One of our reasons for returning by sea was the itinerary of the Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, which included calls at Istanbul, Athens, and Malta, all of which Denise had visited as a teenager and wanted to revisit. (Cunard was also offering a really good rate so we had made arrangements with Cunard to join the Queen Elizabeth at Aqaba.)
After living in Panamá, we were really looking forward to a transit of the the Suez Canal. We started our transit early in the morning, following the Europa II (which we had seen in Aqaba) and the Queen Mary 2, which we would join in Southhampton.
Line ahead through the Canal. Note the tugs close by in the event that the side winds cause problems. (The winds can be so strong that the ships actually “crab” just like airplanes.)
As ships cannot pass in much of the Canal, ships are grouped in convoys and timed to pass in the lakes or the new double section of the Canal. In the early days, ships tied up to piers on the banks in order to pass. We had 24 ships in our convoy, beginning with three liners of which we were the third. The entire length of the transit we were greeted with cheers, whistles, and a cacophony of horns. Three liners in a row, two of the from Cunard, was quite a spectacle and the folks loved it.
There was plenty to see. Various monuments, security outposts, ferries crossing the canal and lots of towns, all with trees and green plants in contrast to the desert elsewhere.
At one point ships were travelling south on a different channel and their stacks and containers could be seen through the sand dunes. Quite an interesting sight as there was no water to be seen!
In addition to opening the second lane, there is constant maintenance all along the Canal. The sheer amount of sand is impressive. Not the mountains of Panamá, perhaps, but still a lot of work.
The lakes were full of ships.
Never one to miss a photo opportunity, we maneuvered with the Queen Mary 2 after we left the Canal.
After the transit, we headed for the Dardanelles and Istanbul.