The Southeast Asia itinerary necessitated several days at sea between ports, sweltering conditions despite the breeze, but blissful nonetheless! The guest entertainers and resident artists dine in the Lido restaurant, which is typically a relaxed buffet setting on any cruise line. I loved the Lido restaurant on the Columbus 2; so sunny and much more intimate than on many of the large ships.
One afternoon, early in the cruise, I had lunch with some of the musicians from the resident show band. We sat at an outdoor table with an expansive view at the back of the ship – hot as blazes, but divine nonetheless. The guys told me they would be attending a “Pirate Awareness” meeting, scheduled later that afternoon – mandatory for all crew.
Yes, this is Pirate Country! When we docked in Colombo Sri Lanka, the day prior, a group of men working for a private security company in the UK came onboard. Former Royal Marines, these guys are trained to combat the types of situations that could potentially arise should a pirate successfully board the ship. None of these measures even existed until the infamous Captain Philips incident in 2009. These guys were very nice and approachable, despite their badass looks, chiseled jaw lines, beefy forearms, and pistol poised in its side holster. They also brought with them an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons, which they kept on the bridge. In addition to the protection of these five men, other protective measures included encasing the lowest outside deck of the ship in barbed wire, thus curtailing the likelihood of pirates and other various and sundry n’er-do-wells and scoundrels boarding the vessel in these perilous waters. 😉 As a matter of fact, on our final day at sea, while sailing along the Arabian peninsula, the Captain made an unexpected announcement in the public areas: “Ladies and Gentlemen, bla, bla, bla, pay no mind to the men racing toward us in small motor crafts. They are not pirates, they are smugglers, transporting contraband between Iran and Pakistan.” Naturally, I raced to the nearest window, and, sure enough, an army of lithe brown men came whizzing along side us, smiling and waving before taking off to parts unknown. If they were pirates, they sure were friendly.
But, I digress… my musician friends invited me along to the “Pirate Awareness” meeting. Unfortunately, I was turned away at the door, because this meeting was for crew only, and I had passenger status. But I wanted to fight the pirates too! I decided to do my part by occupying a lounge chair on one of the upper decks, facing directly out to sea. I had my camera poised at its maximum telephoto so I could keep close watch on any covert activity on the part of those “fishing boats” that dotted the hazy horizon! I held vigil until mid-afternoon, when the service staff rolled out the coffee cart and began distributing cake and cookies.