So the time is back when ships are doing crossings from the Mediterranean to Dubai and other seas in Asia. One of the most popular ports on this trip is Aqaba in Jordan. This is the most popular excursion on the whole cruise. Since many people are planning on booking it, here is an overview on what to expect from one of these excursions.
Disclaimer. I went on this excursion with MSC, therefore if you are going with another cruise line, you might have a slightly different experience. Also be aware that prices might have changed since I was there.
Basic facts about booking
Since this is one of the most popular excursions on the cruise if you can book it in advance. If you are planning to book it on board, you might run into problems with sold-out languages or the exact packages you want. You do have the advantage of the staff on board who can tell you, but be aware that many of them are also doing this crossing for the first time and are working with second-hand information.
We were offering two packages for the trip to Petra. One included lunch at a restaurant and the other was a packed lunch. Since the excursion lasts about ten hours with the travel, you need some kind of lunch option. The restaurant was part of the Mövenpick hotel located right next to the entrance to the sights. I was lucky enough to get to visit the restaurant and it was delicious. If your company offers something similar and they tell you this is the hotel they are picking for lunch, it is definitely worth the splurge. They also provide vegetarian options, since it is a Muslim country; however, I cannot guarantee vegan options. For these specific questions, you have to ask your excursion staff.
Starting your journey
Since there will be many buses leaving for Petra around the same time, they will make different groups probably based on languages. Also the meeting time will be very early since the drive is two hours from Aqaba. Make sure you follow the exact instructions given the night before and at the meeting point to make sure you get on the correct bus with the correct language.
In MSC, you need to go get your bus number with one of the excursion staff at the beginning. If you are traveling with family or friends, make sure you only collect your bus numbers once everyone has arrived. It is enough if one person goes with all the tickets and gets the numbers. If you do not do this, they will split up your family and you will have to do the excursion on different buses. Since there are so many people, there is no possibility to rearrange you without delaying everything.
You will need two hours by bus to reach Petra from Aqaba. While it is a partially boring journey, it is worth staying awake at least one way to see the gorgeous wildness of the desert around and the views from the mountains on the way there. The guide will normally talk a bit at the beginning and then let you sleep. I suggest you stay awake on the way there, since on the way back you will be exhausted due to the long walk and it might be dark.
On this travel, we stopped once for the gorgeous view and for a bathroom break. This made the trip a little longer, but it was great to be able to stretch your legs and stop people from being restless.
Once you have reached, you can start exploring this gorgeous place. It will take about thirty minutes to one hour to walk to the Treasury, depending on the speed and how much the tour guide talks on the way down. There are many symbolic spots and stones along the way that the tour guide will explain, talk about, or at least point out. This is a continuous way down. It can be steep at some point and slippery, so be careful.
Once you reached the treasury you will have another maybe one hour of guided tour of the rest of the ancient sights. For us, this part of the excursion was optional, but I would highly suggest it. The guides provided are normally great and have much interesting information to share. In the end you will still have up to two hours of free time (depending on how early you left). During this free time you can explore different parts of Petra on your own and find many interesting sights.
Be sure to plan enough time to make it back up. Since now you will be walking up continuously, I suggest you plan about one hour to give yourself the time to rest and walk slowly along the way.
The Restaurant - Mövenpick hotel
Our package included lunch at the restaurant. The difference in price is no more than 50€ and it is definitely worth it. I loved the amazing buffet with local specialties as well as some more common dishes. All the dishes I have tried were delicious and I could not recommend it enough. As stated above, they also had some vegetarian options and great dessert. Also there is more choice than with the lunch boxes, so definitely worth the extra money for me.
Go to sleep early the next day. Normally you have a sea day before so you can totally get a lot of sleep that night. It will give you the chance to listen to the tour guide tell you information about the tour and Jordan.
Book the excursion with lunch at the restaurant. If you book in advance, the difference is only 25€ which is totally worth it.
Take pictures on the way up. On the way in listen to the guide and enjoy the surroundings. Once everybody has split up and taking it at their own pace, you can take pictures of everything you want. It will also mean less people in your photos.
When walking in the canyon, be very careful of the carriges. They are one of the most dangerous things in Petra. The drivers are not considerate, driver their horses too fast, and the horses have no control on the slippery floor. So the moment you hear them, jump to one side of the passage to avoid being run over.
On that none, do not hire one of them. The Cruise line will take no responsibility and they really are dangerous. These people are only out to make money, so they chase their horses up and down the passage as fast as possible.
Make sure you look after the time. This tour is one that has to be exactly on time to make sure they make it back to the ship. Therefore the bus will wait, but not forever. If you are more than maybe 30 minutes late, there is a chance that you will be left behind.
So that is your guide to the Excursion to Petra. If you dock in Aqaba, this is definitely worth a trip. It is one of the 7 World Wonders and one of the most impressive things I have seen during my time on board.
If you have any other tips or stories of your own to share, feel free to leave them in the comments below or on social media. I always love hearing from all of you.