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Trip Report Holyland in October

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Arrived at Athens today. Staying at the Classic Baby Grand Hotel, part of the SLH group (Small Luxury Hotel of the world) The hotel is as advertised ... unique. Front desk is made from a pair of cut up Austin Minis, and the walls, it is unique. You have to see it to beleive it (or you can look at their web page pictures). All the rooms are nicely decorated with paintings on the wall (not a painting hanging on the wall but painted to the wall like a mural).

You have to put the key card in a slot before the lights will work. You pull the card out, all the power are off. Good energy saving feature. On the drive from airport to hotel, saw a lot of solar panels on roof tops. Gasoline is 1.50 Euro a litre, which is like $10 a gallon.

The reception/lobby/front desk is on the second level. The staff is friendly and English speaking! The elevator is tiny. Barely enough to hold 4 people and only if you are really skinny. We crowded 4 people in it and the door won't close as my back pack is in the way. It said the weight limit is 450 Kg which is only 900 pounds.

After checking in, we walked to Plaka, passing the city market, the varies squares, the flea market etc. Stopped in a few old churches along the way and at the square by Plaka, saw the Acropolis at a distance. We are going to Delphi tomorrow. I think it is 2 hours bus ride there. We joined a tour and will be part of a group 40. Pick up and return at the hotel so it's all cool. Will go to Acropolis the day after, and will board the ship (Pacific Princess) after touring Acropolis.

I think I am going to try to make a post daily, or at least once every couple of days as things happens. If I leave it to write a report after I get home, well, it won't happen. Get side tracked, get busy, I'll never get around to write the trip report and then with time past, and it is old news.

Don't mind my typo and spelling as I am just not all that good at it , and without spell check, well, you get the idea.

Since I have to check work email daily anyway ... : ( ... I might as well have a bit of fun while I am on the net (on their dime). :D

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    Good thing I have good battery life on laptop. The power convertor overheated after 1 hour and shut down. Barely charged up the battery at all.

    Drivers are suicidal. I’m glad I am not driving. Saw a lot of white box with cross on top on the side of the highway. Tour guide said they are shrines for people who killed in accidents. Makes sense. Motorcycle riders with no helmets on, zipping between cars … no wonder.

    Took 3 hours to get to Delphi from Athens. Bumper to bumper traffic. The Apollo’s Oracle is not what I have expected. Guide is knowledgeable and talk about both history and mythology at the site.

    Made unscheduled stop at Arachova, a ski village along the way. Interesting place built on the side of the mountain. They are selling snowboards and the weather is 25C (82F?).

    Food is expensive. 18 euros for breakfast. Food is good. 2 euros for coffee (no refills) Plan to spend 50 euros per person per day on 3 meals.

    Greek coffees are great. Kept me and DW up all day, made it easier to adjust to time zone difference. Next stop, Acropolis, city tour and embarkation.

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    Hi Parrot Mom, armed guard at crusie terminal. That's about it. Some people even didn't get the passport stamped at the airport. They were disappointed as they have no proof to show that they were at Greece. The streets at Athens are safe. You can see police all over, just like any other major city. If you are in teh tourisst area. It's fine.

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    Acropolis ... The place is jammed pack with people and we were told that this is actually a slow day. On the way up the hill, it is wall to wall people. Reminded me of boxing day in a mall. Can’t imagine what it would be like if it is any busier. The view is breath taking. You can see for miles. The new museum opened last year and it is very interesting. They ran out of certain English souvenir books already and they won’t sell me the last beat up worn down demo copy. :(

    The restoration is on-going. It is much more impressive than Delphi. My recommendation, if you are press for time, skips Delphi. There are a whole lot more interesting things to do in Athens. We would have loved to spend more time in Plaka and the surrounding areas. If you are there in peak season, it will take more than a half day if you want to take in everything in Acropolis at leisure.

    Stopped by the temple of Zeus. The Hadrian’s Arch is right there as well. The national Garden and the Parliament are along the way. Missed the changing of the guard at the Parliament. Also stopped at the ancient stadium and the academy of learning. They are all impressive. The guide said lots of things has been looted in the past with lots of old status etc. taken in Rome and other places.

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    The port is in Pireas and with only 680 passengers check in is easy with zero line up. We walked up, they took the luggage at curb side, we walked inside, get the cruise card, go through security, that’s it. They kept your passport and give you a passport receipt. Make sure you made photocopies of your passport to keep with you just in case. It is not necessary but just in case something went wrong. We made a photocopy of our passport, laminated it and kept in our wallet.

    Our first impression of the ship? We have mixed feelings as this is our first “small ship” cruise. DW was disappointed at first. This is an old Renaissance ship converted by Princess so it is missing a few of the Princess features that we have come to expect. I love the library. I can spend hours there. The artwork that adorned the ship is disappointing, nothing like the “real” Princess ships. They actually had mirrors instead of art work on the back staircase. If you keep comparing it to the regular Princess ships, you will be disappointed. DW also commented that the ship reminded her of the old Queen Mary with the old style décor. She missed those big atriums of the more modern ships. The stair cases, they are narrow. One thing that we really missed: anytime dining. It is not available at all.

    The cabin décor is fine with a flat panel TV and a few modern features. There are 4 plug-ins with 2 for 110 and 2 for 220. All the things you need are there. The closet is smaller than what we are used to. There is still plenty of space, just not as roomy. We travel light with 1 suitcase each. For those who travels with 2 or more pieces each. You may run out of room. Suitcases can fit under the bed. We have never needed to do that on the other Princess ships but have to do it here.
    Although the décor in general is “old style”, it is not “old”. For a twenty year old ship, it looks great! It’s like looking at a vintage car at a vintage show. It is shiny, it looks new, but you knew it is not new. It grows on you. We are not gamblers so we are not disappointed at the very small Casino.

    We love to explorer the ship when we first get onboard. It didn’t take long this time. DW didn’t even get lost once and we found all the places and we walked everywhere. Our cabin is on Deck 7. The pool, the buffet, spa, fitness center and the usual stuff are on deck 9. Library, internet café and Sabatini are on deck 10. The cabaret, the dining room, casinos, shops are on Deck 5.

    Speaking of internet, the satellite system they have is older and the connection speed is much slower than the other Princess ships. Took a long time just to send a couple emails. My connection to the office via internet explorer doesn’t work at all. Good excuse for me to not checking in on work stuff. The ship is supposed to get new internet equipment in a month’s time. Spoke to the manager of the internet café, it is interesting that he had his training on a Carnival ship. This is his first contract with Princess but he had his “test run” on a Carnival ship that do weekend cruises.

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    Santorini ... Everything is great except for the light rain in the early afternoon, which we don't mind at all. We were tendered ashore on a three mast sailing boat. (No, they didn’t run up the sail.) This is the most impressive tender that I have seen. The tender took us to Athinos and bus took us to Pyrgos, the first stop. The way up is interesting and the road zigzags along the cliff. Some sections of guard rails are missing. Guide joked with the driver commenting that there must the place the driver missed the turn last time and took a tumble.

