It's a baking hot January day, sailing in the Arabian Sea. Leaving the Musandam Peninsula – the Omani fjords – the crew of the Boudicca is preparing for one of cruise ships' less popular guests. Pirates.
Boudicca herself is on watch and she's not alone. We have taken on board three armed guards, there are crew watching out constantly for dubious craft and at night the ship is completely dark. This is a strange sight as the decks are normally brightly lit – but it's an added bonus for star watching. We have all (passengers and crew) been practising Operation Safe Haven. At the signal, we assemble in the internal corridors of the ship while the captain hurls his vessel around to make it just a little more difficult for marauders to board.
As we sail past the coast of Yemen, there is an increasing sense of unreality. That unhappiest of countries is well within view, torn apart by the worst of wars, its mountainous coast framed by blue sea and sky. And yet on board, the passengers are misted on their loungers to help them tolerate the heat. At breakfast, champagne is served and tonight is the captain's formal dinner. The juxtaposition is, to put it mildly, surreal.
In the meantime, anti-pirate measures continue. We have water cannons dotted along the decks previously inhabited by birdwatchers and quoit players. The first boardable deck now wears a frill of barbed wire entanglement. But pirates? Slightly, disappointingly, we saw not a single one. But, then again, they probably don't bear that much of a resemblance to Johnny Depp.
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