Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Try an exotic cruise from Cyprus to Egypt or Israel

I just returned from a week on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Besides being a beautiful and historic island to visit by itself -- it's also a popular beach destination for Europeans -- Cyprus serves as the base for a number of mini-cruises that you can take to nearby countries such as Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and Greece. (Israel is only about 60 miles from eastern Cyprus, while Egypt is less than 200 miles south.)

If you have just a few days to spare, these can provide a great way to get a taste of the Pyramids, the Holy Land, or other spots in the eastern Mediterranean.

One good cruise line based in Cyprus is Louis Cruise Lines. Louis runs three-day, two-night mini-cruises to Egypt that start at 80 Cyprus pounds per adult, or about U.S. $190 at current exchange rates. The ships leave Limassol, a port on the south coast of Cyprus, for Port Said, Egypt, at three in the afternoon and reach Port Said at 7 the next morning, departing Egypt at 8 that evening. The line offers 12-hour organized shore excursions that include visits to Cairo and the Pyramids as well as a Nile River cruise during time in port (shore excursions coast extra, however). The ships return to Cyprus by noon on the third day, so you're gone for less than 48 hours.

Mini-cruises to Israel leave Limassol at 4 in the afternoon and arrive in Haifa at 7 in the morning. You then have until departure at 8:30 p.m. to explore the Holy Land; the cruise line offers shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Galilee. The ships return to Cyprus by late morning of the third day. Rates start at 75 Cyprus pounds per adult, or about U.S. $180.

Cabin rates about Louis' two ships (the M/V Princesa Marissa and the M/V Serenade) include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as onboard entertainment.

Louis Cruise Lines also offers mini-cruises to various Greek islands, including Rhodes and Crete. They plan to expand their offerings to cruises to the Black Sea and Adriatic Sea as well. Contact them at www.louiscruises.com.

Another line to check out is Salamis Tours. Besides Egypt, Israel, and some Greek Islands, Salamis adds mini-cruises to Lebanon and Syria to its itineraries. Salamis' two cruise ships, which hold around 600 passengers each, also leave from Limassol and have pricing comparable to Louis Lines. Go to www.salamis-tours.com for more information.

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