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The Egyptian Poseidon Adventure

Chapter Eight


The Sinking of the Oceanos

From: Donald
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 1:32 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: The Egyptian Poseidon Adventure!

Rick, After reading your Egyptian story, I was doing some research about the safety of cruising.

I found this video on YouTube and thought you would like to see it. I read what you wrote in Chapter One.  I believe you when you write you have not came across any cruise ships sinking due to storms, usually only when they hit something.

I'm not saying that you should change anything you wrote because I believe what you wrote keeps everyone's minds at ease.  This is only for your information. This ship could have hit something and failed to mention this in the story.

Take a look.

Rick Archer's Reply

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 2:00 PM
To: Donald
Subject:  Oceanos

That is a very famous incident, Donald. This happened in South Africa in 1991.  The Greek ship, Oceanos, basically sprang a leak thanks to some serious neglect.

Then the asshole captain got in the first available lifeboat and headed off with his family!!   Believe it or not, two magicians stayed behind and helped to rescue all the passengers.  It is a great story!

"The Oceanos lost her power following an explosion in the engine room. The ship's engineer reported to Captain Yiannis Avranias that water was entering the hull and flooding the generator room. The generators had been shorted and the supply of power to the engines had been severed.

The water steadily rose, flowed through the 10cm hole in the bulkhead and into the waste disposal tank. Without valves to close on the holding tank, the water coursed through the main drainage pipes and rose like a tide within the ship, spilling out of every shower, toilet, and waste disposal unit connected to the system. There was no stopping the flooding and no hope for the Oceanos.

Realizing the fate of the ship, the crew fled in panic, neglecting to close the lower deck portholes, which is standard policy during emergency procedures. Passengers remained ignorant of the events taking place until they themselves witnessed the first signs of flooding in the lower decks. At this stage, eye witness accounts reveal that many of the crew, including Captain Avranias, were already packed and ready to depart, seemingly unconcerned with the safety of the passengers.

Nearby vessels responded to the ship's SOS and were the first to provide assistance.  Julian Butler and Moss Hills, two magicians hired to entertain guests on the trip, played important roles in the rescue.  In addition, they were able to record their efforts to assist the passengers with a home video recorder. Butler, Hills and Hills' wife Tracy were among the last five to be rescued from the ship just before it sank.  All 571 people onboard were saved, following one of the world's most dramatic and successful rescue operations of its kind."

As for my statement…. No cruise ship has ever sunk strictly due to weather conditions…. I stand by it. 

No cruise ship has ever sunk or capsized unless it has hit something or had an on-board accident of some sort.



Do You Think Cruising is Safe?

The Listing Event involving my ship occurred just one month after the problems of the Splendor.  After I returned to Houston I learned that while my ship was at sea, there was yet another frightening incident involving a cruise ship named Clelia II.  

"On December 8, the Clelia II cruise ship was in the Drake Passage in the Antarctic when it was was hit by a 30 foot wave. This knocked out one of the ship's engines, disabled the ship's communication system and shattered windows, stranding the 160 passengers on-board (according to CBS News).

Luckily, a National Geographic ship came to its aid and both are now making their way back to its port in Argentina.  No passenger was harmed."

That made three unsettling cruise ship events in less than a month.  Don't they always say things come in threes? 

MSNBC ran a series of fascinating stories on all three events.  In the process, MSNBC decided to ask an interesting question.

"Do the recent problems at sea have you worried about Cruising?"

In addition to taking a vote, people were invited to offer comments as well.  I would like to share some of my favorites.

