Holy land Voyage with Vanora

Agent Name: Vanora
Date: November 2010
Trip Location: Greece, Israel, Egypt, Italy

Overall Trip Impression: If travelling with children or seeking action and a party atmosphere, this cruise would not be for you. Also, exploring these particular destinations will entail long hours and lots of walking. But for anyone else – I recommend it highly. If, like me, you are not necessarily the cruising type, consider making an exception for this boutique ship, which carries a few hundred passengers instead of several thousand. The small size of the vessel means faces become friendly and familiar, no endless corridors or staircases to get from point A to point B, and embarkation/disembarkation is a breeze. The older demographic of the guests means being able to cruise the Mediterranean in peace and tranquility; I didn’t mind being much younger than the average guest, as the experience felt like a relaxation retreat. The staff, relaxed and charming while remaining very professional, were outstanding and memorable. The decor, while not glitzy and overly glamorous, was old-world elegant, simple and understated. The rooms were spacious and comfortable. The variety and quality of the food was excellent. Furthermore, announcements were kept to a minimum, there was no pressure to join or purchase anything, self-serve laundry was complimentary – drinks (including wine) too! And last but certainly not least, the Mediterranean ports provide a delightful itinerary.

5 mykonos (greece)

Athens: The capital of Greece is one of the world’s oldest cities. More of a stopover than a main attraction. Don’t miss the Acropolis and Pantheon for their historical significance and enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the hill. Take a stroll around the Plaka and have a meal or drink and people watch from one of the sidewalk cafes.

Mykonos: This quaint, picturesque island, also known for its nightlife, is full of churches, tavernas, winding streets and stores, and of course the white cubic houses with blue wooden doors and windows so familiar from postcards and posters.

Rhodes: A medieval walled city and ancient acropolis, whose location between Europe, the Middle East and Africa has given it a very rich history. Outside of the city (which is divided into the New Town and the Old Town), small villages and beach resorts dot the island that enjoys an average of 300+ days of sunshine a year. The Colossus of Rhodes was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

10 jerusalem (israel)

Haifa: Haifa is Israel’s largest industrial city, located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, home too many churches, mosques, synagogues, and the Bahai Temple with its breathtaking gardens with fountains and promenades.

Ashdod: From Israel’s largest port and one of the oldest cities in the world, we made our way to Israel’s capital and one of the world’s most fascinating and holy cities – Jerusalem. I touched the Wailing Wall, the most Sacred Jewish shrine. We also visited nearby Bethlehem with the Church of Nativity, but the experience was not as spiritual as one might hope due to the crowds and commercialism.

Port Said: The gateway to Cairo and the Giza plateau. It felt surreal to finally see some of the wonders of ancient civilization – the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and legendary Nile River.

14 giza pyramids (egypt)

Alexandria: Alexandria exceeded my low expectations. While some may not be able to look beyond the desperately dirty and run down state of the buildings, I was completely captivated by the elegant, romantic, European-style architecture of the old world. I could imagine how beautiful the city must have looked during its glory days. The New Library of Alexandria, although in stark contrast with the rest of the city, was also very impressive.

Sorrento: Picturesque Sorrento is perched on 500-foot high cliffs overlooking the bays of Naples and Salerno. It is a gateway to the romantic island of Capri, but I opted to visit the ruins of Pompeii, which was hidden under 20 feet of ashes and pumice stone for more than 1700 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Truly spectacular.

Rome: Like a beautiful painting come to life… The magnificent and majestic larger-than-life statues and monuments left me in awe. And the clothes are so unbelievably stylish that you will find yourself window shopping, whether you are into fashion or not. (The Roma Pass is a great deal www.romapass.it)

Travel Tips:

1. After booking your cruise with Forbes, rather than arranging tours onboard or through the cruise line (which tend to be crowded and expensive), check out a site like www.cruisecritic.com and communicate with other (new and experienced) cruisers or simply glance through the forums specific to your cruise. Aside from being informative and educational, it will give you the opportunity to join/arrange reasonably-priced and -sized independent/private tours (our experiences were positive).

2. Consider travelling during off-peak season. There is a higher risk of encountering less-than-ideal weather, but the savings can be impressive and the lack of crowds can make the experience just that much more pleasant and special. Fortunately, in my experience, it has always been well worth the gamble. Hopefully the volatile political conditions currently existing in Egypt will subside soon to allow trouble-free travel in this region.

3. Don’t be shy to pack some snacks on the ship; these will come in handy when hunger strikes.

4. You might be offered camels for your wife or daughter. Your call.