    The tour took us all over including the black sand (and gravel?) beach at Kamari, which is on the other side of the island. Water is very warm and this is October. There are tiny churches all over. There is a small village with a population of 250 and they have 42 churches!

    Oia (pronounced as (ee-ah) is interesting, located at the tip of the island.

    Last stop was Fira, the capital. There are 3 ways to go to Skala, where the tender will take you back to the ship. You can walk down the 800 steps (20 minutes) or take the donkey ride. We walked down the path for about a minute for the view and headed back up to Fira. We also decided against the donkey ride and took the third option down, which is the cable car. As a rained a bit earlier on, the pathway was wet and slippery and brown. The brown stuff is from the donkeys as donkeys are not toilet trained. The brown stuff got mushy after the animal and people stepped on it. Some people had walked up the steps from Skala. Definitely not recommended for people not in good physical shape.

    People in Santorini are very friendly, there were some pushy sales people but that’s about it. The pre-historic museum was closed due to staff strike.

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    Small ships have their advantages too like coziness and ease of familiarity with the facilities and fellow passengers. How are the roads getting to the Acropolis? Do thy wind and tunr or are they straight? Thanks, Larry :-)n

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    Larry, they have a new facility for those who can't make it up on their own. They send someone to assess you and see if you qualify to get the free ride.

    ParrotMom, if you are reading this, there are a few magnets on this crusie. More so than our previous cruises. You are going to have a field day taking down all thsoe magnets. They are eye sores to say the least. Do you put magnets on your hotel door so you knwo how to get back to your room?

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    You'll porbably notice that my review section has less typos. That's becasue I use a word processor and then cut and paste to cut back on internet connection time.

    Patmos’ claim to fame is St. John and the cave where he received the visions that resulted in the book of Revelations. It seems all the tours are around the saint’s Grotto and the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. If you are deeply religious, the sights are inspiring. It is interesting to note that people from the olden days are a lot shorter than modern men. At the 10th century built St. John Monastery, you will bum your head on the top of the door beams if you are not paying attention.

    The Christodoulous chapel holds a lot of artefacts and wall paintings. They are also very straight about no photography. The same goes for the treasury, which is now a museum. I guess one can say that they want to protect the treasures from deterioration from the flash, or they just want to sell you the books and the DVD if you are really interested in the stuff. We have also visited a 300 year old house in Hora. The owner of the house is 9th generation on the island and is very gracious in showing her home.

    We have always heard of story about poor plumbing that you are not allowed to throw toilet paper in the toilet. You wipe and then you put the toilet paper in a basket next to the you know what. Well, I have experienced it first-hand. I am impressed as it is less messy than I thought, but smelly just the same. We saw some people lined up to use the facilities, read the sign, and decided against going to do the business.

    The market around the tender dock is quite clean and safe. We walked around for quite a bit and DW finally found a genuine Kourbella, which made her very happy. She had been looking for one since Santorini.
    The weather was okay but it was very windy. We were warmed by several staff at the ship that the sea would be rough on the way to Kusadasi. We felt a bit of side to side motion, but overall, it wasn’t bad. We have been in much rougher water than this and no one warned us. I wonder if it is because it is on a smaller ship.

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    For Kusadasi, we decided on the last minute to cancel the tour to St. John’s Basilica and Virgin Mary Shrine. We opted for the Terrace Houses instead.

    We have been told all kinds of things and there are lots of rumors about quotas, the cost etc. None of them is true. The cost of entrance is 15 TL, which is about $10. They give you a 2 part ticket. One for you and one for your guide. The Terrace Houses is actually located inside Ephesus, and you have to pay admission to Ephesus to get to the Terrace Houses. We met some people who were in Turkey earlier in the year and they were refused entry to the Terrace Houses without a guide.

    We were impressed by the Terrace Houses. They have restored only a handful of houses but what we saw were impressive, even by today’s standard. Imagine a house around 5th century with running water, functioning toilets, (with separate toilet for women), mosaic floors and wall paintings, marbled walls, you really have to see it to believe it. The largest house featured a meeting hall which is half doom shaped. We did not regret the decision to go to see the Terrace Houses instead of Virgin Mary Shrine.

    Ephesus is better preserved than Delphi. The Amphitheatre can sit 25,000. The city itself is huge and although less than 10% has been excavated, it looks massive. The library features an underground tunnel to the brothel, or at least that’s what the guide said. It is certainly a worthwhile stop.

    It is disappointing that the ship’s excursion doesn’t offer a package that takes you to St. John’s Basilica, the Virgin Mary Shrine, and ancient Ephesus including the Terrace Houses. You can see them all in about 6 hours if rushed, and 8 hours if you like a slower pace. Maybe they wanted to leave some time for you to shop.

    Booking your own qualified and accredited guide and go outside of the ship’s excursion is the way to go if you want to see them all. The ship’s excursion is far too short and you are rushed from site to site.

    The flea market outside ancient Ephesus is interesting as well. There is a stall that sells “genuine fake watches”. You know what you are buying … the real fake, not a phony fake.

    You really have to bargain hard. The price they asked for is ridiculous. A store by the harbor wanted 25 euros for a nice cotton sweater. I bargained them down to 18 euros but no further. We decided to walk away. 4 or 5 blocks later, the same merchandise, DW had the price down to 15 euros, and the final price was 3 for 40 euros.

    The handmade carpets are gorgeous. Do not go inside any carpet store for a carpet making demonstration. I repeat. Do not enter! The sales pitch is soft but the pressure to buy is there. At least they are not as bad as those selling time-shares in Florida. Complimentary beverages and pastries were offered, and of course, the price for the free beer is to sit through their sales pitch. If you have never experienced it, by all means, go see it. The silk carpets are really nice.

    We decided to try local food and beverages and headed to a local open air café. If you enjoy a strong coffee, make sure you have a Turkish coffee. DW ordered an Apple Tea. Both are famous local beverages.

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    Eschew--lol.. Sadly we were on the exact same ship, the Pacific Princes.. and our experience on that ship has turned us off of the Princess Cruise Line...hated having our names on the outside of the cabins.. took ours off several time before the room steward got the point..Loved the elegance of the old ship though and agree about the library, they had the newest books. We are NOT visiting the same ports, Sicily, Naples, Corfu, Cairo, Jerusaleum and Haifa and back to Rome.. but love ypur report.Oh.. the problem with the card for electricity... we solved that..put a piece of cardboard in it or see if your business card fits.. As for the magnets..we did not find a preponderance of magnets or signs on our Soltice cruise..How is your wife finding the shopping, what no rugs or brass tables.. I think perhaps you might end up with a camel saddle..lol If all of this seems disjointed ..it is.. just getting ready to push Parrot Pop into the staging room to seriously pack. Keep it coming....

