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Holy Land and Mediterranean cruise tour

 “I never thought it possible to visit the Acropolis in Athens, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Pompeii – but I did it and had the time of my life.” That was just one of the comments from one of the 20 guests who were part of the Flying Wheels Travel cruise tour to the Mediterranean and Holy Land. The tour featured three nights in Rome before sailing the Mediterranean on the Mariner of the Sea. The cruise highlights were visits to Mount Etna, Athens, Israel, Crete, Rhodes and Turkey.

The cruise/tour began in Rome with guests arriving on April 2 at the fully accessible hotel. Day one allowed our guests the opportunity to relax and recuperate from the jet lag and fatigue from traveling. The adventures in Rome began on day two with a panoramic tour of Rome in an accessible motor coach. A local guide hosted the tour and Flying Wheels Travel personnel provided travel assistance.  Highlights of the day included a walk/wheel tour to the Trivi Fountain, the Parthenon and the Piazza Navona. The following day we toured the Roman Forum, the Coliseum and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.

On day four, we boarded the Mariner of the Seas to begin the cruise of the Mediterranean. First port of call was Messina Sicily. We boarded an accessible motor coach to enjoy a ride to Mount Etna to see Europe’s most active volcano. We drove to the highest observation point where we were able to see the fresh lava flows for the latest eruption and see the smoking cone up close. Following the excursion to the volcano, we stopped in the hillside town of Taorima, which overlooks the Mediterranean from its perch.

Taorima is a beautiful medieval city with a wall, fortress and a charming accessible street that meanders through the town and empties on to a quaint plaza providing a magnificent view of the sea and landscape. While in Taorima, our guests had time for shopping and an opportunity to enjoy the great Italian gelato.

Next stop was Athens, where we had a panoramic tour of Athens in accessible mini buses. The highlight of Athens was the opportunity to ride to the top of the Acropolis on the special elevator installed for people who use mobility devices. After touring the Acropolis, our guests enjoyed a delicious lunch at the New Acropolis Museum, which also included a guided tour of the exhibits.

Haifa and Ashdod Israel were our next ports of call allowing the members of our group to enjoy two days in Israel. We were truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the Israel countryside as we toured with an accessible motor coach from the port cities. Our guests enjoyed a tour of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and the Church of the Multiplication. We had a delicious lunch along the Sea of Galilee that featured St. Paul’s fish. We also toured Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation.  As lovely as the northern part of Israel was, nothing compares to the jewel of Jerusalem. After enjoying the view of the city from the Mount of Olives, our guests toured the old town and visited the Western Wall. Our visit concluded with a visit to the New Israel Museum.

After our incredible experience in Israel, we docked on the island of Rhodes, once home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes. This beautiful island was once the fortress for the Knights of St. John and their fortress and harbor are truly remarkable landmarks on this magnificent Greek island. Members of our group had plenty of time for shopping and enjoying the local Greek cuisine as they experienced a perfectly sunny Mediterranean day.

No cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean would be complete without a stop in Kusadasi Turkey. Outside of Kusadasi lies one of the most famous Roman ruins in the ancient city of Ephesus. Although Ephesus is not very accessible, we were able to view the main ruins from an accessible motor coach and visit the Ephesus Museum, which features many statues, items of daily living and artwork found in the excavation of Ephesus. The tour concluded at a Turkish carpet shop where our guests were treated to Turkish tea and snacks while receiving a demonstration on carpet making.

Chania Crete was our next port of call. Chania is located on the greener western end of the island and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and vegetation. The old harbor of this city provides an astonishing backdrop to the Mediterranean blue sea and unique blend of Greek and Turkish architecture. Our group viewed the island countryside in accessible mini buses and enjoyed an excursion to the old market, the museum of antiquities and the old town.

Our final stop was in Naples where we boarded an accessible motor coach to tour Pompeii and a panoramic drive to Sorrento. Although Pompeii is not completely accessible, about one-third of the ancient ruins are. Along with an English-speaking tour guide, we visited many of the ruins of Pompeii including the casts of the people trapped by the volcanic ash, a Roman home and an ancient store that provided street food. The home, casts and parts of the business streets are now accessible by newly installed ramps that provide people who use mobility devices the opportunity to view these once inaccessible sites.  

 
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