Civitavecchia – the seaport for Rome

Civitavecchia pronounced ch-ee-v-ee-t-aa-v-EH-k-k-ee-aa

On arrival at Hotel Traghetto, which is a family run hotel,  we were shown to our room on the second floor. The room boasted a small balcony, which we didn’t use.
I’d booked us for three nights, but two days, just incase anything happened to our luggage. Having seen two ladies distressed over missing airline bags when joining a cruise ship a couple of years ago, I didn’t want to leave Italy for a 28 day cruise without our bags!
The hotel cost was not all that great in the scheme of thing, (3 * hotel), but it gave me peace of mind. As it happened everything went to plan and we were able to enjoy a couple of days sight seeing.
We were very happy with the hotel and the friendly English speaking staff. It was clean, convenient for the port, yet close enough to the town centre that we could walk to the main areas within ten minutes.
DSC08449rOur room – a double bed and two single beds, which allowed us to spread out.
The following morning we decided to visit the local market –

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Always pleasant to scan the food of the locals to see what they have but you don’t.
The market also had a fish section, which is not my favourite area, but had to photograph the crustaceans, shown below, because I didn’t have any idea what they were, other than some form of shell fish. They seemed popular with the locals.

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The cheese section was attractive, but the cheeses seemed to all look alike – I prefer an English cheese display with the white of Cheshire cheese, the yellow of Cheddar, the off white of Shropshire Blue, the red of Derby cheese etc.

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Although it was not summer the weather was very kind to us with a blue sky and enough heat in the sun for me to wear shorts.

DSC08456rLooking towards Fort Michelangelo from along the sea front.

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DSC08457rYou’d think that we had the place to ourselves but there were enough people around that we didn’t feel lonely.

DSC08459rI had a feeling that this sun bather must be British  . . . he could well have been lonely.

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A cold beer for me and a soft drink for Maureen over looking the water – what more could you want – it was quite hot in the sun.

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Evening meal once again overlooking the water – this area was full of life and I had to wait for a quiet moment to take the picture – without the passing crowds.

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The following day we checked the harbour on the off chance that our ‘ship had come in . . .’  it hadn’t, but the short holiday made us think that ‘our ship had come in . . ‘

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An evening stroll along the prom after dinner – how British can two ex POMs be . . .

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The Majestic Princess had arrived, and a free shuttle, supplied by the town, ferried us from outside our hotel to the ship. I clicked the above picture over the driver’s shoulder.

Our twenty eight day cruise was about to begin. . . . .

 

Dubai to Rome

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Breakfast was in the hotel, after which, we were ferried by private Emirate Airline car to the airport, for the final leg of our journey to Rome.

DSC08421rDeparture area in Dubai Airport – very clean and impressive.

We passed through emigration & security & boarded a train for the short ride to the satellite area.
Once in the satellite area we approached the bank of lifts that took us up to the ‘boarding’ area – which was also the shopping area and airline lounges.

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Behind the lifts they had computer controlled fountains to keep you amused while in the lift  . . .

Once inside the Emirates business class lounge we realised how large this area is in comparison to Emirates Sydney – it was huge.

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Just one small area of the lounge which contained much of the food and drink.

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Dedicated area to Gate A 12 (our departure gate), which is within the main lounge area.

Power and internet sockets at every seat – if you wish a waitress will bring you coffee, just ask.

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A view of the public shopping area below – picture taken from within the business class lounge.

When called we made our way to boarding.
Once again, we had ‘staggered’ seats – I was behind Maureen, for the much shorter flight of six hours to Rome.

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As expected we were offered Champaign, along with menus for lunch.
The airport was busy so we had to wait our turn before turning on to the runway for our take-off.

DSC08441rView from the nose camera as we made our take-off run.

Once airborne the cabin staff started preparation for lunch. First course shown below, smoked halibut.

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This was followed by chicken Baharat, with Arabic seven spice – the problem was that I forgot to photograph the main dish, and the sweet course, before eating.