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    ParrotMom, Princess always have names on the door, as far back as I can remember and it's no big deal. I'm sure it is on the door of other cruise lines too. I don't remember now. The last non-Princess ship we were on was Celebrity last August.

    We are on way to Haifa, Ashdod, Port Said, Alexandria, Sorrento and then finishes off in Rome.

    Saidly, I am not going to book RomeCab as I can't find enough bodies and I stopped trying. Booked through the TA with Viatour on private tour on Vatican. 8 people maximum, starts 8 a.m.. This is the first time I book with them so I will find out in about a week.

    DW was apprenesive when first step on foot on boat. She had mixed feelings. Now, she loved it.

    I will make one more post today during sea day for entertainment and food and servcies etc. After that, it will be 4 long days in Israel and Egypt. Up at 5:30, leave ship at 7:30 and back to ship by 6 pm or later.

    I will try to write report on the nexxt sea day (5 days later) and post after.

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    The entertainment on a small ship is very limiting. They don’t have a theatre and the shows are done at the Cabaret. The seating arrangement is not bad, but if you are short, you better sit at the first few rows or you won’t see much as the floor is not slanted. The cabaret was not full but they were doing “pre-show dancing”, so the dancing crowd who were there filled the front row.

    The comedian Magician is forgettable. One show featured a vocalist, Kaitlyn Carr, from Scotland. I thought she was passable and DW said she was off key a few times. She also played the traditional flute. Maybe it was her rendition of the Lord of the dance that did it. At the end of the show, Kaitlyn received a standing ovation from the crowd.

    The staged shows are similar to what we have seen at other Princess ships. Since we were on another Princess ships recently, we have seen the “Dance-Dance-Dance” before. The music was familiar with a twist. First off, without the stage, there were only 2 singers and 6 dancers instead of the full compliments of 4 singers and 12 dancers of their mega ship. The stage sets were missing and the costumes were also less elaborate. Sections disappeared and were replaced (the Indian dance was missing). The singers and the dancers performed well enough and they performed all the crowd pleasers including the River Dance.

    We noticed that at least 3 of the dancers were assistant cruise directors. So the question is: are they dancers training to be cruise directors? Or are they cruise directors learning to be dancers? We have also noticed that there are quite a few people on their first contract. The young fellow who was selling the shore excursions were on his first contract. He is extremely knowledgeable on the shore excursions being offered. He said that part of his training is that he has to go to all the shore excursions and experienced them all first-hand. What a dream job!

    It does appear that this small ship is being used as a training ground. This could be both good and bad. The good is that they are all trying very hard, going the extra mile. The bad is if you are on the ship while they just completed a crew rotation, you are stuck with some freshly trained newbies who might not know what they are doing. The ship’s roaming photographer definitely falls under the later category. Although this is his first contract, it could be his last (I certainly hope so). He lacks customer service skills and was rather rude when passengers turned down his offer to take pictures in the dining room.

    This is only day 4 and so far, the food quality is impressive, much better than the other Princess ships we have experienced, except for Ruby’s maiden voyage in 2008. Not that the food on the other Princess ships were bad. As it turns out, there is a reason for it. The Princess corporate executive chef Alfredo Marzi who holds the title of “Master Chef Commendatore” is on board. He travels from ship to ship for inspection and training (here is that word again!) purposes to ensure things are up to snuff. We knew about him because we attended his cooking demonstration and special dinner at the Ruby’s first voyage.

    If you like your special coffees like espresso and latte, buy the “coffee card”. It is $24 now but you get 15 premium coffees. Since we have a 2 for one coupon, for $24, we get 2 cards, good for 30 drinks - a very good deal and much cheaper than Starbucks. This friendly tip came from Larry over a year ago. Thanks bud!

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    Which Celebrity ship were you on.. Looking forward to your reports on Alexadria, Jerusalaleum and Haifa.. We have hired with others Ramses to tour and in Israel we are doing an overnight in Jerusaleum and there are four of us on t his private tour as I want to see besides Yad Vashem, The Wall and the Chagall Windows.. Understand there is a new light show in Jerusaleum at night.. When on the PP the head entertainer said that Princess goes through a group that specializes in entertainment for smaller ships. Our first night in Manaus they had a local authentic dance group which was incredible.. many passengers complained they didn't speak english..The head of the group had dancers sons and daughters of her past troupes.. It was one of the most authentic and non-touristy we had ever seen... and we love these type shows.Maybe they wanted more Las Vegas style.lol Waitng to read your next postings.Oh yes.. the dinners on the PP were incredible...

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    "The brown stuff is from the donkeys as donkeys are not toilet trained. The brown stuff got mushy after the animal and people stepped on it." :)) so this is what I should expect in Santorini? We're going!

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    The show called “Shake Rattle and Roll” is new, featuring songs from the 50s and 60s, including Buddy Holly, Elvis, Monkee, Beatles, Sonny & Cher etc. The Sonny and Cher skit was funny. Since this is the “light” version for a smaller ship, I am looking forward to see the full version on the Mega ships.

    “Tribute” is also new. Featuring music from Beatles, Beach Boys and the Rat pack. With only 2 singers, the 2 fill-ins are a bit weak. The second female singer just didn’t have the voice needed. The female lead is good. Again, I am looking forward to the full version.

    Went to Sabatini, one of the two extra charge restaurants available. The portions are big. We were stuffed long before main entrée arrives. DW ordered lobster tail and 2 full tails showed up on the plate. My veal chop was almost 2 inches thick. Asked for doggy bag and waiter was not impressed. Guess he didn’t have a dog at home.

    Alfredo Marzi did a cooking demonstration. It was a very similar show from 2 years ago and the same pitch for his cook book. He preached to the audience not to waste any food, there are hungry people in the world etc. etc. Of course you don’t want to waste any food. It is called money and their profit margin. He was funny at times. He took off his chef hat to show us that there is no ”rat” under his hat when he was preparing for the ratatouille (did I spell it right?).

    The internet service is getting worst and worst. Skype was working a couple of days ago and now it doesn’t work at all. It worked on the other ships. Maybe the problem was not the equipment but they tried to lock it down so tight that it became unusable. Maybe they are trying to sell you an email package that they can charge you by each email. I really don’t care what works and what doesn’t as long as it is consistent across the board so that I can plan for it.

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    Funny how information flows quite freely on the ship. The cruise director mentioned that 90 passengers had booked the Israel overnight tour and a total of 580 passengers had booked the excursions, leaving only a handful who booked tours on their own. We were given passport receipts when we board and we have to produce them to redeem our passport and the “landing card” before we can go ashore. We were told the meeting time for us is 7:30 am and we should be on time. We knew the Israeli security and immigration are going to come on board. The cruise director kept saying “it is up to them” and it worries me. We were also told to be careful on what we are bringing with us.

