8/27 - 10/10/2015 Journey To The Orient - Ports of Call (44-day cruise on Oceania's Insignia)
Reminder: Wear socks on days when visiting temples or mosques where one must remove shoes.
(Wear loose long pants or long skirts. A Head scarf and long sleeves for women. No shorts for men.)
When visiting a cathedral, shorts and sleeveless tops are not permitted. Knees and shoulders must be covered.

Day Port Arrive Depart
Aug 27
(Thursday)
Barcelona, Spain   9:00 p.m.
Aug 28 Cruising the Mediterranean Sea    
Aug 29 Florence/Pisa/Tuscany (Livorno), Italy 8:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
Saturday
Currency:EURO

1EUR= 1.09728USD

1USD=0.9112 EUR

Since we have just been to Pisa/Lucca/Siena/San Gimignano in 2012, I am leaning toward just taking train to Florence (which we visited in 1997 & 2000). However Florence is a long trek from Livorno cruise port by public transportation. (Livorno is 60 miles west of Florence.)

Option 1 - Take shuttle bus from cruise port to Livorno town center. (The shuttle bus takes you in 15 minutes to Piazza Municipio
near the Tourist Office, 2 short blocks north of Piazza Grande,) From there, walk or catch bus #1 to Livorno Centrale train station (8/hr Mon-Sat.10 minutes. Buy tickets from Tabacchi or newsstand. Buy a second ticket for the return trip to save time.) The bus stop is on the island in front of the church. It is 30-min total to get from cruise port to Livorno Centrale train station. Then train from Livorno Centrale to Firenze Santa Maria Novella is 1h20. Fare one-way €9.10/pp on R train. http://www.trenitalia.com
                  Two Round Trip tickets to Florence - Due biglietti di andata e ritorno per Firenze
                  Four Round Trip tickets to Florence - (Four = Quattro)

- From Piazza Grande you may explore the rest of the city on foot or go by bus N° 1 to the train station. Just (south of and) behind the Cathedral you can also take bus N° 10 to Pisa.
- taxi from port to the train station takes 15-20 minutes and is approximately € 20 per taxi.
- Familiarize yourself with the important places in Livorno: http://shorebee.com/en/italy/livorno/important-places 

Option 2 - Oceania's bus option from Livorno to Florence ("Florence on your own") is USD$179/pp, or 25% off ($134.25) if booked 8 excursions or more.
Option 3 - Use http://www.tuscanybus.com/ for transportation to Florence. 30E/pp.
Option 4 - two posters at Fodor's Cruise forum recommended http://www.shoreexcursionsinitaly.net/. They have a "Florence on your own" to Florence in a minivan for 400 Euro for up to 8 PAX: http://www.shoreexcursionsinitaly.net/2/livorno_shore_excursions_3156337.html 
On the other hand, several posters on  cruiseCritic board recommended a tour operator, Share-A-Shore-Excursion-In-Italy dot com, http://www.ShareAShoreExcursionInItaly.com/  . Talking about confusing of tour operators' names!

Option 5 - One may book a sharable excursion with the above mentioned "Shore Excursions In Italy"
to 5-Terre for 82 Euro/pp, see http://www.shoreexcursionsinitaly.net/2/share_a_shore_excursion_3363809.html . Email contact is info@shoreexcursionsinitaly.net
- On 4/14/2015 Opened a sharable 5-Terre shore excursion for 8/29. If by 30-day prior there are not 8 (or 6, for 102 Euro/pp), then the excursion will be cancelled. ITIN: Will drive through Tuscany and Liguria Regions to village #1 Riomaggiore. Then to #2, Manarola, and then #3, Corniglia where you will have a typical lunch (not included) based on seafood or "Pesto". After lunch drive to visit village #4 Vernazza and then around 03:15pm will start driving back to Livorno Port. Drop off at 05:00pm in front of the ship. Pay driver in cash at the end of the tour. (We will not visit village #5, Monterosso al Mare.)
Pick up: Docking at one of the 2 mentioned docks, there is no Lounge, so your driver will just wait in front of the ship, all the names written on a board.
On 4/17, posted a message on CruiseCritic's Insignia rollcall board in "Barcelona to Dubai" thread, page 5, msg #93,  for others to join.
- Gerard & Chantal Rolland joined on 6/20.
- Russell & Mary Donovan, joined on 7/2.
- Jan Guichard & Bill Maselunas, joined on 4/21.

1. The group is to meet at 7:45am in Martinis Bar on DECK 5.
2. Local contact phone number while in port: +39 340 8446292.
3. Fax number: +39 178 2276802

- (Post-tour comments:) The driver turned out to be waiting for us at a different pier. Lucky that we talked to someone else's guide who called our tour contact phone number to inform them where we were. In 5 minutes our van appeared at our pier to pick us up. But I was surprised that the tour company did not tell the driver to look out for an Oceania ship. They were just waiting at a different pier where other cruise ships also arrived.

Option 6 - book with ISDSharingTours.com for a tour to other parts of Tuscny.

Aug 30 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
Sunday It is impossible to see Rome in a day! So be selective on where to spend time on.
We have just been to Rome in 2012, so there is no must-see site for us. We plan to just walk in the old historical center area, including visiting one or two famous churches that we have not been to before.

Option 1 - Take train from Civitavecchia to San Pietro Station (Roma S. Pietro?) or Roma Termini. Buy a BIRG(Biglietto Integrato Regionale Giornaliero) day pass for €12 (at the counter, or at the newsstand inside the station who sells only BIRG tickets) for unlimited regional train, Metro and Bus. http://www.trenitalia.com
8/30/15 Sunday, -->Rome: 8:01, 8:42, 9:32, 10:44, ....
Civitavecchia<-- 14:12, 14:42, 15:57(InterCity, 11E), 16:12, 16:42, 16:57(Frecciabianca, 9E), 18:12
- To Jewish quarter area: from Termini, take bus 64 or 40 to Largo Argentina, then walk.
- Try to see S. Giovanni in Laterano (Archbasilica of St. John in Lateran) first? It is the oldest church in the West and ranks first among the five Papal Basilicas of the world. It is the official seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope.

Option 2 - Some booked tours with "ALL AROUND ITALY" http://www.allarounditaly.net/  to Tivoli (Villa D'Este & Emperor Hadrian Villa). Their price seemed to be fair. For a 9-hr excursion, it was 550Euro for 6 PAX, and 600Euro for 8 PAX.

Option 3 - Book with ISDSharingTours.com for a tour to UMBRIA (ORVIETO AND CIVITA BAGNOREGIO). 105E if 6PAX, 85E if 8PAX.

Option 4 - www.taketaxi.com  offers reasonably priced transfers and shore excursions in Rome. 115E Rome/Civitavecchia transfer; 49E Rome/Airport transfer. Shore excursion prices vary, upon request; some said 35E/hour.

Aug 31 Amalfi/Positano, Italy  Anchor Port 10:00 am 6:00 p.m.
Monday We'll drop anchor off Amalfi and tender to shore in town of Amalfi.
At ferry / ship tender dock, can buy a ferry ticket to Positano – 8.50 euro per person, duration is 25-min.
Ferry schedule for 2014 is http://www.travelmar.it/downloads/orari_Aprile2014.pdf
      AMALFI → POSITANO: Ore 09.20–10.30–11.30-12.30–15.00-16.20–18.00
      POSITANO → AMALFI: Ore 10.00–12.00–13.30–15.30–17.00-18.30
Just past ferry dock, public bus to Positano = 3.40 euro (bus is often very crowded).
If there is frequent/efficient transportation to go from Amalfi to Positano then we may consider visiting both. Otherwise, Amalfi is our first priority.

You can easily walk from one end of Amalfi to the other in about 20 minutes.
From Amalfi to Ravello, either by SITA-sud bus, or by taxi (30Euro). Bus is about every 30-min, and takes 25-min. Bus timetable: http://www.sitasudtrasporti.it/public/tpl/campania/5110.pdf
Tickets (1.20 Euro) can be bought at cafe bars, some have a black and white sign 'Tabacchi' hanging out the front. Some stores selling lotto tickets also sell bus tickets so look out for these too. Or ask.
Ravello is beautiful with two villas open to the public - Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.
http://www.villarufolo.it/home.html
http://wikitravel.org/en/Ravello
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/amalfi-coast-italy-road-trip/

Altrani - east of Amalfi, a picturesque tangle of white washed alleys. Lively lived-in piazza. (If you walk from Amalfi to Ravello, you'll pass through Altrani.)

(The 24-hour integrated bus ticket is called the UNICO COSTIERA 24-ore and costs 7.20 Euro/pp. )

In the main square right where we got off the ship, veer to the right a bit, just beyond the round-about with a statue and a fountain, there's a small store with a striped awning that says "Bus Tickets TABACCHI Cold Drinks". Buy your round trip tickets there. The bus stop to Ravello is under a white canopy, and just to the RIGHT (with your back to the ocean) of the round-about with the statue and fountain. You can buy your return tickets here if they will sell them to you. Otherwise, buy your return tickets from the bus driver on your way back from Ravello.  (The Ravello bus stop is just outside the tunnel. You wait for your return bus at exactly the same stop where you got off earlier.)

Option 1 - See Amalfi, Altrani and Ravello. (Bus or taxi up, and consider walking down.)
Ravelo - Villa Cimbrone (its Terrace of Infinity sits high above a cliff facing the ocean). 7E admission.
Ravelo - Villa Rufolo (a palatial Moorish-style estate that was originally built in the 1270 for the Rufolo family. Situated in Ravello’s main square and is a 10-min walk from Villa Combrone. ) 5E admission.
Ravelo - Duomo (situated at the town's main square, 7E admission. )
Amalfi - The Cathedral (built in the 10th century. You can see its magnificent bell tower from the harbour.)
Amalfi - The Cloister of Paradise (next to the cathedral, built in the 13th century, home to old mosaics and paintings, and 120 columns built in the Arabic style. )

Sep 01 Taormina (Sicily), Italy  Anchor Port 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday We have seen many parts of Sicily in 2009, so we may just spend the day in Taormina, unless there is a reasonable transportation to see Savoca (the village of the "Godfather" movie).

We'll be tendered near Giardini Naxos - bus or taxi or walk (but up many stairs) to Taormina. A few taxis available in Giardini Naxos – no free shuttle.
From Giardini Naxos, a taxi up the hill to Taormina can cost between 12 to 20 euros one-way -- so travel with three pals or take a bus from Taormina-Giardini railway station (at sea level) for around 2 euros each way. Buses and taxis stop at a car park below the main town and you ride up to street level in a lift (press the button for Level 7).
http://www.whatsinport.com/Taormina.htm
http://www.cruisetimetables.com/cruises-to-giardini-naxos-sicily.html
http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=82#sec5t
Bus schedule: http://www.gotaormina.com/en/how_to_arrive/public_transport.html

• (1) School bus
• (2) daily
• (3) Monday to Saturday
• (4) Sunday and Bank holiday
• (5) goes only till Letojanni (further north of Taormina)

Bus to Taormina (could only see bus schedule from further station) timetable: Recanati - Giardini N. - Bhf. Taormina - Taormina
PRICE: APPROX. 1.30 € ONE-WAY TICKET / RETURN TICKET APPROX. 2.20 €
7.15(3) - 7.45(3) - 8.15(2) - 8.45(2) - 9.15(2) - 9.45(2) - 10.15(2) - 10.45(3) - 11.45(2) - 13.00(2) - 13.15(3) - 13.45(3) - 14.45(2) - 15.15(2) - 16.15(2) - ......

Bus from Taormina to Giardini Naxos timetable: Taormina - bus station Taormina - Giardini N. - Recanati
PRICE: APPROX. 1.30 € ONE-WAY TICKET / RETURN TICKET APPROX. 2.20 €
6.30(3) - 7.45(3) - 8.15(3) - 8.45(2) - 9.15(2) - 10.45(2) - 11.45(3) - 12.15(3) - 12.45(2) - 13.15(3) - 13.30(2) - 14.00(2) - 15.15(3) - 15.45(2) - 16.45(2) - 17.15(3) - ......


Option 1 - Spend the day in Taormina.
Option 2 - Oceania does have a pricy $199/pp, 4.5 hr, "The Land Of the Godfather" tour to Savoca.
Option 3 - Sicily With Sabastian http://www.sicilywithsebastian.com/ for excursions from Messina, Taormina or Catania.
Sep 02 Valletta, Malta 8:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday
Currency:EURO
(Home of Knights of Malta.) Try to see both Valletta and Mdina, therefore I like #4, if not then I am fine with #5.
<!!!Make sure you have enough Euro in cash. Some museums charged as high as 17Euro/pp. and does not take credit card. >

Cruise Port:
The ship's location is not far from the Capital itself, about a 20 minute steep walk. An elevator has just been built, to enable passengers an easy ride up to the old town.
There are plenty of taxis in the port, with rates to town and other destinations clearly marked.

Sightseeing:
- Sailing in to Valetta is a highlight of this destination: So do not sleep late, you do not want to miss this.
- Malta’s 7,000 years of history means cruise passengers have much to see and do, from megalithic temples dating from around 3,000 BC and thought to be the oldest free-standing structures in the world, to the old city of Mdina, shopping in Valletta, the Grand Master’s palace, or simply people-watching on the waterfront.
- Stroll the colorful streets of Valletta, taking in sights like the Grandmaster's Palace, the House of Parliament and Castille Palace.
- The Co-Cathedral of St John is a gem and a must-see. Home to Caravaggio's painting - The Beheading of St. John. Although the exterior is austere, the inside is ornate in Baroque style with intricately carved stone walls and beautifully painted vaulted ceilings.(A most opulent church, every inch covered in gold, paint or marble. In 1816 Pope Pius VII gave the church a cathedral status so that the single diocese of Malta had two cathedrals (the other one being St. Paul's in Midina), hence the term co-cathedral.) The 6 Euro admission includes an audio guide

- Dominating Palace Square, the Grand Master's Palace has always been the house of government in Malta, first by the knights, then the British and now hosts the President's office. When parliament is not in session you can visit the palace for free, and there is an awful lot to see in here.
- Map of sights in Valletta and Mdina: http://www.toursbylocals.com/TBL/WebObjects/ToursByLocals.woa/1/wo/A0lw62FbHvijmmqytQcZJ0/10.5.1.7.7 
- Top things to do in Valletta: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g190328-Activities-Valletta_Island_of_Malta.html 
Take the elevator up from the harbor water front to Barrakka Garden, the highest point of Valletta. Going up is 1 Euro/pp; going down is free.

