On April 24, 2018 I began a trip of a lifetime visiting several places on my bucket list. I flew to New Delhi for a pre-cruise package from Oceania to the Taj Mahal. I had very high expectations of the seeing the Taj Mahal and actually being there exceeded my expectations. It literally took my breath away. We had a 3.5 hour bus ride to Agra from New Delhi and 114 degree temperature but it was worth it. I highly recommend a trip to see it.
I took protein bars and peanut butter crackers on the trip because in some places I was concerned about eating the food in India.
After a bus trip back to New Delhi, we flew to Mumbai to board Oceania Notice for our 28 day cruise to Rome. As usual, Oceania was spectacular. I didn't think it was possible to upgrade the food, but they always seem to find a way to make each trip more memorable. The service is always flawless. I ordered some tea from room service and the person bringing the tea thought he should bring me honey and lemon for my sore throat. The attention to detail was amazing. Since I am trying to eat a healthier diet, it was great to have Greek yogurt and Truvia available. At the Terrace Cafe, they would grill lobster tails, shrimp, steak, lamb chops and other things for you. It was a very popular addition. The Terrace Cafe has the same food options as the Grand Dining Room which was great if you wanted a more casual and quicker dining experience. Coming back to the ship from a day of touring in the extreme heat and being able to have great food in a casual environment was great. Toscana, the Italian restaurant and Polo Grill, the steak restaurant were fabulous too. We had 28 days on the ship and the menu and food choices kept changing, so you never got tired of the food.
Nautica had great staff and there was always something fun to do if you wanted to. I never got bored. Oceania bent over backwards to take great care of us.
I had booked a shore excursion package with Oceania prior to sailing. I had so many shipboard credits that I went to the spa for two massages and several hair appointments. The deep tissue massages were fantastic and it was nice not to have to blow dry my hair a few times. The spa is expensive, and I wouldn't have used it if I didn't have so many shipboard credits.
The gym on ship was big and had great machines. I wish it opened before 6:00 AM though.
We had two guest lecturers on the cruise. One was kind of boring, but the other man, Hassan, was entertaining, interesting and informative.
The ship's cabins and bathrooms are small, but adequate. You don't use your cabin except to sleep and shower.
Our ports include Dubai, UAE, Fujairah, UAE, Muscat, Oman, Salalah, Oman, Aqaba, Jordan, and optional overnight trip to Luxor, Egypt, two days in Haifa, Israel, Limassol, Cyprus, Rhodes, Greece, Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey, Santorini, Greece, Valletta, Malta, Palermo, Italy, Sorrento, Italy and Civitavecchia, Italy. The itinerary couldn't have been any better and all the passengers raved about it.
I was surprised to see mountains of rock in the Middle East. Of course, there was plenty of sand too. The color of the water and the beaches were beautiful. Unfortunately, women don't have free access to the beaches as we have here. In Fujairah, women can only go on Wednesday.
The overnight trip to Luxor was fantastic. I have always wanted to go there and to visit Karnack Temple, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings and other archaeological sites. We had another 3.5 bus ride from the port of Safaga to Luxor. Our hotel was right on the bank of the Nile. It was an action packed two day trip and we didn't spend much time at the hotel. We went back to Karnack Temple at night to see the Sound and Light Show. It wasn't very good and I don't recommend it. It was dark and you walk a long way on an uneven walkway. People were using the flashlights on their phones to light a path. In the Valley of the Kings we went to three tombs, Ramses III, Ramses IV and Ramses IX. For an extra $12.00 you can visit King Tut's tomb which we did. If you want to take photos, it costs $18.00, but I am glad that I could take photos. No photos may be taken in King Tut's tomb. You walk down a steep staircase and see King Tut's mummy and another room with beautiful drawings. The other tombs also had beautiful drawings.
We saw lots of guns in Egypt. We were told only the police and military can have guns, but I saw someone selling watermelons on the side of the road with a gun. I waved to people from the bus and the people smiled and waved back. I wasn't afraid though and would like to see the pyramids and the Cairo Museum in the future.
Dubai was all about shopping. I have never seen so many malls and the city was very clean. We took a walking excursion of Old Dubai and I wouldn't recommend it. We went to the Dubai Museum and it was dark and looked a bit moth eaten. I was sorry I didn't splurge for tea at the Burg al Arab hotel. The Dubai Mall is incredible and has fountain show that is supposed to be bigger and better than the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I loved the architecture in Dubai. The emir bought the QEII for the use of his guests. Life in Dubai if you are a local is amazing. Housing, education, medical care is free for locals.
Fujairah, UAE looked like a lunar landscape with nothing to pretty to see. It was sobering and eye opening to see the number of oil storage units at the port. They went on forever. The entire Arabian Gulf had a lot of oil tankers.