    As it turns out, we heard that at least one passenger were not allowed to leave the ship. I guess it must have happened before as no one was surprised by it.

    The port itself is in an industrial area, there is no duty free shops or anything like that. Once you get your passport and landing card, you go straight to the bus, or the waiting car and leave the dock. The Pacific Princess was docked next to a freighter.

    The security is really not as tight as I thought it would be. No one is carrying machine guns standing at the gangway (like in Mexico) or anything like that. But, there are check points to go through. The IDF asked the tour guide for her cell phone number … maybe for emergency contact? On our return to the ship, the bus stopped at the check point, a security person come on board and asked a series of silly questions. Are you carrying things on board for people? Did you see them package your purchases? Are you carrying gun? We reached the ship’s gangway finally, cold towel from the ship and passport inspection.

    Despite being October, and supposed to be cool, it didn’t feel that way. The temperature approached 90 and it was humid. From Haifa, we travelled to the Sea of Galilee, which is a big lake. I didn’t know it is well below sea level, and it supplies the majority of the water to the whole country. We were at the shore and the water is brownish and looks dirty. People are bottling it and drinking it as if it is holy water. b-(

    We also stopped at Mount of Beatitudes. Nothing really too exciting there. The Church of Multiplication at Tabgha is next. Again, nothing exciting there either. This is the place where Jesus supposedly performed his miracle of multiplication with the fish and the bread. Everyone is taking picture of the rock where he supposed had sat on while performing the miracle.

    Up next are River Jordon, Capernaum and Nazareth. This is the Holyland tour so you are supposed to see and know your religious stuff. If you are not religious or don’t know the bible stories, you will be bored.

    The River Jordon site is not the place where Jesus was baptised. Apparently the real place is too close to the bother so they built this place (shrine?) with a big souvenir shop selling, you guessed it, water jugs ($5 each) to fill your own water from River Jordon to take home. There is a place where you can go and touch the water. If you want to experience the “experience”, you must buy a white gown ($25), go change and go soak in the river. When you came out, it is like a wet t-shirt contest so one should try to be modest and bring towel or wear bathing suit beneath. There were many embarrassing moments for the soakers. :S-

    The gift shop sells dates and honey among other things, such as mud pack for moisturising. Of course they sell books and maps and religious artefacts. Other than the honey and mud pack, you can buy the rest of the stiff elsewhere. (okay, not the water jugs and water)

    We kept running into a Korean youth group. They were singing and chanting while we were inside the church. It really added to the atmosphere. Some people were downright emotional to the point that they cried. I better sop commenting on religion or I’ll get myself in trouble.

    By the way, toilets (WC) are not free and typically they will charge ½ Euro or $1 to use the facilities. Make sure you have loose change as they give any change back.

    One more thing: no bare shoulders and bare knees on any Holy Sites. Show some respect and dress appropriately.

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    Ashdod is another industrial port. Both Ashdod and Haifa claims to be Israel’s largest port. Again, there is nothing nearby. The temperature is cooler, but not by much, still mid-80s. Since we kept the passport, we just meet the tour and headed out. The cheapest souvenir shopping is inside the old city of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. But, you may not want to go to Bethlehem after reading what I have to say.

    We thought Acropolis was crowded. Well, we were wrong. The “attractions” (or Holy sites) are wall to wall people. Drivers and people in general are aggressive. Drivers lean on the horn to voice the displeasure when the bus is loading or unloading passengers, blocking their way or slowing them down. Patience is not in their vocabulary.

    First stop at Mount Oliver where we have a great view of Jerusalem. Next stop was Garden of Gethsemane. Some nuns were picking olives as it is harvest season. They were hand picking the olives. I thought shaking the tree and let the olives drop would be more efficient but that is not the way. You may do that on the field but not here. The Garden’s claim to fame is this is the place where Judas betrayed Jesus. A church was built there and the inside is packed.

    We entered the old city through the Dung Gate, so names because it used to piles of Dung there in the olden days. Huh? I am surprised that the men and the women are segregated. Men go in on the left and women on the right. They check your bags and you have to walk through a metal detector before you get into the open space (or square) in front of the Western Wall. There were armed soldiers patrolling with machine guns.

    When approaching the western Walls, again, men to the left, ladies to the right. There is a prayer hall on the men’s side but you must cover your head to go in. Obviously, no females allowed although the hall was donated by a female. Go figure.

    If you need to go to bathroom, here is the place, by the Western Wall. It’s free and it’s clean. Last chance.

    Next up is a long walk through the Via Dolorosa. I am not going to tell you what it is if you don’t know. We went through the old city, stopping at all the checkpoints and ended at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

    We have never been with so many people in the same place all at once. Let’s just say that you don’t have to walk anywhere within the Church of Holy Sepulcher. You get pushed. You can take pictures but it is impossible to take good ones as everyone else is doing the same and they will be all over you, in front of you, next to you, behind you. All you see is a sea of people. Of course, you knew the last few check points for Via Dolorosa are inside the Church of Holy Sepulcher and is considered the most Holy of Holy sites. (or at least a close second or third) There are priests hurrying you along or told you that you can take pictures at certain things, or telling you that you are not properly dressed and boot you out. No bare shoulders and bare knees on any Holy Sites.

    I didn’t know the Armenians hold the majority of the space inside the Church of All Nations. Trivia question for you. Which faith (or factions) holds the key to the place? The answer is none of them. It is held by a Muslim as they own the place. At least that’s what the guide told us.

    Bethlehem is most interesting. Jewish guide get off. Driver took us down to check point (border?) After we drove past the checkpoint, Palestine guide joined the group.

    We saw the “security barrier” first hand. Just look at the old pictures of the Berlin wall and you get the idea. It goes for miles. We knew that time allotted to visit churches and souvenir market is decided by the guide, who will make his money from the purchases.

    First stop, BSC (Bethlehem Souvenir Company) supposed to be half hour but ended up more like 45 minutes. Some people decided to spend more time shopping and the guide, of course, won’t rush them.

    Price is okay but the best deal is outside the stores by the street vendors. Bags are 4 for $10. Scarfs are between 3 to 5 for $10 depending on your skills. Quality is cheap too but for souvenir to give to people who will put them away, can’t beat the price.

    The Church of Nativity is the only Holy site stop. Even more crowded than Church of All Nations. People are pushing each other to go down the stairs to see the “supposed manger”. It was nosiy and it is inside the church. A priest used the microphone to shh everyone. Noise gone for about a minute and it started again. The crowd is 50 deep or more to try go down the staircase that maybe 2 or 3 wide. Needless to say, many disappointed and upset people. Came all the way to Bethlehem and don’t even get to see it. Come close but no cigars. The group that went to the site of the last supper fared better.

