Gene Sloan's popular cruise blog on USA Today's CruiseLog has an article today of particular interest to me - A Cruise to Libya? Another Line Puts it on the Schedule.
Gene reports that Azamara Cruises' 694-passenger Azamara Quest will visit Libya's Al Khums and Tripoli during a Mediterranean voyage that begins on Oct. 16, 2012.
This is not the first cruise line which plans to visit Libya this year. CruiseLog previously reported that Crystal Cruises announced plans for the Crystal Serenity to call on Libya later this fall. A Crystal spokeswoman told CruiseLog that a reversal of Libya's longtime ban on American tourists is behind the addition of a Libyan port to the line's schedule.
"Libya has loosened its ban on American tourists once before -- after President Bush lifted U.S. sanctions on the country in 2004 -- in a move that didn't last long. Back then, a number of cruise lines that carry Americans including Crystal, Silversea and Oceania announced plans to begin calling on the country only to have to scuttle the plans after new tensions between the countries prompted Libya to once again raise obstacles to American tourists."
Cruise passengers on the Crystal cruise "will be able to see some of the world's best-preserved archaeological relics from Roman, Greek, Byzantine, Phoenician and Arab-Islamic civilizations; mix with local and tribal groups; feast on traditional cuisine; and visit the Saharan desert."
So why is this of interest to me? My family lived in Libya from 1965 to 1988. My Dad was the head of the geophysical department of a large American oil company. I attended school from second to ninth grade in Tripoli.
My brother and sister and I had the time of our lives. We grew up swimming in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, took trips into the Sahara desert, dove for pottery off the coast of the incredible Roman ruins of Sabratha, pick Roman coins from the Libyan sands and made many friends with Libyans. Unlike the images broadcast in the U.S. of crazy Iranians and Iraqis, the Libyans (largely Sunni Muslims) were peaceful and patient people, especially considering that they were confronted with red neck Americans of the 1960's from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas (where my family is from).
At the last Seatrade conference on Miami Beach earlier this year, I had a chance to meet the Libyan representative promoting cruising in Libya. He has a small booth and seemed to be wrongfully treated like a pariah.
But it was nice to see an old friend and shake his hand.
Perhaps I should cruise back to Libya, a land of nice people and fond memories.