My brother and me had at first booked a 2-day cruise
to Israel on the Atalante. But due to Jom Kippur (religious holiday in Israel)
the cruise was cancelled and Paradise Cruises graciously offered us a 3-day
cruise instead without surcharge! So we stood at the pier at Limassol in
the morning of 9.10.2000 and asked wether we could leave our luggage on board
until official embarkation time in the afternoon, as there was no left-luggage
in the port. This was not allowed (probably they feared we were terrorists
trying to sink the ship with a bomb!). The bow of the ship, I noticed, looked
rather rusty. We could manage to leave the luggage in the custody of the
customs officer then. When we came back in the afternoon the bow of the ship
white. Apparently a bit of make-up for the old lady during the day.
After buying the obligatory silver neck-lace plate with my name in hieroglyphic,
which comes with a hieroglyphic alphabet, at a short bus stop on the return
ride (the orders have been taken on the coach-ride in the morning), we were
again on the road for Port Said. Soon it was dark, a circumstance that urged
the Egyptian drivers on the street to take severe measures: only when it
was pitch dark they reluctantly switched on the tiny position lights (but
not the main lights! Don't waist energy!). On the long coach rides we ate
our lunch boxes we got on board instead of a lunch in a restaurant. This
arrangement, which is common with Louis Cruises too, saves a lot of
time that's better spent on the country's sites of interest.
Back on the pier in front of the Suez-Canal-Society building the way to the gangway was so crowded on both sides with Souvenir dealers, you literally couldn't step sideways, there was virtually no gap between their tables. We all were trapped in one narrow passage through this mini-bazar to the gangway, our ears ringing with "Half price" offers. We left Port Said during our buffet-style dinner in the modern dining room that now replaces the old one with Messageries Maritimes decor.
Next day we arrived at the port of Ashdod , but lay in the roads for one hour waiting for something we didn't know (for a free berth?). We already thought the excursion to Jerusalem may be cancelled due to the delay. During this time I managed to get on top of the raised forecastle, which still features the original ship bell of her time as "Tahitien". I think this is the last cruise ship with a raised forecastle!
During security check at in Ashdod we were recognized by the good-looking female immigrations officer and friendly waved back. Ok, that was no good idea, because two young lads who were in Israel theother day and did not have enough of the security checks, who even want to come back 3 days later, that was beyond Israeli security forces grasp and a disregard of their effort! So we got an extra interrogation for 3 quarters of an hour, while the busses waited for the last passengers.
|A coach ride of approx. 1 hour or 1,5 hours took us to Jerusalem.
We were there just 3 days ago on a cruise aboard PRINCESA VICTORIA but the
situation had chanced in as much as the Palestinian Autonony Territory (with
Bethlehem) was out of bounds now. The visit of the church of Nativity had
to be cancelled therefore. The passenger-insurance company did no longer cover
the risk in these areas! But Jerusalem itself was quiet enough to see all
the important places as the Chruch of the Holy Grave, the bazar, a part of
the city-wall from the times of King David, the Wailing Wall (were there was
almost no vistitors not even praying Jews; because of the security situation?),
the medieval city walls. Our guide was a former German Jew who had emgrated
to Palestine before the foundation of Israel and had fought in the independence
war of 1948.
Afterwards we stopped at a diamont cuttery, where you could buy real diamonds at "bargain prices", this means you get a 5% discount check in the bus, then you get an additional discount when you say you are from ATALANTE and if you still can't decide to buy, your tour guide helps you negotiate an even lower price. Then you have bought a piece you would get for the same price anywhere! But still a nice souvenir of Israel, because you can watch the diamond rings being made in this factory, so you can be sure it's a real handicrafted piece made in this country.
In the late evening we departed Ashdod. Unfortunately we never found the time to dip into one of the two nice pools on the aft decks, that were kept full of water even though there was almost nobody who took a swim.
Next morning we managed to get a bridge visit at 10:00 o'clock, which was extremely interesting, because the complete French equipment of 1953 was still in place! The second officer showed us around.
At 11:00 o'clock we arrived back in Limassol.
Au revoir, cher ancien paquebot TAHITIEN!