    On the way back, more check points and more check points when leaving Palestine.

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    BESIDE MYSELF.. just received word at 11:30 p.m.that the other couple sharing our tour is cancelling because of an impending death of his father.. Going to hve to start from scratch..and we are supposed to stay overnight...

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    Port Said is the northern gateway to the Suez Canal. It is about 200 Kms away from Cairo. We have been told to expect a three hour journey, two on the highway and an hour in the city. The Pyramid of Giza is an extra half hour away with the ring road.

    There is one thing that I should mention now about the road trip from Port Said to Cairo. There is NO pit stops. None. Zero. Zilch. If you got to go, well, you can’t. You’ve got to be able to hold it, or wear diapers for your relief, as simple as that.
    The ship docked early. Went through immigration with no issues. Next thing you know, we are at the dock, walking among venders and their stalls inside the control area. Many stalls were not even open. We proceed to the meeting point where all the buses, vans, cars are parked, ready to go. We board our bus early but we can’t leave until all the vehicles are filled and ready to go. So we sat in our bus for 20 minutes, waiting for the last bus to finish loading. The people in the private tours did not fare any better. They have to wait too. The convoy must leave together, as one unit. At least the bus is running as gasoline is cheap, only $2 a gallon.

    It was an impressive convoy, police cars and a police motorcycle at the front of the convoy, and a police car at the back. We sped through Port Said at a great pace, seeing policemen at the intersections, stopping traffic to let us go straight through. Police cars are also blocking on ramps so that no one can merge into the highway next to us. I was impressed. Maybe the police escort is a way to get us out of the city beating morning traffic and has nothing to do with security and safety. I was only partially right.

    The police escort stayed with us all the way through 3 checkpoints, the escorts were probably changed along the way as when the escort waved us ahead, it wasn’t the same vehicles that lead us out of the port. We were going fast, it was only an hour and a half and we were less than 50 Kms from Cairo, half an hour at highway speed.

    Without the escort, the convoy disintegrated and it was every bus for itself. It was a race, buses passing each other, cutting each other off, three buses were side by side on a two lane highway with a forth one trying to pass on the non-existing shoulder. Looks like they are all trying to get ahead of each other in a mad race to the finish line: the Cairo Museum.

    It really doesn’t matter as 15 minutes later, we ran straight into traffic and the pace quickly came to a crawl. The bus driver skilfully manoeuvred the bus as if it is a subcompact, weaving in and out of traffic. I was impressed.

    We are now in city traffic. Vehicles are everywhere. 4 cars, sometimes 5, side by side on a 3 lane road, all jockeying for position. The guide said if you can drive in Cairo, you can drive anywhere, and she was right. Many times we thought there would be fender benders but nothing happened. Pedestrian ran across the streets dodging cars like a real life game of Frogger. We also notice the absence of traffic lights.

    The convoy left Port Said around 7:15 a.m. We should have arrived at the Egyptian Museum by 10:15 a.m. It is now 10:30, and the museum is not even in sight. Good thing the bus is equipped with an emergency toilet as DW can’t hold it any longer. No one on the bus knew it was there (by the back exit, below the seats) as it was well hidden. After DW used it, the line up to use it begins to form. The guide said it is for emergency only so please don’t use it unless you have to as it will stink up the bus on the way home (and she probably has to clean it). No one was listening or care. The choice is a smelly toilet or wetting yourself and the floor.

    It is now 11 a.m. and the guide is on the cell phone trying to figure out what’s going on. The bus is still moving but we are getting nowhere. Finally at 11:30 a.m., 4 hours and 15 minutes later, we arrived, more than an hour behind schedule. We stopped at a back alley across from the museum. We jumped out from the slow moving bus and ran across the street to the line up.
    The line up was to go through the first security check point outside the main gate through the guard house. The line up was 3 to 4 wide and almost all the way around the block. We finally got to the guard house. It was set up like an airport security. We have to go through a metal detector and put the bags through the x-ray machine. The problem is that there was only 1 detector and 1 machine.

    We finally get inside the compound. After the last of our group got in (people were cutting in line, jumping over fences and pushing people away) we go through the second check point which is the gate outside the building collect admission tickets. I didn’t notice any places that resemble a ticket booth. The reason why I can’t see where it was as there were wall to wall people. We have been told not to bring any cameras as it is not allowed in the museum so we left our cameras in the bus. Even if we can sneak the camera in, you can’t take pictures with it anyway unless you want to take pictures of the crowds.

    Once we went through the ticket turnstile, we walked up the main steps and into the building. Here, another line formed and there was another line for a bag check, this time for cameras. By now, it is getting close to 12 noon and we were told that the museum will close in an hour. What!? What do you mean it will close at 1 p.m.?

    Yes. The museum will indeed close at 1 p.m., only on Wednesday. On any other day, it will close at 7 p.m. So, that why it is so crowded today. Everyone in town wants to visit the museum. There were 5 ships in town, some were mega ships, add on other tour groups and you have 10,000 to 15,000 shoehorned into a small building with no air conditioning. Did I forget to mention that the building was built more than 100 years ago and there is no air conditioning? That explains the bottle of water given to us when we left the bus.

    The guide started leading the group through a side wing and up the stairs towards the second floor where the good stuff is located. We have to hurry; we have no time to waste. Sorry, no time for wash room breaks. Besides, the washrooms are lined up all the way outside the door anyway. We were told the line to use the facilities is about half an hour and the estimate is conservative.

    The guide kept talking and walking and we followed like sheep. We had the head sets which was a good thing. We can’t see here but we can hear her so at least we knew where she is heading. Finally caught up to her and we decided not to let her out of our sight. It proved to be difficult. It was wall to wall people. You have to push through. You have to physically push people away from you to get through. The guide was pushing people away to get through. If we want to follow her, we have to push. Those failed to push through were left behind. There is no politeness about all this. You push, you go. No one got knock down. No one gets upset. It’s a fact of life here in a crowded city. People are shoulder to shoulder. There is no personal space. We North Americans are spoiled.

    The guide is determined to go through her drill. She did. She finished the 2 hour tour in 45 minutes. Those who failed to keep up to her saw nothing. At least they heard about it. Short people see other people’s heads. She said if we stop at every item in the museum for 1 minute, it will take 9 months to see everything.
    We have to wait for the bus. We were given 15 minutes of free time to explore on our own, meet back outside of the building by the main fountain after. DW seeks out the “temple of relief”, aka the toilets. The line is still there but thinning. There were signs outside the toilets in languages that said “no tipping please”.

    The toilets were staffed and they were in uniform. They were handing out sheets of toilet papers at the door and had their hands out. I said “no change” and the man said “I give change”. Paid the guy, use the facilities and washed my hands. Walked towards the door and he handed me toilet paper to dry hands. I took the paper, and he asked for money again. I told him no money and walked away. I thought I heard some faint swearing on the background. The toilet was dirty and smelly.

