OAT’s New Ship Includes Saudi Arabia on Red Sea Itinerary

Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), the leader in adventure, value & discovery on the road less traveled, is pleased to announce the launch of “Cruising the Red Sea: Egypt, Sinai, Saudi Arabia & Jordan” for 2008.  The 18-day, small group adventure begins at $4395 and includes roundtrip international airfare from New York, a seven-night Red Sea cruise aboard the M/V Arethusa, OAT’s brand new, four-star 50 passenger ship, and a visit to Saudi Arabia, which has recently opened to foreign tourists.   Departures begin in November 2008 and are scheduled through March 2009.

“While a handful of U.S. tour operators now travel to Saudi Arabia and a few cruise the Red Sea, we’re the first to combine both in one unique itinerary, ” said Mark C. Frevert, OAT President.  “Our itinerary connects travelers with locals in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sinai, and Jordan, and offers them the opportunity to experience the region’s rich histories, religions, cultures, and complexities.  We’re delighted that our travelers will be among the first to visit Saudi Arabia—and that they’ll do so as part of a cruise aboard our new small ship that offers such intimacy, camaraderie and access.”

“Cruising the Red Sea: Egypt, Sinai, Saudi Arabia & Jordan” is an 18-day journey that follows the footsteps of countless pilgrims, prophets and pharaohs and visits the sweeping desert landscapes made legendary by Lawrence if Arabia.  It explores the ancient wonders of Egypt, the holy lands of Sinai and the mysterious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  A memorable 7-night cruise along the crystalline waters of the Red Sea will enchant travelers as will the small ship’s ability to moor most nights in small, picturesque harbors.

The 18-day adventure begins at $4395, or just $245 per day, and includes roundtrip airfare from New York; 7 nights aboard OAT’s four-star ship; accommodations (3 nights in Cairo and 2 in Luxor, Egypt;1 night in Petra and 3 in Amman, Jordan); 41 meals; 24 small group activities; all shore and offshore excursions; services of a local OAT Trip Leader; and all land transportation. The group is limited to 25 travelers, although two groups, each with its own Trip Leader, will join together for the cruise.

Among the many highlights is the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia; the Red Sea cruise; visits with Bedouin tribes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt; meals at local families’ homes in Egypt and Jordan; visits to 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in three countries; Mt. Nebo and Mt. Sinai; the Dead Sea; the ancient “Lost City” of Petra, Jordan; and the history-rich cities of Cairo, Luxor, and Amman experienced in small groups and walks.

The adventure begins in Cairo, highlights of which include visits to the Great Pyramid of Giza and the pyramids at Saqqara; Cairo’s Islamic quarter and medieval bazaar; the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, King Tut’s final resting place; dinner at the home of a local family; and a dinner cruise along the Nile.  After three nights in Cairo, a short flight will take travelers to the modern city of Luxor, where they’ll spend two days visiting the Valleys of the Kings, the Luxor Temple, the Temple of Karnak, and other ancient sites before boarding the M/V Arethusa to begin their 7-night Red Sea cruise.  Their first stop will be an overnight stay in the small Egyptian Red Sea port of Safaga.

The ship will then cross the Red Sea and arrive at Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular resort town located at Sinai Peninsula’s southern tip and an area renowned for its coral reefs.  Travelers will visit Ras Mohammed, Egypt’s first marine National Park, for optional swimming and snorkeling and later, will board their ship and sail to Duba, Saudi Arabia.  This port is an important one for Islamic pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, and it will serve as the M/V Arethusa’s home for the night.

The next morning, the group will drive into the Saudi countryside, stopping in the provincial capital of Tabouk to see the remnants of what once was part of the Hejaz railway stations, a railway built in 1908 to connect Istanbul with Mecca, before continuing on into the surrounding desert.  Reaching the desert, they’ll meet and have lunch with members of a nomadic Bedouin tribe, learning about the tribe’s way of life.  Later, after a port tour, they’ll depart Duba for Nuweiba, a quiet resort town on the Egyptian coast, where their ship will moor overnight.

Travelers will drive up into the Sinai Peninsula’s mountainous interior the following morning for a full-day excursion that will include a visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery, the world’s oldest continuously active monastery and a pilgrimage site for Christians Jews, and Muslims.  Later, they’ll follow the footsteps of Moses during a visit to legendary Mt. Sinai.  The next day, travelers will visit a local Bedouin village before boarding their ship and sailing on to Aqaba, Jordan.

During their four-night stay in Jordan, travelers will spend one full day exploring the “Lost City” of Petra, Jordan’s greatest archaeological treasure.  They’ll have three nights in Amman, Jordan’s ancient and modern capital that’s built on seven hills.  Among the highlights will be dinner at the home of a local family; experiencing the Dead Sea; exploration of Amman’s bustling souks and historic treasures; and an optional tour of the ancient city of Jerash.  Travelers will enjoy a festive farewell dinner on their last night before departing the next day for the U.S. or for Jerusalem, Israel as part of their optional post-trip stay.

Departures begin in November 2008 and, due to the new trip’s popularity, are now scheduled through March 2009.  Travelers may extend their vacation with an optional four-night pre-trip stay in Alexandria and El-Alamein, Egypt from $645 and/or an optional five-night post-trip stay in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel from $895.  For more information or a free catalog, please call OAT at 1-800-873-5628.

The M/V Arethusa, launching in April 2008, is part of Grand Circle Small Ship Cruises’ award-winning fleet of 50+ small ships.  The 50-passenger ship has 26 cabins (24 doubles at 150-170 square feet, 2 singles at approx. 140 square feet).  All cabins feature private bathrooms, moveable twin beds, flat screen TV with CNN, telephone, mini-refrigerator, individually-controlled air conditioning, hair dryer and dual electrical outlets.  The ship features a lounge, bar area, library, and sun deck.  Please visit www.oattravel.com/360tours for a virtual tour of the M/V Arethusa’s sister ship, the M/V Athena.

Grand Circle Small Ship Cruises has been widely recognized for its excellence and value.  Condé Nast Traveler named the fleet to its 2008 Gold List, and in 2007 its readers rated it the 2nd best small-ship cruise line in the world.  Last year, Travel + Leisure readers named the fleet the #1 world’s best value cruise line and its readers rated it among the top 5 world’s best small-ship cruise lines.

Established in 1978, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) is part of Grand Circle Corporation’s family of travel companies, and it offers unique small group adventures worldwide to Americans age 50 and older.  OAT has been rated among the top 15 tour operators and safari outfitters by the readers of Travel + Leisure for five years running, and in 2007, was named one of the top 3 world’s best value tour operators.   Grand Circle is headquartered in Boston, Mass., with 44 offices throughout Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Americas, and Africa.

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