There are amazing sites in Jerusalem
for everyone to see.
Med Bargains Get Even Better
We know that Mediterranean cruises are a bargain this year – but the problem has been the high cost of airfare. Celebrity Cruises ran a special in May and June that included big air fare discounts if you booked a Med cruise with them. It must have been successful as the special apparently sold out.
I check airfares to Europe periodically, and I found that it was possible to fly from New York City to Rome, roundtrip, for just over $1,000 per person in June -- down from $1,200 if your purchased in April or May. The expensive part usually comes if you want to fly beyond a hub like Rome, say to Budapest to catch the Viking River Prestige in August, as we plan to do. That airfare was more than $1,800 per person. Ouch!
But airfare hasn’t been the only thing stopping people from booking Mediterranean cruises. There is also the unrest in the North African states like Tunisia. Speaking as someone who has been to the Mediterranean at least a dozen times, I am not sure why the past unrest in Tunisia would still be a factor, especially if I never planned to go there. Only a few cruise ships had scheduled stops there, and of those that were canceled a long time ago, some have even been reinstated.
But it seems that uncertainty alone is enough to stop many people from taking vacations. Look at poor Mexico, where cruise passengers have encountered virtually no trouble, and yet port calls in Mazatlan have been canceled by all cruise lines, and Princess has even canceled calls in Puerto Vallarta.
The thing that Americans seem to forget is that hundreds of millions of Europeans live in the very region that many Americans are afraid to visit right now, and these Europeans seem to be just fine.
When I visited Israel in 1998, I saw the Dead Sea, the River Jordan, Nazareth, the Tower of David, the Wailing Wall, The Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Bethlehem and more – all within a space of three days.
This was the same week as “Operation Infinite Reach,” when Bill Clinton tried to take out Osama Bin Laden by raining down guided missiles on Afghanistan and Sudan. That happened while we were sailing past Cyprus on our way to Haifa. Of course, when we reached Israel things were tentative. This had been one of the first strikes by the U.S. in the Middle East since the Gulf War ended in 1991. But when we got to Israel we saw the people living normal lives, despite what had just happened, because that is what people do. And we had the trip of a lifetime.
Right now I am looking at a Holy Land cruise on Celebrity Constellation, sailing October 25, 2011, roundtrip from Istanbul. It calls in Ephesus (as in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians) and the Greek isle of Rhodes, spends two days docked in Ashdod (Israel) to see Jerusalem, two days docked in Haifa (Israel) to see northern Israel for the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Galilee, Capernaum and the River Jordan, and then it's on to Athens and back to Istanbul.
The price on this amazing 12-night cruise is just $799 per person (inside cabin) and $949 per person for a veranda cabin. It’s like I accidentally left off the first digit in those prices – but I didn’t.
Even better, roundtrip airfare from New York City to Istanbul is just $842 per person non-stop. These are unbelievable prices for the adventure of a lifetime. And by the way – having four entire days in Israel is very unusual for any Holy Land cruise; two is average and I normally recommend looking for a cruise that has three.
What are the drawbacks? We saw the news this week about Greek cab drivers blocking cruise visitors at the port in Piraeus so they could not visit the Acropolis. That is really too bad. This cruise has a day in Athens on the schedule -- and by the way, one day is enough to see the most important sites in Athens (the Acropolis, the agora and the surrounding Plaka shopping district). But look at it this way – the reason this cruise is priced so low is because of this unrest. Yes, if you book this cruise you might be taking a chance, but if you have an adventurous spirit this is the perfect opportunity to show your mettle and be richly rewarded for it. And it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little bit of that savings on travel insurance – which will cost less than average due to the low price of this cruise.
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