    DW fared a bit better. She told me that a lady in front of her gave the staff a coin and she was directed towards a line to the left. DW gave the staff a dollar and was directed to the right where there were empty cubicles just around the corner and behind her. DW was in and out at no time.

    We made our way back outside the fountain. It’s all wall to wall people. Everyone was trying to leave the museum. There is no line up to get in. Only half a gate was open to let people out. Groups were formed around tour guides waiting for the battle to get out of the place. Men in the front, with their women right behind them. The weak and the meek were left behind. Groups were pushing through groups to get out.

    The guide assembled us by the gate, to the side and in the shade. She battled her way out the gate to look for our bus. She ordered us to stay as a group and inside the gate. Don’t come out yet until the bus arrives. Groups pushed pass out towards the gate. It is utterly chaos. In all my years of travel, I have never witness anything like this. Not even the Shanghai Expo in China where the crowd were aggressive and pushed through and broke the plated glass doors to get inside the Italian pavilion.

    The bus arrived. Someone yelled “I saw it!” Before the guide could say anything, we charged as a group towards the crowd and through the gate. Damn the traffic and crossed the street, reaching our safe refuge inside the bus. We took no prisoners and we had our week and the meek with us. We were holding hands, determined not to leave anyone behind.

    We did a head count. Someone new had joined our group. We nick named him AK and he sat at the front of the bus behind the driver by himself. The outside temperature was 90 degrees. He wore a suit with shirt and tie.

    Next stop was lunch. We went to the Obervi Hotels by the Pyramid. This hotel was built for Napoleons’ wife’s visit to Cairo. We were told it is the most expensive hotel in Cairo. The bus went through a gated entrance. The bus dropped us off in front of the conference hall. We walked through a metal detector and security guards as we enter the building.

    The temple of relief is clean, and no lines. There were attendants in uniform. No tip bowl, no hands were out and no request for money. It is a refreshing change. I gave the man a dollar and he bowed and thanked me. I felt good paying to use the toilet this time instead of disgust. I volunteered to pay and was not by demand. So far, in three days, we must have spent at least $20 in donations worshiping at the temples of relief.

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    Sorry to hear that ParrotMom. Think of the broght side, at least you still have some time. It could be worst.

    So far, this trip has been an ordeal ... and it is not the crusie line's fault.

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    ESCHEW--SOME OF your experience sounds like nightmare..but I m reading them and will probably print them out tonight.. We have decided to do our private tour on our own...biting the bullet.. Funny, I've always saved the end of toilet paper rolls and I'll take a pile with me not to mention all sorts of wipes.. Maybe Parrot Pop should just bring a urinal.. We are not going overnight in Cairo...that was our decision.. just one day..maybe we made a decent decision...we'll see. h yes.. we are in Egypt going touring with Ramses..

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    PaerrotMom, Egypt was challenging to say the least. We expected that but it was worst than we thought. I am not sure what your cruise ship will exactly take you, but be preapred. Most buses should have toilets but the guides don't usually advertise it. It is usually at the back door by the stairs, under the seating area. If you are in a private vehicle oand part of a convoy, you don't have the washroom option going from Port Said to Cairo. If you are not going to Cairo, you are okay. The 3 hr trip took us almost 5 hrs due to traffic jam and constructions.

    No one has warned us about the pay toilet in Israel and Egypt. I knew about the toilet paper in a basket in Greece so I was not surprised.

    Have a good trip and look forward to your trip report.

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    It is a surprise for us to see the Pyramids so close to the city. We could see the Pyramids very close to us from the hotel. Although we took the bus, we could probably walk to the Pyramid. It was that close. When we took pictures of the Pyramids, the city skyline is behind them. The pyramids are now encroached on both sides by the expanding cities. The government had wisely stopped issuing development permits.

    Although there are lots of buses and people, because of the open space, it is not as crowded. The guide had taught us a few short phrases and warned us about the local merchants. Camel rides are $3. Taking a picture with it is $1. Beware of venders who charge you $1 to get on the camel, and then another $1 before they will let you off after the pictures.

    Don’t make eye contacts with the venders. Don’t touch anything that you do not intend to buy. Don’t let people put things on your head. Don’t receive free gifts, it is not free. Don’t let them take pictures for you as they will ransom your camera. In another word, totally avoid the vendors or anyone approaches you for anything.

    AK (remember him, the nice fellow in the brown suit?) must be cooking under the hot sun, but he was determined to hang out with us. Before he left the bus, we noticed that he took the safety off the semi-automatic that he was carrying under his jacket. He stayed close but was never intrusive. He even smiled and offered to take pictures. He was a very gracious host.

    The Sphinx is right where we thought it would be except a lot smaller. Blame it on the media and the promotional shots. The sun is right over head and it is hot. I think the temperature is well over 90. It is hard to take a picture when the sun is directly in front of you but we all managed, thanks to AK who showed us the best spots.

    The trip back to the port is less eventful. Darkness fell quickly and most were asleep, including AK and the guide. Did I mention that they don’t like to use their head lights in Egypt even when it is pitch dark outside? After we went through the toll booth (or was that a check point?), we were pulled over by a half ton with some armed men. Since it is pitch dark, we don’t know if they were police or bandits. The bus driver got off the bus and walked ahead towards the darkness. AK, who realised that the bus had stopped, woke up, and decided to investigate. He got off the bus and disappeared in the darkness. The guide also woke up by this time and she too left the bus without saying anything. Some passengers were very nervous, what’s going on? I told them it is coffee break time, union rules. No one was laughing. Shortly after, a bus pulled up and stopped behind us. A few more minutes had passed and a bus sped by us. But soon it signalled and pulled off to the side of the road and stopped a short distance ahead of us. In about 10 minutes, a convoy was formed, everyone was back on the bus and we went on our merry way.

    We were back at the dock by 7:30 p.m. The ship was supposed to leave at that time. DW and I lost track of time and decided to bargain with the natives over some t-shirts. The vendors offered $4 each, good Egyptian cotton. We picked out 2. The vendors said 2 for $10. I told him his math was wrong. He must have meant 3 for $10. He shoved a bunch of things into a bag and said $20. We said no. He shoved a whole bunch more stuff in and said $30. By now, we have no clue what’s in the bag. We moved on.

    We arrived at the security check point. We heard the ship’s fog horn sounded. A Princess employee were at the other end of the hall waving at us. The Egyptian security guards took a casual look at our bags and let us through, without going through the metal detector. We slowly walked towards to the Princess employee. She said “hurry”. We ran. The terrorist must be behind and chasing us. We ran towards the gangway. She was right behind us and I heard her said “that’s the last two” over her radio. We were still on the gangway when I saw the staff unhooking everything, including the safety net below us. What happens if I slip? 5 minutes later, we were safe (but tired) at our cabin. We felt movement and the ship departed.

