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Sailing to Eritrea

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Although this trip did involve a cruise, I thought I’d post in the Africa/Middle East forum, as most posts on the cruising forum do not include trip reports.

The trip involved a journey through Jordan, followed by a Red Sea cruise on the Island Sky with stops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea.

I first learned of the British company Noble Caledonia through some travelers I met on a different trip a couple of years ago. I decided on to book this trip because it included a stop in Eritrea, a country I was not willing to tackle independently, and I could travel in relative comfort. I was also interested in seeing Saudi Arabia, another relatively difficult country to visit.

Turns out I’d forgotten about the inconveniences of traveling with large groups (primarily interminable waiting), but the trade off was the convenience of the company taking care of all the details. All visas were obtained as part of a group process by Noble Caledonia. Also all meals were included for the duration of the trip, and the buffet lunches on land were of good quality and allowed for a sampling of the local cuisine. Meals on board the ship were generally European. I found them rather bland, but they appeared to be to the taste of most of the clientele.

Coming from the US, I flew to London and met up with most of the other passengers for the flight to Jordan. The flight from LHR to Amman on Royal Jordanian was uneventful, food and service were good. We arrived at Le Meridien in Amman at about 2 am.

The following morning we were loaded onto 3 buses (~30 people/bus) and set off on a city tour of Amman which included a stop at the citadel. Lunch was at a hotel on the Dead sea, and we had another stop at the crusader castle in Kerak. The guides were of varying quality, and because of the group size, it was frequently difficult to hear and understand what was going on. As time went on I began to realise that a little more prep-work on my part would have been beneficial. With the variety of stops, an investment in several different guide books was required, which I regretted not doing, and the few guidebooks I did have, I left at home because of my reluctance in carrying the additional weight.

Upon arriving in Aqaba we checked into the Intercontinental hotel. The next day involved a full day’s visit to Petra. Petra was very crowded, and while this made the visit less than ideal, visiting in the heat of the low season would have been worse. I enjoyed the visit to Petra, but found it rather overwhelming. The crowds, heat, and having to avoid galloping horses used for transporting tourists were all quite distracting. If I were to visit again, I would plan to stay much closer and visit in the early morning. In fact the distances of various sites from the coast meant that by the time we arrived anywhere, the heat of the day was well in force.

The next day involved a visit to Wadi Rum which was a definite highlight for me. Several converted flat bed trucks had been hired and we sped from site to site in the desert. Lunch was a buffet at a desert campsite for tourists.

The day ended with our arrival at the port and embarkation on the Island Sky which was to be our base for the next nine nights. At each successive port there were three large buses to provide transportation for the day’s sightseeing.

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