I enjoyed Muscat, Oman. We had a great guide and the country even had women in government positions. The current sultan has done a lot for his people and the infrastructure was impressive. His father didn't help his people and the current sultan overthrew him. The father lived out the last years of his life at the Dorchester Hotel in London...not a bad place to be in exile. We asked why the women cover their faces. Islam doesn't require Muslims to cover their face or feet. It is a personal choice if the ladies want to cover their faces. I am not sure I believe it. The sultan has two huge private yachts in the harbor, but he doesn't use them. We stopped at a few places on our all day tour. I would have been happy to skip some of them to have gone in the Grand Mosque, which was gorgeous on the outside.
Salalah was okay. We did go to the Museum of Frankincense and a souk. They were selling a lot of touristy stuff at the souk, but we saw lots of locals too.
Our ship took on extra security as we cruise around Yemen, past Somalia, through the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and up to Aqaba. They call it a "High Risk Area" because of the pirates. The waters are patrolled now and the piracy has been eliminated.
In Aqaba, we took a 2 hour bus ride to Petra. We passed some Bedouin tents on the way. Petra was great. We walked about a mile downhill to the Treasury which was beautiful. We also walked to the amphitheater. You can ride in a donkey cart or take a camel, but we opted to walk. There were many caves and interesting rock formations on the path. People are selling postcards, silver bracelets, and other trinkets all the way down the path.
Our ship entered the Suez Canal at 4:00 AM. I was in Horizons Lounge at the front of the ship to see us enter. The Suez Canal is wide and has no locks because sea level is the same in the Gulf to Suez to the Mediterranean. The transit took 11 hours. They actually allow people to fish in the Canal.
In Haifa, Israel, we took an all day tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jerusalem was packed and involved a 1.5 hour bus ride. I loved Jerusalem even though the city was packed with tourists and the guide kept us moving. He obviously didn't understand the female's need to shop. When we went to Bethlehem, we crossed into the West Bank, so we had to take on a Palestinian guide. We were told that Israelis can't go to Bethlehem unless they are tour guides. The guide also told us that we were not protected by the Israeli military in the West Bank. We went to the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square. We stood in line for 1-1.5 hours to see where Jesus was born. It was very chaotic and people were cutting in line and pushing for a quick look at the manger site and the Star of Bethlehem. It was a very unpleasant experience and I wouldn't recommend trying to see the manger site.
The next day I took an all day tour to Nazareth and went to the Sea of Galilee. We went to a few sites where certain biblical events were supposed to have occurred. Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth are so built up, nobody really knows if what you are seeing are the actual sites. We stopped at a baptismal site on the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake and is quite beautiful. We went to more biblical sites around it.
Limassol, Cyprus has the most beautiful ancient floor mosaics I have ever seen. The water was crystal clear.
Rhodes, Greece is a charming island with a medieval walled city. We got there early so I wandered the streets and alleys lined with shops and restaurants. I had been there before, but it was just as nice this time. In the afternoon, I took a tour of ancient Lindos. It is a long climb to the top, but it is worth it. You can also ride a donkey up the hill. The ruins and the views were fabulous.
The next day we were in Kusadasi, Turkey where Ephesus is located. I had been to Ephesus before, but the cruise line offered a tour of Ephesus with an expert. We had an archaeologist who actually worked on the site and he gave us a tour of the Ephesus Museum before we went to the actual site. He showed us the items that he personally found. Ephesus is an amazing place and being with him made the tour even more memorable.
Santorini, Greece is a beautiful island, but we had 5 cruise ships in the port that day. The crowds and the traffic going to Oia were horrible. I had been there before without the crowds and loved it, but this time wasn't very good. To get back down the dock, you can either walk down the steps, ride a donkey or take a tram. The tram had six cars that could hold six passengers. The crowds were so bad that it took us two hours in line before we got to the pier. I felt sorry for the people who were on their first visit to this picturesque island. I would never get off the ship if there were that many ships in port at the same time.
Valletta, Malta was a pleasant surprise. It was clean and had some beautiful old buildings. They also had a great gelato store. I had been pretty good on my healthy eating, but I caved when I saw gelato.
Palermo, Sicily was okay. I wish I had taken another tour than the one to the catacombs. I found them to be very creepy. There are some pretty churches, and other buildings by the Four Corners.
In Sorrento, we took a tour to Herculaneum. We had been to Pompeii, Capri, Positano and Sorrento before, so we chose to go to Herculaneum. While Pompeii was covered by lava from Mt. Vesuvius, Herculaneum was covered with volcanic ash and was much better preserved.
The ship docked in Civitavecchia, Italy and I took the ship's transfer to the airport. My only complaint was having to get off the ship. I wanted to stay there forever.
This really was a trip of a lifetime and I would do it all over again. I booked my next Oceania cruise onboard and when I got home, I booked a second Oceania cruise.
Small cabin and bathroom, but it was quiet and had adequate for the cruise.