Option 1 - Walk the old city of Valletta on own with a map.
Option 2 - http://www.toursbylocals.com/vallettatour "Valletta Guided Tour" 4-hour, USD$173 total (up to 4 people).
Option 3 - http://www.toursbylocals.com/malta-shore-excursion has a "Best Of Malta in 1 day" 8 hours, USD$416(up to 10 people) Covers Valletta, south coast, Blue Grotto, the ancient Hagar Qim Temple which dates back over 7000 years, and the old capital Mdina. (Entrance fees, bost ride, lunch, tips are additional.) May be too rushed?

Option 4 - http://www.toursbylocals.com/malta-attractions has a 4-hour tour of "Malta's 'Old & New' Capitals" (Valletta and Mdina). USD$278 (+$45 if 5-10) for a max of 10 people. It takes 30-min to transport from Valletta to Mdina and another 30-min to transport back, this tour leaves 90 minutes in each city. One can then spend the remaining half day in Valletta to browse on own.

Option 5 Viator has a 4-hour tour of Valletta and Mdina for USD$75.12/pp. No need to form your own small group. http://www.viator.com/tours/Valletta/Malta-Shore-Excursion-Private-tour-of-Valletta-and-Mdina/d4142-5361PRTMLAVALLETTA

Option 6 US-based Private-Shore-Trips has an 8-hour tour of "Valletta and Mdina" including walk to Upper Barrakka Gardens. This is a slow-paced tour. USD$97/pp if 8 people. USD$118/pp if 6 people, and USD$164/pp if 4 people. See http://www.privateshoretrips.com/Valletta-Cruise-Excursions-p/mvall-06.htm for details.
  • Drive to Valletta Gate - 15 Minutes
  • Walk to and visit Upper Barrakka Gardens - 50 Minutes
  • Explore Republic Street - 40 Minutes
  • Visit St John's Co-Cathedral - 1 Hour and 15 Minutes.
  • Visit the Grand Masters Place - 1 Hour and 30 Minutes
  • Free time for lunch - 1 Hour
  • Drive to Mdina - 30 Minutes
  • Mdina Walking Tour - 1 hour and 30 Minutes
  • Drive back to the pier - 30 Minutes
Option 7 - According to this internet blog, http://chiumemories.blogspot.com/2012/12/valletta-malta.html , there was a HOHO bus for €10/pp for the day which would take you to Mdina and some beach area.
Option 8 - Oceania has many 4-hr tours all priced at $119.
Option 9 - Customize a private small group tour with guide Amy Pace: http://www.guidedtoursmalta.com/
Sep 03 Cruising the Mediterranean Sea    
Sep 04 Rhodes, Greece 10:00 am 6:00 p.m.
Friday
Currency: EURO
For Tourist info, see http://www.ando.gr/eot/eng/info.htm and http://www.whatsinport.com/Rhodes.htm
Since this will be our 2nd visit to Rhodes, we'd consider go to Lindos to see the town and its Acropolis. Lindos is 50km (30 mile) south of Rhodes, about 1-hr and €55 by taxi, and about 80-min and €5 by public bus.
- Lindos: An ancient town sitting between two harbors, has some lovely beaches and well-preserved 15th century buildings, such as the Church of Panayia. The star attraction is the Acropolis of Lindos. A steep climb to the Acropolis reveals a medieval castle, a Byzantine church, remains of the Temple of Athena and other sites.

If staying in Rhodes Town, then go beyond the old town to see New Town. Also walk north from Commercial Harbor to view the Mandraki harbor.
- Mandraki harbor (in Rhodes): In use since the 5th century BC, was the main harbor for Rhodes for over 2500 years. Two bronze deer statues marking the site where once stood the feet of the Colossus of Rhodes. http://www.rhodesguide.org/mandraki-harbour/

A good Port Guide from Tom's: http://www.tomsportguides.com/Rhodes-02-20-2015.pdf 

Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- Walking (30 minutes) through the walled old town or along the harbor front (10 minutes), you will arrive at Rimini Square, from where buses and taxi's depart for Lindos. Taxis have a fixed rate of 55 euro one way, buses are very cheap. Lindos is about an hour away.
- In town there is a hop on/off bus, leaving at 10 am, at hourly intervals from the Tourist Harbor (Cruise terminal), 12 Euro.
- There is also a little tourist train going around Rhodes Town, however there is no transportation in the pretty Old Town which is only accessible on foot.

Option 1 - For folks who are in Rhodes (the main town of Rhodes Island is also called Rhodes) for the first time, the old town Rhodes and the Palace of the Grand Masters etc should be their first priority. That can be done DIY with a map.

Option 2 - The EAST SIDE Bus Terminal, Plateia Rimini (Rimini Square), is on the harborfront and about 15 minutes walk (or 10€ taxi) from cruise dock. (Or take/share a taxi from the taxi stand in Plateia Remini to Lindos.)
Bus schedule: http://www.ando.gr/eot/eng/BUS.pdf . As of 6/16/2014 (Need to update just before the trip)
RHODES- LINDOS:
06.15-06.45-08.00-09.00-09.30-10.00-10.30-11.00-11.30-12.00*-13.00-14.30, ....
LINDOS - RHODES:
.... -12.15-13.00-14.00*-14.30-15.30-16.30-, ....
According to this thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2014414
Lindos is about 50 kilometers south of Rhodes, ... Public bus from Rhodes to Lindos, in the morning a bus every half hour from Rhodes to Lindos. In the afternoon, the frequency is somewhat lower with 1 bus per hour. Along the route, the bus makes several stops at beach resorts. The travel time somewhat depends on the number of people getting on and off the bus. Expect 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. The ticket costs € 5 per person (one way). The center of Lindos is pedestrianized. Buses (including tour buses of the cruise lines) have to park at Kranas Square. This is about 20 minutes walk from the city center at the foot of the hill. The first part of the road is downhill. The only way to get to the highest point of the city is on foot or on the back of a donkey. You can consult the bus timetable in advance. From Kranas Square you can take a shuttle bus to the foot of the hill for € 0.5 per person (one way). For a taxi you pay € 4 per taxi (4 persons one way). Rhodes bus terminal is located on Plateia Rimini (Rimini Square) (https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=36.448593,28.2254&z=16&saddr=36.44793,28.22467&dirflg=w&output=classic&dg=opt ) is outside the city walls opposite the Tourist Office. The fastest way to get there is by taxi (€10, 4 persons, one way). You can also walk there. If you leave the dock, go right and stay on the waterfront. Enter the Old Town through the Arsenal Gate and leave it again via the Eleftheria (Liberty) Gate. Now go left and left again. It will take about 15-20 minutes.

Option 3 - Book a private tour with Rhodes Taxi Tours: http://www.rhodestaxitours.com/

OPtion 4 http://www.rhodesprivatetours.com/rhodes_island_Greece_private_tours.htm  . It sees a lot more. The website did not list price. You have to email them to get details. It is a taxi tour so 4 people will make a group. Great tripadvisor reviews at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g189449-d2645553-Reviews-Rhodes_Private_Day_Tours_in_Rhodes_Island-Rhodes_Dodecanese.html#REVIEWS
Sep 05 Limassol, Cyprus (Republic of Cyprus) 12:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.
Saturday
Currency: EURO
Limassol was built between two ancient cities, Amathus and Kourion. Limassol's historical centre is located around its medieval Limassol Castle and the Old Port.
Limassol itself is not anything spectacular. If you're into Crusader history, you can visit Kolossi Castle, which once upon a time served as headquarters for the Knights Templars (and later for the Knights of St John).
Kourion (also called Curium) is a beautiful ancient Greco-Roman site not far from Limassol.
Pétra tou Ro̱mioú - "Aphrodite's Rock", Aphrodite is the Godess of Cyprus.

A worthwhile place to visit is along the coast to the historic town & harbor of Paphos (or Pafos when google map), a UNESCO site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paphos  , about 50km and 45-min by car, 80-min by bus from Limassol, to see the Paphos Archaeological Park. Since this is a Saturday and we are not docking until 12 noon, option 3 is out of the question. So can do 1, 3, 4, or taxi both ways.

A picture blog on a shore excursion to Paphos: http://chiumemories.blogspot.com/2012/12/limassol-cyprus.html

Cyprus Tourist Information will set up booths right as you exit customs. They will have maps, booklets, bus schedules, etc.

Cruise Port:
The largest port facility, is situated in the western part of Limassol town. This New Port is 3km from the center (the old port) of Limassol. Bus 30 and free shuttle go to the old port. Walking is 30 min. The cruise terminal has duty-free shops, banks, TI etc.

Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- The most popular excursions: visit the sites of the Kourion (Curium) amphitheater and the sanctuary of Apollo, the Crusader castle at Kolossi and the House of Dionysus at Paphos.
- Self-drive is enormously popular, from cars and quad bikes to mopeds, bicycles and dune buggies. Driving is on the left.
- Buses are available outside the port terminal for Limassol city and other cities in Cyprus.
- The transurban service-taxis are shared taxis connecting all main towns (only during day time) .
- Taxis are inexpensive and a good way to travel around the island.
- (Added by Frances) To the west of Limassol are 3 first-rate attractions, all are a few minutes drive from each other:
1. Kourion - the great Greco-Roman archaeological sites has the wow factor. Sanctuary of Apollo. House of Estolios. Roman Agora. House of Achilles.” Open until 6pm.
2. Kolossi Castle - the best-preserved Crusader fort, 11 Km west of Limassol. Open until 6pm.
3. a fine private wine museum.

Option 1 - Discover Cyprus Private Tours: http://www.discovercyprustours.com/   review: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g190382-d4178635-Reviews-Discover_Cyprus_Private_Day_Tours-Limassol_Limassol_District.html#REVIEWS
1/8/2015: Booked a private tour for 4, from 12:15pm to 7pm, visiting Kolossi Castle, Kourion, and Paphos for 400Euro including entrance fees (that is 100Euro/pp). Paid 50Euro deposit with BofA Visa via PayPal to Paris of the DiscoverCyprusTours.com. Receipt and email exchanges are saved in hotmail's T_Malta-Cyprus folder.
Contact: Paraskevas Michailidis (Paris) and wife Kelly. Mobile: +357 - 99 444693 (from USA: 011+357+ 99 + 444693)
email:contact@discovercyprustours.info, Addr: akarnanias 32, ayia fyla, limassol 3118, Cyprus
associate: Andreas +357-96-381480 or Tel nr +357-96-366142

Option 2 - If one just wants to go from Limassol port to Limassol town, then take bus #30 (€3). Bus is about every 15-min. Stops and route map see: http://www.cyprusbybus.com/RouteDetails.aspx?id=40

Option 3 For 5E for a r/t ticket, one can take an 80 minute ride to and from Pahpos. This bus runs directly from the same bus stop right at the cruise port. The bus drops you in the middle of town, which was about 3 KM walk to the Paphos archaeological park. See if you could get the Paphos local bus schedule to get to/ from to give more time at the sites. One could easily see the frescoes and Paul's pillar/ church on a short day trip.
http://www.intercity-buses.com/index.php?link=routedetails.php&serial=14
[NOTE by Mei: Our port day is a Saturday, buses between Limassol and Paphos would be very sparse (08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:30, 16:00, 18:30). See http://www.cyprusbybus.com/routedetails.aspx?id=189 ]
http://www.pafosbuses.com/

Option 4 While waiting at the bus stop by the cruise ship, one may get offers of other tours from local taxis/ guides. Some might offer 5 hour tours that would cover both Paphos and Limassol....for 15E/pp for a group of 16, or 20E/pp for a group of 8. (And then take/share a taxi back.)
Option 5 - One may hire a bus from CyprusByBus.com ( info@cyprusbybus.com ,) to plan your own sight-seeing, visiting Curium Ruins, Omodos and Limassol. If about 20 people, the price is 30Euro/pp. Each person pays the bus company directly.

option 6 - google "paphos tours from limassol" got http://www.toursincyprus.com/offer/8289/Paphos-&-Kourion-Tour-from-Limassol-Cyprus#.VKcUQ3tSKTY  and http://www.paphostours.com/offer/8289/Paphos-&-Kourion-Tour-from-Limassol-Cyprus#.VKcUlXtSKTY (from Nov-April), same tour visiting Paphos & Kourion from Limassol Cyprus for about 8 hours for $66.44 (pick up from downtown hotel only). Sent email inquiry if they will do a customized group tour on our visiting day, Sept. 5th. Their response (from Alcatraz Media Inc in Atlanta, Georgia, USA) for a private tour from cruise terminal is $1360 for up to 15 people, about $90/pp, but the Charter Agreement contract's wording was just too intimidating to accept. (Not worth the trouble.)
Option 7 - ToursByLocals, http://www.toursbylocals.com/Limassol-Tours#Category16 - the only guide listed on ToursByLocals in Limassol and Pafos were the same person, Andreas T.. He could customize a tour for your private group. His fee seemed to be USD$484 for 8 people. He lives in Paphos. A client posted online comments saying his jeep was old, not comfortable for older people, and was too crowded for 8.
Option 8 - Oceania's 5-hr tour to Pafos is $129/pp (LML-006-PAFOS); 7.25 hr tour to Pafos + Kourion is $199/pp (LML-003)
Option 9 - Spanos Tour Cyprus: http://spanosbusescyprus.com/, using buses and very economical.

Sep 06 Jerusalem (Haifa), Israel 7:00 a.m.  
Sunday

Currency: Israel New Shekel(ILS)

1USD=3.805 ILS
1ILS=0.2623 USD
Due to a long drive to Jerusalem, my highest priority is Jerusalem (both the old and new city). Everything else, such as the Bethlehem or Dead Sea or Masada, are not required since they will have to short-cut Jerusalem.

Tourist map of Israel: http://www.mapisrael.info/jerusalem 
Port Haifa overview: http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=469; and http://www.whatsinport.com/Haifa.htm
Jerusalem overview (from port Ashdod) http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=470

Cruise Port:
- Haifa Port is Israel's main passenger ship port handling both cruise and ferry line traffic. The 5,500 sq meter facility has a cafeteria, currency changer, parking facilities, and a bus terminal for excursion groups. The train station is only a 2-min walk from the cruise terminal where you can catch the train into Tel Aviv. Car rentals can also be arranged.
- You will be docked in the center of the city. Be aware: Haifa is a hilly town.
- Most cruise passengers skip Haifa and opt for the two- three hour drive to Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Still, Haifa has some sights that are worth exploring.
- neshar/sherut - is a shared van, inexpensive.