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But the above shows that I liked the pudding . . . . before the coffee.

On arriving at Rome Airport we found our way to the Emirates chauffer area where we met our driver, and because we were not staying in Rome city, but in Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome, we had to pay an additional fee for the excess kilometers to the port. Considering the cost of a taxi and the level of service I was ‘happy’ to pay the fee. The driver kept a steady speed of about 130 km per hour (81 mph), so the whole trip only took us about 50 minutes.

The trip was very smooth, comfortable and virtually soundless, so conversation within the car was easy.

We’re off !

Our driver arrived five minute early, I do love efficiency, and at 3.00 am we had the fastest drive ever to the airport, which was just over twenty minutes instead of the normal 45 minutes.
Check-in went smoothly and our bags checked through to Rome. We were given vouchers for a hotel near Dubai airport, Le Meridian.
We had been told that Sydney airport didn’t open until 4.00 am, but it actually opens at 3.00 am, but emigration & security didn’t open until 4.00 am so we had to hang around for about fifteen minutes.

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I’ve never seen Sydney airport so quiet.

Once in the emigration line we inserted our passports to a scanner and stood while our photograph was taken, and I suppose compared to the passport. The whole process took about thirty seconds, and we had existed Australia.
Next stop was security – due to my pacemaker I couldn’t pass through the normal X-ray machine, but was asked to stand in a see-through box with my arms up and I was checked out. I was told that this security system did not allow any forms of ‘waves’ to pass through the body so was safe for pacemakers.

A five minute walk had us at the entrance to Emirates Business Class Lounge – a beautiful spotless waiting area with a large choice of food and drink. I had some very nice coffee, fruit and juice, which was all that I wanted, and of course a glass of Moet Champaign. After all, one doesn’t want to waste the opportunity of a glass of Moet even at 4.00 am!

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The call to board was made around 40 minutes before take-off, not a problem as the aircraft was not full, and we had to use the lift to go down to the boarding level.
Maureen had a window seat and my seat was behind. The layout is such that the business class seats are not behind each other, but staggered. My seat was behind Maureen’s stowage areas, which was also where my TV screen was located and my footrest area. This allows each seat to be converted in to a flatbed if the passenger wishes to sleep. Before we had taken off the cabin crew were offering mattresses for those who wished to sleep once we had reached cruising altitude.

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The area to the left of my screen was the rear of Maureen’s seat, which was next to her window.

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The above picture was taken from my seat, showing that I was not next to the window. The unit to the right of the picture is the rear of Maureen’s seat.
Once at cruising altitude the crew came around to take our breakfast orders.

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 I chose the granola with vanilla yoghurt & pomegranate seeds.

As I write this on my laptop (universal power sockets located at each seat) we have been flying for 4.5 hours and we are still over Australia.

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The sun is chasing us as we fly north west over Australia.

Breakfast went well, after which we all settled down to watch films, read or sleep.

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I couldn’t help but watch The Magnificent Seven, just one more time.

Maureen & I had our window blinds ‘open’ to watch the passing scenery as we flew over Australia. I found it strange that all through the fourteen-hour flight many passengers, a little further back from where we were sitting, never opened their window blinds throughout the flight, and just sat in the dark.

DSC08395rQuite often Maureen prefers to watch the pasting view rather than watch TV.

The toilets were in the rear of the upper business class section, so when visiting the facilities and walking through the darkened area, I found it slightly depressing that so many were sitting in the dark when it was full daylight.

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The one happy area after the darkened section was the bar. It was never crowded, with just six to ten people sitting or standing around chatting. I had a lengthy conversation with the Chinese barman (he took this photograph), who had worked for Emirates for over three years. He was interesting and in my opinion an asset to the airline.

DSC08407rLater back at our seats it was lunchtime.

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I forgot to photograph the first course and decided to have cheese instead of something sweet.

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After floating in the air for just over fourteen hours we approached Dubai.

