immediately begun to drive in from Louisiana. Marissa would be just fine and so would her little boy Lucas.

My words were of no consolation. Marla wanted to be there. Nothing could possibly help wash her disappointment away. I watched helplessly as Marla cried on and on. Bless her heart.  First the disappointment of losing Egypt.  Now the disappointment of missing the birth of her grandchild.  She wasn't catching any breaks at all.  Marla didn't have a lot of being stoic about it all left. 

Eventually Marla was able to cry the pain out and regain her senses. Yes, she was still disappointed, but now her focus was directed towards the only thing that was really important - the safety of the child and the mother.

Our second day of travel was not without drama either. For reasons neither of us understand, we came perilously close to getting bumped from our rescheduled flight to Atlanta.

We were supposed to take an 8:15 shuttle from the hotel back to the airport to catch a 10:45 plane. That should have been plenty of time, right? In addition, I had made a RESERVATION on that shuttle the night before.

We got to our shuttle at 8:05. It was COMPLETELY FULL. We would have to wait for the next shuttle. And when would that be?  9 am.

I had a fit. I said this was unacceptable. Taking a page from the Mob back on my ship, I made it clear I was about to go into a serious rage unless the hotel representatives did something.  They were responsible for giving away our shuttle.  Seeing me ready to turn into the Incredible Hulk, a lady called us a cab and said the hotel would pay for it.

Nevertheless, we arrived 15 minutes later than we would have if we had been on the shuttle. Those 15 minutes cost us dearly. Due to all the problems in Europe, many people were flying standby. In fact, a group of about 30 people from our own cruise trip had just arrived at the airport. They got into our line ONE MINUTE before we did!!!

When we finally got to the ticket agent, she confirmed our booking, but she was very vague. Not only did she refuse to issue us confirmed seats, she informed me that the computer had "randomly" selected me for an extra-special special security check. In addition, Marla made a serious mistake by requesting we sit next to one another. Considering how crowded the plane was, I believed this would increase our chances of getting bumped.

When we got to the check-in area, we were immediately told to go stand over to the side and wait. No promises were made. This didn't look good. There were two groups - people assured of getting on the plane and our group of "maybes". We all stared at each other. Some of us would win and some of us would lose. Who would it be?

To our surprise, our names were the first called from the "Maybe" group. Except there was one problem - First I had to pass my special security check. Marla was not allowed to board either.

So a woman escorted me to a special station. I was surrounded by three Spanish guards. I was x-rayed and also patted down. I passed. Then the guard went through my laptop and my backpack slowly but surely. I passed that too. Then they asked me questions. Why was I in Spain? I showed them my cruise ship ID card. That ploy turned the corner. They looked at each other and nodded. I suppose the profiles have shown very few terrorists take cruises before deciding to martyr themselves.

You all would have been proud of me. I never once asked a question. I complied with everything they asked me to do quickly and with a smile. I was Mr. Cooperation. I suppose it helped that I had nothing to hide. That made everything a little easier.

So why was I selected? They said it was random, but I don't believe them. I think it was my DVD player in my backpack and my laptop - too many electronic devices. Maybe there was an alert out in that regard.   Nevertheless, I passed. They walked me back to the plane and let us board.  It did not escape my attention that I was the final person to board.

Our trip to Atlanta went smoothly. When we touched ground, Marla immediately got on the phone. Seconds later, Marla got the good news - the baby was born and everyone was happy!

For the first time in days, Marla began to smile again. Thank goodness!

Unfortunately, thanks to all the drama of deciding who got on the plane and who didn't, the flight from Barcelona was delayed taking off. When we landed, we discovered to our chagrin we had missed our connecting flight in Atlanta by about 20 minutes. Marla went right back into basket case mode. Her nerves were now officially shot. She had no patience left.
We finally caught a break.

We met a marvelous ticket agent at Continental. Although we had just missed the last Continental flight to Houston for Saturday, this woman checked her computer and discovered we had one last chance. She got on the phone and personally talked a friend of hers over at Delta into giving us the last two seats on the plane to Houston!

That woman was our angel.  Two hours later, we landed in Houston.

Marla was still reeling from the cruel twist of fate that caused her to barely miss the much-awaited birth of her first grandchild. 

At least the story had a happy ending. Once Marla was able to finally hold Lucas, she was finally on the road to recovery.   With the baby in her arms, Marla let out a sigh of relief that could be heard throughout the hospital.

After 17 days, we were finally home.   What a long strange trip it had been.


Our Final Story: 
Chapter Eight

The Importance of Travel

Rick's Note:  Before I forget, Marla asked me to point out that the section titled "Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" was totally fictitious.  I doubt that Matt has any sort of curse on him or the Captain for that matter.  Anyone who has read my Travel stories knows that I like to add a story about mermaids and zombies here and there... but only to have some fun and never to hurt.

That said, Marla is petrified I am going to get sued again, so she watches everything I say with an eye towards caution.  As for everything else I wrote, yes, that was the way it happened as far as I can tell.
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