Comments on the Safety of Cruising

  • I love cruise ships, best vacation ever. would live on one if I could. tell all the naysayers and chickens to just stay home.
  • Life is about taking risks. We have been on three cruises and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. 
  • If you have ever been to sea you know bad weather can come up at any time and if you are only looking to get something for free just because mother nature decided to throw you a curve ball, hey, do the rest of us a favor and just stay home. You can't blame the cruise line for the weather since they have no control over it and you can rest assured if they could they would avoid it as it can cost them plenty of money if the ship is damaged.
  • Cruising is safer than flying. If someone says he will not put himself at the mercy of captain and crew, what about pilot and flight attendant? There is only one way on a plane......................down.  With very little chance of survival.
  • Let me see, I've had so many bad experiences with all kinds of fun things that I just stay in the house where I'm safe and bored for the rest of my life. But wait, a meteor or a jet could hit my house, god help me!  or earthquake, fire, flood, or gun-toting criminal.  there's danger everywhere!  not only do I feel safer on board a ship, I have a blast at the same time. 
  • Cruising is just like traveling by car or plane; you can wind up stuck in traffic for hours or on a plane you could crash with a ship. if the worst case scenario of the ship sinking should happen you have lifeboats and then the coast guard who will rescue you so just ride the wave kinda like surfing. one last thing if you and the bed starts moving at least you didn't have to put money in it.  just watch out for the sharks.
  • When people are stranded for hours and hours out on the tarmac in a plane full of people where they cannot easily move about, they're not getting full refunds. And yet a couple days or so of discomfort and people on a cruise get the full amount of their vacation refunded? Doesn't seem right to me, especially if the rest of the cruise was uneventful. People need to take responsibility and understand that stuff happens, it's life, mother nature, etc. Their whole vacation wasn't ruined (not like the other recent cruise fiasco) So I really don't understand the full refunds. This is unfair to people choosing this type of vacation in the future as the price of the cruises will go up to pay for all these refunds and in case they feel pressured to give refunds again. I believe the $200 credit they gave was adequate. And people need to remember geez Life Happens, go with it, deal with it like adults.
  • Millions of people cruise every year, and most of them have a terrific time. Myself, I have been on 4 cruises. They are terrific and inexpensive. A little rough water is no problem for me. I find it kind of fun. But friends, you should do your research before you travel. Don't go to extreme destinations if you are not in good health and able to put up with a little adversity. Don't go to places where the weather is not good at that time of year and then complain about seasickness. The lowest prices are available at the least desirable times, so check the calendar before you book. There are a lot of people that are unhappy with airline travel, but you don't hear about people swearing to never travel again. Just remember that quite a few planes have gone down with no survivors but no cruise ships in recent years. There's usually lots of time for rescue too.
  • Well, it ain't 1912 anymore and we ain't had no more Titanics.  That splendor and the engine fire thing was uncomfortable I'm sure. You get one slowly going down, the chances of getting everyone to the boats is good. The one in the antarctic in rough seas, that's another story. The chances of fatality goes up I'd think, but then again no one died or was hurt.  You take your chances. One lady that was on board the rough seas Antarctic deal said it was thrilling. However, that was AFTER she was back on dry land. 
  • People need to understand what they are doing. The Med is great during 3 seasons of the year, but is extremely rough in the winter and always has been. Remember the meeting President George HW Bush had with Gorbachev on the Med in the winter? They were both seasick and had to move the meeting to a larger ship.
  • When I cruise, I try to pick dates that don't coincide with hurricane season or winter storms. If I get stuck with bad weather, that's the chance I take. It's like flying. You just have to accept what Mother Nature hands out. These recent problems with cruise ships won't deter my decision to take more cruises.
  • Life Happens. Carnival gave back their money plus offered another free cruise to those on the Splendor, I feel this is more than fair. No one ever wants to see or hear about someone else's normal vacation but they can talk about this one for years to come... it was an adventure. We all have bad vacations where it rains, the hotel is not as promised, the local food is bad, our favorite rides are closed for repair, our car breaks down, etc etc, it happens. The important thing is no one was hurt.
  • Why be afraid?  Has there been a rash of drownings, death and dismemberments at sea recently?  
  • Gee, things happen when you travel, airlines, trains, buses, cars safety is up to each one of us, we cannot control life but we can be alert and aware.
  • The Mediterranean cruise is a little different because it sounds like the captain may have made a bad decision pressing on. Better to disappoint people by telling them the weather is too rough and we can't go there then to try it and then hit monster waves. I personally do NOT thing Mediterranean cruises should continue in the late shoulder and off seasons. I hope to take one soon but it will be no later than October for sure!
  • I guess people think that life shouldn't be lived unless properly secured in Bubble wrap.

Reflections on Travel

Written by Rick Archer
December 2010

I have written a long story complete with one Travel-Related Horror Story after another.  Rogue Waves, High Winds, Airplane Strikes, weather-related Airplane delays, Norovirus, volcanic ash clouds, Ships that sink, Ships that lose power, and Ships that tilt violently. 

It is simply not my nature to sweep problems under the carpet.  When we lead people on trips, it is important that people know that Marla and I both tell the truth. 

You can trust us for two reasons.  First, we call it like it is.  If you ask us a straight question, we will give you a straight answer even if it isn't what you want to hear.  However, at least you won't be making any important decisions based on half-truths and rose-colored glasses.