Attractions in Old City of Jerusalem: (Be on guard, pickpockets can be a problem in the Old City)

  • (In Christian Quarter) Church of the Holy Sepulchre - a large building spanning several areas in which Christ is believed to have been crucified and died, buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day.
    - Note: the "church" is not one church in the sense of a building with an altar and podium near the front, but rather a "warehouse" of churches even for each denomination present, each has several altars and chapels.
  • (In Muslim Quarter) Temple Mount - on which the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated. Entries to the two sites is only allowed by Muslims.
    - Dome of the Rock - It enshrines the great rock from where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. This association has made the building (together with the neighbouring al-Aqsa Mosque) the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The Dome was built between 687-691 by the ninth Omayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik. It was constructed directly on top of the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple. The Dome is probably the most spectacular building in the Old City thanks to a recent renovation in which dazzling gold donated by the King of Jordan (1993) was layered over the bronze.
  • al-Aqsa Mosque - Construction of mosque began less than 20 years after the completion of the Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa has undergone many changes since its original construction. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in the 11th century, al-Aqsa became the headquarters of the Templars. This is 3rd in holiness for Muslims everywhere, after the great mosques of Mecca and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia.
  • (In Jewish Quarter) The Western Wall - As part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, it was built by Herod the Great during his expansion of the Temple in 20 BC. The wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage during the Ottoman Period where they lamented the destruction of the temple by the hands of the Romans in AD 70. For this reason it has also become known as the "Wailing Wall".
  • (In Armenian Quarter) - (Any major sight?)
  • Walk the Via Dolorosa - the "way of sorrows" traces the last steps of Christ from where he carried the cross walking to his crucifixion, and the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcre where he is said to have been buried. There is no historical basis for the 0.25 km (0.16 miles) route, which has changed over the centuries. See a map of route from east to west here: http://www.holylandnetwork.com/jerusalem/via_dolorosa/via_dolorosa.htm
Outside the Old City walls:
  • Mount of Olives / Garden of Gethsemane -
  • Bethlehem - Jesus' birth place, but today it is part of Palestine, and surrounded by security walls. 15-min south of Jerusalem. Time-consuming to visit, so can just skip.
Based on my thinking, spending Day 1 with a small group tour to Jerusalem. Spending Day 2 in the north visiting Galilee lead by a guide or spending an independent morning to Akko (Acre) and afternoon in Haifa. 

Option 1 - Guided Tours Israel, www.GuidedToursIsrael.com , to visit Jerusalem.(#6 on Tripadvisor the last time I checked.) They do private tours, but also do small group shore-excursion which cost USD$115/pp for a day excursion from Haifa to Jerusalem ( http://www.guidedtoursisrael.com/shore-excursions/from-haifa-port/jerusalem-excursion-from-haifa-port/ ). .

12/12/2014: Tours set up by Frances with Guided Tours Israel. Jerusalem full day.
Date: September 6, 2015
Itinerary: Full day tour to Jerusalem. (No West Bank, such as Bethlehem or Dead Sea.)
Pick-up Location: Haifa Port.
Emergency contact in Israel: +972-772-285-094
Ship: Oceania Insignia
Docking time: 7:00am
Tour start time: 08:00am. Meet with the group at 7:45 am on Deck 4 seating area by the Destination Desk.
*******
See meeting place at the end of this day's notes. (At lunch break, ask guide where to eat falafel.)
*****

Duration of tour: 9-10 hours
Drop-off: Haifa Port
Price:  $115USD/pp pay cash to guide
If interested in joining, go to http://www.GuidedToursIsrael.com and quote this booking number:
Reservation Reference #: 090615-S2-8805-FW
12/14/2015, My booking #: 090615-S2-8805-VT, booking name is "Vincent Tzeng" for 2.
Cancellation Policy: 3.5% fee if >7 days or cruise ship does not dock. 25% if less than 7 days. No refund if less than 24 hours.
Itinerary:
- Mount of Olives - One of three peaks of a mountain ridge just east of the Old City. Was a necropolis in ancient time. Jesus was described to have ascended to heaven from here.
- Garden of Gethsemane - a garden at the foot of Mount Olives. It is said that Jesus and his disciples came to pray on the night of his arrest. The name Gethsemane is derived from the Aramaic word, meaning oil press.
- Jaffa Gate -
on the west side of the old city wall
- Church of the Holy Sepulcher - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Holy_Sepulchre
- Via Dolorosa
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Dolorosa
- Western Wall / Wailing Wall
- Arab Souk
- Arab souk (market) that sprawls across the Christian and Moslem Quarters in Jerusalem's Old City. http://www.gojerusalem.com/items/218/Arab-Souk/  The souk is a genuine Jerusalem landmark, the mercantile heart of Jerusalem from at least Ottoman times and up to the present. The high arches and ceilings of the souk are a result of the same Ottoman largesse that gave the Old City its current walls, and no matter how many European tourists are being led to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by way of the chintzy gift stalls at any given time, one gets the impression that the rhythms of the souk have remained the same for hundreds of years.
- Roman Cardo
- (Cardo in Latin means axis) Cardo is a north–south-oriented street in Roman cities.  Excavated in the Jewish Quarter in the 1970s. http://bennypowers.com/sample-tours/the-jewish-quarter-of-jerusalem/the-roman-cardo/  stretching from the Damascus gate in the north to the Nea Church in the south with the Sepulchre Church (formerly the temple to Venus) in the middle.
- Christian and Jewish Quarters -
on the 2nd and 4th quadrant of the old city (the 1st is Muslim, the 3rd is Armenian)
- Israel Museum with the Dead Sea scrolls
-- Israel Museum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Museum; Dead Sea scrolls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls,
AND/OR
- Yad Vashem memorial - brief stop subject to time only
(This is Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust)
======
Teammates: Bethro: Larry and Roanne Coplin, Gainesville, FL
rmwchk: Rosie and George Ching
Candace x 2 - Candace and Rodney from Sydney, Australia
Judith x 2 - Judith and Owen Snider
James x 2 - James and Shelley Campbell
Gerard x 2 - Gerald and Chantel (Rolland?)

(1) Please note the following meeting procedures when disembarking in Israel.
IN GENERAL - We have special access to the ports and can sometimes enter the ports when others can not, so please do not follow the ship's announcements and kindly read carefully the meeting arrangements below:
At the HAIFA PORT - in the absolute majority of cases the ship will arrive at the main passengers’ dock (gate 5). As you exit the ship - kindly walk upstairs (you can take the escalator) to the only passengers’ arrivals hall. We will be waiting to greet you with a sign to begin the tour. In rare cases - if the ship is required to dock outside of the passengers’ dock there will be a shuttle service to take you to the arrivals hall. In these rare cases, please check first if your guide is waiting for you outside the ship (look for a sign with your name on it) and only after that board the free shuttle to the terminal.

(2) Have comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a bottle of water with you at all times. There will be many places to buy water along the way but you may wish to bring water with you from the ship.

(3) In some holy places modest dress-code is enforced. Wear clothing that covers the shoulders, chest, and below the knees (no shorts or sleeveless shirts please).

(4) Kindly bring US or Israeli cash with you for lunch, small admission fees if needed, and tip for the guide. You should budget approximately $10-$20 per person for lunch (depending on preferences) or you may bring a packed lunch from the ship.
Sep 07 Jerusalem (Haifa), Israel, Day 2   1:00 p.m.
Monday My idea is to spend this "Day 2" in the north, visiting Galilee lead by a guide, or spending an independent half-day to Akko (Acre) and the rest in Haifa. (Find opportunity to eat Hummus w/pita bread.)

On 8/10, Oceania notified us of schedule change to depart port at 1pm (instead of 4pm), so it looks like AKKO is a wash. We may have to stay in Haifa, or take O's excursion to AKKO if it still runs one.

Option 1 - Joining Guided Tours Israel, ( www.GuidedToursIsrael.com ) , for a shore excursion to Galilee, http://www.guidedtoursisrael.com/shore-excursions/from-haifa-port/galilee-shore-excursion/ , $99/pp.

Option 2 - Organize a private tour with a guide. However, here is a scathing review of a guide named Dina Horn (dinatouring@gmail.com, rec'd on Fordor's ) who also has many positive reviews on Tripadvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293984-d4723352-r210542475-Enjoy_Israel_Private_Day_Tours-Tel_Aviv_Tel_Aviv_District.html#REVIEWS . In general, guides are always looking for their next (or next to next) job, so they can be on the phone a lot, or can cancel. Dina Horn lives north of Haifa. She offers cruise excursions by charging around $109/pp. Look up her website for sample itinerary: http://www.enjoy-israel.com/DayTours

Option 3 - Hire Moti B. [Moti Bar-Tuv (moti@travel-israel.info] for a private tour if you can get him.

Option 4 - hire UDI from Udi & Keppy Guberman of “Travel Israel” (http://www.travelisrael.co.il/about-us/) to the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth, however, our group took a different route. We were to visit Caesarea, Akko (Acre), Rosh Hanikra, and a sunset view of the Bahai’ Gardens, and they accommodated our group of 12. Rosh Hanikra is famed for its magnificent grottos and is in the north bordering the country of Lebanon.

Option 5 - Take the train to Akko (aka Acre) which is 26km north of Haifa (about 30 minutes). Then take a 5 minute taxi ride to the Old City. (This info is from http://www.whatsinport.com/Haifa.htm  )

A brief history of AKKO: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Acre.html. Try to eat Hummus with pita bread (and Arabic pickled vegetable) if you can: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Hummus.html .
AKKO Visitors Info: http://www.akko.org.il/en/, and click to watch an 8-min video.
Attractions in AKKO: http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/acre-isr-nr-ak.htm
AKKO old city map: http://www.planetware.com/i/map/ISR/akko-old-city-map.jpg (print this map to take with on the trip , as well as the "AKKO-Old City" map on Fodor's "Israel" page 335).
Akko attractions:

  • The citadel - an Ottoman fortification, built on the foundation of the Hospitallerian citadel. The citadel was part of the city's defensive formation. During the 20th century the citadel was used mainly as a prison and as the site for a gallows. During the British mandate period, activists of Jewish Zionist resistance movements were held prisoner there; several were executed there.
  • Hall of the Crusader Knights at the Citadel - Under the citadel and prison of Acre, archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls, which was built and used by the Hospitallers Knights. This complex was a part of the Hospitallers' citadel, which was combined in the northern wall of Acre. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, one recently excavated large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and remains of an ancient Gothic church. Medieval European remains include the Church of Saint George and adjacent houses at the Genovese Square . There were also residential quarters and marketplaces run by merchants from Pisa and Amalfi in Crusader and medieval Acre.
  • Khan el Umdan - 'Inn of the Pillars'. Old Akko has several large khans (an inn enclosing a courtyard, a caravanserai [客棧]) which once served the camel caravans bringing in grain from the hinterland. The grandest is the Khan al-Umdan . Its name means 'Inn of the Pillars', and it was built by Al-Jazzar in 1785. The pillars that give the khan its name were looted from Caesarea. It is a two story structure and the ground floor would have housed the animals, while their merchant owners would have slept upstairs.
  • El-Jazzar Mosque - Occupying the site of the Crusader cathedral, the Ahmed el-Jazzar Mosque was built in 1781 on the model of an Ottoman domed mosque. It is one of Israel's most prominent mosque.
  • Pisan Harbor - built by Crusader seamen from Pisa, Italy
  • Try Hummus w/Pita bread - at "Hummus Said" at the Market, very creamy with a lot of Tahini in it.
Transportation from Haifa to AKKO:
http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Middle_East/Israel/Haifa_District/Akko-1709416/Transportation-Akko-TG-C-1.html 
  1) By train: Train is probably the most convenient way to get to Akko as it is on the main Israeli train track, during the day there’s a train every 20-min from Haifa(15 NIS), train ride is about 38-MIN. The Haifa train station (Haifa Bat Galim, or the next stop, Haifa Center HaShmona) are right outside the port. See Google map: http://goo.gl/maps/Z4BY .
Train route map: http://www.rail.co.il/EN/Stations/Pages/israelrailways-station_index.aspx  (For Outbound, heading Nahariya direction. Haifa Bat Galim -> Haifa Center HaShmona -> Lev HaMifrais -> ... ->Kiryat Motzkin -> ACRE -> Nahariya).
Train schedule: http://www.rail.co.il/EN/Pages/Homepage.aspx (Outbound from Haifa Bat Galim 7:56, 8:16, 8:36, 8:56, ...; INBOUND from AKO 12:52, 13:12, 13:52, 14:12, 14:31, ...) duration is about 38 minutes. Trains departing from Haifa Center HaShmona is about 5-minutes after that train departs from Haifa Bat Galim.)

  2) By bus: There are Egged buses (www.eggedtours.com) from Carmel in Haifa (11,70 NIS) or some other buses (271, 272, 251, 262, 361, 500)

   3) By shared taxi (sherut): Take a sherut (shared taxi) from port. It was cheap (about 13 NIS each) and easy to get (just waved your hands and asked the driver if he goes to Akko as they have signs in Hebrew only). A private taxi is about 113 NIS. It will be about 40-min if the traffic is not too bad. In AKKO, stop at AKKO Old City Visitor Center first. (I think private taxi is the easiest option.)

Option 6 - Fodor's Israel guidebook said, "Two well-known companies, Egged Tours and United Tours, offer one-day trips to Akko from Haifa." But www.eggedtours.com lumps 3 other sites with AKKO, and http://www.unitedtours.co.il/articles.html also lumps AKKO with 3 other sites, and departs from Tel Aviv (not Haifa).

Options 7 - O has a 5-hr excursion to AKKO for $119/pp (HFA-011). But $119 can pay for a r/t taxi to AKKO with change.

Sep 08 Suez Canal Transit    
Sep 09 Cruising the Red Sea    
Sep 10 Aqaba, Jordan 5:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
Thursday

Currency: Jordanian Dinar(JOD or JD)
1USD=0.706 JOD
1JOD=1.406 USD
I think the question is, to Petra & Wadi Rum or just Petra. Petra is 2-hr drive from Aqaba, while Wadi Rum is on the way back from Petra to Aqaba. Most tours do Petra in the morning, and then include a lengthy lunch in town. So we'll have to make sure our private tour does not waste too much time at lunch. Also, take a jacket, it is FREEZING there. Higher altitude. Where the ship is it was 90 degrees. At Petra in the 60's. (Petra means Rock, Sig means gorge.)
  • Petra, constructed some 2,200 years ago by the ancient Arab tribe of the Nabataeans, is a significant and breathtaking archeological site. This ancient city carved into solid red sandstone mountains features temples, a monastery, tombs, a columbarium (a building with niches for funeral urns), monuments and grand boulevards.
    - Sandals will become a liability, lace up your sneakers and wear comfortable socks while you're at it.
    - Petra "Siq" is the mile-long entrance to the ancient city.
    - You enter Petra after a 45-minute walk along a sandy pathway that leads into a narrow and deep tunnel cut into the mountains. (A hint: For those who don't want to walk too much you can ride, via horse and buggy or by donkey, from the ticket booth area to the beginning of the dead city.) You feel like you are meandering through canyons. Note the narrow aqueducts that are naturally formed as a result of water, which has relentlessly and with force actually carved ledges out of the rock walls. It'll remind you how ancient this place is.
    - The Bedouins tribe members were the last actual residents of Petra. In a move still considered controversial, they were made to leave the ancient city in the 1980's and were resettled nearby.
    - Petra was rediscovered by the Western World in 1812 when the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab, visited the ruins.
     
