Celebrity Cruise - Rome and Holy Land

submitted by - BJ - Manager Bursch Travel Rochester

Celebrity Cruise Line and Travel Bound Tours

Our trip began in Rome where we spent two nights at the 4 Star rated Eurostars International Palace with its excellent location that is within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and many of sights of interest.
While in Rome visited the Coliseum, the Forum, Circus Maximus, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel with all its marvels where Michelangelo painted 12,000 square feet of the chapel ceiling. Our tours and guides were arranged through Travel Bound Groups. For a local lunch or dinner I would recommend Restaurant da Mario (Mario's Restaurant). A family owned restaurant located in the center of Rome which is reasonably priced with a casual atmosphere and excellent food.
Next we boarded the 1 year old Celebrity Equinox. This is a spectacular ship with a gross tonnage of 122,000 tons, a passenger capacity of 2850 and a crew of 1,255. The Equinox is one of the Celebrity Solstice class ships and has real grass growing on the on the top deck, called The Lawn Club, where you can play croquet, putt a few golf balls, or enjoy a little lawn bowling. Adjacent to The Lawn Club, Corning Glass has a display and you can actually watch glass being blown into various works of art. The Grand Foyer atrium is graced with an 18 foot tall ficus tree in an awesome suspended vase covered with more than 500,000 colorful Swarovski crystals. The Solstice Class ships are suppose the be the "greenest"¬Ě cruise ships afloat!
The itinerary allowed us to see virtually every major destination in the eastern Mediterranean. It started in Rome and ended in Rome and in between we had many wonderful stops starting with Piraeus, Greece, the port which serves Athens. Here we visited the Acropolis, the high point of the city and one of the great wonders of the world including the Parthenon.
Our next stop was Rhodes, Greece. Here we took a tour that included a visit to Kalithea which has a small bay and is said that the waters have healing powers. Locals still visit the crystal clear waters. This area often attracts movie producers and many commercials are filmed here because of the beauty. We had lunch at Esperos Palace Hotel for a taste of local Rhodean food. This is a spectacular 5 star waterfront property that many in our group said they would like to return to.
Kusadasi, Turkey - Here we visited the house of the Virgin Mary where she is reputed to have spent her last years of life. Then a short drive to Ancient City of Ephesus. This is one the most magnificent excavations in the world. The Grand Theater is the largest theaters in antiquity with a capacity of 24,000. This site has taken 120 years to uncover and only one third is uncovered. Kusadasi has large shopping market with great deals one block from ship.
Haifa, Israel We visited the Bahai Gardens. One of the famous 10 Wonders of the World. This is truly a sight to see and is visible from the ship while in port.
Tours of Jerusalem & Bethlehem are available and a main interest is the Western or Wailing Wall, the most sacred of Jewish sites. Bethlehem located nearby on the West Bank area is controlled by the Palestinians. This is a very popular trip and involved a stop at the Church of Nativity which is built like a citadel over a cave where it is believed that Jesus was born.
Alexandria, Egypt and a two day overland tour of Cairo. We left Alexandria for Cairo which is about 31/2 hours by tour bus. When we arrived in Cairo we had lunch onboard a boat on the Nile River complete with a belly dancer for entertainment. In Cairo we visited the National Museum â€" King Tut's exhibit is amazing. We also saw the city of Memphis, the Giza Plateau, and Sound and Light show starring the Sphinx.
When visiting the Pyramids you must be careful of the people that offer to take your picture on a camel as they will take your picture and then will not give your camera back until you pay them what they ask for (ask me how I know this). While in Cairo we stayed at The Fairmont Nile City which is a 6 star hotel with a good location and wonderful restaurants.
Naples, Italy This port is walking distance to the downtown shopping area, about two blocks. If you missed shopping everywhere else this is the city to make up for it! There are many local shops as well as well known worldwide shops as far as the eye can see. The only draw back was very few shop attendants spoke English but they did understand Mastercard and Visa.
All in all it was a great trip and everyone in our group had nothing but good things to say about Celebrity, the tours, and our two days in Rome.