For someone very picky, I rather enjoyed myself on this cruise. Stateroom with balcony was spacious and well-thought-out. Our guy, Rodolfo, was charming and always available. Staff at the desk were patient and helpful (why can't the space be redesigned so they don't have to stand all day?). For the most part, the waiters in Marco Polo dining room were super-sweet and accommodating. Wine poured freely and even the champagne was delicious. The tours were exciting, if often trying. Really, the pace set in Cairo and Luxor was a Litmus test to see if one we up to snuff. I have to say that I was surprised by some of the passengers that signed up for this cruise: obese, sedentary, with serious physical disabilities (one woman had such swollen legs that she barely could shuffle along). Voyages to Antijquity were more than generous and some of their decisions were surprisingly commendable. Leaving the ship in Athens was orchestrated to the point of being coddled: we were escorted through, More
luggage organized with a porter, a taxi waiting to whisk us to our hotel.
However, there are a few areas that could be improved. The lecturers were boring, monotoned and worst of all simplistic. For the most part, a subject was covered after, not before we visited a site. I thought that I would learn something but didn't. Doesn't queen Zenobia deserve her own half-hour talk, rather than the topic being dumbed down to include a slew of women? The lecturer on St. Catherine's Monastery had never been there and knew as much or as little as everyone else.
Since the televisions barely worked -- lots of excuses about satellite reception in port or out of port -- it would have been nice to reprint the lead news stories of the day for the Library instead of useless and frustrating headlines only. Also the daily bulletin could have been used better to dispense real information. Or even better, more details could be included in the packet before the cruise. Such as the need to bring scads of little monies,especially dollars for tips everywhere. Also such need-to-know things as not to throw toilet paper down into most of these country's fragile waste systems. And maybe a local currency converter.
The only tour that I wasn't pleased with was Palmyra. Hotel Dedeman was difficult. Everywhere else put water on our tables -- they tried to charge half the people. Wakeup calls ordered for all at 6:30 were ridiculous for an 8:30 departure, as there was no packing to speak of. Also, the site didn't open until 9, so we were told to sit on the bus -- and had a 4-hour morning trek in the desert without any water. Why have all six buses follow the same route? Wouldn't it be a better experience to rotate the timetable, so that one would start at the Temple of Baal while another would visit a different ruin?
Also, I wish that the route to Baalbek had taken us through the center of Beirut so we could have seen it. I understand that next season remedies that with an overnight in Beirut and a trip along the coast to Byblos. Another wish would be to spend more time in the local museums, such as in Aleppo. The one in Palmyra luckily stayed open for us, as we arrived late. And we went alone to the fantastic one in Antalya, thank goodness, as we understood that the group who signed up for the optional tour including a stop at that museum found it to be too rushed. One really thoughtful gesture on the V2A part was the availability of shuttle buses with lively local guides, especially one named Huzur who informed us that the museum only accepted Turkish lira and changed a Euro note for us out of his own pocket. Less