There was bad news and good news in the messages pushed under the door of our luxury cabin as MV Aegean Odyssey breasted the breakers in the Red Sea towards Suez.

The bad news was not entirely unexpected, due to the second wave of protests in Egypt last November by the pro-democracy campaigners: following our visits in the previous days to Luxor’s Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings, we were not to complete the hat-trick of Egypt’s must-see tourist’s destinations with the Pyramids of Giza, the sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Our disappointment was ameliorated at once in the happier contents of the second communication – an invitation to dinner that night “at Captain’s table”. The meal with Captain Panagiotis Giakoumatos stands out as a highlight, even on a voyage that supplied a continual plateau of pleasure, to that extent that one might describe it as a dream come true.

Styled ‘The Red Sea, Egypt and Suez Canal’, the cruise had already taken most of our fellow passengers to Oman and Petra before we joined them in the Egyptian port (and tacky tourist trap) of Sharm el Sheikh.

The five-hour journey there had passed happily enough in the hands of easyJet. Once aboard the Aegean Odyssey we plunged into a life of hedonistic indulgence with a first taste of the superb food – this time, crepes with smoked salmon, sea bass fillet, veal steaks, fruit tart, four gorgeous continental cheeses – that was to feature in all our visits to the ship’s waiter-service, but (happily) sit-where-you-want Marco Polo restaurant.

Breakfast was usually taken beneath the sunshine on the outdoor tables of the Terrace Cafe at the stern of the ship. You name it, you could eat it. The Terrace was also the venue for our informal lunches.

Just once, we had afternoon tea – a greedy move too far. It prompted a guilty hour in the ship’s well-equipped gym. The 300 calories lost in my hour on the cycling and running machines made barely a dent in what was being daily consumed. Oh, and I forgot the ‘late night bites’ of sweetmeats and savoury delights.

The Aegean Odyssey famously also offers nourishment for the mind, Lecturer Dr Karen Extell, a graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, and now of the University of Qatar, set the scene for the glories of Luxor with a talk on the first night. So did some of the books I dipped into from the ship’s well-stocked library.

Middle East expert Trevor Mostyn, who lives in Oxford, gave talks on the current situation in the Middle East put in perspective the troubled times of the countries through which we travelled.

Exploration of Luxor involved an overnight stay in the luxurious Steigenberger Nile Hotel, following an afternoon visit to the wonders of the Temple at Karnak and a return after dark for a superb son et lumiere display. Pulling aside the curtains of our room as dawn broke we were treated to the unforgettable spectacle of the River Nile shimmering in the early light as a dozen or more hot air balloons passed through the morning mist against the ochre background of the Valley of the Kings.

Shortly after, that’s where we were, marvelling at the stupendous wall paintings in the tomb of Rameses IX, the artistry of the work of later craftsmen at the tomb of Ramesis X and, of course, the unique atmosphere of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, the young Egyptian king who died, as Karen Extell joked, “for the tourist industry”.

The atmosphere of the Aegean Odyssey was such as to make us feel like travellers, not tourists. The old-fashioned courtesy of the staff, Phillippino mainly, put one in mind of the good manners encountered in one of London’s best traditional hotels. Equally pukka, I’m delighted to say, were our fellow cruisers.

The spaciousness of the vessel, its decoration, and such facilities as its swimming pool (filled from the sea), and spa bath also suggested refinement.

Once in the Mediterranean, we pressed on to Beirut. We peeled off from the main tour to explore the city in the company of ‘old hand’ Trevor Mostyn. So familiar from newsreel footage during the days of the bloody civil war, the place is now utterly altered, an air of considerable affluence apparent in the top-of-the-range cars clogging the streets.

Baalbeck, proved truly amazing. Standing amid the Temples of Bacchus and Jupiter, it is mind-boggling to consider that these chunks of stone had been mined, moved and raised by men for whom animal-power supplied the only help.

That night, after dinner, Aegean Odyssey crossed to Cyprus. We were docked in Limassol as dawn broke.

Six of us ‘went it alone’, hiring a taxi.

Due to a census on the Turkish side, we stayed Greek, with a drive through the beautiful – delightfully Alpine – Troodos Mountains, passing its highest point, Mount Olympus. In Kakopetria we found Romios restaurant for a Greek lunch that proved too much, even for travellers as practised at the table as we had become.

We needed some room, of course, for that night’s farewell dinner, after which came a good night’s sleep to prepare for the following day’s British Airways flight from Larnaka to Heathrow – and reality.

As I said, a dream come true. Next time soon. Please.