Travel Review of a two-day cruise to Israel
from 07.10. to 09.10.2000

My brother an I, your humble narrator , came to travel on the PRINCESA VICTORIA of Louis Cruise Line because of a religious holiday in Israel, called Jom Kippur. This lead the rival cruise company to devert the sheduled Israel cruise to Beirut. So we changed our booking to the PRINCESA VICTORIA.

Bridgewing with my brother
Embarkation started 12:30 in Limassol (southern Cyprus). This was an extraordinary early time, in order to arrive earlier next day in the port of Ashdod, that would be closed at 14:30 because the Jom Kippur-day. After we put our luggage in our cabin, I decided to go ashore once again for some pictures of the ship. But the crew told me there was no turning back, because of organisational reasons. This was the only time of the cruise that I got indignant.

Well, this meant plenty of time to inspect the ship. First our cabin: a wide room with four beds and wood paneled corridor, with 2 portholes and a (locked) door to the adjacent cabin. Because of low bookings we got a multi-category-upgrade to what once was a luxury cabin back in the 60s. Every other cabin even had the pure luxury of a full bath tub, but we had only a shower. So I missed my first bath tub on a cruise ship by one cabin number! On deck Greek music everywhere and loads of greens. A surprise to me was that most of the open deck areas were covered by a coarse rug. Apparently the old teak wood decking is too expensive to maintain for the short cruise trade. The lifeboat drill was in the library for the German speaking passengers, and thus was on a pure theoretical basis. On the other hand, they bothered to organise this drill in German language for only 20 Germans on board! Many of the 350 fellow passengers were British. The ship was not full, apparently due to Jom Kippur and the shortened stay in Israel.

Lido-Deck click to enlarge
boat deck click to enlarge
At 15:30 the PRINCESA VICTORIA took the seas!  I used the daylight hours for heavy photo shooting. This afternoon we managed to get a bridge visit to see the marvellous original equipment of the 30s. The first officer gave me the permission to go to the foredeck for some pictures of the anchor-gear and the derricks.
In the evening we enjoyed ourselves at dinner in the fascinating wood-paneled Roman Restaurant, while soft Piano tunes from the music balcony filled the air. We had some nice British and Dutch neighbors at out table. Food was served to the table by a warm and attentive staff  in two sittings. Afterwards, the floor show in the El-Patio-Lounge proved to be much more than we expected from a short cruise. The "Victoria Show Girls" were great, really great! Drinks, which were paid cash, were very modestly priced.
Ashdod at 6:00 AM proved to be an unspectacular industrial and navy harbor. We had our buffet style breakfast in the Roman Restaurant. After a lengthy security check by the Israeli police due to the riots in the Westbank (they forced me to unscrew my camera objective!), I wanted to take pictures of the ship's exteriors to make up for the disappointment on embarkation. In this I succeeded only after some "please, please" with Israeli security forces. We were told that Ashdod is a Navy harbour and therefore it is forbidden to take pictures. But who prevented us from  taking photos of every Navy ship we would see, when we came into port?
Click to enlarge =>
Me on arrival in Ashdod 7:00 click to enlarge
Bethlehem was reached after 1 hour's bus ride. Though on Palestinian Authonomy Territory, all was quite there and we visited the Church of Nativity but not the chapel beneath the floor, where a religious service was held. Two friendly Palestinian policemen posed willingly for a photo.
Click to enlarge 
Catholic chapel at the Church of the Holy Grave
In Jerusalem , because of the precarious security situation, only a visit of the bazaar and the Church of the Holy Grave, which happened to included the Mount of Golgatha in her walls, was possible. On the bazaar a bizarre formation of Armenian priests passed us, hammering the plaster with gorgeous canes with every step they took. The precarious security situation was judged by our Israeli tour guide as birth struggles of a new nation, which soon would be over, when independence of the Westbank is achieved. But that presumption was wrong, as security worsened after our cruise. The insurers declined coverage of excursions into Israel after our cruise and this cruise turned out to be the very last Israel cruise of PRINCESA VICTORIA.

We luckily made it back to Ashdod for our departure from Israel, before the port closed at 14:30. So we had a whole afternoon aboard in daylight, in contrast the regular schedule, where the sun is down whenever you are on board at that time of year.(Cruise starts at 6:00 PM, shore excursions go from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, disembarkation 7:00 AM). Tea/coffee and cake (for free) was served in the Riviera-Lounge, hardly the case on the regular schedule. In the store I found the obligatory tea pot with the ship's name for only one Cyprus-Pound. That was great.

Departure from Ashdod click to enlarge
After our stylish dinner in the Roman Restaurant we were intrigued by the Victoria Show Girls' floor show, to familiar tunes of the song "Verpiss dich!" of the German-speaking pop group "Tic Tac Toe". Never thought this song would make an international career! (By the way: "Verpiss dich!" means "F*ck off!")
After a night in our glorious luxury cabin with the nostalgic flair, we reached Limassol early on Monday and had to disembark. We would have been inconsolable, if we hadn't booked our next short cruise on the ATALANTE of Paradise Cruises, departing in the evening of that very day!

But don't even think of a left-luggage to bridge the time in Limassol until we could embark again. There is none in whole Cyprus!