    Later on, we found out that a bus was missing on the way back from Cairo. It had followed the wrong convoy and ended up at another dock. To say the least, it has been a most entertaining day.

    Comparing to the ordeal and excitement in Cairo, Alexandria was downright boring. It was hot and humid when we left and it got worse by the hour. We visited the Roman catacombs of Kom El Shugafa, took the 83 spiral steps down 115 feet into the wet burial chambers. Next we stopped at the ruins of Serapis, also known as Pompey’s Pillar, or Alexandria’s Acropolis. After that, we moved on to the new Alexandria museum. The museum tour was interesting. DW picked this tour. I would have preferred Fprt Qait Bey and the Library. Cameras are not allowed into the catacombs and the museum. You have to go through security check points to enter any of the sites. Policemen were sitting behind metal plates with semi-automatic weapons. We saw them all over the place.

    As usual, the buses formed a convoy before leaving the dock. It stayed as a convoy for the entire day with police escort at both ends and a motorcycle cop who raced back and forth. The buses departed as group from point to point. We also had someone wearing a suit in the sweltering heat stayed with us, sitting at the front of the bus, and accompanied us everywhere. He was very serious looking and never cracked a smile. We never got to know him like we did with AK.

    The port building at Alexandria is absolutely beautiful and cavernous but it was full of totally empty store fronts. There was a row of flea market style stalls just outside the building selling the usual stuff. Obviously, no one is willing to pay the big bucks and move their business inside. Bargaining is part of the process. We paid $1 for a $5 key chain and $6 for a $12 mug. You have to determine what you are willing to pay for the item and be prepared to walk away. DW fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian cotton blouse. She tried on several sizes, style and colors before she decided on one. I had zero bargaining power. At least the vendor was reasonable and the asking price was lower than anywhere I’ve seen in Egypt. I ended up paying the asking price. I think I could have got it for at least 25% less.

    In all likelihood, we won’t be returning to Egypt on a “normal” cruise. We may consider flying into Aswan for a Nile River cruise through Luxor etc. The existing Cairo Egyptian museum will be converted to an art museum for 2012 and the replacement museum will be located at Giza, very close to the Pyramid. It will be bigger and more modern, and hopefully, air conditioned. With it so close to the Pyramid, I don’t know if the congestion would be better.

    As an aside, we heard that Acropolis in Athens was closed today due to riots. It’s a good thing that we’ve been there already. This is truly uncertain times. We will be at sea for 2 days and visit Sorrento next. That would be the end of our journey.

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    Well, we are all packed and pick up at 4:ish. Parrot Pop is under the weather and getting off is difficult.. I've sent part of y our Israel and Egypt adventures to a few people. Going to print off for myself your last posting At this point I don't know whether I'm coming or going. Thank you for all the input for this trip and past.. your a peach. one day we must meet up .. Tell y our DW (whatever that means) that I'm sure I'll be shopping like crazy too.. One day remind me to tell you about our cruise where I told a group I would probably bring home a camel... and I did..

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    "No one has warned us about the pay toilet in Israel" HUH? The only paid toilet on a 8-day tour we had by Yarden where Jesus was baptized. I think it was $1. Everywhere else they were free.

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    Hi ParrotMom, DW = Dear Wife.

    Dayenu, they asked for a doantion before using the facilities at the sea of Galilee Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capermaum and Nazareth. It was such a whirl wind tour that all I rember was people sitting behind a desk in a room with a box in front of the WC, or people satnding inside the WC to collect.

    The only place we didn't have to pay was Yarden. We were given a sticker from the tour compamny and if we have our sticker on, it is free to use the WC. They have a cashier right at teh EC.

    Yarden was not the place where Jesus was batised. They built that place for the tourist and the pilgrims. The real place is much further down stream but it is so close to Jordon that they don't let tourist get near there, or so I'm told.

    This is the land of Milk and Honey and they are milking the tourist!

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    I find your last statement somewhat offensive. I have traveled through most of Europe and have encountered many pay toilets—most recently in Italy just three weeks ago. So, I don't think that it is out of the norm for there to be a fee charged at tourist venues in Africa and the Middle East. You've just paid major money for your cruise. It seems rather trivial to complain about the few dollars, euros, shekels (or whatever currency you used) to pay for the use of a toilet.

    I spent seventeen days in Israel last March. The only place that I specifically recall paying a token fee for the use of the toilet was at Yardenit, but I believe that it was also the changing area for those being baptized so perhaps that was why there was a fee.

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    Well takemealong, I am sorry that you think it was offensive for I made commenst about having to pay to use a toilet. It maybe common in Asia, in Middle East and Europe, but it is uncommon for North Americans, not even in msot of Mexico. I am merely making the fact known so that North American travellers would not be surprised as most of them were. You have to have your loose change ready.

    I find it offensive that there are posted signs on the entrance way to the toilets in Cairo's Egyptian Museum that read "no tipping" in 3 languages and yet the staff is openly asking for money. They were hired to clean the toilets. Yet they spent all their time collecting money from vistors. The toilets in the museum was foul smelling, un-kept and dirty. I don't know what is more offensive. My comments that we have to pay to use the toilets or the people who were suppose to clean the toilets but didn't and collect moeny when they shouldn't.

    If you read my post in detail, I tipped the nice man in the hotel. It wasn't a pay toilet and I don't ahve to pay. He did his job and he deserved to be tipped for the services instead of those opportunist.

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    It was a rough ride on the tender towards Sorrento. Some passengers decided to get off the tender on stay on board instead. We travelled to Pompeii’s ruin, which is not too far away. After seeing Delphi, Acropolis, Ephesus, Israel and Egypt, there is no expectation and we were presently surprised. It was large, clean and quite well restored. We are impressed. We could have spent several days there if we wanted to explore the place in detail. This dates back to before 1st century BC and the guide told us that the Forum in Pompeii is better preserved and older than the one in Rome. I guess I will have to find out for myself.

    I was impressed with Apollo’s temple, the forum and the central square. I could just imagine what it would have looked like more than 2000 years ago with the multi-story building and the pillars and statues. The busiest building with a long line-up to go inside to view was the brothel. It was very well preserved and is one of their top attractions inside the Pompeii ruins. I was wondering how they knew that was the brothel. After going inside the building, there is no doubt that they are right. The Karma Sutra type wall paintings were well preserved, quite graphic and it told the story, along with the building’s room configuration. People of all ages were viewing the inside of the building, which I find interesting.

    I can’t help but keep comparing the Pompeii’s ruins to Ephesus. The Terrace houses in Ephesus are more impressive and better “recovered” but the Pompeii’s Forum and the amphitheatre is better preserved.