  • Wadi Rum, (Wadi= valley or dry river bed. Rum means 'high' or 'elevated'), is a desert with sandstone mountains and canyons. Much of the David Lean's 1962 movie "Lawrence of Arabia" was filmed on location here. British officer T. E. Lawrence was based in Wadi Rum as a member of the British Forces of North Africa serving as a liaison officer with rebel forces during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18 against the Ottoman Turks. Wadi Rum appeared in T.E. Lawrence's autobiographical account "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- At the gate, cabs are waiting to take you into town, or you can walk another 15 - 20 minutes to reach Aqaba Castle.
- Taxi are fairly available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than 2JD. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around 3JD.
- A taxi for an all day Petra round trip is now 74JD or Euro 80. People going independently must be aware that the entrance fee to Petra is 50JD (~ $70USD) per person !  (Bu for locals, the admission is 1JD.)
- Aqaba is relatively close to both Wadi Rum and Petra. Public buses go to both, but only depart when there are enough passengers. Alternatively, there are a lot of tour companies around town who would happily arrange excursions, in particular to Wadi Rum.

Option 1 Petra Nights Tours: http://www.PetraNightsTours.com (reviewed on Tripadvisor): Has a 10-hour private shore-excursion to Petra +lunch+ 1.5 hrs jeep tour Wadi Rum; USD295/pp (if 2 pax) ~ USD219/pp (if 8 pax). http://www.petranightstours.com/shore-excursion-petra/shore-excursion-petra-and-wadi-rum/itinerary/?ID=472&Link=228&TourID=453  . Pricy, but reputable. Are there better options?

1/12/2015 - booked with PNT for the above 10-hr Petra + Wadi Rum excursion for 4. (Teammates: Rosanna and George Ching from Vancouver). Ref#12771. $230/pp. Paid 25% deposit. The remainder, $172.50/pp is due 7 days prior (by 9/3/2015). Cancellation is 14 days prior. Emergency contact is +962 7777 99680. (Bring passport, or a photo copy of passport)
8/23/2015 - paid the remainder, 172.50 x 2 =$345 online.
Estimated timeline:
06:00 pick up Aqaba Port - PNT rep will wait by the ship's exit door with our names.
08:30 Petra - Meet guide. Start to the Siq, then Treasury. Continue along the Street of Facades, if time permits to the Royal Tombs to Qasr Al Bint.
  - A 700-meter horse back ride from Main Gate to the beginning of the Sig is provided, but we can decline.
13:30 lunch - at local restaurant (a buffet in a restaurant near the Petra visitor center.)
14:30 transfer to Wadi Rum
16:00 arrival Wadi Rum for jeep ride
17:30 end of jeep tour and transfer to Aqaba port
18:30 reach Aqaba Port
Tips guide line from PNT: day drivers $5 USD/pp, local guide in Petra $14 USD/per guide, jeep driver Wadi Rum: $8 USD/per jeep, horse boys in Petra $5 USD/per horse, at restaurants 5-10 % of your bill.
Sep 11 Cruising the Red Sea    
Sep 12 Cruising the Red Sea    
Sep 13 Cruising the Red Sea    
Sep 14 Cruising the Gulf of Aden    
Sep 15 Salalah, Oman 10:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday

Currency:Omani Rial(OMR)

1USD=0.38365OMR
1OMR=2.588 USD
Cruise critic info about port Salalah: http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=489
Salalah is Sultanate of Oman's second-largest city. While not as beautiful as the country's capital, Muscat, Salalah has considerable charm as a cruise port of call. (khareef means monsoon, hope we are not visiting during khareef.)
If you want pretty Arabia, you'll find it here -- complete with leafy boulevards, lit by black and gold filigree lamps and lined with elegant, low buildings that have been created in traditional Islamic style, with elaborate latticework balconies and lovely, curved windows.
Then there are the fragrant groves of frankincense trees, which have earned Salalah the title of "Arabia's Perfume Capital". Salalah and Dhofar (the province it is in) are historically famous for the frankincense trade.

Cruise Port
Cruise ships dock in an industrial area. This terminal had no cruise terminal building and it is surrounded by desert. Use taxis or ship provided transportation. The port is a 15-minute drive from downtown. Shuttles are often provided. Taxis are anywhere between 12 to 20 Riads (USD$30-$52), depending on your negotiating skills.

Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- Salalah has limited tourist attractions: Palace of the Sultan (only to be admired from afar), a somewhat glitzy new mosque and a souque.
- Going from one place to another have to depend upon taxis or share-taxis. Taxi drivers are very nice in Oman. Taxis are somewhat expensive, about 40 rial for a 2 hour sightseeing.
- Many cruise lines offer a tour that's essentially roundtrip transportation to the souk.

Resources: wiki travel ( http://wikitravel.org/en/Salalah ), Middleeast Virtual Cruise ( www.cruisecritic.com/virtual/virtual.cfm?ID=13&page=5 ), and a cruisecritic message board ( http://boards.cruisecritic.com/archive/index.php/t-1914180.html ). One needs to get out of the port area in order to see the city (both new and old), green blvd and the beach area. Taxi are not metered, agree on a price and type of currency before getting in.
Top 3 sights to see:
  • Sultan Qaboos' Palace
  • Al-Husn Souq - (10am-1pm & 4:30-9:30pm) Head for this souq to rub shoulders with the jovial Dhofari people. The alleyways next to the sultan’s palace flap with colourful cotton headdresses, smoke with aromatic frankin- cense and sparkle with imitation jewellery. This is a good place to see how the Omani hats are made.
  • The Haffa Souq - The old city is confined to the area called Haffa. The Haffa souq(market place) has wide range of collectables to offer: frankinsence, dates, handicrafts, souvenirs etc.
  • Al Balid archeological site - At Sultan Qaboos Street (Near Haffa and Dahariz areas). A UNESCO World Heritage Sites Land of Frankincense. The ruins of Al Baleed site are approachable by walking or taking a ride on the golf cart. There is a entry ticket of OMR 2 per vichle and OMR 0.5 per person for golf cart ride. There is also a museum there called Frankincense Land Museum. The Museum hosts artifacts found at Al Baleed site, models for various types of boats and ships and information about Oman. http://wikimapia.org/7941120/Al-Balid-Al-Baleed-Archaeological-Site Its location is right by the beach/ocean.
Option 1 - How about the East Salalah tour from http://www.omanlastminute.com/salalahexcursions.php for some landscape?
- 1/17/2015 Booked a half day East Salalah excursion from OmanLastMinuteTravel, 10:30am-2:30pm, $285USD for 4PAX. Pay driver. Pick up is 10:20am at the Port Gate.
- Tour description: http://www.omanlastminute.com/detail.php?p=114 
- visits Taqah Fort, Khor Rouri Creek (site of ruins of Sumhuram archaeological site, ancient capital of Arabia's Frankincense trade, a UNESCO site (Dated to between 1st century BC and 4th AD this was a trading town for Frankincense and on trade routes between Rome and Indian ports like Barigaza (in Gujarat)), and Mirbat, the old city of Arabian horses and Slave trade.

Option 2 - I read that 4 can share a taxi to the Souk, and ask the taxi to wait for an hour, then back, for USD$80. One way is also USD$80, because they wanted to do round-trip. Agree on a price in US currency, because the driver may ask for pounds after coming back. But which Souk is this? Also, since we'll be seeing Mutrah Souk in Muscat, why pay $80 taxi fare to see a Souk in Salalah?
Option 3 - O has a 4-hr Arabian Heritage tour for $109/pp, and a 4-hr Scenic Salalah for $149/pp.
Option 4 - How about this one of the half-day trips from  Oman Excursions http://www.salalah.travel/SalalahDayTrips.htm ?(But they did not reply to my email inquiry.)
Option 5 - If no organized tour pans out, take a taxi to Al Balid (Al Baleed) archeological site.
Sep 16 Cruising the Arabian Sea    
Sep 17 Muscat, Oman 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Thursday

Currency:Omani Rial(OMR)

1USD=0.38365OMR
1OMR=2.588 USD
CruiseCritic Muscat port overview: http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=559
Unlike Dubai or Abu Dhabi (all shining skyscrapers and shopping malls, glittering temples to excess), Muscat stands for completely different values: tradition, history, restraint. It is deeply conservative and has always placed an emphasis on careful, controlled development. So Muttrah, the old waterfront part of Muscat and the first view to greet cruise passengers, has been carefully preserved, presenting a blend of traditional architecture and rugged natural beauty.

Muscat is in a beautiful setting. The old part of the town, hemmed in by terracotta-colored mountains, spans a graceful waterfront. Its corniche is flanked by a 16th-century hilltop fort at either end, remnants of the time the Portuguese occupied Oman, protecting their trade routes to the east. ( For 150 years, from the 1500's, Oman was occupied by the Portuguese.)

Modern Muscat sprawls out behind the mountains, away from the sea, but for independent exploration, the old part of the city is easily walkable and safe; it's there that you'll find the winding alleys of the souk, or market.

MAKE SURE you carry wet wipes or tp. Another BIG reason to wear a skirt not pants - not only are they cool to wear, but the first time you encounter a squat toilet, you will be glad you have on a skirt and NOT a pair of slacks.

People are welcoming. It's easy enough to figure your way around (though English is less present than in Dubai). There are banks with ATM's through which you can extract Omani rial.

Cruise Port:
The pier is located 6km to the center of Muscat, in a subdivision called Muttrah. Due to local transportation regulations the port shuttle service could only carry passengers to the port gate. At the port gate there are plenty of taxis. If you plan to use a taxi they are not metered but the rates are set by the government:
- 10 Rial (20 Euro) per hour for the first 3 hours, 7 Rial per hour thereafter.

Resources:
- http://www.whatsinport.com/Muscat.htm 
- Middle East Virtual: http://www.cruisecritic.com/virtual/virtual.cfm?ID=13&page=2
- wikitravel of Muscat: http://wikitravel.org/en/Muscat
- Search results of "Muscat Oman" on CruiseCritic site.

Attractions:
  • (Sultan Qaboos) Grand Mosque - the 3rd largest mosque in the world. According to Oman Tourism website, the Grand Mosque is open to non-Muslims every day, except Friday/Holiday, from 8:30 to 11:00 am. Visitors are asked to dress modestly and in a way befitting places of worship. (For women, bring a scarf to cover your hair.) Must sees in the mosque include the 14-meter tall chandelier, the world's second largest single piece carpet (hand woven, the carpet measures over 70 × 60 meters, and covers the 4,343 square meter area of the praying hall; surpassed only by the carpet in the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi) and the marble paneling. The Grand Mosque was inaugurated on May 4, 2001.
    - it is located (west of) outside of town on the way to the airport. According to Google map, driving distance from Mutrah Souk to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is 25km, and is 22-min on taxi.
     
  • Start in Mutrah - where you'll find the heart of the old town with its fabulous souk. Bus will take you from pier to port gate, then you may walk 10-min to Mutrah souk. Another poster from Oceania Nautica said that "The ship provided a shuttle to the Muttrah Souk.", so may be we'll have shuttle all the way to Mutrah souk.
    - Plenty of taxis will be waiting outside the port gate. Agree on a price and currency before getting in. (Although a published municipality taxi prices are posted on a large sign next to the taxi rank).
     
  • Mutrah Corniche - a popular place within walk distance of Mutrah Souk for its many eating places. Climb to the base of Mutrah Fort (at the east end of the Corniche walk) for a spectacular view of the city.
     
  • Al Alam Royal Palace - Guarded by the twin forts of Jalali and Mirani, this is the office of Sultan Qaboos. This beautiful palace stands on the head of a natural deep water harbor. Visitors are not allowed to visit the palace, but they are allowed to take photographs at the entrance of the palace. (About 5-min drive from Mutrah Souk.)
Option 1 - Book a half-day city tour with Oman Last Minute: http://www.OmanLiastMinute.com. Good reviews on TripAdvisor.
- 1/14/2015 Booked a half-day tour for 4 PAX of its "Muscat City Tour Mystic Muscat" from 8:30am - 12:30pm (Need to move back one hour to 9:30am - 1:30pm) USD$55/pp, pay the guide in cash on tour day. Cancellation anytime before the trip. No show 100% fee.
Pick Up time: 08:30 Am. A guide from OmanLastMinute.com will be with a sign (Mei Tzeng?) in front of the Port Main Gate. Use the free shuttle Bus from ship to the port terminal. After going through X-ray and security at the port terminal, REBOARD your shuttle bus to continue to the port gate. Your private guide/car cannot come inside the port, they can only wait outside the port gate so you must reboard your shuttle to continue to the port gate. Emergency contact phone :in Oman [968]-9771-0486 Manager: Mr. Mohamed Mahmoud
Tour detail: http://www.omanlastminute.com/detail.php?p=126 
-- a drive through the Embassy Quarter, we were promised via email to visit inside Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (open daily between 0800-1100am, except Fridays/holidays). (*Dress Code for the mosque : Loose long trousers or long skirts, long sleeves and a head scarf for ladies. No shorts for men.)
-- Muttrah fish market, and stroll along the Corniche, see old merchant houses .
-- to the Old Town, pass towering Portuguese forts (Jalali, Qasr Al Alam,and Mirani) as well as the Palace of Sultan Qaboos.
-- the last Stop is Bait Al Zubair Museum (http://www.baitalzubairmuseum.com/) for a fine display of Omani culture and history, then Back to Ship.


Option 2 - Find another couple to share a taxi to the Grand Mosque. Have the taxi wait for a hour, then come back to Mutrah Souk for a browse, then walk to Corniche. (Remember, we'll also see the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.)
Option 3 - Find a guide through Tours by Locals? http://www.toursbylocals.com/MuscatOmanShoreTours (5-hr, USD$200 for 4 people. Not bad at all.)
Option 4 - contact http://omanlastminute.com/muscatexcursions.php to form a private tour
Option 5 - Viator offers a 4-hr city highlights for $48.21/pp: http://www.viator.com/tours/Muscat/Muscat-Shore-Excursion-Private-City-Highlights-Tour/d4389-2168PRTMCTCAPITAL (Visit the Grand Mosque, Muttrah Fish Market and Muttrah Souk on a stroll along the corniche, explore Muscat Old Town and see Portuguese fortresses, visit to Bait Al Zubair Museum.) - However, it does not offer this tour (or a private city tour) on 9/17/2015, our date.
Option 6 - contact Sunshine tours of Oman for a tour: http://www.sunshinetoursoman.com/
Sep 18 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 5:00 p.m.  
Friday

Currency: Emirati Dirham(AED)
1AED=0.248 USD
1USD=4.03 AED
We arrive in the evening at 5pm. What can be done for the rest of the evening?
Isn't Friday the weekly holiday for the Muslims?