Second, you can count on us to help you steer clear of the problems to the best of our ability.  The purpose of hiring a guide is to help you negotiate strange new worlds quickly and safely.  Although neither of us claims to be an expert, at this point we both know what we are doing a lot more than the average traveler.

I will be the first to admit that "Travel" will involve periodic headaches.  Anyone who has traveled soon learns that "TRAVEL" isn't for sissies. There is so much unpredictability in life that something is always going to go wrong. That's right - something is bound to go wrong on every trip.  You either learn to deal with it or you never leave home.

Now it is true that some people are perfectly content to stay in their own comfortable little world.  I completely agree there are people who are perfectly content to view life through a TV screen.  Take Tyra Banks for example.

"I haven't seen the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre. I haven't seen anything. I don't really care." - Tyra Banks

From what I gather, that is a legitimate quote. However, I don't agree with that attitude.

From my point of view, my life has been incredibly enriched by Travel. Even when I bitch and moan about corpses hanging from walls in Palermo, deep down inside I am still happy to get the chance to learn about different cultures. I may not agree with everything I discover, but I am still thrilled to have the chance to learn and compare.

Travel brings with it so much wonderful sightseeing. Okay, so on this trip I missed seeing the Pyramids.  But most of the time, I get to see marvelous structures like the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Forum, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  At other times I get to view stunning vistas such as the French Riviera, the forests of Alaska, the misty Isle of Capri and the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I am 'world-wise' yet, but I am definitely further along the path thanks to all these trips.  Afterwards, when I see these places referred to on TV or magazines, I know exactly what they are talking about.

I cannot begin to tell you about all the interesting people I meet on my travels abroad. Many of these people tell me things I never knew about. Other people explain things to me in ways I never would have thought of. On a cruise trip, people can be incredibly candid because the likelihood of meeting again is so small.  So why not just tell you exactly what they think?

Here's a good example. While we were in Malta, I met an English couple while having coffee at the Hotel Phoenicia.  Jeffrey and Louise were from Lancashire.  They were celebrating Jeffrey's retirement with a week in Malta.  They kept us fascinated with their tales.

For starters, Louise told us of a cruise trip to Hawaii where their ship was diverted into a storm to rescue two stranded sailors from dangerous waters. It turned out those sailors had two dogs with them. The original plan was to save the people and leave the two dogs behind. Tough luck for the dogs.

However, once the Captain saw the situation, he changed his mind and rescued the dogs as well to the rousing cheers of the entire ship. Some Filipino man volunteered to try despite the obvious risk to his own life. Furthermore, it was easier said than done. The seas were choppy. Both dogs were terrified. They resisted the man's attempts to save them for the longest time, but he wouldn't give up until they were both safe. It was quite an adventure. I was mesmerized to hear their description of the event.

Then Jeffrey explained the importance of having the ability to know when to shut up when you are traveling. He took a cruise trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. As he and his wife explored the vast museum, he could see that half the treasures on display had been looted from other countries. As he pointed out the likely previous owners of each piece of art to his wife, he noticed a widening frown on the guide's face. Suddenly two very large security men came and escorted them out of the building. They were put back on the ship and forbidden to leave it for the rest of the trip. As he put, no one in Russia has the slightest sense of humor.

Then we got to talking about the relationship between America, aka "the Colonies", and England. Louise said that back home people consider America is their best friend in the world, but that there are still people who have never forgiven America for "revolting".  Then Jeffrey added that he and his wife had recently spent a week at Williamsburg, Virginia, on the advice of some of their American friends.  Big mistake!  Jeffrey explained this is where they all dress up like it is 1776 and do re-enactments of the American Revolution. 

Jeffrey remarked that he really did not think through the decision to stay there for a entire week very well.  Each day for an entire week Jeffrey had to sit and watch as The Colonies defeated mighty England over and over again, one of the biggest military upsets in world history.

Most rankling of all, the guide had the irritating habit of explaining how easily England could have won if this general had just gone in for the kill at Valley Forge or that general had just paid a little attention instead of chasing women.  No one in England could even imagine losing this battle so they didn't take it seriously until it was too late.  English smugness allowed the far weaker side to win a miracle victory.  What a colossal screw-up for the English!

By the end of the week, Jeffrey said he was so sick and tired of listening to that guide, if one of those muskets had been loaded, Jeffrey would have shot him between the eyes. I tried to keep a straight face, but it was hopeless. I almost fell off the chair with laughter.

