What a beautiful Island! I flew into Rhodes in the afternoon. I was collected at the airport and taken to the hotel that HAL (Holland America Line) had booked for me. A lovely hotel right on the beach front. Within minutes of arriving in my room, I had changed into short skirt, strappy top and ship ship, all ready to go explore in the sunshine. It felt rebellious, being able to dress as I like for the weather after living in Cairo all these years where I have to be careful that my top is not too low, my skirt is not too short and that is before you even start with length of sleeve!
I then walked for about 3 hours around Rhodes. Photographing the sea, the boats in the harbour, the beautiful old city walls, and the sunset. Everything just felt so relaxed. I felt relaxed. It’s been a while….I felt my apprehension grow every time a man was about to walk by, or a group of kids were standing where I would have to pass. All the fear was for nothing. No-one said a word. It was as it should be, and such a huge relief!
To walk past shops where the shopkeepers are all standing in the doorways, smiling and chatting with each other, not trying to jostle for your custom. Not harassing you to spend your money. To be able to smile at them, male and female alike and have them smile and greet you in return, without any follow through. Oh Egypt, what have you done to me….? Normal behaviour now seems angelic!
I understand that times are hard and every pound counts, but Greece is not doing very well right now either. They have 35% unemployment (and that’s the official figures!) and their economy is also in crisis yet they manage to be welcoming and respectful to tourists, understanding how important our role is in their economy. Not bullying and threatening. Sorry to paint such a bad picture of Cairo, and of course it is always the minority that spoils things for the majority, but the fact is that tourists often feel intimidated when they come to Cairo.
Anyway, back to Rhodes…The hotel had put a complimentary half bottle of wine in my room and after dinner I sat on my balcony with it, reading my book feeling that maybe this cruise trip would not be so bad, that maybe in fact it was exactly what my soul needed. Some time out from the stresses of my ‘normal’ life. What can I say? It was a nice wine! But oh the Greek yoghurt… ! So thick and creamy that it would not fall from the serving spoon at breakfast. That topped with honey for breakfast was truly the food of the gods!
A short taxi ride to the port brought me the first glimpse of what was to be my home for the next two weeks. I could not get over the size of it. I’d never seen these huge cruise ships up close before. A floating hotel for sure. Up the gangway and to the front desk to check in. After a short wait the in the stunning atrium by front desk, the perfect backdrop for any bellydancer…
I was awarded a guest stateroom. Huge and spacious and lovely. In fact, add a kitchenette to it and I could probably live in it quite happily! Margo was the entertainment manager and she took me around the ship to collect my name badge and staff pass and all such things and then the time for that day was my own.
So I went up to the top deck of the ship, took numerous photos of Rhodes; and proceeded to fry myself until I became lobster coloured! That was completely unintentional… but after the heat of Egypt the weather really didn’t feel so hot, maybe being over the water made the difference but I regretted my low factor sun cream for the rest of my trip (and I am still peeling!!!). So attractive — the pink, day-glo pink, bellydancer. Embarrassing, painful lesson learnt! (and no I am NOT adding a photo of my flourescent skin since I don’t want to blind you!) Finding my way around the ship took most of the day after that. Two pools, a casino, numerous bars and a nightclub and two theatres and a gym and spa. They even had a basketball court on the very top of the ship surrounded by nets so your ball wouldn’t fly out to sea!!
Anyway… bye bye Rhodes… it was lovely getting to know you a little and I really hope sometime I get a week in your company. One of the four locations over the course of my trip that went on the ‘must do again with more time list’!
Experiences such as having a belly dancer onboard are part of Holland America Line’s new On Location program. The itinerary sets the theme for guests to indulge in localized experiences that make time on board as enriching as visiting the ports of call through lectures, demonstrations and performances.