Until our arrival at the MSC check-in counter 5 days ago, we didn’t even know we were going to Tunisia. Though it was on our original itinerary when we booked months ago, it was removed from the itinerary in April to our great dismay. Tunisia’s revolution in December was the beginning of what became known as the “Arab Spring.” It was closely followed by revolution in Egypt and civil uprisings in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen – not to mention major protests in many other parts of other Arab world. Though the political situation in Tunisia has since stabilized, the cruise ships had yet to return – until this week. Yes, today was MSC’s first trip back to Tunisia since the revolution began.
The MSC reception desk couldn’t tell us much about what the Tunisian authorities would require. In fact, there was a rumor that those with non-E.U. passports might not even be allowed to disembark. Luckily, that wasn’t the case and we had a terrific day exploring the greater Tunis area.
Since we had very little warning about our Tunisian stop, we’d done no research. So, I did something I never do – I suggested we book one of the ship’s excursions. Sometimes, when you’re not sure exactly what you’re getting yourself into, it’s best to just go with the safest option (my Mother will be so proud).
After some quick research on the ship’s wifi, the two main places I wanted to see were the ancient ruins of Carthage and the seaside town of Sidi Bou Said – known as the “Santorini” of Tunisia. Since the ship offered an excursion that did just that, we decided to book it and take the guesswork out of our stop in Northern Africa.
It ended up being a perfect day. The group tour thing didn’t get on my nerves too badly and I loved the history of Carthage (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the views of the Gulf of Tunis and whitewashed homes of Sidi Bou Said. It made me feel like I was wandering the streets of any Greek Island – with the possible exception of the aggressive merchants in the souk.
After squeezing in a lot into a 6-hour stop, we’re back aboard Splendida and sailing toward our final stop in Palma de Mallorca.