Although I enjoyed the overall experience of flying business class in an AB 380, I think I prefer business class in a B787, which is much smaller, and for me, a more personal experience. Flying in a B787 allows the cabin staff to be attentive to each individual passenger that one can be addressed by name, without interrogating a iPad before speaking.
On our flight, there were seventy-six business class seats in our section, so is it any wonder we hardly saw a cabin crew member other than rushing back and forth with trays of food.
The B 787 has twenty-two business class seats and even with far less staff they managed to build a small personal relationship with each passenger. If you would like something in between the AB 380 and the smaller B787 try the B777/ER business class with forty-two seats. Having experienced both the B787 and the B777/ER I enjoyed both, and the largest toilet I’d ever seen, after flying with over fifty different airlines, the B777 wins hands down.

On arrival in Dubai I could not fault Emirates Airlines for the efficiency of their operation. We had been given fast track cards that saw us through immigration very quickly.

Our main suitcases had been tagged all the way to Rome, so we didn’t have to worry about baggage on arrival. Once through the normal procedure we were shown where to go for our chauffeured car to the Le Meridian Hotel for our overnight stay. The driver was waiting, and we were quickly on our way to the hotel. At the hotel, where we were guided through a dedicated Emirates check-in area.
As one staff member checked us in another offered us vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We didn’t require lunch having eaten during our flight.
We followed a porter to our room in a special section of the hotel for transit Emirates passengers.

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DSC08416rThe two above pictures show our room.

Our onward flight was scheduled to depart the following day at 9.10 am.

DSC08418rInside the Dubliner – Guinness :-o)

Later we had a look around the hotel and a complete area was set aside for assorted styles of restaurants from an Irish pub (called the Dubliner), to Thai, Middle Eastern and other types of food. Clutching our dinner voucher, we wondered through each area and were shown special menus that listed various dishes for transit passengers.
The only thing that we paid for was my beer, Guinness of course, in the Dubliner, chilled, thick and tasty and Italian beer in the outside restaurant that we picked for our evening meal. Soft drinks for Maureen were included in the voucher. The burning heat of the day had passed by the time we sat down and the warm breeze added to the enjoyment as evening turned in to night. With such a wide choice of food it was funny that we both chose a New Zealand steak and salad.

DSC08419rFor breakfast, before being taken to the departure area for the next leg of our journey, we had a large choice of food.

Flying North for the Winter – part two

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Once the decision had been made to join the Majestic Princess in Rome, and to sail back to Singapore, the next thought was how to get to Rome and home from Singapore.

I checked various airlines that we have used in the past, and considered the cost via each one, but as one gets older one wants that little bit of ease and comfort.

The cost to fly in to Asia, and then over night, and fly daylight to Rome was higher than I expected, so I looked at flying direct from Sydney to the Middle East and then on to Europe.

Taking in to account the passenger comments on Skytrax I fancied Emirates Airline, AB 380, even though we haven’t flown with this airline before. The price was ‘right’ for a multi-stop ticket, and we would be able to break the journey.

From Sydney to Dubai, to connect with the Dubai to Rome flight, is a fourteen hours and fifteen minutes flight from Sydney. We had the choice of two take off times, 6.00 am or 9.10 pm. We do enjoy day time flying, which allows us to enjoy the whole experience rather than sleeping through much of the transit over Australia.

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We picked the 6.00 am flight, which would require us to leave home at 3.00 am  . . .

The advantage of flying business class with Emirates is that they offered us a chauffeured car that would pick us up at 3.00 am and have us checking in around 4.00 am, this sounded fine with us.

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Once we have checked-in we will be escorted to the Emirates business class lounge at Sydney airport. Although they code share on many flights with Qantas they do have their own Business / First class lounge, which is in addition to Qantas’ own lounges.

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EKsyd15-1024x768Champaign breakfast and scrabbled eggs?

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AB 380 business class seats on Emirates Airlines – plenty of stowage space and leg room, and it folds flat to make a bed if this is required.