Oceania offers a FREE shore-side Event in the evening. Not sure if it is free to all or just free to World Cruise guests and Grand Voyager guests. Our Barcelona to Singapore segment qualifies us as Grand Voyager guests. Our Oceania agent has signed up this event for the two of us. The event is called "A NIGHT OF GLAMOUR IN ABU DHABI", starting at 7pm. Arrive in stretch limousine to the 7-star Emirates Palace for cocktail & dinner. Duration is 4 hours.
*** EVENT description:***
Rising majestically from the Arabian Desert, the seven-star Emirates Palace is one of the most expensive hotels ever built. Occupying over nine million square feet with suites furnished in gold and marble, the resort offers nearly a mile of pristine beaches and more than 200 acres of stunning gardens. Arrive in style in a deluxe super stretch limousine for cocktails and canapés followed by a dinner prepared by some of the best chefs in the world.
See the next day, 9/19's, detailed description of Emirates Palace Hotel.

Other options to consider if one were without the FREE shoreside Event:
Option 1 - Take a walk near the port area? There are traditional Fish souq and Vegetable souq 500m from the Al Mina port, but they may be closed in the evening.
Option 2 - Go to Marina Mall to browse? It is 13km and 15-min taxi ride from Mina Zayed Port. Mall opens Saturday- Wednesday 10:00 am -10:00 pm; Thursday 10:00 am- 11:00 pm; Friday 02:00 pm- 11:00 pm.
Option 3 - a short taxi ride to the Lake Park (and beaches) in E Cornish near Le Royal Meridien Hotel? (Lake Park - 1st Street - Al Danah, 5km, 7-min taxi from Mina Zayed Port.)
Option 4 - Adventurous enough to go on a night desert safari? See http://www.abudhabiadventure.com/abu-dhabi-night-safari.html as an example, or a day trip like http://www.abudhabiadventure.com/abu-dhabi-night-safari.html
Option 5 - some fellow cruisers use EMIRATES Tours and Safari ( http://eatours.ae/ ) to book their Abu Dhabi and Dubai excursions.

Sep 19 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates   11:00 p.m.
Saturday

Currency: Emirati Dirham(AED)
1AED=0.248 USD
1USD=4.03 AED
Oceania's website said this about Abu Dhabi:
"As the world's richest city, Abu Dhabi boasts opulent hotels, museums and a yacht-filled marina, all marvels of modern architecture. Explore the emirate's old souks, sip a fragrant Arabic coffee, ride the dunes on an exhilarating desert safari, or dive into dazzling marine life."

(The United Arab Emirates is a confederation of seven sheikdoms (regions headed by a sheik or emir), or emirates , located on the shore of the Persian Gulf.)

The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest of the nation's seven emirates. Covering 80 percent of the land mass of the U.A.E., the emirate of Abu Dhabi is divided into three parts: the city of Abu Dhabi, the historic Al Ain region centered on a large oasis on an old camel caravan route, and Al Gharbia, part of the world's largest uninterrupted sand desert with towering dunes spreading across the Arabian peninsula.

Abu Dhabi's culture is rooted in Islam, but all faiths are respected and protected by the constitution. The dress code is liberal, and Western wear is common, though native Emiratis often choose to wear their national dress.

Money - Cash is the preferred method of payment, especially in souks, but credit and debit cards are often accepted. Ask before you buy or order in a restaurant. An ATM and a currency exchange are located in the cruise terminal and both are also found in shopping malls and major visitor attractions. Many hotels also exchange money, though you'll need to show your passport. Banks and currency exchanges are usually closed on Friday, the Islamic holy day.

Cruise Port - http://www.whatsinport.com/Abu-Dhabi.htm Cruises passengers arrive at a tented cruise terminal at Mina Zayed Port, the major cargo port in Abu Dhabi city. From the port entrance gate, it's about a 15-minute walk to the Corniche, the waterfront promenade and beach along the city center, but the route is not walker-friendly; a five-minute taxi ride is a better bet. Some cruise line will provide a shuttle bus to Marina Mall, at the far end of Corniche Road, the focal point of the city.

Getting Around -
Abu Dhabi is not a walkable city; streets are designed for vehicles, not for casual strolling. The city also is spread out with the city center connected by long bridges and causeways between islands and the mainland.
Taxis are cheap, plentiful, clean and often use late-model cars. Hail one on the street, go to a cab stand or order one by phone. All are metered, and tipping is not expected. Taxis are identified by a yellow light on the roof, though you might see a few pink taxis designated for women only. Many drivers speak English.
CC discussion board on Abu Dhabi: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2142995 

Attractions:
1) Sheikh Zayed (Bin Sultan Al Nahyan) Grand Mosque: http://www.szgmc.ae/en/  The largest mosque in the U.A.E., accommodating 40,000 people, opened in 2007 and is named for the late president and founder of the U.A.E. Only the doors were made in the U.A.E.; all other materials are from locations around the world, including the world's largest hand-woven carpet made in Iran of wool from New Zealand. Weighing 47 tons, it was divided into nine pieces and flown here in two separate planes. Chandeliers are made of Swarovski crystal and Murano glass, marble columns are inlaid with semiprecious stones and mother of pearl with gold tips. The mosque's four, 328-foot minarets look down on 57 white marble domes and a courtyard inlaid with a floral mosaic design. The mosque is located between the three bridges connecting Abu Dhabi city to the mainland and is open to non-Muslims. Open from 9 a.m. to 10pm Sat - Thurs. Join a free 45-min guided tours in English. You also can visit on your own without a tour at other times depending on the call to prayer schedule. Men may not enter in shorts. Women are given a robe (abaya) and a scarf (sheyla) to put on over their clothing. Shoes are removed prior to entering the prayer hall. (Located to the south-east of port, 21-km or 20-min on taxi.)
- According to http://www.szgmc.ae/en/mosque-opening-hours , on a Saturday, the walk-in tour time are 10am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, and 7pm. According to http://www.szgmc.ae/en/visitor-services, we should arrive 15-min prior at the EAST side of the mosque (or be directed to there from the car drop off point) before tour time. Ask any security or ground staff where the tours start and they will guide you to the right starting point.
- Long, loose fitting, ankle length trousers or skirts for women and men. Women must wear a headscarf.

2) Emirates Palace: www.emiratespalace.com , or http://www.kempinski.com/en/abudhabi/emirates-palace/welcome/  (W. Corniche Road, with a TI.) Often mistaken for a royal palace, this grand structure is a five-story hotel owned by the government and managed by Kempinski. (You do not have to check in to check out.) When it opened in 2005 at a cost of $3 billion, it was the most expensive hotel ever built. Cruise passengers often come here for lunch or tea or just to walk around the lobby to gawk at marble from 13 countries, Persian carpets, 114 domes (including a central dome soaring more than 238 feet), 1,002 chandeliers and a private beach. Emirates Palace sprawls at the end of West Corniche Road in the central city. (According to Lonely Plant guidebook, a classic English afternoon tea here will set you back Dh225, ~ USD$61.30)

3) Abu Dhabi Corniche - the park-lined coastal blvd skirts the city with a backdrop of modern buildings facing the sea, with white sandy beaches and wide Mediterranean-style Promenade. See picture here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Dhabi#mediaviewer/File:Abu_Dhabi_Corniche_Beach.jpg 

4) Marina Mall - boasts a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain. It is in the Water Breaker area near the magnificent Emirates Palace. It also contains one of two Carrefour hypermarkets in town.

5) Heritage Village - (FREE admission, 9am-5pm) Situated in the middle of Abu Dhabi near Marina Mall, the fortress-like compound is an exhibition of the nomadic Bedouin life-style and local traditions.

6) Traditional Souqs - (Al Mina Port area): fish market, fruit and vegetable souq, Carpet Souq, and Iranian Souq.

Shore Excursions -
Best for First-Timers: An Abu Dhabi City Tour with Grand Mosque gives you a good overview of Abu Dhabi city plus a visit to its two top attractions, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace. Half- and full-day tours are available; the longer tours include lunch or tea at Emirates Palace.

Option 1 - take taxi to see the top 2 or three attractions. Read Paul and Libby's blog: http://www.paulandlibby.com/index.php/2012/03/cruise-day-6-abu-dhabi-uae/
Option 2 - Take hop on/off bus for a 2.5-hr tour to get an overview of the city.
Option 3 - Viator's half-day city tour: http://www.viator.com/tours/Abu-Dhabi/Abu-Dhabi-Shore-Excursion-Private-City-Highlights-Tour/d4474-2168PRTAUHJEWEL USD$55/pp, takes you to Grand Mosque and Heritage Village.
Sep 20 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 7:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
Sunday

Currency: Emirati Dirham(AED)
1AED=0.248 USD
1USD=4.03 AED
Dubai, the nation's playground and largest city, is 90 minutes to the north of Abu Dhabi. Its history began in the 1830s when the city broke away from Abu Dhabi and became a center of commerce and trading in its own right. In fact, Dubai's wealth is founded on trade, not oil. When oil was discovered in 1966, it merely contributed to the city's prosperity and sped up modernization. (What opium was to the growth of Hong Kong, gold was to Dubai.) Dubai combines the comfort and conveniences of the Western world with the unique charm of Arabia.

Cruise Port: http://www.whatsinport.com/Dubai.htm
Cruise ships dock at Port Rashid. Taxis are plentiful. The drive to Dubai Mall is about 14km and 22min. If you take a taxi anywhere in the UAE, ask for the meter to be switched on even if you make a tour by taxi.
Shuttle bus will be at the terminal, transporting you to a point where the red and blue lines meet. Here you can take a hop on/off bus. This bus will take you back to the port.
Dubai is a place of fascinating contrasts, a distinct blend of modern city, timeless deserts, rugged mountains and miles of sandy beaches. The streets are clean and safe.

Attractions:
  • At The Top- www.atthetop.ae; the viewing platform on the 124th floor (442 meter) of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Don’t do this on a shore excursion – it’s too rushed. Tickets are time-controlled so book online a long way ahead and time your visit for sunset. It'll cost 125 dirhams (about USD$34) or Dhs 400 if you do not want to wait. Take a cab from the port to Dubai Mall. Wander round the shops and market, watch the spectacular musical fountains and then head for At The Top to watch the sunset. Dubai City Info dot Com offers a 3-hr tour to Burj Khalifa, USD$48/pp, (Does it include entrance fee at USD$34?) http://www.dubaicityinfo.com/tours/Burj_Khalifa_Tour_The_Tallest_Tower.aspx
    - Burj Khalifa, until recently called Burj Dubai, at 828 meters and 160 floors is the world's tallest structure, over 300m taller than the previous contender, Taipei 101. The observation deck at the 124th floor is the 2nd highest in the world after the Shanghai World Financial center. Already dominating the Dubai skyline, the newly opened tower houses nine hotels and a Las Vegas-inspired fountain system. The visitors' entrance is located at the lower ground floor of Dubai Mall. Although the tour is called At the Top be aware that it isn't! Although the observation deck is the highest open deck in the world, at 452m it's just over halfway up the tower itself. Address: 1 Emaar Blvd.
     
  • Dubai Mall - www.thedubaimall.com; Emaar Blvd. (Note this is not The Mall of the Emirates which has an indoor ski slope.) boosts over 1200 stores and eateries, a walk through aquarium, huge waterfalls, an ice skating rink and the magic fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa. Perhaps the world's largest mall.
     
  • Dubai Magic Fountain - the world's largest dancing fountain and one with a very enticing display. The show takes place at the Burj Dubai Lake, off Emaar Blvd. Easy way to approach it is via the Dubai Mall. Daily 1pm and 1:30pm and then every 30min from 6pm to 11pm.
     
  • Burj Al Arab (sail-shaped) - www.burj-al-arab.com; (off Jumeirah Rd. UYmm Suquim; METRO:Mall of the Emirates) The sail-shaped hotel is a only a 5-star (not 7-star) hotel and is no longer the tallest hotel in the world, soars to a height of 321 meters. Afternoon tea, or cocktails, may be an interesting experience. Entry to the hotel requires a reservation (at the hotel, at a bar, or restaurant) which will be confirmed at the entry gate. Other tourists may occasionally be able to book tours of the hotel itself, however these will not run when the hotel is full. A "very smart casual" dress code applies. Reservations are usually required about a month in advance for a room, but a few days will generally suffice for a meal.
    - Read about Esme_travels' blog about dinner at Burj Al Arab: http://www.esmetravels.com/al-muntaha/#more-6577
     
  • Dubai Creek - The Dubai creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It originally served as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defense structures. You can book a ride on the creek with a dinner cruise or even rent a private boat to take you on a hour long ride up and down the creek.
Option 1 Dubai City Info dot Com offers a 4-hr Dubai city tour for USD$38/pp - http://www.dubaicityinfo.com/tours/Dubai_City_Tour.aspx  , which starts from the Dubai museum located at the AL Fahidi fort made in 1800, which gives you an opportunity to explore the city’s ancient history. Then driving through the Dubai Creek stop at the Jumeirah Mosque, which is a fine example of modern Islamic architecture built in 1979. Then stop at the Jumeirah Public Beach, pass by Jumeirah Beach Hotel and stop at Burj Al Arab - the most luxurious and tallest hotel in the world. The hotel soars to a height of 321 meters dominating the Dubai coastline. Continue to the palm island and at its crescent you see the Atlantis hotel. Then head towards the Sheikh Zayed road, driving through the famous sky scrapers of the city ending the tour at a shopping mall (Dubai Marina Mall?). (Click on the "Price Include" tab, one can see that many sites are "drive through".)
Option 2 - 6-hr private tour by Toursbylocals: http://www.toursbylocals.com/DubaiShoreTour4 USD$249/4PAX, deposit $200.
Option 3 - red route on Hop on/off bus? http://www.viator.com/tours/Dubai/Dubai-Hop-on-Hop-off-Tour/d828-2624HOP?SSAID=320199&aid=132440; or www.bigbustours.com; 24-hr ticket is Dh220/adult (USD$59.40).

Option 4 - easy and safe to DIY. Taxi is inexpensive. Or, try Dubai Private Tour: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g295424-d2510773-Reviews-Dubai_Private_Tour-Dubai_Emirate_of_Dubai.html
Sep 21 Fujairah, United Arab Emirates 8:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m.
Monday

Currency: Emirati Dirham(AED)
1AED=0.248 USD
1USD=4.03 AED
The only emirate (酋長國) on the Gulf of Oman rather than the Persian Gulf, Fujairah is blessed with fine beaches and offers excellent deep-sea fishing and snorkeling. It's separated from the rest of the country by the Hagar mountain range that looms majestically behind the port of Fujairah. Built in 1670, Fujairah Fort and the spring-fed Ain Al Madhab Gardens lie nearby.

