Holy Land and Mediterranean with Princess

By Anita Maendl
This item appears on page 28 of the February 2014 issue.
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My husband, Mike, and I took a 27-day segment of a ’round-the-world cruise with Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita, CA; 800/774-6237)

We embarked on April 19, 2013, in Port Rashid, Dubai, and, after stops at Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Istanbul and Montenegro, disembarked in Venice on May 15. The cruise fare for the two of us was about $15,000; we had a cabin on level 7, midships. This was our third time taking a segment of a Princess world trip.

We flew into Dubai late on April 18 and got a shuttle bus from the airport to the Holiday Inn Dubai, where we were very comfortable. 

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My husband, Mike, and I took a 27-day segment of a ’round-the-world cruise with Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita, CA; 800/774-6237)

We embarked on April 19, 2013, in Port Rashid, Dubai, and, after stops at Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Istanbul and Montenegro, disembarked in Venice on May 15. The cruise fare for the two of us was about $15,000; we had a cabin on level 7, midships. This was our third time taking a segment of a Princess world trip.

We flew into Dubai late on April 18 and got a shuttle bus from the airport to the Holiday Inn Dubai, where we were very comfortable. 

In the morning we walked around in the city, and in the afternoon we took a tour with Arabian Adventures that we had booked about two months before through the airline Emirates (800/777-3999) for $170 per person. The tour took us to Old Town, the museum (very interesting) and along the creek for views of Dubai’s skyline. 

At day’s end we went to Port Rashid to board our “floating hotel” for the next 27 days, the Pacific Princess. It was really good to unpack and have a great welcome dinner. 

The next day, before sailing, we took a cab tour of the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s man-made archipelago — an “ahhhh” and “ooooh” moment. When you see it in pictures or on TV, it doesn’t do justice to how tremendous the construction is.

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan.

We thought Dubai was impressive until we reached our next stop, Doha, Qatar. There, architects compete to create the oddest high-rises. It makes San Francisco look small, in comparison. 

The city provided free shuttle service from the ship. Mike and I went into town and found out things are not cheap there. The stores are very elegant. Mike bought a beautiful pair of trousers and they adjusted the seams and hem within an hour at no extra charge.

In Muscat, Oman, we hired a taxi driver to take us to a huge mosque that can hold 2,000 people. There was a section for women and another for men, and our driver provided me with a beautiful long gown and a head scarf to wear in order to enter.

When we were aboard the Princess, time went by so fast for us, with lectures to attend or just sitting on our balcony enjoying the cool breeze.

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, is a resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. From port, we took a glass-bottomed boat ride on the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea and enjoyed the sight of thousands of beautiful little fish swimming above coral. It was just stunning. Afterward, I went swimming in the warm waters surrounded by Russian tourists; we saw many Russian tourists throughout our trip. 

From the port in Aqaba, we took the ship’s excursion to Petra, Jordan. Travel time on the bus from Aqaba to Petra was about two hours, after which the guide led us to the ruins. It was a walk of several miles on huge cobblestones but well worth it. 

This must-see city was built and carved into sandstone by the Nabataeans centuries ago. After they left, only Bedouin nomads knew of its existence until it was rediscovered by Europeans in 1812.

We returned to the entrance via horse-drawn carriage ($30). An unforgettable day!

The 120-mile-long Suez Canal, built between 1858 and 1869, provided a full day of scenic sailing. At the far end, in Port Said, most of the passengers disembarked to go to the pyramids in Giza. Mike and I stayed in town and took a carriage ride ($20). The driver “guided” us to a shop where, I gather, he hoped we would spend some money.

From the port city of Ashdod, we took the shore excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The drive to Jerusalem took over an hour. It was very impressive how greatly the country has been developed — lots of agriculture, with orchards of fruit trees and vineyards of grapes. 

Jerusalem was packed with so many visitors from all over the world, you could hardly move. We were present for a Mass celebrated in the church at the Garden of Gethsemane — very moving. We visited the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) and walked down the Via Dolorosa past the Stations of the Cross.

Petra “Treasury guard” with Mike Maendl. Photos: Anita Maendl

We drove on to Bethlehem, which meant we had to cross the border from Israel into Palestine and change guides. In a church erected on the location of a cave said to be the birthplace of Jesus, we had a short visit and prayers, and it was very moving.

It was Easter Monday when we stopped in Limassol, Cyprus, so most of the stores were closed, but we took a local bus into town, which was nice and right at the beach. 

The following night was “formal night,” with the Captain’s dinner. Meal choices included lobster and pheasant, and it was absolutely delicious. Really, every day the food choices were out of this world and the presentation was the tops.

As the ship approached Istanbul, the exotic skyline was so beautiful. We’d booked the ship’s excursion (1-8:30 p.m. at $250 per person) that included visits to two gorgeous castles and a 4-course dinner cruise from the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. We were astonished at how beautiful and clean Istanbul was. As we cruised, we saw super-expensive mansions with yachts docked alongside.

In Montenegro, we sailed the “fjords” of Kotor Bay for two hours. We fell in love with this port right away. One stop was the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, completed in 1166 and built in the Byzantine style. We also booked a tour into Budva, a little city a scenic drive away on the other side of the mountain. 

That night, we sailed off for our final stop, Venice.

This was a wonderful trip and we will be remembering it for some time to come. It is good to see the world and meet so many wonderful people in all the different countries. 

ANITA MAENDL

Novato, CA