    After a quick tour of the ruin, we returned to Sorrento. With our luck, it is Sunday today and quite a few shops were closed despite 3 ships in port. We walked around town a bit but didn’t find anything too interesting. It was nice weather for walking around or sat outside on the open air cafe, it wasn’t too crowded and the people are friendly. This is not a shopping stop unless you wanted to buy Cameo.

    Instead of taking the shuttle bus back to the tender pier, we walked down the stairs and along the road. It was an easy walk for about 5 minutes and is worth it. I wouldn’t walk up those stairs though.

    The tender ride back to the ship was much nicer as the sea had calmed down. The view from the ship on the shoreline was absolutely gorgeous

    A word about passport. They took our passport when we board the ship in Athens and we were given receipts. We have to claim our passport with the landing cards from Israel immigration/security before going ashore in Israel. We kept our passports with us for the 2 days in Israel. They took the landing card away when we return. We were not told that we have to return our passport to the purser’s desk but you have to return it prior to arrival in Egypt. Best time to do it is right after you finish your excursions in Israel. The line-up at the purser’s desk is shorter. The Egyptian official will come on board and stamp the passports. You pick up the passport from the ship’s staff when you gather for the excursions. When you disembark for shore excursions, the Egyptian official will look for the “stamp” so it will be easier if you keep your passport open to that page. It’ll make the process faster. After your Egyptian excursions, you have to return your passport to the purser’s desk again and you pick it up the night before disembarking for good.

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    TakeMeAlong, don't over-react! "Sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capermaum and Nazareth" - sounds like ours and Eschew tour company's destinations were different, that's all.

    In Israel, there is a law not to display prices in US $ or Euro. Some places are exempt. The same, I think, with WCs.

    I do have a question about passports - we will sail from Italy to Greece ports only, will they take our passports in Greece, or is it done in Egypt only?

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    Hi Dayenu, thanks for your support on the pay WC. Most places typical asked for 50 cents in Euro or 75 cents in US. We only had one encounter with paid toilet in Rome for the past 2 days. But that was still unexpected.

    As to your passport, it depends what passport you use. If it is USA, then they may still want to keep it until you disembark. If it is an EU country passport, then they don't care as you can travel freely within EU with a EU countty passport.

    When are you leaving and when?

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    This is the final installment. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were the last group at 8:45 am. DW and I barely made it to the meeting place on time and we are leaving.

    This is new: if you have a private party vehicle picking you up, they can no longer pick you up right at the sidewalk of the terminal. There is a shuttle that will take you to the pick up point and your private party vehicle will pick you up there.

    Spent the next 3 days in Rome. Busy place and lots to see. Thanks to to everyone who gave me tips for this trip. All comments are welcome.

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    We had similar itineraries, and some similar experiences (I just wasn't prepared for needing cash for toilets in Israel, and the attendant I saw wouldn't take USD, and just wouldn't let you in - but, luckily, our bus did have a restroom). I loved your descriptions of your tours...... Very similar experiences, but maybe it wasn't quite as crowded when we were there. We were on Azamara, and our private car was allowed right up to the Dock for our ride to Rome, but that might be because it's a smaller ship. We were diverted to Naples for one of the Sorrento days due to very rough weather, and it was so disappointing to miss the day in Sorrento. The second day, when we got there, one of the other cruisers had arranged for a private tour to Positano - what a GORGEOUS place!!!! Eating lunch, out on the cliff, overlooking the amazing Med. One of the highlights of the cruise..... I really enjoyed reading your posts..... ;)

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    Thanks Debi ... we were on a small Pricness ship. Actually the same size as the Azamara Quest. While we were in Sorrento, the Azamara Quest was there too.

    A poster who read my comment took offense to my pay toilet comment in Israel and claimed that they did not encounter paid toilet situation in Israel. I am glad that someone else has similar experience as us. They accepted US$ from us. They will take 1/2 Euro or 75 cents US.

    We had washroom on the bus as well but we were discouraged from using it saying that it will stink up the bus, plus, they wanted the TP in a basket and not flushed. This practice was not consistent though, and DW did use the washroom on the bus a couple of times.

    I can see why they wanted $ for toilet use. It is the cost of the water. I heard from somewhere that almost 80% of drinking water came from the Sea of Galilee, and they recyle, and reuse their grey water, from flusghing to irrigation. That's why they started to grow more cotton as they can use contaminated water for the cotton crops but not for food crops.

    I am not objecting to pay toilet, I am just not use to it. The only time that I really object to it was at the Egyptian Museum.

    Pricness, to there credit, had offered partial refunds on shore excursions where we had a bad experience. I wasn't expectating that as the bad experience were casued by the crowds and traffic which really is beyond their control. However, the guide could have made the sitaution better, not worst. Most people were very understanding of the situation and were very pleased with the refund and the "intense listening" at the tour desk.

    I am glad that you enjoyed the trip report. I hope it wasn't too long winded and my attempt at humor is probably not all that good. I am very appreciative of your comment. Thank you.

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    ESCHEW--we are back!!! Will be writing a long review, but want to tell you the comments about the Giza Plateau were right on. It appears these national treasures are being ignored (my original comments are in e-mail hell).. Hated, hated Alexandria and Cairo.in all my travels to undeveloped areas never so such disregard for filth and sanitation only came across two or three hand outs in Egypt..Traffic going back to filthy, dirty Alexandria was a nightmare of cars breakingdown, overturned trucks, people walking (we were with Ramses tour). "Arrived back at the ship after 930 p.m to the welcome of cool towels, a phalnxy of officers outside welcoming us back and punch, cold water and waiter telling us that the buffet was open for us..Tell DW went out the next a.m to the bazaar and did well with belts for Parrot Pop and many souveniers including the scarves with the coins. Israel was such an experience..we stayed at the Dan Hotel and overlooked the old city..

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    Welcome home, ParrotMom. I didn't enjoy Cairo but I didn't mind Alexandria. If you think Egypt is bad, there are worst places.

    The cairo traffic is defineitly very bad. Only place worst, maybe, is Istanbul.

    I didn't report too much on the ship as everything was what it should be. When there is nothing to talk about, it menas it's all good. The cold towel etc is part of the expectation. Aren't we spoiled!

    I am looking forward to your trip report and would love to see the similarities and differences that you and I have encountered. I hope the little tid-bits on my trip report was helpful.

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  17. 17 Trip Report Back from Epic cruise
  18. 18 Vantage River Cruises vs. Viking River Cruises
  19. 19 Cozumel excursions
  20. 20 Alaska Cruise with 3 children 4, 8 & 10
  21. 21 Trip Report Budget cruising in style: (5-day Carribean Cruise with Carnival)
  22. 22 Golf Cruise Hawaii?
  23. 23 Anyone had problems with Affordable Tours?
  24. 24 Transatlantic/Repositioning Cruise in April
  25. 25 Trip Report A Disappointing Conquest
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