Cruise Port:
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Fujairah. A large container and oil transfer port. A free shuttle will transfer you to the gate. The distance to the town center is 5 miles, about 10 euro per taxi.

Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- There’s nothing around the port. So spend the day in one of the beach resorts: Khor Fakkan an OK beach town is the closest, 12 km from port or about a 20-euro taxi ride away. (Google Map says it is 20km and 20min taxi from the port.)
- Or head off into the sand dunes in a jeep.
- For old forts (Fujairah Fort) and Fujairah Museum (all in the area called Fujairah Heritage Village), and Al Hayl Castle http://www.todoin.net/en/united-arab-emirates/al-hayl-castle-poi-115713
- An image library: http://blog.radissonblu.com/must-see-historic-monuments-fujairah/ 
- a blog about Fujairah (by Australian Geoff Pound): http://experiencingtheemirates.blogspot.ca/2007/10/uae-tourists-are-heading-out-east-but.html 
- Paul&Libby's blog of touring Fujairah with a taxi - http://www.paulandlibby.com/index.php/2012/03/fujairah/ Seeing Fujairah Fort, the Al Hayl Palace, and Fujairah Museum.

Option 1 - Hire a taxi and do the same as Paul&Libby's, see Fujairah Fort, the Al Hayl Palace, and Fujairah Museum.
Option 2 - choose an excursion offered by Oceania?
Sep 22 Cruising the Arabian Sea    
Sep 23 Cruising the Arabian Sea    
Sep 24 Mumbai, India, Day 1 8:00 a.m.  
Thursday

Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
1INR=0.01567 USD
1USD=63.6689 INR
>> First of all, I have to confess that we are "reluctant" visitors to India. We do not plan to take any domestic air flight or long distance transportations to see far-flung landmarks. Thus it ruled out Taj Mahal in Agra.<<

Still "Bombay" to locals - Mumbai is not only India's largest city, it is also one of the largest cities in the world (nearly 20 million are crammed into 1,600 sq miles, that is 11,000 people per sq. mile). It is NYC with British Victorian colonial architecture. It is colorful, vibrant, energetic and friendly with markets, cafes, art galleries, shops, food carts and street hawkers. Bombay is different from the rest of India just like NYC is different from the rest of USA.
Where Mumbai stands now there were once seven islands that formed part of the kingdom of the Emperor Ashoka. They passed into the hands of various Hindu and Muslim rulers and in 1534 were seized by the Portuguese, who named them Bom Baia, meaning "Good Bay." They became British in 1661, and the name morphed into Bombay. In 1668, Bombay was leased to the East India Company, the islands were joined through land reclamation projects, and the city became an important trading port under the British Raj. (India gained independence from Britain in 1947.)

Timezone - Mumbai is 10:30 hours ahead of EST in winter, while 9:30 hours ahead of EDT in summer.

Cruise port - Cruise ships dock at the Ballard Pier which is located next to the Navy Yard at Mumbai. It is about a 10-minute drive to the town center. Taxis are generally available at the port entrance. Be sure to agree on the fare before starting out. Outside the terminal taxi are cheaper. A short trip to the Gateway of India should only cost around 30 rupees but as a foreigner, you should be happy to pay around 50 rupees.

Money - An Indian Rupee (Rs) is divided into 100 paise.
Plan to use cash when shopping in the markets and bazaars. Keep small denominations of Rs 20, 50 and 100 on hand for small purchases and cab and rickshaw fares. Many drivers and merchants are unable or unwilling to change Rs500 bills. Tourist hotels are good places to get change for larger bills and do foreign exchange. Credit cards are accepted in big outlets and at good restaurants and hotels. There are ATMs in the main shopping areas, but they are not 100 percent reliable. Remember never to carry too much cash at a time.

Getting around:
Taxis (Yellow and Black) are cheap and plentiful. Taxis in Mumbai are small-medium sized cars with no A/C.
- Cool Cabs are Blue/Silver in color and have electronic meters and have A/C, but are about 25% more expensive.
- your best bet is to hire a taxi driver for the day, but you'll need to haggle over the price. As a rough guide, you should be paying around Rs 600 for two hours, but how much you actually pay depends on your negotiating skills. You will get a better deal if you find a taxi out on the street or at taxi stands around hotels. They're required to have working meters and are very affordable. However, steer clear of unregistered cabs (with no sign). They might be cheap, but they are also potential death traps on wheels, as drivers don't need to keep them serviced. Another option is to book in advance one of the excellent car and driver services for about Rs 1,500 for a full day. Most drivers speak limited English, but they know enough to get you to major attractions.
- Unless you are taking a prepaid taxi, always ask taxis to go by the meter. At the start of the journey, ensure that the meter is visible and shows the flag-down fare/meter reading.
- Most taxi drivers and guides will want to take you to a super-clean tourist store like the "Bombay Store", where goods are highly priced. If you do not want to go, be firm about it.

Watch out for:
- Although Mumbai has many beaches, avoid getting into the water. Raw sewage and toxic waste from businesses and industries flow directly into the ocean.
- Do not drink any liquid unless it's in a container with a sealed top. Also do not drink anything with ice unless you're in a first-class hotel. Stay away from street vendor food and seedy restaurants, or you'll probably end up with "Delhi belly".
- Indians drive on the left, as in U.K. If crossing a road, be warned that drivers don't stop for pedestrians but, rather, weave around them. In most parts of Mumbai, stop signs and traffic lights seem invisible to drivers; however, in South Mumbai, where many tourist attractions are centered, traffic lights are taken a bit more seriously. A good tip is to look for locals crossing the road and walk with them.

Attractions: (Use map from Fodor's "Essenial India" to plan your own sightseeing via taxi)

  • The Gateway of India - visible from the cruise port, built by the British to commemorate the visit to India in 1911 of King George V and Queen Mary.
    - past the Gateway of India you can easily walk to the University and museums, clock, fountain.
  • Taj Mahal Palace hotel - www.tajhotels.com, across the road from the Gateway of India. It opened in 1903 and is an attraction in its own right, as everyone wants a picture taken with the bearded doorkeepers in their white uniforms and turbans. More recently, the hotel gained notoriety as the site of the terrorist attacks on the city in November 2008. The Taj is a great place to take a break from the chaos outside. It has immaculate restroom facilities, great bars and restaurants, and upscale shopping.
    - Try the Harbour bar on the ground floor or the cafe on the second floor for a tea. They both look over the water and the Gateway, it is a pleasurable tea-time experience not to be forgotten.
    - On the 2nd floor is a wildly expensive "Wasabi by Morimoto" restaurant. If you got the cash (Rs.2000 for a tasting menu), it is a good place for authentic sushi, great service, and nice view of the Gateway of India.
    - or choose a bar in the hotel that serves cooked food.
  • Crawford Market - packed with stalls selling fruits and vegetables. The building was completed by the British in 1869 with beautiful Victorian carvings. Also take a peek at Victoria Terminus, another Victorian masterpiece with a strong resemblance to St. Pancras station in London. These days, it's actually called Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, but luckily taxi drivers understand Victoria Terminus.
  • The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or The CST Victoria Terminus) railway station (comparable to New York's Grand Central Station or London's St Pancras) and the Municipal Building.
  • Marine Drive (Queen's necklace)- Mumbai's seaside promenade, past Chowpatty Beach and to Malabar Hill, which is the Beverly Hills of Mumbai.
  • Visit Churchgate station to see the dabbawalas (lunchbox delivery)
Join an organized tour of Mumbai:
Option 1 - Mumbai Magic - is well reviewed: http://www.mumbaimagic.com/ They also offer tours in Cochin and Goa. (See links to Cochin Magic and Goa Magic on their home page.)
1/15/2015 Booked with Mumbai Magic for 6. (Rs 4250/pp for 4 PAX, Rs 3750/pp for 6 PAX). Free Cancellation must be 48 hours prior. (Tour mates: F&R West + bk_travels (Kathryn Walsh + Wes ROMANSKY).
Tour guide:Sancia +91 98206 74054 (was: Gulshan (Mobile +91 98694 55739))
Duration: 6-7 hours. Emergency Contact in India: Ms. Deepa Krishnan, Mumbai Magic, +91 98677 07414
Pick-up time: 8:30 a.m. The driver will wait with placard at the area where you exit immigration/customs.
Customized itinerary: Customized from "Mumbai by Day - The Story of Mumbai"
1. Start at Town Hall. Walk through the heritage precinct (covering Flora Fountain, Bombay University and the Oval Maidan, High Court, The Kala Ghoda Art Precinct, Regal Circle and the heritage buildings there, Gateway of India and go inside Taj Mahal Hotel).
2. See the dabbawalas at Churchgate station. (Lunch box delivery)
3. Drive through the rest of the district VISIT (go inside) Victoria Terminus and the Municipal Building.
4. Crawford Market - to see a typical bazaar.
5. Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach, up Malabar Hill to see upscale residential areas.
6. Visit Babulnath Temple and Mani Bhavan, home of Gandhi
7. Dhobi Ghat.


Option 2 - Reality Tours - is also highly rated: http://www.realitytoursandtravel.com/city-tours.html
Sep 25 Mumbai, India, Day 2   5:00 p.m.
Friday After joining an organized tour of Mumbai the day before, today we may use taxi to get back to where we want to spend time on. However, since its unlikely we will come back to Mumbai again, so we might as well see as much as possible. Thus a private tour for 4PAX has been arranged with MumbaiMagic to visit Bandra village, and on the way, stop by to visit Matunga. (Rs 4250/pp for 4PAX, with Frances and Richard.)

Option 1 - Pick up by MumbaiMagic at 8:30am. Visit Bandra, 45-min by car, north of our cruise terminal in Mumbai.
- Bandra,
http://www.mumbaimagic.com/bandra.html  The earliest records of Bandra are from the mid-1500’s, when the Portuguese gave the Jesuit priests the islands of Bandra. The Portuguese built several churches in Bandra, many of which are still in use today. Bandra remained a village with plantations of rice and vegetables, until it was connected to Mahim by a causeway in 1845. Today, it became fashionable with many Bollywood movie stars' homes.
- on the way, also visit Matunga. According to our contact at MumbaiMagic, "Matunga is culturally very interesting, with south Indian temples and flower market."
Sep 26 Goa (Mormugao), India 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Saturday

Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
1INR=0.01567 USD
1USD=63.6689 INR
Goa was under Portuguese control until 1961, the colonial past lingers on in its historical buildings, churches, forts and charming homes. It is blessed with a bright blue coastline stretching down to sparkling, palm-lined beaches along the Arabian Sea. It is as popular for its laid-back values as its legendary seafood and beautiful views.
Goa is the name of a state, the smallest state in India. It can be divied into (1) North Goa, (2) Panaji, the capital city, and Central, and (3) the south Goa.
In Goa, you can visit Old Goa and walk around Panaji (go to the market, etc.) If you like you can head to a beach, but not all the beaches are nice. Be selective on which beach you go. The best beaches and resorts are at least six miles away.

- Public restroom can be dirty, and nicer restaurants may not let you use their facility unless you are a guest. So bring plenty of paper towel, hand sanitizer, or wet wipes.
- In Old Goa walk through the heritage district of Fontainhas – this is a residential area, the Latin quarter of Panaji where the traditional colorful houses of the Catholic and Hindu community are still preserved. Here you will see the original fountain after which the area was named.
- June-September are oppressively hot and Monsoon months in Goa, bring umbrella with you.


Cruise Port:
The ships are docked at MORMUGAO (pronounced Marmagoa) Port. Panaji, the main town, is 25 miles (and 45-min drive) north of the port. Taxis are generally available outside the port gate. Be sure to agree on the fare before starting out. There are no shuttle busses here, so it is a long walk to the gate entrance.
- A four hour taxi trip will set you back around $60 per taxi. Beware not all taxis have a/c and not all cabbies speak English.
- Close to Mormugao is the small town of Vasco da Gama. It serves as terminus for the railway line into Goa.

Getting Around:
Unionized Taxi has a fixed rate from point A to point B. You don't really need to contact a tour operator, as there are usually taxi stand outside a hotel. If not, the hotel (or restaurant) will call one for you. If you are visiting a number of places covering a lot of ground, it makes more sense to hire a taxi for 4 or 8 hours (Rs. 1,500 for 4 hours) and pay an additional rate (Rs. 12) for every kilometer about 80 km (50 miles). Round-trip distance are calculated even for one-way journeys. Taxi levy a surcharge when they operate at night.

Tours/Excursions/Transportation: http://www.goatourism.gov.in/
Old Goa is about 45 mins in a taxi, and will cost around 1000 rupees (USD$16) return for a mutli-person carrier. For that price you should be able to get the driver to take you for a driver around the Capital Panaji, which is worth a stop at.
- Panaji (also called Panjim) - Originally a suburb of Old Goa, it is one of India's smallest and most pleasant state capitals. Built on the south bank of the wide Mandovi River, it officially became the capital of Goa in 1843. Panaji was the first Cruise Port for voyages from Lisbon, and sailors visited the Church of the Immaculate Conception to give thanks for a safe crossing before continuing to Old Goa.

Option 1 - book a tour with GoaMagic, http://www.goamagic.net/.
1/18/2015 Book a "Goa Past and Present" tour with Goa Magic, with further tweaks to be determined.
Duration: 6-8 hours depending on interests. Pickup from: Goa (Mormugao) docks, inside, where the ship berths
Pickup time: 9:30 am. The guides and driver will wait with placard at the area where you exit immigration/customs.
Tour co-ordinator for Goa Magic: FX (Mobile +91 98221 04218), he will manage your trip logistics. Please phone FX (Francis Xavier) if you have any questions.
Emergency Contact in India: Ms Deepa Krishnan, Magic Tours, +91 98677 07414
Rs 3000 per person per day for a group of 5-6 people (+ F & R, + Gilles & Monique Moisan)
Rs 3500 per person per day for a group of 4 people (Cancellation is 48 hours prior)
Meals and tips are not included.

Plan for the day:
   • A drive to the top of a hill for a panoramic view of Goa. Here, our guide will show you the layout of the land, highlighting the rivers, islands, transport systems, and providing an overview of life in Goa.
   • A visit to the churches of Old Goa, the “Rome of the East”, which was the administrative seat of the Portuguese. We will visit Se Cathedral (the seat of The Archbishop of Goa), and the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the body of Saint Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary who was canonised in 1622. (If you do not want to visit churches or European monuments, please tell the guide so that we can just drive through these areas rather than stop at the churches)
   • A brief walk through the heritage district of Fontainhas – this is a residential area, the Latin quarter of Panjim where the traditional colorful houses of the Catholic and Hindu community are still preserved. Here you will see the original fountain after which the area was named. Life in this old quarter still continues its sleepy ways.
   • A stop at one of Panjim’s popular restaurants to taste the famous Goan seafood. Goa’s cuisine is a unique blend of local and Portuguese influences, and Goan specialties such as prawn balchao, pork vindaloo are loved by food aficionados around the world. Please note that you pay direct for the meal.
   • Bazaar walk through the bustling Panjim fish and vegetable market – this is a large colorful market where you can see all sorts of interesting things on offer, including household wares, spices, fish, meat, vegetables and many other goods. It’s a great way to see daily life in Goa!
   • A visit to a Hindu temple to see the local architectural styles and prayer rituals. Hindus form the majority of the Goan population (around 70%), and the temple is a good way to see the “inner life” and rituals of this community.

