We have already reported on the cancellation of a number of cruises to North African destinations like Tunis and Egypt. Some cruise lines have already changed all of their planned stops in Egypt for the rest of 2011.
But just yesterday I received a press release from Regent Seven Seas about a cruise scheduled to sail around the Arabian Peninsula, starting this coming May 4. The itinerary begins in Dubai and heads for Port Qaboos, the port for Muscat in Oman. It then sails to Salalah, also in Oman. The cruise will proceed along the coast of Yemen in what the line describes as "leisurely days along the Gulf of Aden" before it lands in Safaga, Egypt, followed by Aqaba Jordan, Sharm el Sheik Egypt, transiting the Suez Canal, visiting both Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel and then finally landing in Rome.
Now, don't get me wrong; I am more than happy to see this particular itinerary and I truly hope it works out. But the fact is that most cruise lines are currently canceling cruises to Egypt, and we just had another pirate incident not far from the Gulf of Aden. That makes this cruise a leap of faith, if you will, that everything in the Middle East will turn out fine sooner than many people expect.
In all honesty, no one knows what is going to happen next. But it is common cruise line policy to err on the side of caution, so I was just a bit surprised to see this itinerary not only on the schedule, but being promoted as a special cruise featuring several NPR personalities like Charlie Cook, Ari Shapiro, Jacki Lyden and Bill O'Leary. Also along for the ride are British actor Michael York and renowned animal lover Jack Hanna.
Needless to say, a lot of planning has already gone into this cruise and I know they don't want any of that planning to go awry. I contacted Regent to ask if they were concerned about the political strife in the area and they assured me they are monitoring events in the area "very closely." If you have a real spirit of adventure, this could be the perfect cruise for you.
I was just saying to friend of mine how fortunate I feel to have already seen Egypt and Petra, near Aqaba Jordan, before all of this uncertainty cropped up. And if I were to choose a single itinerary to see these amazing sites this would be it. It has some of the most amazing sights in the world on the docket; Luxor Egypt, Petra in Jordan, the pyramids and Sphinx in Giza, the ancient city of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea areas of Israel. Each of these destinations has given me some of my most memorable travel experiences ever. The wild card is that we don't know if this cruise represents the continuation of access to such exciting ports, or possibly one of the last opportunities to see them. I truly wish it well.
Paul, there is a backup itinerary just in case things are still not well in Egypt. Luxor and Safaga have been fine (reportedly) through all the issues in Cairo and other large cities. Friends are on the 12 June itinerary that stays in Med. Their backup includes an extra day in Israel and a visit to Crete if they are forced to drop Port Said and Alexandria.
"The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
F Scott Fitzgerald
Seven Seas Voyager (30nts) - Dubai - Cape Town - Nov 14