On the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Straits of Tiran, the sheltered waters are crystal clear, inviting visitors to dive straight in from the golden dunes of its pristine, sandy beaches.
This is why MSC Cruises has created a unique opportunity for guests to experience the very best of this rich, historical region, introducing the Red Sea as a new destination for the 2012-2013 winter season.
On 2 November 2012 MSC Armonia will depart from Venice, Italy for an nine-day/eight-night cruise, arriving at her new homeport in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt just over one week later. MSC Armonia's course will take her from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez transit canal to the Red Sea, with scheduled stops in Ancona, Italy, Heraklion, Greece, and Marmaris, Turkey arriving in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt on 10 November 2012.
From 10 November 2012 through to 6 April 2013, MSC Armonia has a full schedule of 21 8- day/7- night cruises, departing every Saturday from Sharm El Sheikh, with scheduled stops in Safaga, Egypt, Elat, Israel, Aqaba, Jordan and Sokhna Port, Egypt.
Guests will even have the opportunity to combine the positioning cruises to and from Sharm El Sheikh with the first and last cruises of the Red Sea season for the perfect mix of days at sea and calls at port in this stunning region.
The Red Sea will say farewell to MSC Armonia on 6 April 2013, when she starts her 10-day/9-night return cruise from Sharm El Sheikh to Venice in Italy. Scheduled stops are Sokhna Port, Egypt, Limassol, Cyprus, Antalya, Turkey, Rhodes, Greece, Heraklion, Greece and Kotor, Montenegro.
During the Red Sea experience, guests on board MSC Armonia can enjoy the region's most fascinating attractions and discover not only the breathtaking beauty but also the rich history and culture of the region, with itineraries offering the perfect balance of relaxation, historical discovery and adventure through a diverse choice of shore excursions.
Magical worlds of sea and sand
The golden sands and crystal clear waters of the region's beaches are an ideal haven for sunbathing and taking in stunning views, or setting off on a discovery of the amazing underwater world at your fingertips.
Snorkeling excursions and trips on a submarine with panoramic windows or a glass-bottomed boat give birds' eye views of the magical universe of beautiful coral reefs, rainbow-coloured fish, giant turtles, and other aquatic wildlife unique to the region.
A tour of the Dead Sea will leave guests deeply relaxed as they enjoy the therapeutic effect of floating in its high-saline waters or taking an invigorating clay bath, while the more adventurous can jump in jeeps or on camels for excursions along rocky trails in the desert.
Guests will be swept away by the romance of the Arabian desert on various tours offering stunning views of shimmering mirages, strangely formed rocky outcrops and glorious sunsets, while visits to Bedouin settlements will offer the opportunity to sample local aromatic sweet tea and discover the secret of baking unleven bread.
Ancient wonders come to life
Learning about the region's rich past is also easy and enjoyable with the many historical excursions on offer.
A visit to the timeless and beautiful Wadi Rum valley, inhabited since prehistoric periods, will reveal exactly why geologists love the area so much, with inscriptions in early Tahamudic writings etched throughout the valley.
Guests can visit the foot of Mount Sinai and explore St. Catherine's Monastery â the earliest surviving bastion of Christianity - including the Chapel of the Burning Bush, the Icon Gallery and Jethro's Well.
Aqaba leads visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra, the rose-red city that remained lost for over one thousand years. The tour begins with the exploration of a stunning natural canyon. Emerging from the canyon, bright daylight reveals Petra in all its rose-hued glory, and visits to the large amphitheatre and Royal Tombs follow.
Rugged wilderness and endangered wildlife
The Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve which lies in the Arava Valley is the perfect place to witness a variety of rare and endangered animals, all of which are mentioned in the Old Testament.
Timna Park, one of the oldest Mediterranean mining centres at the heart of the Red Canyon area, offers spectacular scenery, including some unusual rock formations called Solomon's Pillars and the ancient mines whose copper reserves began to be mined by the Egyptian pharaohs in the 15th century BC.
Egyptian legends and the Holy City
Ideal tours for first time visitors to the region take in all of the main Egyptian sites, including Saladin's Citadel, Mohamed Ali's Alabaster Mosque, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the River Nile. Bus tours to Cairo offer magnificent views of pyramids in Gizah including Cheops, Chefren and Mykerino, the Valley Temple and ancient pyramid of Sakkara.
An unforgettable drive and fly tour to Jerusalem through the wildly beautiful landscape of the Negev desert allows guests to soak up the Holy City's unique atmosphere. An extended tour will take guests to see all the city's major sights including a section of the Via Dolorosa and the Wailing Wall, with a stop at Mount of Olives for superb views of the city below.
By providing such imaginative options, MSC Cruises is confident of offering guests an unforgettable Red Sea adventure.
The MSC Armonia features 777 cabins, a sophisticated and elegant decor, superb attention to detail in all areas, the finest Mediterranean and international cuisine and a dazzling selection of entertainment. The luxury cruise ship boasts 4 restaurants, bars and lounges, the MSC Aurea Spa, a mini golf course, numerous boutiques, a casino, a theatre, a nightclub, and a children's club.