On Board the Crystal Serenity
In the Red Sea
I'm blogging now from my cabin on the port side of the luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity, as it makes its way from Salalah in Oman, where we boarded it, and heads towards its next port of call, Safaga, Egypt, not arriving there 'till Wednesday morning.
The Captain announced late last night as we made the right turn at the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula and started up the Red Sea towards Suez that we were right on schedule, and that Yemen was to the east of us and Africa and Eritrea was just beyond the horizon to the west.
Our journey to join this segment of Serenity's world cruise in Salalah and perform SELECTED SHORTS programs over the next two weeks of voyaging required a true ordeal of air travel. Why couldn't we have spread SELECTED SHORTS to the world by taking a cruise departing from the west side of Manhattan, or even nearby Ft. Lauderdale? Because this was the only time period in the entire season when I could get away for this length of time and be back in time for the April 11th SHORTS program and the April 16th Thalia Follies on "Springtime, Baseball, and Sex."
So Ethel and I joined Mia Dillon, one of our cast members, at JFK on Thursday evening for a British Airways overnight flight to Heathrow Airport, almost seven hours and that was just the beginning. The next stage was a nine-hour flight to Muscat, Oman, that included a stopover in Abu Dabi in the United Arab Emirates. I had never looked closely enough on the map to realized that Muscat is SO FAR EAST. It's almost INDIA! It's the upper eastern tip of Arabia, further east than Moscow or the Black Sea.
It was late evening of that unreal day of flying when we stood on a long line in the stunningly clean and orderly Muscat Airport to purchase entry visas to the Sultanate of Oman. Then we made our way to the Al Falaj hotel to sleep a few hours NOT in an economy class airplane seat, before resuming our journey. Travelling EIGHT time zones from NYC was causing truly disorienting jet lag.
Back out to the airport in the morning to take an Omani Air flight in a smaller plane for two hours down to the Port of Salalah. After a lot of arrangements including a long wait to acquire an EXIT visa from the Sultanate (the Sultan's picture hangs on the wall behind the Immigration Policeman) we made it down to the Port of Salalah, saw the gleaming white Serenity at the dockside, and practically fell aboard and into our cabins to sleep and recover.
Maybe more seasoned travelers to places like India, Australia, or the Far East would find our trip a breeze, but for me it was a first, and not easy. But if being the Artistic Director of Symphony Space means that it is my duty to plant the flag of our theatre in Asia and Africa, then I have to say what Christopher Columbus said to Queen Isabella-"Look, Your Majesty, someone's gotta do this."
The ship is truly beautiful and very luxurious indeed, great food, all the amenities, and a constant round of activities for the wealthy passengers who are paying astounding amounts to take one or more segments of the world cruise that lasts over three months.
After recuperating on Saturday and Sunday, we've just begun to feel normal and awake!
The first SELECTED SHORTS program ever to be presented on water between Asia and Africa will take place in the Stardust Club, Deck 5 Aft, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 7:45 pm, so that passengers from the early and late dinner seatings can all attend. Appropriately enough, the program is called "FOOD FICTIONS" and has some excerpts from our CD of that title.
It will be performed by Mia and me, since our remaining cast members, Mia's husband Keir Dullea, and Stephen Lang (accompanied by wife and daughter) don't join us until the next morning when we dock at Safaga. As I write this on Monday evening, they will be setting out soon from JFK to fly to Paris, thence to Cairo, thence to a place called Hurgada in Egypt, and thence overland to Safaga, which has no airport! "A hell of a long way from La Jolla, California," where Steve closed yesterday in Aaron Sorkin's new play, "just to read a short story or two."
I hope we're a hit tomorrow and that the cruise industry can become a regular part of the Symph's effort to balance the budget.
More breaking news as it happens here in the Middle East, where it is very strange to think that not that many miles from where we are steaming, our country is still trapped in a horrible war.