‘Persian Gulf Adventure’ indeed turned into one when war threatened

Chuck Offenburger’s college pal Tom Bailey and his wife Hunter, of Charlottesville, Virginia, have been on a cruise ship in the Persian Gulf during the recent time of high tensions in the Middle East between the United States, Iran and Iraq. The Baileys have shared the following observations and photos.

By TOM BAILEY

STRAITS OF HORMUZ, Oman, Jan. 9, 2020 — Several months ago, my wife and I signed up for an appealing National Trust for Historic Preservation tour entitled  “Adventures in the Persian Gulf.”

Fast forward. This morning at dawn, after a week of cruising between United Arab Emirates ports and other Gulf States, we ran the Hormuz Straits, a narrow waterway through which much of the world’s oil passes. The Straits are also known as “Pirates’ Alley.”  At one point we were within 10 nautical miles of Iran and could see it clearly.

Obviously, like you all, we have been on pins and needles about the tensions caused by our thoughtful president’s killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on January 3 while we were visiting Dubai. Even though our 45 passenger ship, the Crystal Espirit, does not seem to have significant strategic value, we are one of only two cruise ships in the Arabian Gulf at the moment carrying predominantly Americans.

So for us, the pins and needles have felt more like daggers and scimitars. “Adventures in the Gulf” indeed!

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Hunter and Tom Bailey, during a peaceful visit to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

After daily mood swings as events have unfolded, including spotty internet access to news sources and daily serious advisories from our Captain, the cruise ship company, rather its liability insurer, has allowed us to “soldier on.” The only adjustments we made were to hug the Omani coast, occasionally weaving through off-shore islands, and taking on 10 hulking armed soldiers who have kept out of sight. And, oh yes, they did cancel our snorkel trip to the Hormuz rocks lest we encounter pirates or hostile frogmen .

We have been assured that Oman and Iran are friendly with one another, and that we will be safe as long as we stay within Omani waters or on land.

Six passengers were spooked and decided to disembark, perhaps rejoining is after the cruise portion. Fortunately, we have felt like we were in good hands, and have relied on the judgment of our four study leaders and the Captain to stay the course.

There is a very enjoyable couple from Des Moines, Pat Barry and Bryan Hall, on board with us. They have remained very calm throughout, but are looking forward to return in time for the Iowa Caucuses . The first question we asked after meeting them was did they know the Offenburgers. They have met both, are fans of the website, and are rooting for Carla’s return to health. Nice folks!

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The Crystal Espirit that has carried the Baileys and others on the tour of the Persian Gulf.

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A map of the cruise in the Persian Gulf, sponsored by the U.S. organization National Trust for Historic Preservation.

So while the world whirls around us, we will continue to enjoy Dover Sole and Creme Brûlée on board for one more night. Tensions have receded greatly.  It is more like being in the middle of a drawing room novel than being at the center of a high risk zone.

Shortly we will be heading to tour Muscat, Oman, for several days, followed by a night with the camels in a desert oasis before commencing the long flights back,home, and hopefully a return to our otherwise mundane life of retirement.

Be safe!

Tom Bailey and our Chuck Offenburger were classmates at Vanderbilt University 50 years ago, and they have remained friends all these years.  Tom and his wife Hunter Bailey have recently settled in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Tom retired from a long career with a law firm just outside New York City.  You can write Tom at tgbaileyjr@gmail.com.

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The impressive skyline of Doha, Qatar.

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An iconic luxury hotel the Baileys saw in Dubai.

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The view back on the Straits of Hormuz.

5 thoughts on “‘Persian Gulf Adventure’ indeed turned into one when war threatened

  1. We have friends on a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship in the same area. They have not mentioned any concerns about Iran, only about some bad weather that forced them to skip a port. When we were on Holland America world cruise four years ago, the ship prepared for pirates! Barbed wire was placed around the ship on the third deck, huge water cannons were brought out and very loud horns were on deck. Did any of the crew have guns? No one knew. However, the Captain said, “If we encounter pirates, I simply head out to sea. We can run for two weeks without stopping and the pirates cannot!” We felt very safe.

    Karen Chesshire Ray, Florida

  2. Thank you Chuck for sharing this travel adventure of your college buddy and his wife! The Baileys’ cruise really put in to perspective the “safety” of traveling that we take for granted here in the United States.

    Sue Green, Cedar Falls IA

    • I am so with you on that, Stan. Heck, I would be more than thrilled to be able to hop in my old ’69 Mustang convertible and cruise the Des Moines River valley through Ledges State Park and the Des Moines YMCA Camp, then hike up Chapel Point at the camp just to count my blessings!

      Jim Seitz, Dubuque IA

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