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If we get tired of sitting (14 hours . . )
we can visit the bar at the rear of the business class section.

Menu for breakfast & lunch  on our outbound flight from Sydney to Dubai.

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Inflight dining.

2500 TV and radio channels to help pass the time. I have hopes of trying to write, but being a film buff I’ll check the films first  . . . .then maybe update the novel.

On arrival in Dubai we will be picked up and taken to a hotel (I believe it is Le Meridien) for an overnight stay. Our connection is 9.10 am the following day to Rome. A much shorter flight at 6 hours 15 minutes.

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The cost of the hotel and transport is included in the airline ticket.

Pool

I might get the chance of a swim.

On arrival in Rome we will be met by another chauffeured car to take us to our hotel in Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome. The drive is about 45 minutes.

We are looking forward to the whole experience.

The homeward leg starts in Singapore, after a two night stop over.

Emirates Airlines do not fly Singapore to Sydney, but they do have a code share arrangement with Qantas, so we will fly overnight from Singapore to Sydney with an Emirates flight number on the QF 82, which is an AB 300-300.

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Qantas do not fly day time flights from Singapore to Sydney, so we didn’t have any choice but to accept the night flight.

Qantas don’t offer a chauffeured car for their business class passengers flying to / from Asia, which will mean that we will make our own way to Singapore airport, and from Sydney airport to home. This will not be a problem, but the difference in service was noticeable. Emirates Airline fly Singapore to Melbourne with their own aircraft, and if we lived in Melbourne, Emirates would have offered the chauffeured car, even though we are ‘short-haul’ from Asia.

The Emirates business class lounge in Singapore has recently be refurbished (it took six months) and reopened in April of this year. I assume that we can use this lounge with an Emirates ticket flying on a Qantas aircraft – we’ll see.

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256550_nuw-4ow4XLnFzDlS-FfwhcNZ7qONOIPq2kKQt8xN3hY   Emirates lounge – two pics above.

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Qantas Singapore lounge – two pics above – we’ll be spoilt for choice.

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Qantas business class seats on the Singapore to Sydney sector.

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Business class seating area on Qantas AB 300/300

All of the above photographs have been downloaded from the net from both Emirates and Qantas web sites.

I will be commenting on how close reality the advertised services are, and how each airline matches, exceeds or fails, to reach my expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

Flying north for winter

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Majestic Princess
Reg. London, 144,216 gt, 3,560 passengers maximum. (will it feel crowded?)

There comes a time when winter is all too much as one grows older . . . and older. A few months ago I started to check where to go or what to do, for part of our Sydney winter. Being a wimp, I consider late May is the start of the colder period, so any time after mid May would be fine, after all summer is December, January & February and Autumn is March, April and May, but late May is winter!

I wanted something ‘different’ without too much work i.e changing hotels, bus trips,  or too many plane changes, so once again it came down to cruising.

Maureen & I like cruising, and having sailed in –

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Island Princess – Reg. London, 92,000 gt, 2200 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Diamond Princess – Reg. London, 115,875 gt, 2670 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Dawn Princess – Reg. Bermuda, 77,441 gt, 1998 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Azamara Quest – Reg. Valetta, Malta, 30,277 gt, 686 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Pacific Jewel – Reg. London, 69,845 gt, 2014 passengers (did feel crowded at times)

so could I find something different?

I clicked on various global travel & cruise sites and in the end I went back to Princess Cruises’ web site and found a positioning cruise from Rome (the port is Civitavecchia, about 80 to 90 kms from the city of Rome) to Shanghai in China.

Majestic Princess is the latest vessel of Princess Cruises and is the newest of the ‘Royal’ class of vessels, the others being Regal & Royal Princess.

A new vessel, positioning cruise, sailing through the Suez Canal (which Maureen has not yet experienced), and then sailing down the Red Sea and in to the Persian Gulf, followed by India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and finally, for us, Singapore where we leave the ship to fly home.