This is a private tour and open to modifications.
→ If you are interested, you can also visit a popular local beach in Goa, before being dropped back at the ship.
→ Those interested in museums may visit the Museum of Christian Art in Goa or the State Museum.
→ If you would like to go shopping for handicrafts, please let the guide know.

Option 2 - Take a taxi to the northern beaches at Baga and Calangute, which draw the biggest crowds and have plenty of food and drank shacks, trendy restaurants and boutiques. Then taxi back to have a drive around Panaji, before stopping at Old Goa for the rest of the afternoon.
Sep 27 Mangalore, India 8:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
Sunday Mangalore is a port city in the coastal region of Karnataka State in India. It is around 295 kms from the state Capital Bangalore.
Mangalore is one of the fastest developing cities in India. Many multinational corporations and domestic corporations are opening their branches in Mangalore.

Cruise port:
Because of sandbars, large ships must anchor three miles out and tender passengers ashore to the New Mangalore Port, 10kms from the city.
Shuttle bus drops you off at a shopping mall in the center of the city where there are several taxis and tuk-tuks.
The New Mangalore Port is well known not only in the city but throughout the state, as it is the one and only important port in Karnataka. The port has a lot of contribution in the economic development of the state of Karnataka.

Attractions:
The highlights include a few temples, a light house, St. Aloysious chapel and beaches.
See a few pictures of Mangalore's landmarks on wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangalore

Option 1 - sharing a taxi is a good way to see the highlights.
Option 2 - The city of Mangolore is likely to provide free shuttlse to downtown and back, you may hire a tuk-tuk from downtown to do your own tour.
Option 3 - See what organized tours are available.
Option 4 - book a tour with Magalore Magic, http://www.mangaloremagic.com/
Sep 28 Cochin (Kochi), India 9:00 a.m. 10:30 p.m.
Monday Cochin (Kochi in Indian name), in the state of Kerala, is one of the west coast's largest and oldest port. Kochi is believed to have had trade links with China and Arabia for 2,000 years; 500 years ago the Europeans arrived. First were the Portuguese, when Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India and set up a trading station in 1502. In 1503, Fort Cochin, the first European fort in India, was built.
The British arrived in 1635 but were forced out by the Dutch in 1663. However, they returned in 1791 and stayed until independence in 1947.

- Make sure you are awake for the sail-in to watch the sun rise over the misty water and the colorful local boats make their packed way from one side of the city to another.
- The old city is divided into two halves -- Mattancherry on the south side and Fort Cochin. (You'll see an area that was within the fort, rather than battlements.) The new town of Ernakulam is to the north-east on the mainland. There are museums, shops, restaurants and hotels in Ernakulam, but essentially, it's a most modern city. Visitors usually stick with the Fort Cochin and Mattancherry districts, as that is the most attractive and historic area of the city.
- A few hours of exploring in Fort Cochin district is time well-spent, but one of the biggest attractions of the city is that it is the gateway to the Kerala Backwaters, a drop-dead gorgeous network of canals, rivers and lakes that twist and turn for about 1,150 kilometres. It's incredibly peaceful and offers a fascinating glimpse into another part of life in India.
- You can visit the backwaters on an excursion -- the best cruise-line tours use houseboats for the cruising part of the trip. These boats are hand-built, thatched-roof vessels with up to four rooms and can be hired for a couple of days if you are staying in the area. However: a trip to the Kerala Backwaters involves a solid (and life-risking) two-hour ride, each way, from the dock. So it's a full-day tour that precludes time to explore Fort Cochin.

Cruise port: http://cruiseportwiki.com/Cochin
Cruise ships will dock in Willingdon Island at the Ernakulam Wharf, an upscale suburb in a peninsula jutting out beside Mattancherry and Fort Cochin. It is not within walking distance to town. Plenty of taxis and tuktuks will be around, if you do not opt for a cruise excursion. Expect to haggle! To organize a private tour with one of the taxis is easy and not expensive. Taxis are a bargain. - Once you pass all the taxi's in port you will find the Tuk-Tuks. Since India used to be a British colony most of the drivers speak English.

Getting Around:
All prices are negotiable, and what you pay depends on how good you are at haggling. As a rough estimate, you should expect to pay Rs 250 for a tuk-tuk ride into the city, with two hours waiting time before coming back. The same trip in a taxi costs about Rs 750.

Watch out for:
Although Cochin felt very safe, you should follow the usual rules when in a town or city. Make sure money is strapped to you and not easy prey in your pocket, don't wear expensive watches or jewelry, and don't flash large wads of cash in front of local people.

Attractions:
  • Chinese fish nets - giant nets lowered into the water, left a while, then raised again, a job that requires at least five men.
  • Fort Cochin district - the fort itself was built by the Portuguese in 1510 AD. The area is lined with old merchant houses, warehouses, and courtyards heaped with betel nuts, ginger, peppercorns, and tea. You can visit important monuments in Fort Kochi such as:
    - St Francis Church : built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India. The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon.
    - Santa Cruz Basilica
  • Mattancherry Palace (also called Dutch Palace) - built by the Portuguese and given to the Raja of Kochi. The structure was extended by the Dutch when they took control of the area. Addr: Palace Road, Mattancherry, Kochi [Sat.-Thurs. 10-5]
  • Synagogue - browse the antiques and spice shops that line the Jew Town Road.
Tours/Excursions/Transportation:
- you can take a taxi from the port to the downtown area of Cochin and be dropped off at the St. Francis church (10km and 21min on taxi). From there you can walk to the fort and also the downtown shops and other areas. And then take a taxi back. Or follow "A Good Tour" on page 457 of Fodor's "Essential India" guidebook.
- For the more adventurous do a Fort Cochin tour by Tuk-Tuk.

Option 1 - hire a taxi to St. Francis Church in Fort Cochin district. Follow "A Good Tour" on page 457 of Fodor's "Essential India" guidebook. When done, take a taxi back to port.
Option 2 - do an organized tour such as Cochi Magic, http://www.cochinmagic.com/ - a branch of Mumbai Magic.
Option 3 - contact http://www.daytoursincochin.com/ to customized a private tour and form a group on CC
Sep 29 Cruising the Laccadive Sea    
Sep 30 Colombo, Sri Lanka 7:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday

Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee(LKR)
1LKR=0.00666 USD
1USD=143 LKR
Timezone: 9 and 1/2 hours ahead of EDT in Boston.

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. Rubber, coffee, pepper, tea, spices, and coconut plantation cover the slopes of the hills. Giant umbrella trees offer shade.
Colombo is the political, economical, and culture center of Sri Lanka. (But is not the capital, which is Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, which, in turn, is a satellite city of Colombo.) It has a pretty good infrastructure, and the litter and pollution is minimal, in marked contrast to other countries. If you have not got opportunity to change money, most places either accept dollars or credit cards.

From ancient Indian and Arab traders who frequented the ports to the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists who occupied the city, Colombo is steeped in history. It boasts many historical and cultural sights waiting to be explored along with its vibrant society. The center, known as "Fort", can be very easily explored on foot.

According to whatsinport.com, http://www.whatsinport.com/Colombo.htm , cruise ships dock at the Queen Elizabeth pier of Colombo Harbor. It is about a 15-min drive to the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier. Be sure to agree on the fare before starting out. The most common-mode of transportation is via a 3-wheeled Tri-Shaw, also known as Tuk-Tuks. Those operate in a manner similar to taxis and is a highly cost-effective way to get around. (Some cruise ships may provide shuttles to the town center, instead of just to the port entrance.)

Oceania's excursion mentioned: Due to the high temperature of the pavement, it is recommended guests wear thick socks.

According to this 12-things-to-do-in-Colombo website, ( http://www.srilanka.travel/things_to_do_in_colombo ), there are not many sights to choose from in Colombo.

Attractions: (Resource: Insight Guides Sri Lanka (Calling#915.4 S, Salem Library), wikitravel Colombo: http://wikitravel.org/en/Colombo , and Sri Lanka Tourism: http://www.tourism-srilanka.com/cities/colombo.html )

  • Fort District - (Just outside of the port terminal) Originally a fort during the Portuguese and Dutch periods but now a major commercial center. Lighthouse Clock Tower, Presidential Palace, Bank of Ceylon, Hilton Hotel, World Trade Center and some British/Dutch Colonial streets and buildings (Chatham St. and York St.).
  • Pettah Market - loud and crowded oriental market full of all sorts of odds, ends and junk. Each street in the market has its own specialty, for example, in 1st Cross Street is electrical items, 2nd Cross Street has jewelry, 4th Cross Street has teas and herbs.
  • Wolvendaal Church - Colombo's oldest Dutch church. Its floor tiles are made from tombstones from the Dutch church in the Fort, and were brought here in 1813.
  • Galle Face Green - The promenade stretches 1.5 kilometers between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean; attracting children, teenagers, vendors, and families. It is a relic of the British era. Laid out in 1859 it was used for horse racing.
  • Cinnamon Gardens - affluent residential district, near by the National Museum, Royal College, University of Colombo. Embassy of Japan is also in here.
  • National Museum - the largest museum in Colombo. Among its exhibits, it contains regalia of the 17th century Kandyan Kings. LKR500 entrance fee and LKR250 for photography pass.
  • The Viharamahadevi Park - Located next to the National Museum, it is Colombo's largest park. The park is famous for its flowering trees, water channels and fountains.
Option 1 - Booked a 4-hr Colombo city tour for 6PAX from Alpha Travels & Holidays http://www.alphatravels-holidays.com/  Pick up time: 09:30 at a harbor Gate. Guide/Driver Mr. Vishwa: +94 (0) 773-691-446. Contact at Alpha Travels & Holidays: Kosala:0094-777-864-479, Khalid:0094-772-932-104. Paid USD$110 online on 5/29/2015. Printed Travel Voucher to take along on the tour date.  Driver/Guide will wait for us at the harbor gate with a parked vehicle with my name on the front of the vehicle, and he will be holding a board with my name at the Harbor gate. There are a number of Gates. If we arrive to a different gate, call the driver and inform the driver to report to where we are. (Post-cruise comment: Better to agree on meeting outside of Gate 1, because Gate 1 was closer to our ship than Gate 2 or Gate 3.)
- team mates: Frances & Richard, Kathy & Wes.
- Meet at 9:15am on Deck 4 by the Destination Desk, walk to the harbor gate
 (Gate 1 or Gate 2, it is better to pre-agree on a gate with the our company ahead of time) to find the driver/vehicle together.

Option 2 - http://www.city-discovery.com/colombo/tour.php?id=301 offers a 3-hr city tour for USD$18.75/pp if 4PAX, and pick up at downtown hotel. Daily 09:30am. Do this as an orientation, then free time on your own.
Option 3 - hire a taxi or a Tri-Shaw for sightseeing. Some Tri-Shaw are metered.
Option 4 - https://www.cruisingexcursions.com/search-port.php?port=748 offers a 4-hr city tour for USD$40/pp if 4PAX. It includes time visiting a gem gallery and shopping at Pettah. This tour does not see more than the tour in Option 2, therefore at USD$40/pp it looks like too expensive.
Option 5 - Sri Lanka Day Tours offers a city cycling tour, http://www.srilankadaytours.com/excursions/cycle-tours/colombo-city-cycle-tour.html . Don't think cycling is a good idea, but you may see what stops they stop as an example for plan your own taxi tour or Trishaw tour.
Or, contact Sri Lanka Day Tours http://www.srilankadaytours.com/excursions/city-tours.html  to set up a private tour for 4 in an A/C vehicle (instead of a city walking tour).
Option 6 - go on an open-deck city tour ( http://www.srilanka.travel/colombo_city_tour )? But it does not look like any listed tour schedule will fit with our docking schedule.
Oct 01 Cruising the Bay of Bengal (孟加拉灣)    
Oct 02 Cruising the Bay of Bengal    
Oct 03 Cruising the Andaman Sea (安達曼海)    
Oct 04 Rangoon, Myanmar, Day 1 8:00 a.m.  
Sunday

Currency: Burmese Kyat (pronounced as "Chat").
1USD=1214.40 MMK
1MMK=0.0008USD (Symbol: K, e.g. K18, K5 etc.)
Myanmar is the Burmese-language name for Burma. Burma is the English-language name for Myanmar. The Burmese government switched to using the Burmese-language name for the country in 1948, and in 1989 also switched to using the Burmese-language names for a number of places around the country.
Thus Yangon is the Burmese-language name of Rangoon. Although the military government has moved the capital to Naypyidaw since 2006, Yangon, with a population of over 5 million, is still the country's largest city and the main economic hub.

Yangon's infrastructure is undeveloped; most satellite towns that ring the city continue to be deeply impoverished. The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences. Also, the streets are dusty and air full of pollution in dry season - bring a face-mask, Kleenex, eye-drops and petroleum jelly to keep nasal membranes lubricated.

Cruise Port: http://www.whatsinport.com/Yangon-Rangoon.htm
Thilawa Port - 15 miles (one-hour drive, and crossing two bridges) south-east of Yangon city center. Taxis are generally available at the port entrance. No meter. It is advisable to establish the fare before leaving the port. (There may be a free shuttle bus from the port to the city, but don't count on it.)

