Clearing the ship takes about an hour. The major holdup was not any questions about paperwork or passports, but local officials bargaining for ship tours and and other perks like free breakfast and lunch. Some people may see that as extortion and bribery to get the ship cleared, others see it as just the way things are done in some parts of the world. At noon time there were an extra 25 to 30 people dining in the Lido.
The port here is very new, having been built with Chinese help after the area was completely destroyed by tsunamis in 2004. Probably with room for a dozen ships, we are the only one here. There are several wind generators for producing electricity. Five hundred to a thousand cars on the dock and nearby gravel fields obviously waiting for distribution around the country. Probably one car carrier ship load. I can only count about 10 shipping containers, and I suspect they might be left over from the port construction and not from any container shipping activity.
The town center is about a 25 or 30 USD cab ride away. Local officials would not allow HAL to contract a local shuttle bus like they do in many ports. The end result is very few passengers go into town. Some have taken tours, everyone else, like me, just stays on the ship. There is absolutely nothing within walking distance. Those that went to town say there is nothing there either.
Another unusual twist here is that government officials have brought a post office and a money exchange onto the ship. The exchange rate is excellent with a spread between the buy and sell rate of about 2%. At most banks it is about 10%. The post office is a nice idea and many people are taking advantage of it. In many ports it is time consuming and difficult to find the local post office.
The A/C in the Lido is partially fixed by this morning. It is cooling but not as well as on the other side.
I do have to say that the crew does a fantastic job of keeping this ship clean. Every day the elevators, all railings, all doorknobs etc are washed and sanitized. All carpets are vacuumed and high traffic areas are shampooed. All interior hard floors like the Lido deck are scrubbed. The outdoor area on deck 3 is washed down every few days. When I started the cruise my shower had a brand new shower curtain, since then it has been removed and washed twice. Every week all the walls in public areas are washed. Daily all the brass railings and trim are cleaned and polished. Definitely a much more aggressive cleaning program than takes place on most other ships.
There is very little activity on the ship today. That is normal for a port day. I could read, but in the last 10 weeks I have only managed 30 pages. A different movie is shown each day, usually with a tie to the area we are in. So far I haven't seen any, today will be my first as I don't even remember what I started to read and would just have to start over. The movie is a nature documentary "Monkey Kingdom", I believe filmed here in Sri Lanka.
There is only one show tonight, billed as a variety show which essentially is a combination of the performers from two previous shows performing about 20 minutes each. Since I have to set my alarm for 6:00 for my tour in the morning I will skip the show.
Debby is not playing in the piano bar tonight. She has been sick for several days and she has been given/taking the night off. HAL expectations are strict, and in my opinion unreasonable, on many of the staff. Debby is expected to play every night for the entire cruise without a day off. Every night she does a different show, and some days she has additional duties besides her 3 evening performances.
We are expected to set sail about 7:00 PM tonight headed for Colombo, Sri Lanka, about 140 miles away. Our arrival time is projected to be tomorrow, Monday, March 21, at 7:00 AM.