DOS and I celebrated Thanksgiving Day 2023 sailing thru the Suez Canal. We had a most enjoyable day, and in the evening Seabourn Cruises had a nice Thanksgiving buffet in the Colennade Restaurant, with the traditional American turkey, stuffing, and fixings which was very nice. We Americans are actually the minority of passengers aboard, with the UK, and Australia leading the way in terms of top two nationalities, while the US comes in third, plus several other countries of fellow passengers including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, and Japan.
We were originally supposed to begin the Suez Canal transit at 3am, however we didn’t get cleared to transit it until nearly noon. Noon was actually much better, though, as we could see most of the canal via daylight, instead of the cover of darkness.
I have written previously before on a couple of our Panama Canal transits, and I knew the Suez Canal would be different in design than Panama’s. Basically the Suez Canal is a straight thru channel, cut thru the dessert sand more or less, vs the Panama Canal which consists of 3 locks, due to the height differences and rising currents from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean.
Fernidad De Lesseps was the leader of the Suez Canal project, which was completed in 1869 after 10 years of construction, which was and still is a huge commercial success. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, enabling a shipping gateway to Asia, without having to sail all the way around Africa.
Due to his success at leading the Suez Canal project, De Lesseps was heralded as a master of engineering, and was engaged to head the Panama Canal project beginning in 1880. Unfortunately De Lesseps and the French project of the Panama Canal ultimately failed by 1884, as the whole scope of the Panama Canal Project was so drastically different than the Suez Canal project. Unlike the building of the straight thru and sandy soil Suez Canal, De Lesseps group was unable to overcome the major obstacles in Panama, including the mountainous terrain, tropical rainy conditions, mudslides, disease from Yellow Fever and Malaria, and the sheer engineering and construction of the locks and building the man-made Gatun Lake etc, none of which were encountered during Suez Canal construction.
Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal is a one-way canal, and ships travel together in a convoy thru it, although there is lake and wider points along the way that ships traveling in the other direction can continue along at the divided passage portion of the canal allowing for temporary crossing paths so to speak.
Our Suez Canal transit took about the same length of time as the full Panama Canal transit; around 12 hours. The Suez Canal was industrial in some areas, and quite barren in other areas.
During our Suez Canal transit, we enjoyed the day spending time in both the front of the ship, in the back of the ship, and inside as well as it was quite hot. The onboard ship commentator, Commodore Rupert Wallace and his wife, were available throughout the day for information and questions, and we chatted with them a couple times in the front of the ship on the open deck. Commodore Wallace had given a couple lectures previously, and we also had drinks with him and his wife one evening in the Observation Lounge. The Commodore was an expert on the Middle East; i.e. political, financial, situational conflicts in the area, as well as the Suez Canal and surrounding areas. We, along with other passengers, asked him questions throughout the day as we sailed along. Very interesting! Here is a photo of us with the Commodore Wallace and his wife at the front of the Seabourn Encore.
Finally, here is a Wikipedia article on the Suez Canal, for more information on this fascinating transit journey. Below is a gallery of some of the photos taken during our transit of the Suez Canal.