13 Sep 2008


My preferred method of vacationing is cruising. I like the floating hotel concept, as it is possible to visit many places without packing, unpacking, and all the wasted time and effort getting from one hotel to another. These days it is even a bigger deal because of all of the airport hassles and delays.

I have been on 64 cruises, 33 ships and 16 cruise lines. All but two were in the last 20 years. I will be speaking in depth over time as to which ones are best for whom. I will tell you my favorites and why they are so.

During the last several years, I have booked all of my cruises through Deborah Walsh who owns Cruises Worldwide, I recommend her highly.

As in many industries, small travel agencies sell their small size as an advantage because of things like personal service. On the other hand, large travel agencies also sell their size as an advantage, because they have clout. The best thing about Deborah is that she has both. Coupled with her attitude and ability to perform makes her a natural.

Let me explain. Deborah's business is small, and you will get her personal attention. Virtually all of her business is cruise business, and all of it is with the luxury lines. She is important to them (and is an extremely likeable person).

Additionally Deborah is a member of Ensemble Travel Group which is a group of agencies that have tremendous buying power, and are able to provide VIP perks regularly.

Use her and you will be happy.

11 Sep 2008

Crete, Greece

Crete is very beautiful. Unfortunately we just had a day to spend there. We hired a taxi who drove us around the island and educated us on life there.

Tip - A hired taxi is often a great way to learn from a local, and far more enjoyable than a formal tour.

Historically, Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, the oldest Greek and European civilization. While it keeps its own local cultural traits, like music and dialect, Cretans openly identify themselves as Greeks.

Today, Crete's tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodations. With a mild climate, the island straddles two climatic zones (the Mediterranean and the North African), falling mainly within the former. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, and winters are fairly mild.

Given that Crete is known for tourism and great beaches, it made sense for us to find a great beach and just hang-out, taking in all the beauty.


09 Sep 2008

Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria is a beautiful city inhabited by beautiful people. We hired a taxi with an (almost) English speaking driver and had him drive us all over town. What a delightful day.


Unlike Syria (where we had just visited), it was clean, vibrant, and full of life. Named after Alexander the Great, this city has a population of 6,000,000 and is an interesting mixture of old and new. Their library is world famous beautiful modern architecture.  The port facilities are lovely. Egypt’s last king, Farouk, lived at Montazah Palace here until 1952.


Culturally it is, of course, very Muslim, and at noon daily, virtually everything stops for prayer. Although I am not thrilled with my picture, it was telling to see the modern girls walking hand in hand with their boyfriend in modern garb, but also with proper, yet modern, head covering.  There are no automatic stop lights. The lights are manned individually.


08 Sep 2008


One of reasons I like cruises, is that I find myself in places that I would not normally visit. Generally, this works out just fine, with the daily experience trending from pleasant to fabulous. Once in a while though, a port is an absolute zero, and I wonder why the ship would include it on their schedule at all.

A stop in Syria offered one of these xperiences. It is a pit with a capital “P” and scary as well. Nothing says totalitarian government like pictures of President Assad on virtually every vehicle, sign-post and building.

Allyn and I walked all over the city, and did not see any women. I have been to many Muslim countries and even the most conservative have many women around (of course appropriately attired as per their custom).

Every place was filthy. In the photo below, Allyn is standing in front of a typically ugly and debris infested establishment.

We did not feel safe again until we reboarded the ship.

07 Sep 2008

Venice's Jewish Ghetto

The original ghetto was is Venice and is a must see sight for people of all heritages.

We have come to know the word ghetto as urban areas were impoverished minorities tend to live. For those who have knowledge of WWII, from 1939 – 1944 Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were held in ghettos prior to being deported to concentration and death camps.

The original ghetto was is Venice. When Jews were being kicked out of cities all over Europe they were “tolerated” and allowed to live in Venice, but forced to live in the Ghetto from 1516 until 1797.   

It worked because it was an island that was in a non desirable part of town where the people could be locked in every evening.

The word “ghetto” really comes from the Italian word for foundry. The Jewish Ghetto as on the island that previously was the home of the Venetian smelting works.

Jews were not allowed to be employed in many professions besides tailoring, money-lending, some banking, insurance and medicine.

Although many prospered economically, often they were required to wear distinctive yellow clothing and symbols.

Jews were granted full civic status in 1818.

Tip - Do not miss the 40 minute walking tour that starts frequently from the Jewish Community Museum.