Air travel is faster, more convenient, and actually cheaper than most alternatives. However, it's nowhere near as fun. I had intended my next destination after Egypt to be Greece, and seeing as how it's just across "the pond", I figured I'd just catch one of the many sear ferries that surely plied the waters. After all, Alexandria is one of the world's greatest port cities, in history at least. However, it would appear that it's only in history that the port was great, as currently there are exactly zero ferries going from Egypt to anywhere. Indeed, after consulting many different travel agents (and getting as many different answers), I finally found the sole passenger ship that visits Alexandria: the Princess Marissa cruise ship. I'd never been on a cruise ship and it wasn't too much more than a plane ticket (and I was distraught at the idea of coming all this way to Alexandria only to turn around and go back to the Cairo airport) so I figured I'd give it a go.
After a terribly-Egyptian taxi ride I was dropped off at Gate 10, an innocuous toll-like gate off an anonymous road that guarded the entrance to a bridge leading off into the distant harbor. I walk up to the gate and inform the guard "I'd like to get on the cruise ship, please", only to be met with a blank stare. He hurried off and found someone else, who called someone and discussed in rather confused tones for a bit, before returning to me and asking "Where's your tour guide?" "I have no guide, I just want to get on the ship." "Well you can't get on the ship without a guide." "Well... can I just walk there?" "Well... yes, you could, but... you need a guide." Hm. This conversation happened while he was constantly assuring me "There is no problem. Don't worry, it's no problem," when all the evidence of the situation pointed to the contrary. Eventually he instructs an utterly silent and spooky minion to escort me to the boat. Good.
We ride in a car along the bridge to nowhere, only to find that it leads to a large buildings marked "Customs". There're we're met by another man, one that was presumably consulted on the phone before our arrival. This second man took me from one customs desk, office, person, to another, each time explaining the situation to a befuddled audience, and each time running off with my passport to fill out form after form and apologizing to me for the delay.
In the end, we're walking away and I'm again told that there is "no problem", but that I had to pay him one Egyptian pound. Despite suspecting that it's just paying him for his troubles, I gladly hand over the money.
End, Act I.
Begin, Act II.
From there I walk up to tall, wide hull of the cruise ship - so large from this angle that I cannot see anything but a white, featureless hull in all directions - and enter the loading ramp where I'm met by a pleasant crew that asks me in a perky tone, "Your shore pass, please." "Err... I have no shore pass, but here's my ticket." "Your... ticket? Hm..." She looks it over and then suddenly realizes "Oh! You're the 'One Way', aren't you?" Now knowing that I'm notorious despite having been on the ship for a mere five minutes (usually it takes at least an hour), I proudly acknowledge the title. "Ok, wait here."
I wait. And wait. Not really knowing what I'm waiting for, the time ticks by. Of course I spend this time wisely, flirting with said pleasant crew and learning the ins-and-outs of life upon a cruise ship, but the time draws on slowly nonetheless.
Eventually a stern-looking woman boards the ship carrying a bag of souvenirs. The crew-girl announces to this woman that I'm seeking passage to Cyprus on the boat. With a weary sigh as if the weight of the world had been draped around her neck, she turns to me and asks for my visa.
At this point I realize that I'd never even considered getting a visa, and that this might be a real problem. But, I try to play it coolly "It's my impression that US citizens can get visas to Cyprus upon arrival...?" Thankfully by gambit pays off and it turns out I'm right.
"You have money?" Again, I realize that I'm utterly devoid of cash at that particular moment, having just spent my last Egyptian pound paying off a customs agent and having no US dollars as a backup. "Um.. I have credit cards and an ATM card." "Show me. What is the limit of this one? This one? How much money in this account?" I give her the figures, though why she would ask me when she has no means to verify is anyone's guess, and she seems satisfied.
"How long are you going to stay in Cyprus?" Thinking I'd play the role of the friendly wanderer, I explain perhaps two weeks, but I'm not sure. Apparently this is the wrong role to take, as she's looking for a more precise answer. Eventually I change my story, and indicate that I'm staying for precisely two weeks, and she seems to like that.
"Where are you going after Cyprus?" Now, this whole drama takes place as I'm boarding a boat across the Mediterranean, and I'm hoping to repeat the experience (minus the hassle) on the way out of Cyprus. I explain that when I'm ready to leave Cyprus, I'll find a ferry, perhaps to Greece, or even Turkey. Ooh. Thanks to my complete ignorance of Cypriot history, including the two-decades of military occupation by Turkish troops in the northern third of the island, I didn't realize the power of the 'T' word. "Turkey? Turkey? You want to go to Turkey? We don't *go* to Turkey. No boats, no planes, no cars, no way." Not having any reason why this is the case but recognizing reality, I go to the backup plan "Greece! Greece is my next destination, not Turkey. I'm going to take a ferry to Greece after Cyprus." "There are no ferries to Greece. [I mean, I'm going to take a plane.]"
With an exceedingly skeptical glare she looks me over, and then apparently gives up trying to defend the shores of Cyprus from such a sly devil as me. She asks for and receives my passport and ticket, and heads into the ship with her bag of trinkets.
From there I wait and wait some more, and eventually get shown to my room by the friendly Filipino girl with whom I'd been talking. And, after learning I was hungry and had not a dollar to my name (especially not a Cyprus pound), she even lended me enough money to go buy a sandwich. Now that's service.
The boat ride itself was uneventful and comfortable, and the only experience worth recounting was the parade of flaming Baked Alaskas at dinner (all of the waiters streamed out and danced all over the dining room whirling around our dessert while we clapped to the music - it was very strange). Regardless, when I awoke the next morning I found myself safely at port in Lemessol, Cyprus, and in a new country once again.