Saturday, October 29, 2011

NCL Jade Holy Land Cruise-Alanya, Turkey and Limossol Cyprus

Ben set up our group on the Norwegian Jade way back in March 2010 to coincide with our 2011 Aviano Reunion since many in our group like to make the most of their time in Europe with a cruise extension. As soon as NCL announced this Holy Land itinerary with perfect dates to match, we were sold on it--never anticipating the turmoil that would occure in the ensuing months during the revolution in Egypt. Our initial group of more than 90 passengers dwindled to 61--some due to health and other specific reasons, but others due to concerns about the region. Ben and I knew, however, that cruise lines are the first to pull out of a region at the first hint of security issues. At worst, NCL would cancel the call on Egypt; at best, we would hit every port of this wonderfully unique itinerary. Sanity prevailed, and we have all decided we couldn’t have picked a better time to go!

The ship was to depart Civitavecchia and sail for two days straight before reaching Alanya, Turkey; Limassol, Cyprus; Haifa and Ashdod, Israel; and Port Said and Alexandria, Egypt; before finally sailing two more days for Civitavecchia. What joy! We hit them all...and never once feared for our safety.

We had an idea of what we would see in Israel and Egypt, but the first two ports were new to us and excursion selections required more research. In the end, Ben and I personally chose to round out the “Holy Land” theme by choosing those that allowed us to walk where the Apostle Paul walked. Others in our group selected different options (or nothing), but for my blogs I‘m going to write only about our own experiences.

Ruins at Perge
 Alanya is primarily a resort town on the southern coast of Turkey. Though the population is almost entirely Turkish, the ship‘s port summary states that it is also home to some 10,000 Europeans. the region has seen many empires come and go over the centuries, and our excursion took us way back in time to the ruins of ancient Perge, where Paul and Barnabas visited twice during Paul's missionary journeys, where he delivered a sermon, and to where John Mark left Paul for Jerusalem.
The excursion actually took us first to Aspendos for a visit to a famous and wonderfully preserved Greco-Roman amphitheatre. It seats 15,000 spectators and is said to be the most magnificent and best example of a Roman theater. With such excellent acoustics, it's easy to understand why for a month each summer, the theater still comes alive with productions such as Aida (without the elephants, though) and renowned choral groups like the Russian Army Choir.

The day continued with a Turkish-style lunch at a five-star resort, a quick visit to the Kursunlu Waterfalls, and a shopping stop for those interested in buying quality Turkish rugs. Ben and I weren't in the market, but a few in our group purchased some beautiful pieces.

Birthplace of Aphrodite
 Limassol on the island of Cyprus was our next port of call, and Ben and I headed to Paphos, the ancient capital of Cyprus and where Paul first introduced Christianity to the island...probably because it was also the center of worship of Aphrodite, the ancient goddess of love and beauty. As a matter of fact, our first stop was at Petra Tou Romiou, a rugged, turtle-shaped rock (do you see it?) near the shore that marks the legendary birthplace of the goddess.

The first of two UNESCO World Heritage sites of this trip was the Tombs of the Kings, so called because of their size and the impressive artifacts found buried with their owners. (Status matters.) Dating back to the 2nd century, some of the passages were used as catacombs by early Christians. Excavations of this ancient necropolis began in 1974 and are still not complete.

We then visited the archeological park of Paphos with its Roman-era mosaics accidentally discovered by a plowing farmer in 1962. The nearby House of Dionysus reflects the wealth and opulence of Imperial Rome through floor mosaics of ancient mythology that are said to be among the best found in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Two very interesting ports of call...but these were only the appetizers to the next four days!

1 comment:

Constance Todd said...

What could be a more rewarding way to top off a tour in the Holy Land than a cruise extension to Europe! It’s a great way to refresh both the mind and the body as the place is home to many amazing tourist destinations, and some of the world’s most diverse cultures.

Constance Todd