The ship carries on to China, via various Asian ports, to be based in Shanghai so as to focus on the Chinese market. She carries two names one in English and the other in Chinese script 盛世公主号, which means Grand World or Grand Spirit.

The price was right for the twenty-eight day cruise, and she would do about six weeks cruising around the Mediterranean as ‘shake-down’ cruises, before the positioning cruise.
All being well, by the time we join the Majestic Princess the ‘crinkles’ of a new ship, and a ‘new’ crew would have been worked through, so that the little problems after leaving dry dock (there are nearly always problems) had been fixed. The comments / complaints from the first group of passengers would point to any major problems.

royal-class-deluxe-balcony-1600I paid a little extra for a larger balcony, because we spend our quiet afternoons at sea reading, or in my case trying to write. I do enjoy watching the sun come up, or set, over the sea, and the balcony is a big plus for us.

the-seawalk-1-1600It is the first cruise ship to have a glass walk over the ocean, so I’ll be interested in this experience.

piazza-1-1600The Atrium, as well as a meeting place is also used as a village square (Piazza) for acts, music & dancing etc.

princess-theater-1-1600No idea how many people the theater seats.

The above four pictures are from various Princess Cruises’ online brochures.

I have since found out that they do not have a Crooners Bar, which was a favourite of ours on all of the other Princess vessels. Crooners was just right for a 5.00 pm quiet drink with a piano player doing requests.

DSC04087rCrooners Bar Requests ??

DSC03896Crooners Bar Island Princess

The Majestic Princess doesn’t have a Wheelhouse Bar or Explorers Bar – each bar on other Princess ships has a different ambiance, but I have been told that they do have karaoke bars, so I’ll have to find a quiet spot elsewhere :-o)
With such a large Atrium I doubt that it will be a problem – Crooners under another name?

Apparently all signage on the ship is in two language English & Chinese and all announcements are made in both languages.

The ship sails from Barcelona to Shanghai for the fifty six night cruise, departing Barcelona 14th May 2017. We join her in Rome (17th May) and leave in Singapore, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of pictures to post when blogging.

Swan of the East

While researching Prince of Wales Island (now called Penang) for the sequel to Ice King (aka Triangle Trade) I came across details of the German cruiser SMS Emden, which had links to Penang.

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Triangle Trade

Maureen often says that I am more interested in the research than the act of writing, which to an extent is correct. Little things started to come together so I thought – how about a blog.

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Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was the son of a German colonel in the Prussian army.

In 1913, at the age of forty, he became a captain in the Imperial German Navy and took command of the light cruiser SMS Emden.

images-1He was posted to the China station and using his initiative he shelled Nanking, because it was in rebellion. For this action he was awarded the Order of the Royal Crown. (Third class).

200px-Prussian_Order_of_Crown_3rd_Class_with_Cross_of_GenevaOn the brink of WW1 the Emden was anchored at Tsingtao, which was a German naval base in China. I sailed in to Tsingtao in 1963, and it was still a naval base then, but this time for the Chinese.

Von Muller took the Emden to sea on the evening of the 31st July, 1914.

On the 4th August Emden captured the Russian mail ship Rjasan, which was the first vessel to be captured by the German Imperial Navy in WW1.

The Emden met up with the German East Asia Squadron commanded by Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee who had decided to take his squadron across the Pacific and around Cape Horn in to the Atlantic.

Von Muller persuaded the Admiral to allow a loan raider to attack merchant ships in the Indian Ocean – the Admiral agreed.

As an aside Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee defeated the British 4th cruiser squadron at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. A month later he decided to attack the Royal Navy at the Falkland Islands, but the British surprised him and his squadron was destroyed. He was killed as were his two sons (serving in other ships of the squadron.)

In Germany he was considered a hero and several ships were named after him, including the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Graf Spee, which was scuttled after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

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Back to SMS Emden – in the next three month Von Muller captured fourteen merchant ships, and became known as an honorable enemy of the allies. He was daring and did his best not to cause injury to civilians. His attacks required the British to stop merchant ships sailing between Singapore and India.