That said, I am well aware that Travel will always carry a risk-factor. At a town in Medina on the island of Malta, we saw an American girl lying in the street with an ambulance pulling up. Malta was once a British province. Consequently they still drive on the wrong side of the road (small joke). The poor girl likely looked the wrong way when she tried to cross the street.

I don't think she was badly hurt because she was sitting upright as the stretcher was brought up.  She was either badly bruised or she may have broken her hip bones.  My point is that here is a perfect example that Travel can be risky.   Her unfamiliarity with the country caused the accident.

However, even when things wrong, as long as it doesn't kill me or injure me too much, every experience helps me grow as a person. Some lessons are small. I learn to pack my medication in my carry-on instead of my luggage. I learn that a good pair of headphones is the only way to get any rest on an airplane. I learn the importance of a good book.

The larger lessons I learn includes the value of patience. I learn the importance of traveling in pairs. I learn the importance of a sense of humor. Thanks to travel, I can say Tylenol in seven different languages.

I learned the importance of helping people. Have you ever heard the expression "Pay it Forward"? Sometimes you help people who will NEVER be able to pay you back. When they say they will never be able to repay you, you say to them, "Don't worry about it. Pay it Forward."

You want to know how I learned this? On our 2009 Barcelona Cruise Trip, I was sick as a dog in the airport preparing to fly home. Unfortunately, Spain was in the grips of swine flu fears. Every person was being subjected to scrutiny before being allowed to board the plane. I was sneezing my head off and could not stop.

A young woman heard Marla say how worried she was that I might not be able to get on the plane. She took pity on me. She said she was an American doctor from Philadelphia, my birthplace. First she took a good look at me and decided I didn't have swing flu. Then she took me over to the pharmacy. It took her about ten minutes, but she found the Spanish version of Sudafed. That is when I realized that Marla had all the money. I slapped my head in anger. I didn't have a cent on me.

To my surprise, the doctor smiled and paid for it herself!!! I think it was ten euros, a lot of money. I was completely taken aback.

I said, "Don't worry. I have the money. I will repay you in just a moment."

The lady laughed and said, "Don't worry about it. Just pay it forward."

I had no idea what she meant. Puzzled, I made a silent note to ask Marla later on.

Fortunately the Sudafed worked like a charm. I stopped sneezing just in time to board the plane. During our trip home, I asked Marla. She explained the meaning of an expression I had never heard before.

On Rhodes, our group climbed to the top of a massive acropolis high up on a mountain ridge. It was a serious climb. There was one woman in our group who was overweight and having huge stamina problems. She was huffing and puffing. She had just decided to turn back when I went over and took her hand. I stayed with her every step of the way offering encouragement and support. During our long climb, she told me her name was Olympia. She was from Philadelphia. I did a double-take on that.

We reached the top about ten minutes after everyone else. Olympia was effusive in her gratitude. The first words out of her mouth were, "I could not have done this without you. Thank you so much. I don't know how I will every repay you."

I smiled. Then I said, "Pay it forward, Olympia. Helping you was its own reward."

I value travel so much because everywhere I go, I learn more history.

On this Egyptian cruise, I learned that both Rhodes and Malta were stopping points for the Crusaders on their way to the Holy Lands. I learned more about the Crusaders on this trip than I had learned in the first sixty years of my life.

For that matter, our May 2010 cruise to Scotland taught me more about the struggles between the English and the Scots than Braveheart could ever have hoped to accomplish. I was fascinated at the stories of how these two people fought each other for centuries! Even though they have been at peace since 1706, the old wars created so much bitterness that even today it seems to me the ancient animosities are still there lurking beneath the surface.

When it comes to history lessons, nothing will ever top my visit to Cherbourg in France on the same 2010 trip. I got to see the famous Omaha Beach where the American GIs stormed the cliffs on D-Day.

While everyone else in my group politely stayed with the group to listen to the guide, I strayed off on my own down to the water's edge a mile away. I was all by myself standing on the same beach where the soldiers landed 66 years earlier. As I looked up, I realized the top of the overlooking bluffs were over a half mile away. The task seemed impossible. How did they ever do it?

I tried to imagine what raced through the minds of the men that day. I shuddered at the fear those men must have faced. They were exposed on the beach with Nazi machine guns up on the bluffs spitting out thousands of bullets per minute. The GIs wore no armor. There was little for them hide behind. They knew they could be dead or permanently maimed at any second. People were dying and screaming all around, yet somehow these men chose to crawl one inch a time to get to the top of the cliffs!

