This cruise combined a 5-day land tour of India's Golden Triangle -- Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur-- with sea voyages from Mumbai to Oman (Muscat and Salaleh) and Jordan (Aqaba, Petra, Amman). Fascinating itinerary, high-quality land tours, comfortable small ship, lovely crew and staff, and interesting fellow passengers -- mostly Australian, British and Canadian. Many aboard were university professors, history aficionados, seasoned travelers seeking cultural immersion. Pros included the high-quality onboard lecturers: a BBC war correspondent, a BBC radio religion commentator, a top archaeologist. Land accommodations were first-class; food onboard was always enjoyable; dining venues were attractive and elegant -- al fresco dinners in the stern's Terrace Cafe were especially memorable. Public spaces -- the lounge, the library, the pool and decks, the small spa, the spacious lecture space -- were fine. Cabins were comfortable and attractive, if showing their age a bit (the ship is a converted car ferry of some vintage).
Given the troubled areas we were passing through (Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the territorial waters of Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia) the Captain reassured us of the security measures in place: armed military men, 24 hour watches, razor wire on the stern to prevent pirate invasions. The slight element of tension was worth it for the wonders we saw, especially in Jordan: the desert expanses of Wadi Rum, the breathtaking hidden city of Petra, the Roman ruins in and around Amman.
Criticisms: the quality of the musical entertainment was far below the standards of the cultivated clientele. North American passengers reported problems with reservations, flights and timely receipt of tour materials.