The British tactics reduced the targets for the Emden, so in September 1914 Von Muller sailed in to Madras harbor at night (now called Chennai) and attacked the oil tanks.

Bombardment_of_Madras_by_S.S._Emden_1914Within thirty minutes the oil tanks were ablaze and causing explosion that damaged vessels in the harbor. SMS Emden sailed before the harbour defense guns could train on  the raider.

The following days she added six more vessel to her score.

On the 16th September 1914 the Royal Navy in Singapore advised the Admiralty, London, that they were sending HMS Yarmouth and HMS Hampshire to hunt down the Emden.

HMS_Yarmouth_(1911)   HMS Yarmouth – note the number of funnels.

   In the mean time SMS Emden added a false funnel to disguise herself as HMS Yarmouth.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_137-001329,_Tsingtau,_SMS_-Emden-_I_im_HafenSMS Emden photo taken in 1911 in Tsingtao.

SMS Emden approached Penang harbour at 4.30 am on the night of the 28th October 1914.

Its silhouette, with the fourth false funnel, gave the impression that HMS Yarmouth, was coming in to port, but once in the harbor, and before he opened fire, Von Muller ran up the Imperial German Navy battle flag.

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He spotted the Russian cruiser Zhemchug at anchor. She was in Penang for repairs to her boilers.
SMS Emden opened fire at three hundred yards (270 mtrs) by firing a torpedo, and followed this with gun fire. The torpedo and the gun fire struck the Russian, and she was soon on fire. Von Muller ordered a second torpedo, which hit the Russian’s ammunition causing a huge explosion as she sank.

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Russian cruiser Zhemchug.

German_postcard_of_the_Battle_of_Penang_1914A German postcard  of the battle.

A French cruiser and destroyer opened fire on the Emden, but they were inaccurate. The firing was enough for Von Muller to order the Emden to retreat.

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A newspaper reporter from the New York Times wrote that she watched the battle of Penang from near the hotel, which would have been the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, where Maureen & I have stayed. I took the above photograph when at the hotel, which shows the entrance to Penang harbour. The anchorage is to the right of the picture, where the battle would have taken place.
The map below is from the report of the New York Times correspondent who witnessed the battle.
At this time, 1914, the USA was still neutral, they didn’t become involved until 7 th December, 1917, which is ironic considering the 7th December in 1941.

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On leaving the harbor the Emden spotted the French destroyer Mousquet, which was coming off patrol and unaware of the Emden’s attack on Penang.

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Postcard of the French destroyer Mousquet.

Von Muller opened fire and sank the Frenchman, after which he rescued thirty five sailors and one officer from the water. He later stopped a British cargo vessel SS Newburn and instead of sinking her he handed over the French survivors on the understanding that the Newburn would take them to a neutral port in Dutch Indonesia and that they would no longer be involved in the war.

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I took the above picture from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. I think the area to the left of ship in the photograph would have been close to where the Mousquet and the Emden  fought their battle.

SMS Emden sailed south to re-coal from her captured British ship Buresk after which she  headed for the Cocos Islands. Von Muller wanted to destroy the radio station, in the hope that this would cause the British and Australian navies to leave the Indian Ocean to protect their line of communications.

On the night of the 8/9 th November Von Muller arrived at the Cocos Islands and sent a shore party to disable the wireless and the undersea cables. Fortunately the station staff had seen the Emden and managed to get off a message that they had seen a strange ship, before the Emden jammed their transmissions.

A convoy of Australian troops ships was not too far away, and the allied commander ordered HMAS Sydney to investigate.

StateLibQld_1_120860_Sydney_(ship)HMAS Sydney

As the Sydney approached the Cocos Island the Emden opened fire and scored hits on the Sydney with her fourth salvo.