And once they finally got to the base of the steep hills, things didn't get any better. From where I was standing, it was still another four hundred yard climb at a 40 degree angle!!

I had to ask myself if I would have the courage to do the same thing those men did. It was a very solemn moment for me.

These men knew full well one of those bullets might have their name on it, but they continued to forge ahead for the sake of American Freedom. On that day, many young men gave up their lives so that their loved ones and unborn kids like me could live a life of safety from tyranny. For crying out loud, these men died so I could live a life of comfort and ease.

The realization of the true extent of their heroism and sacrifice overwhelmed me.  I broke down and cried right there on the beach. I sat there sobbing for a good ten minutes. Hell, I am crying again just writing about it.

I was so overwhelmed by the moment that I completely forgot about the bus. I was almost 15 minutes late returning to the bus. At first when I got on the bus, I was embarrassed by all the angry stares. But when I explained what had happened, everyone got real silent. Slowly they began to nod their heads. Now they understood completely. Several people began to cry themselves. I was forgiven.

You will never get an experience like that sitting on your couch at home.


The Odyssey was the ancient Greek tale about all the troubles Odysseus faced on his way home from the Trojan War. After Odysseus blinded the Cyclops, to his chagrin he discovered the Cyclops had a famous father, Poseidon, the Greek God of the Ocean. From that point on, Poseidon made sure that Odysseus suffered as much as he possibly could. Considering how much power he had, Poseidon could have actually killed Odysseus if he felt like it. However Poseidon preferred to keep Odysseus alive just so he could continue to make him suffer!

Earlier this year on our trip to Oslo we encountered serious delays thanks to the volcanic ash clouds that disrupted air travel across Europe. Then we got on a ship plagued with Norovirus. By the end of the trip, 300 people caught this nasty bug (including Marla). Marla and I had more serious problems on that trip than all our other cruises put together.

Little did we know the Oslo problems would be NOTHING compared to our Egyptian Trip.  Now I am not quite sure what Marla and I did to irritate Poseidon on our trip to Egypt, but he clearly had it in for us.

When you add up the strike of the Spanish air traffic controllers, the worst sea storm in the Eastern Mediterranean in a century, our brush with a hurricane in Alexandria, the subsequent Mutiny, and the worst snowstorm in Northern Europe in twenty-five years, you can see we were cursed throughout this entire trip. Oh well, it's not the end of the world.

Into every life, a few drops of rain must pour. And you know what? I am with Nietzsche on this one - "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

This trip served to make both Marla and myself tougher than we ever have been before. We are headed off to the Caribbean for another cruise in May 2011.  I cannot wait!

When it comes to writing about travel, the common wisdom is to talk about the sunny skies and sweep the problems under the carpet. Not me. I will tell you everything because that is my nature.

Yes, we ran into some serious obstacles, but we handled every single one of them.

Are you afraid to get on a cruise ship after reading my story?  Well, don't be afraid.

This trip was the exception, not the rule.  On this trip, everything that could go wrong did.  And so what?  We still got home for Christmas in one piece! 

The most important thing I learned on this trip is that cruise ships are a heck of lot safer than most people realize. Yes, bad things can happen at sea, but ultimately the chances of getting hurt on a cruise ship are so totally unlikely that I wouldn't give it a second thought.  Thanks to the Titanic, today's ships are built to handle anything the sea can throw at them.  These giant sailing ships are the result of a entire century of brilliant engineering.  The Poseidon Adventure was not science, but rather science fiction.

The only reason we had trouble during the Egyptian Poseidon Adventure is because someone threw caution to the winds… literally. I don't see that happening again. I think the cruise line learned its lesson.... don't take ships into hurricanes FOR ANY REASON.

Yes, there will always be risks, but compared to the rewards, the risks are small. Don't sit at home and cower. Travel is simply too important to let your fears stop you.  

So get out there and experience the world around you.

Rick Archer,  December 2010

There was once an armed bunker in the spot from which I took this picture.  Approximately 400 Americans died assaulting this single bunker.

That person down on the beach gives a good idea just how far the soldiers had to advance to get to the top of the bluff where I was standing. 

I estimate the men had to cover half a mile with bullets whizzing past and absolutely no cover.

The men who fought in this battle will always be my heroes.  The Greeks have their 300, but I say the men of D-Day were just as brave.


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