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OK, I'll tell you right up front I'm not a "cruise" kind of guy. Nor am I an organized tour kind of guy. Yet, on this vacation, I found myself doing exactly these two things. What can I say? It was out of my hands from the minute I dropped that TWA Getaway Vacations brochure in Anne's hands. My fate was sealed. This was my first experience with either of these so there was much to learn to see whether my prior feelings were properly formed and validated. Sorry to inform you, but I haven't really changed my mind about either.

Let's discuss my feelings about the cruise portion first: I guess the my two biggest objections to taking a cruise are having to adhere to a predefined schedule and my perception of the average person who takes cruises. We'll deal with the latter first!

Anne and I have traveled to many islands and stayed in places where cruise ships frequent. For example, this past February in Grand Cayman, on average a minimum of two cruise ships stopped at St. George each day. Sometimes as many as three or four were anchored at the same time. They anchored, usually overnight, and early in the morning the passengers made their way ashore. They're like flies congregating on a dead carcass when they hit town. Each one carrying their little baggy of goodies or, worse yet, their empty baggy to hold all the things they're going to buy. Then, later in the day, as suddenly as they appeared they disappear into the sunset. It's just not my idea of a vacation. Your time in each port is measured in hours. No matter what you want or try to do there will be a hundred others who are going to want to do the same things as you and, worse yet, at the same time. Another example: We took a boat trip out to Stingray City. It was a regularly offered service and had about 17 or 18 people on board. While we were there three or four other boats came loaded with 75 and 100 people from the cruise ships. Stingray City is not meant to cater to such large groups and I can imagine how they all got in the way of each other. Certainly not what I would call a pleasant experience.
Greek night party goes
Anne and I with Geoff and Anne
Greek Night aboard the Atlas
Anne leaving the ship in Turkey
Anne leaving the Atlas in Turkey

My first dislike of cruises is the regimented schedule. You really are limited as to what you can do and how long you have to do it in. You can't leave the ship until they're ready for you to leave and you must be back on board by the appointed sailing time or you'll get left behind. That, combined with the fact that, once ashore, you are herded with a group to do one of several things, just doesn't please me at all. I like having the freedom to choose what I do, when I do it and how long I have to do it. Many of our trips have been open-ended trips. For example, we had a plan as to what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, but we only had plane and train tickets when we left. No hotel reservations and no dictated schedule to keep. If we liked where we were and wanted to stay longer, we did. If we didn't like it we moved on earlier than expected. That freedom doesn't come without costs (like difficulties finding hotel rooms, or crowded trains, etc.), but the cost are well worth it in my book.

What I enjoyed most of all was having a home base that didn't have to move all that frequently as we traveled. We were settled into our room and didn't have to pack/unpack or traipse back and forth to airports and train stations. That was nice. The second thing I liked was the food, both availability and quality. Of course, with this being the only cruise I've taken, I can't judge all cruises other than by hearsay, but if they were anything like this one they have to be an eater's delight. The food was plentiful and good, and the eating schedules were flexible enough to fit anyone's requirements. And, finally, the last thing I enjoyed was the entertainment. Each night on board ship there was some organized activity that you could take part in if you like. You didn't have to, but it was there if you wanted it ... the costume contest, dinner with the Captain, and Greek night just to name a few. That part was enjoyable.

You paid another price for this enjoyment though and that came each night when you returned to your cabin. On the Atlas the cabins were like matchboxes, not big at all. In fact we had upgraded to an outside cabin expecting something better only to find it relatively unpleasant. We found twin beds and a porthole you could barely look out of. But, I guess, you aren't spending all that much time in your room. At least you shouldn't be!

It's not a harem
No it wasn't a harem!
Anne sunbathing
Anne sunbathing on the Atlas' deck
Bottoms up and tops down
Another sunbather

All things considered the cruise portion of this vacation was enjoyable. When you think about it we didn't spend all that much time on the ship at all. We boarded in Athens, overnight to Rhodes, overnight to Alexandria, overnight to Port Said, then we got off the boat for seven days/nights in Egypt. When we boarded the ship in Port Said, we overnight to Asdod, Israel. When we boarded the ship in Haifa that evening we would have the next day just sailing to our next Greek Island, Patmos. Patmos is a small island and the planned stop was very early, like 5:00 a.m. if I remember correctly, and very short. Anne and I decided to forego getting off the ship in Patmos and slept in instead. Later that day we sailed to Kusadasi, Turkey and later that evening back to Athens.

I'll admit, this cruise wasn't a bad experience at all. It was enjoyable and I'd certainly consider doing it again. I'm still not ready for an island-hopping cruise in the Caribbean.

Now, about the first point mentioned: Organized tours. For many of the same reasons I stated about the taking cruises, I dislike organized tours as well. BUT ... I would suggest to anyone thinking of vacationing in a third-world country, like Egypt, or in a country where the language is much different, like Japan or China, this is the only way to go. Like it or not, it's the most sensible thing to do.

Now, continue to the next page to enjoy Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey, our last stop on the cruise.

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Egypt Introduction Page
Athens : The Acropolis at Night | The Parthenon
Rhodes: Lindos | The Acropolis at Lindos
Alexandria: Port of Alexandria | The City | Roman Ruins and Palace
Cairo: Port Said to Cairo | Sakkarah | Memphis | Life in the Nile Delta |The Great Pyramids at Giza | The Great Sphinx at Giza
Life in Cairo and the Mosque | Life in Cairo and Sadat's Memorial
Luxor: Luxor and the Temple of Luxor | Temple of Luxor (2) | Temple of Karnak | Temple of Karnak (2) | Temple of Karnak (3) | Colossi of Memnon
The Ramesseum | Deir El-Bahari | Valley of the Kings | Shopping in Luxor | Shopping in Luxor (2)
Aswan: Edfu and Kom Ombo Temples | Elephantine Island and Unfinished Obelisk | Aswan Dam | Shopping In Aswan
Israel: Arriving in Israel and Bethlehem | Jerusalem
Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey: Surprising Turkey, Hadrian's Temple and Marble Road | Ephesus Theater and Public Toilets

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