 The Australian ship replied with her heavier guns and soon the SMS Emden was so damaged that Von Muller decided to beach her on North Keeling Island to save the lives of his men.

SMS Emden Image 3The Imperial ensign still flew over the beached ship, she had not formally surrendered. Captain Glossop  of the Sydney signaled a number different ways, including plain language because he knew that the Emden’s code books had been thrown overboard, to try and see if the Emden was ready to surrender. The Sydney fired again and hit the stricken ship before the ensign was pulled down and white sheets hung over the side. The Germans burnt their ensign rather than allowing it to fall in to the hands of the enemy.

Captain Von Muller had captured twenty seven ships for the loss of one civilian life.

Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was captured and ended up in a PoW camp in England. Earlier in his career he had been attached to the East Africa Squadron where he suffered from malaria. The climate in England didn’t agree with the malaria, so he was sent to Holland, under compassionate grounds, as an exchange prisoner, for treatment. In October 1918 he was repatriated to Germany – the war ended in November.

Von Muller was awarded Pour le Mérite (For Merit) (also known as The Blue Max)

200px-Blue_MaxThis was awarded to particular people for excellent service in the military. The military version of the award was stopped in 1918, but the civilian award is still in use – similar to the British OBE

Karl Friedrich Max von Muller died suddenly in 1923 at the age of fifty – weakened by malaria.

Swan of the East was a nick name given to the ship in Tsingtao, because of her sleek lines.

220px-Emden-gun-3One of the Emden’s guns can be seen in Hyde Park in Sydney

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HMAS Sydney’s mast can be seen when taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly – it is on the north shore of Sydney harbour.

All of the photographs, except for the two that I took, have been taken from the internet to illustrate a paragraph etc.

Rafts that just about float . . .

We were advised that we would not get wet when rafting, because we would be sitting on small seats that would keep our clothes from being wet. That was a joke!

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We watched as the rafts were being created from poles of bamboo. The rafts are floated down river carrying the ‘dry’ tourists and dismantled at the end of the experience, only to be brought back up to the top and reassembled.

Raft 2

Didn’t matter how hard I looked I could not see a seat. Our mini-bus guide advised us to leave our cameras and anything else that we did not wish to get wet in the bus and he would look after everything. I left everything except the shorts & shirt that I was wearing, for once I could see in to the future . . . . .

Raft 3

Each raft could take four people and we had to sit down and balance the ‘raft’ so as not to be tipped in to the water. Of course as soon as we sat down, and all four of us were on board, the water came through the cracks between the poles. A local ‘boatman’ poled the raft in to the middle and guided it down the river.
Other rafts followed and a competition began between the ‘boatmen’ to see who could cause the largest splash by using their punting pole, to make sure that all the passengers were soaking wet.
It was all in good fun, and the passengers on each of the rafts joined in to create bigger and bigger splashes.
On the way down we realised that we were passing the same place where we’d crossed the river on the back of Jennifer the elephant. Fortunately she was not around.

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Further down the river we could hear rushing water and realised that we were approaching rapids.

raft 4

The water becomes choppier and any thought of keeping dry was forgotten. The experience was great and we all enjoyed ‘going over the top’.

raft 5
At the end of the ‘run’ we climbed the riverbank to be met by our guide and driver. The hot sun was very pleasant as we attempted to dry our clothing and ourselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter seeing a number of elephant ‘eggs’ at Jennifer’s crossing point a cleansing ale or two was needed to make sure that we didn’t catch anything  from the splashes etc . . . .

We managed to dry our shirts somewhat, but only until they were just damp, and we squeezed as much water as we could from our shorts, but the drive back to the hotel was uncomfortable because the mini-bus air-conditioning, which was very efficient.

Next time I’ll take a hotel towel, or two, and a change of clothes, or just raft in swimming trunks, regardless it was great fun.

Because my camera was not waterproof I didn’t take any photographs, so all of the above pictures, except for the last one, were downloaded from the internet, and the last one is thanks to a friend who was with us at the time.