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Eastern Med Cruises for 2013 – Bargains?

Written by: Paul Motter

When travel agents come together they primarily discuss the psychology of you – cruise consumers. So, when a consortium of travel agents came together in Carlsbad, California, last week to discuss to state of cruising a good part of their discussion centered on what is happening right now, and what they think will happen next year, primarily in the Eastern Mediterranean (according the industry newsletter CruiseWeek, primarily for travel agents).

Buyer perception is important in selling more expensive purchases like cars or cruises. Consumers do lots of empirical research, but there consider “gut feelings” and “how many more years do I have for an experience like this?”

A vacation only lasts a few weeks, so timing your visit is important. But there is a “window of opportunity” to grab a bargain right now that if missed may not reoccur for several years. If you are getting older you may not want to wait.

Eastern Mediterranean Perceptions

One of the topics mentioned at this travel agent conference was that while people will cruise to the Western Mediterranean to see Spain, France and Italy over and over, apparently people do not feel the same way about the Eastern Mediterranean.

Personally, I could not disagree more. While I love the atmosphere of Spain and France, each time I go there I have a very similar experience, much like going to the same beach house summer after summer. But as a wanderer whose primary reason to visit Europe is the important sites of antiquity and human history, I would much rather see the Eastern Mediterranean repeatedly. The variety is far greater there.

Let’s start with Greece. If you go to Athens you will see a culture half a millennium older than the Roman Empire, but that is just one example (the Acropolis). But if you carry on to Delphi and the amazing island of Delos then you are seeing the vastly more impressive early history of the Hellenic empire. Move on to Santorini and Crete and you are in Minoan civilizations which predate even the Hellenic (Greece) empire by well over 1000 years. And we are still in Greece.

In Turkey you can see important sites of Christianity such as Ephesus where the Apostle Paul spread the Gospel to the Ephesians. You can see the house where Mother Mary is believed to have lived out her final years, and the burial site of the apostle James. The real spiritual connection comes alive.

So, What is Stopping You?

As these travel agents note, Americans are not the greatest at geography, or history for that matter. Too many of us think Greece is “too close” to danger. Even more daunting, when they hear that Turkey is an Islamic nation it is more than they can handle. But let me tell you something. Turkey is an Islamic nation, but it is far more of an ally to the United States and Europe than it is to the Arab states. The Turkish people are just as likely to speak a western language, especially English, as they are to speak Arabic.

The truth is that Turkey is not well loved or respected by the other Islamic world. It has a secular government, which is counter the concept of Sharia which kindled the “Arab Spring.” Many Kurds fled Iraq years ago to live in northern Turkey (far away from the Mediterranean Sea). In fact, the story of Lawrence of Arabia is all about Britain leading the Arab nations in a fight against the Ottoman Empire which included Turkey. The separation between Turkey and the Arab Islamic states is that old and deep, so the fact that Turkey is a Muslim nation should not deter anyone from visiting.

Also – if it makes any difference – France has it own influence from North Africa and other Middle Eastern nations like Lebanon. There are many settlers from North Africa living in France, Spain and Germany, similar to the way Mexico has sent us millions of immigrants. This is just human history – something to experience, not to fear. In many ways the Europeans still celebrate Arab culture as much we Americans used to do before 9/11. Remember television personalities like Danny Thomas and Jamie Farr (from MASH?). Their Lebanese heritage was a common topic in those shows.

How Far Will You Go?

I believe everyone should see Israel and Egypt in his or her lifetime. I am right now looking at a 12-night Royal Caribbean cruise that spends two days in Egypt and two days in Israel followed by visits to Ephesus, Athens, Naples (close to the ruins of Pompeii) and ending in Rome. This cruise alone will take you back to 3000 B.C. and forward to the age of Christ and beyond, over 5000 years of human history. The best part is the price a balcony cabin is just $1299 per person, but it sails in two weeks. But there are more 2012 cruises still going to the Eastern Med in the next few weeks and months who have NOT canceled their visits to Egypt or Israel. They realize these stops are important to the people who booked these cruises. All cruise lines say they are monitoring the situations, but in the absence of active protests they will go forward – and they are super bargains.

Checking prices for 2013 however, a similar cruise to the one above but sailing next year (a 12-night cruise on Pacific Princess with a similar itinerary) is currently priced at $2899 for a balcony cabin.

So – I sincerely encourage you to keep looking for deep discounts on Eastern Med cruises. The feeling in the cruise industry is that 2013 cruises are already planned so they will go forward. But the prices have not dropped yet and if the turmoil in the Middle East does subside (which is very possible after our current presidential election regardless of who is elected) then these cruises may not get cheaper.

Honestly, if I had the time and the money I would very seriously consider going to the Middle East next month if the situation stabilizes. The cruises on sale right now are outright steals. The same is not yet true of the same itineraries next year, and there is no guarantee they will be as cheap. So, if you want a sure thing book one of these cruises right now. If you want to take your chances that they will be as cheap (and I put the odds at 50/50 based on what I just read) then monitor these cruises closely and be prepared to book one when the prices drop.

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Comments

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time September 20, 2012 at 4:51 am

Paul

It is all well and good to consider an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, I have enjoyed several, an I agree with what you say regarding Greece, in particular, a very magical place for me. The other ports, maybe not so – each time I think about Egypt and Isralel, a tour bus is ambushed and either Brits or Americans are taken hostage – I think we get the picture, and I put my planned cruise on the back burner.

I also remember vividly the Lauro Cruise Line fiasco with Mr. Klinghoffer taken hostage and the terrorism that engulfed the ship, as he was pushed overboard in his wheel chair, not a happy cruiser he.

One of the main concerns for many a happy soul to consider is the air flight, the prices, the baggage limitations, the discomfort in cramped seats, and will the plane meet the embarkation city on time to make the sail away. Not every passenger is seasoned, that is the differnce between a tourist and a traveller, I being the latter.

With unrest in that part of the world, as well as it spreading to other parts as well, with seemingly an endless pouring out of annimosity and hate, that should be the bottom line for any cruise decision. I have canceled cruises and rebooked at last minute for unsettling circumstances.

Now China is to become the next “be there or be square” cruise capitol, the major cruise lines are scrambling to get berths in China to begin cruises catering for North Americans and Europeans. China already has ships strictly for the Chinese market, thank god, and allegedly is building a first ever new Chinese cruise ship for their market. Talk about a long flight.

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