Port and Shore Excursions
Since we had visited Athens a few times previously, we thought it would be nice to get out of the city and see the countryside so we planned a trip to Corinth and, through cruise critic members joining us, we left with a full bus for a really great day. We used Antelope Travel to make the arrangements and our guides name was Peppy. She was very knowledgeable and lively. We saw the countryside and took great pictures. Went to The Corinth Canal for a photo stop, then on to Corinth and its museum, a stop on top of a mountain for great views, and finally to Napflio, which was a quaint little town that everyone considered the highlight. Some ate lunch, some walked around, some had gelato.....we all could have used more time on our own here but since the ship would be leaving at 5:30, we decided to call it a day after about 2 hours rather than take the chance. Antelope did a great job and we all enjoyed the day. It was a refreshing break from the crowded cityscape we had in the other ports.
Egypt - we joined a cruise critic group and a bus of 30+ went for an overnight into Cairo with Ramses Tours. Ramses included 2 lunches, the hotel and entrance fees to the sites. At $198 each, we felt it was a great value. Cairo is a city like no other. The traffic, congestion and smog have to be unmatched by the places frequented by most travelers. Totally unbelievable!!! Seeing the pyramids was certainly a wonderful experience - we crawled under the pyramids in one instance also. The hawkers are unbelievable...we were harassed beyond belief at every turn. They sell you the opportunity to climb up on the pyramid, which is a no no, and sell you the chance to take your picture with them or their camel. Then of course they are selling trinkets...the joke was that everything was one dollar until you got it in your hands...once you are holding something the price automatically jumps to four or five dollars. They are quite sneaky and even a seasoned traveler would have to be on alert. Given the insane traffic, we arrived back 1 hour later than the all aboard time. Thankfully three buses from the cruise tours were even later so the ship did not leave without us. If your overnight includes a night at Le Meridien, I would give it 3 stars by American standards. Certainly functional for the night. People who ate in their restaurant said it was good and was reasonably priced. We brought apples, oranges and rolls from the boat and had a picnic in our room after a hot shower.
This was our final port and was a nice way to end the cruise. It was a short day...7 to 1 only.....but is s great little stop. The city bus comes to the pier and takes a bus load every 10 minutes to the center of town for 3 euros round trip. Once there, you can shop, go to the market, or down to the harbour. Going through this quaint town seemed to be the only real thing to do but seeing how cute it was and how many pictures i took, that was enough for a brief stop. You can go to the restroom upstairs at the starbucks by keying in the code on your receipt....otherwise finding the beloved wc sign was our only issue in this port.
Ashdod 2 days: We had 2 days in the Ashdod port on this trip. Given that we had been to Israel before and did the Masada/Dead Sea day already, we opted for a day of the Jewish sites rather that the Christian sites and we didnt leave the ship the other Ashdod Israel day. Not leaving the ship was my husbands call and what a good call it was....we needed to relax and that is just what we did. On our day out, we utilized a cruise critic groups tour and went with GTI (Guided Tours Israel). We went first to Yad Vashem the Holocaust Memorial museum, followed by a walk through the city to point out various sites, a stop at the gilded dome for pictures and then the Wall. The Jewish participants on this tour were thoughtful enough to secure tickets to The Kotel in advance wherein we were able to go under the wall and walk through the tunnels. If you secure a reservation, you will pay in shekels or by credit card only. Otherwise, the US dollar is widely accepted. We stopped for a sandwich called a shawarma, which was really good. Last year, we also used GTI and had a fantastic guide. This year, we had an older lady who was totally not interested in our group having a good time or in seeing the sites or apparently even being a tour guide. I did not make a note of her name but she was completely dull. Folks who did an overnight here gave it good reviews. The Holocaust museum was not to be missed...it was a remarkable experience. As I noted, on Day 2, we stayed on the ship and took advantage of empty hot tubs and good room service.
Haifa - 1 day: On the 3rd Israel day, we were in the Haifa port and again joined a cruise critic group through GTI. We saw the Christian sites again that we had seen the year before. A younger man was our guide and he was great. Very informative through the whole trip and funny and personable. Though we had seen these sites before, you see a lot in one day which can be overwhelming to remember everything. So rather than sit out the day, we joined the group and had a great time. We were able to absorb everything and not just run from one spot to the next. Having a guide comparable to last year also made it a fun day. We stopped for lunch however we again brought snacks and walked around while we had a little food to hold us over. Since we were a little late to the restaurant, the others told us the entree food was gone and rather than paying 20 to eat, they only paid 12 for some salad and bread. Given the good pictures i was able to take in that hour, we made the right choice.
We had been to this port also but joined a tour through cruise critic that included some highlights we previously did not see. Our first stop was the House of the Virgin Mary, then the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the terrace houses, the village of Sirince and the temple of Artemis. Our original trip did not include the terrace houses and did not include Sirince. Both were definitely worth a visit. Make sure you walk through the back streets of Sirince for some great pictures of where the local people live. If your day in port allows time enough for all of these stops, make sure you include them. It was a great day even though we had a duplicate visit through the ancient city. Our guide this year pointed out more things than the guide from last year