Holy Land Cruise
First-time cruiser -- head read up on all the various things to watch for on cruises, etc. We found ourselves with many experienced cruisers (5 x a year or more) who told us this was an exceptional ship relative to many.
Check-in was fast and efficient with little waiting despite a large number of people arriving when we did.
Disembarkation was no waiting at all -- really excellent.
Loved the Grand Cuvee Dining Room -- service and food variety was great. We didn't see a need to visit any specialty rests.
Just about every worker on the ship makes you feel special and truly seems concerned about your experience -- including the room attendants who were better than many hotel 'sales' people I've met over the years.
Ship amenities were excellent.
Communication on processes, shore excursions, etc were excellent.
Only small niggle was we had an upgraded beverage package and I wish they would link husband and wife info so I More
didn't have to have both cards to get drinks for both of us. Less
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Cabin review: 1A8331 Deluxe Veranda 1A
Large bed, excellent balcony -- room for two reclining deck chairs and a table, felt very spacious compared to what we've heard about many ship rooms. Room attendants did an awesome job of maintaining. This about 2/3 of the way back on the ship port side. It was quiet both from the hallway side and sitting on the balcony.
Port and Shore Excursions
We did have armed guards with us, but I didn't really ever feel insecure. There are enough friendly Egyptian military guys at the key tourist sites. Maybe I'm naive -- not sure. Great to see the Sphinx and Giza Pyramids. We did a lunch cruise on the Nile, which was ok. I skipped the meal desiring to avoid any stomach ailments -- many who chose to eat did get sick the next day. Also, people who stayed overnight in Cairo and ate at the Marriott there got sick too. I brought peanuts and bottled water and skipped all other eating -- great move. Alabaster Mosque was interesting and great views from there. Bought some Papyrus at the Papyrus Institute -- there you can be sure they aren't fake. Good trip for once in a lifetime.
Library is modern -- the ancient wonder is sunken under the bay. Neat, but not fascinating. The catacombs were kind of neat, but again, not fascinating. Alexandria is a filthy town -- all of Egypt needs to work on their sanitation. It would be neat to dive on the undersea ruins of Alexandria, but I'm afraid the bay water is polluted just looking at the city itself.
I had low expectations for this, but it was really good. Jaffa is the most ancient ongoing port in the world. It is where Jonah set sail before the giant fish swallowed him. It is also where the Greek mythology around Perseus saving Andromeda is set. Wonderful old town to walk around. On its northern edge we just drove around and saw the modern seaside city of Tel Aviv.
Our guide Yair was awesome. We got a good mix of current events in Israel and ancient history -- particularly focusing on Jesus' ministry -- most of which was in this region. We fully circled the Sea of Galilee, stopped for a little wade in the Jordan, and visited key sites like Capernaum, etc. This is an unusually lush part of Israel and is a must see.
Visited Church of the Nativity which sits on the historical site where Jesus was born in a cave-like manger. This is in Palestine controlled territory, but stick with your tour guide and you have no worries. Save some money for a quality hand-carved olive wood Nativity set if you get a chance to go to a tour sanctioned store.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Covers both where Jesus' cross was mounted in the rock as he hung on it and a tomb just downhill that historically is believed to have been where he was buried for 3 days.
Just drove a little around larger Jerusalem and ate at a nice hotel. Interesting.
Where Jesus prayed as the Jewish Sanhedrin came to arrest him. Looks like it would have been a peaceful place to pray back then with all the ancient olive trees.
The Old City didn't really seem to be much bigger than many U.S. suburban neighborhoods. So imagine your neighborhood control being divided up between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Frankly, I think the division almost has as much to do with tourism economics as anything.
Walking where Jesus carried the cross up to his place of crucifixion down narrow stone streets with vendors on all sides. Stations of the Cross are marked where events described in the Biblical account occurred. It was really crowded due to the holiday, but still meaningful and worthwhile. I'd love to do this again on my own next time just to have more time to stop at everything longer. Much of the walk is in the Muslim quarter, but have no fear -- they just want to sell you stuff, not hurt you.
All that is left of the last temple is this foundation wall. Not one stone of the actual building was left by the Romans in their 70 AD destruction. We were there during Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) where Jews remember their 40 year desert trek with Moses. Neat to see the devotion of the Hasidic Jews who were there in mass for the holiday.
Stunning island, easy to visit without a shore excursion. Ride the tram to the top for cheap and just walk around the small town looking at the neat churches with blue domed roofs, shopping, eating. Study up on your jewelry prices at home and really consider shopping for jewelry here. We got a very nice Topaz and Diamond Ring in 18k white gold that we had appraised back home for 2x what we paid. They have much good Tanzanite and Turquoise for very good prices as well.
Wish we would have also taken a cab to the town of Oi after talking with fellow passengers afterward.