Resources:
- Lonely Planet "Myanmar", 2011 (Calling #915.91 LON, Stoneham Library)
- a travel video of Yangon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zWhjovc-AM&feature=youtu.be 
- internet travelers' forum on Burma. Looks like the "wow" places in Burma are Inle Lake and Bagan(蒲甘), far from Yangon, need a domestic airplane ride. (Mandalay can be skipped if time is short, it is not as interesting.)
- Map of Yangon with TRADERS Hotel marked: (which is just north of Sule Pagoda) https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=16.782269,96.15677&z=14&t=m&hl=en&gl=US&mapclient=embed&cid=2712622745651397932&output=classic&dg=oo TRADERS hotel ( www.shangri-la.com ) is a few blocks from Scott Market, and a short taxi ride to Strand Hotel, www.hotelthestrand.com

Cash-Only Economy
- The 2012 Lonely Planet guide said, & a fraction of the black market rate." However, recent (Feb, 2014) travelers on Fodor's board said that she "exchanged USD only at money exchanges or banks, not on the street", and did not remember seeing any moneychanger at the Scott Market. Her exchange rate was around 1USD = 980KMM.
- Newer and crisp US Dollars are the easiest to change. Many vendors will quote in US$ and accept US$. But they also know that $1 or $5 means very little to American.
- Use ATMs attached to a bank and only during banking hours. Some ATM may not accept foreign cards - take crisp, new US$ in cash for all your need.
- The 2012 Lonely Planet guide said, "Your best bet for changing money in Yangon is Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market) or your hotel." - which is outdated.
- (Most recent post on Fodor's Burma community board, May, 2015) Exchange money at official bank exchanges as they now have the best exchange rates. You can find official bank exchanges at the airports and in downtown Yangon and Mandalay. (I know, this is exactly the opposite of what it was years ago!) Avoid black-market exchanges as this is the one place you may get ripped off (mostly by double-counting). Exchanging at hotels, shops, etc will generally get you a lower rate, though often not a terrible rate. ATM's are now everywhere but with a minimum charge of 5000kyat. Change your unused kyat back to USD at Departures.

Attractions in Yangon:

  • Sule Pagoda - located at the heart of downtown, is a primary traffic circle. 2000+ years old. Admission US$2.(Not a must-see.)
  • Shwedagon Pagoda - (Admission US$8/K8000) http://www.shwedagonpagoda.com/index.htm also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, a 98m gilded stupa(佛塔, a dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine), is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of four past Buddhas enshrined within. (The pagoda is famous for the silver Buddha in the inner chamber weighing 1,105 pounds.) According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. Visitors must be barefoot (remove shoes and socks!) before entering a temple - bring wet towelettes to clean your feet before putting your shoes back on. Opening hr:04:00-22:00. (Plan to spend 3-4 hours. Arrive around 4:30pm so that you can see it in sunlight, in twilight and in the dark.) The pagoda is covered with gold plates and its top dome is encrusted with thousands of sparkling diamonds and rubies. (Dress Code: wear trousers or at least knee length shorts or skirt; t-shirts with elbow length sleeves are also expected and you are expected to be barefooted when entering Shwedagon Pagoda.)
  • National Museum (Admission US$5/K5000, 10am-4pm) - the highlight is the 26-ft high jewel-encrusted Lion Throne, which belonged to King Thibaw Min, the last king of Myanmar.
  • Bogyoke(=General) Aung San Market - located in west central yongon on the street of the same name, a covered market, sometimes called by its old British name, Scott Market. Moneychangers are located in the main aisle arerelatively reliable. (10am-5pm, Tue-Sun.)
  • (By the way, I have NO interest in seeing Yangon's reclining Buddha called Chauk Htat Gyi Paya, completed in 1966. From the photo and description, it looks tacky to me.)
  • Interested in seeing its Chinatown? Located in west central Yangon, not far from Yangon River. Filled with markets selling fresh produce and flowers. Stop at a typical shop to observe the making of flat rice noodles and rice flour pancakes. Proceed to the Indian Quarter, passing Hindu Temples and the Jewish Synagogue.
  • Enjoy a tri-shaw ride and view colonial style buildings including the historic Strand Hotel.
  • Lonely Planet "Myanmar", on page 54, has a self-guided Downtown Yangon walking tour, 2-3 hours.
    - Taxi from Shwedagon Pagoda (or National Museum) to Scott Market, then start from there back trace to Sule Paya. Then continue the eastern walking route from Sule Paya to Strand hotel.  Or if we want to save Shwedagon Pagoda for the last, then taxi from port to Strand Hotel and start the eastern walk from Strand Hotel back to Sule Paya.
    - Or do the walking tour first because morning would be cooler than afternoon. Taxi from port to Sule Paya. Walk the eastern loop to Strand Hotel and back, then walk the western route ending in Scott market. Taxi to National Museum. Taxi to Shwedagon Pagoda, then taxi back to port.
Attractions outside Yangong: Bagan (蒲甘), Inle Lake, and Mandalay.
  • Although we were hesitant about taking domestic airplane or long-distance trains in Burma, our particular cruise booking (based on segments booked and price paid) includes a free "Shoreside Event", which, in our case, is choice of an over-night trip to Bagan (蒲甘), the ancient capital in the Mandalay Region, or an overnight trip to Mandalay. Vincent thought that we should not pass up since the tour is already included in our cruise fare, and also the air flights are arranged by Oceania, they should meet certain standard. So we chose the Overland Tour to Bagan on Day#2 and Day #3.
Option 1 - Taxi from ship to Sule Paya. Follow page 54 of LP Myanmar's downtown walking tour walk the eastern loop to Strand Hotel then back to Sule Paya. Walk the western route from Suel Paya to Scott Market. Taxi to National Museum. Taxi to Shwedagon Pagoda. Taxi back to ship.
Option 2 - Viator has a full day sightseeing tour of Yangon for $74.66, or a 4-hr tour for $49.99. These itinerary do not visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. http://www.viator.com/tours/Yangon/Yangon-City-Sightseeing-Tour/d5412-6227YGN003
Option 3 - One Stop Travel & Tours ( http://www.onestop-myanmar.com/ ) can organize tours far and near, and received good reviews on Tripadvisor. Perhaps engage them for a customized tour of Yangon for a day including visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda?
Option 4- hire taxi for a day for US$40-US$60. Most taxi fares were in the 2000-3000 kyat range, so it is very reasonable to get just about anywhere in Yangon.

Option 5 - Oceania offers a 5-hr ($59/pp) and a 8-hr ($69/pp) "Yangon On your Own" with 1-hr bus ride to TRADERS HOTEL in downtown, just north of Sule Pagada. I think taking taxi on your own will have more freedom.

Option 6 - Oceania free shoreside EVENT: ANCIENT TEMPLES OF BAGAN (Overnight at Bagan Lodge http://bagan-lodge.com/ or similar)  Overland tour to Bagan: (Must print out and read Oceania's website posting about this tour on what to bring (Passport) etc.)

Due to fluctuating tides, the arrival and departure schedule of the ship is not verified by our local port agents until closer to the ship’s arrival date (approximately 1-2 weeks prior). As a result, the flights, dates and timings of this overland are subject to change. Should a revised itinerary be required, we will advise any guests who have booked this overland as soon as possible. 

Expected Weather: October through February is considered the cool season with temperatures ranging from 20 to 24 degrees Celsius (68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), so bring a jacket or sweater for cool morning and evening.

From 9th to 13th century, Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions. During the kingdom's height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is a main draw for the country's tourism industry. It is seen by many as equal in attraction to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

DAY 1 - October 4th, 2015 (Pay attention to any updates issued about 7 ~ 10 days before this date.)
11:30am Meeting onboard Insignia. Eat a hearty breakfast or early lunch before you go.
12:00pm Disembark and transfer to Yangon Domestic Airport
 2:45pm Mann Yadanarpon flight 7Y 243 departs for Bagan (Subject to change)
 4:10pm Arrive at Nyaung-U Airport in Bagan
 4:30pm Transfer to the Sunset Pagoda (for a panoramic view of the Archaeological Zone).
 5:15pm Enjoy the sunset from the top of the pagoda (Steep staircase)
 6:15pm Transfer to the Bagan Lodge for check-in
 7:30pm Dinner at the hotel. Overnight at the Bagan Lodge.

Oct 05 Rangoon, Myanmar, Day 2    
Monday DAY TWO: (subject to change)
7:00am Breakfast at your hotel
8:00am Morning temple pony cart ride
9:00am Morning visit to Nyaung U Market - a colorful market
9:30am Visit Shwezigon Pagoda - built by King Anawrahta in the early 11 century to enshrine a replica of one of Buddha’s teeth. The pagoda is also important architecturally because of its bell shape, which became a prototype for almost all of the pagodas built later in Bagan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwezigon_Pagoda
10:30am Visit Ananda Temple - a Buddhist temple built in 1105. The temple is said to be an architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon Architecture and adopted Indian style of architecture. The impressive temple has also been titled the "Westminster Abbey of Burma". A masterpiece of Mon Architecture with four standing Buddha and well preserved 18th century murals. ( The areas are off limits to most motorized vehicles.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Temple
11:30pm Lunch at a local restaurant (Amata Boutique Restaurant? - one of Bagan’s finest)
12:30pm Return to hotel for leisure and late check-out
  1:45pm Drive to Dhammayangyi Temple visit - The largest (and widest) of all the temples in Bagan, the Dhammayan as it is popularly known was built during the reign of King Narathu (1167-1170). Narathu, who came to the throne by assassinating his father Alaungsithu and his elder brother, presumably built this largest temple to atone for his sins. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammayangyi_Temple
  2:30pm Sulamani Temple Visit - a Buddhist temple built in 1183, located in the village of Minnanthu (southwest of Bagan) it offers some of Bagan’s finest ornamental work and is one of the most-frequently visited in Bagan. It was restored after the 1975 earthquake and then rebuilt again in 1994.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulamani_Temple
  3:00pm Lacquer-ware workshop visit
  4:00pm Panoramic view from top of a pagoda
  4:30pm Transfer to the Bagan airport
  5:40pm Mann Yadanarpon flight 7Y 243 departs for Yangon (Subject to change)
  6:45pm Arrival in Yangon and transfer back to the ship (Snack box provided on the drive back to the port)
  9:00pm Approximate arrival at Thilawa Port and re-board the ship
Oct 06 Rangoon, Myanmar, Day 3   8:00 A.m.
Tuesday Day 3.

In mid June, Oceania changed our itinerary to leave Yangon at 8am, instead of 5pm, due to tide situation, so we will not be able to spend today on shore in Yangon at all.

Our Bagan event also has been moved up one day, leaving for Bagan on 10/4 and coming back to Yangon on 10/5.
 

Oct 07 Cruising the Andaman Sea    
Oct 08 Phuket, Thailand 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Thursday

Currency: Thai baht (THB)
1THB=0.02843 USD
1USD=35.08 THB
Phuket, (pronounced puu gèt) is Thailand’s largest island (and about the size of Singapore). The island is connected to mainland Thailand by two bridges. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoys a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.

Our ship is likely to dock at Ao Makham Deep Sea Port. Google "Phuket Cruise Port" to find lots of links, maps and info. (The dock is 5 miles south of Phuket town, or 20-min by car.)
The port is fenced in. After you walk to the dockyard gates, walk additional 2 blocks to get out of the controlled taxi area, and catch a taxi for a reasonable price. Going into Phuket Town and back for about $10, or one-way to Patong Beach for about 700baht ($20). (It is suggested writing down the agreed price to avoid dispute.) The drivers have a list of things to do and where to go and will quote you a price, you should be able to get that price down by about 30%.

- Phuket Cruiseportwiki.com: http://cruiseportwiki.com/Phuket 
- Map: http://cruiseportwiki.com/Phuket  (Print its detailed Patong Beach map)
- Phuket WhatsInPort.com: http://www.whatsinport.com/Phuket.htm 

Local Transportation: If you are in Phuket Town, you can take a bus to Patong beach from the markets on Ranong Road opposite the Thai airways office. Fares are between 25-35 baht and the journey takes 20-30 minutes. Buses run only until approximately 6pm. To get back to Phuket Town, you can flag a bus down by the Tourist Police Box on Patong Beach Road (Thaweewong Road) at the end of Bangla Road. Otherwise try to get a metered taxi. Hail a tuk-tuk taxi (4-wheeled, seat about 6 max, plenty of them parked along the Patong beach) to go from Patong beach back to cruise port with a swing in the Phuket town cost about 800 baht.

CURRENCY: Vendors will take US$, make sure you have small US notes. Lots of ATM and money changers too.

Attractions:

  • Phuket town - the island's capital is located in the southeast. It was built in the mid-1800s to replace the earlier capital of Thalang, which was destroyed by the Burmese in 1800. The architecture features the attractive Sino-Portuguese style, which is reflected in the spacious residences built by wealthy Chinese tin barons as testimony to their success. (About 5 miles and 20-min by car from the port.)
  • Patong Beach - (on the west side of the island) This is the busiest and most popular beach in Phuket with a busy nightlife. (It is about 45-min drive from the port.)
  • Karon Beach - A quieter beach south from Patong.
Option 1 - Book a taxi/van for the day (6 - 7 hours) from https://phukettaxi.wordpress.com/ (Mr. AU, official site: http://www.phuketminibus.com/ ), and see some of the sites listed on Oceania's 5-hr "KHT-001 Highlights of Phuket" excursion:
- South of Phuket Town (cashew nut factory, Phuket Sea Shell Museum (including the world's largest golden pearl (160 karat) and a massive 500 pound shell), Wat Chalong buddhist temple.
- drive along the west coast past some of the island's stunning beaches.
- stop at Karon beach to see its sparkling white sand dunes edging the glittering Andaman Sea.
- stop at Patong Beach, Phuket's most-developed tourist area, with a 3-mile long crescent shaped white sand.
- lastly, see Phuket town to see Sino-Portuguese buildings at Thalang Road?

Option 2 - Take a taxi to tour Phuket town to view the downtown and Sino-Portuguese houses, then continue to Patong Beach. Hail a taxi when ready to get back to port.

Option 3 - Cruisecritic forum mentioned a driver/guide named Daj (kanidaj@hotmail.com). To ring him in Phuket 086 2749195), 6 person sharing the van for less than $20/pp. "He had a board with photos and map of the island and we just picked where we wanted to go. We ended up seeing the Seashell museum, the Big Budha, Cashews Factory (we wanted to go here), the multiple scenic points, elephant and monkey area (can't recall the name), and had a nice lunch plus a foot massage."

Option 4 - See Phuket's highlights listed in here: http://www.phuketsightseeing.net/index.html 
Option 5 - Here is a half-day Phuket City tour:  http://www.phuket.com/tours/phuket-city-tour.htm for 770 baht/pp if 4PAX, but we want a 6-7 hours tour because once back to the port there is nothing there.
Oct 09 Cruising the Strait of Malacca (麻六甲海峽)    
Oct 10 Singapore, Singapore 7:00 a.m.  
Saturday

Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD)
1SGD=0.722USD
1USD=1.384SGD
Both Vincent and I have been to Singapore. So we do not plan to linger. We'll head to airport to take a flight to our next destination, or head home.

Option 1 - head to airport. The drive from Singapore Cruise Center to Changi airport is about 14 miles, and takes 20-min.

Resources: Banking:
Bank of America's Global ATM Alliance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_ATM_Alliance
BoA's partner banks in Italy: Italian bank : BNL, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (which has been acquired by BNP Paribas).
- Florence : Many locations, one at Via dei Cerretani, 28, by the Duomo.
- Rome : Didn't find any near where we'll be on Google Map. But BNL is a large bank, so may be we'll find one.
In Spain - Deutsche Bank
In Cyprus - none.