Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Confessions of a Cruise Lecturer Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by David Soren

If you can visit the world's most exotic archaeological sites on a luxurious cruise ship plying haute cuisine, I say so much the better. As the Professor on more than 30 such voyages, I can tell you it's refreshing for someone like me--accustomed to questions like "uh, do you grade on attendance?"--to be asked to hold forth on more esoteric questions. Being a cruise lecturer involves joining the group in various shore excursions, all memorable for one reason or another. I recall traveling through Morocco and noticing an old road sign pointing to Banasa, which was not on our itinerary. On a whim, we stopped our bus and asked a friendly Bedouin for directions. He hopped aboard to lead us on a tour of this under-explored site, explaining that his grandfather had worked on excavations there, and he himself knew every stone of this Roman town. On another occasion, we were riding in a large bus on a fine, two-lane highway crossing the Jordanian desert, heading for the famous Nabatean rock-cut city of Petra when a sandstorm hit. The storm lasted five terrifying hours, but we made it out alive to find sanctuary in Petra's Mövenpick Hotel, an ultra-modern haven of Swiss elegance. After a decadent shower, I wondered whether the storm had been no more than a dream. As long as you jettison the cell phone, cruises offer a total escape from the real world. Still, when you get home, you notice that your shower produces more than a trickle and clean, dry clothes hang in your closet. This ebullient feeling lasts exactly three days. Then someone cuts you off in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It's time to start planning your next cruise.

David Soren, Regents' Professor of Classics at the University of Arizona, is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America