We chose this cruise because it went to Israel and we were not disappointed. We booked through an online agency which included two nights pre-cruise in Rome, all transfers, and the airfare along with the cruise. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into the hotel in pouring rain. We were fortunate to have a sunny day the next day and rode public transportation to see the Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus, and the catacombs out on the Appian Way. On the day of the cruise we were picked up at the hotel and taken (in the rain) directly to ship. Apparently December is the rainy season in Rome and we were glad to have had one dry day to explore.
Some months before sailing we were informed that the cruise would not go to Egypt. The two days there were replaced with Crete and Naples. I'd hoped it would be Istanbul as they've done in the past, but found out onboard that the Jade alternates itineraries and the other one includes Istanbul. Our first stop was in Turkey. The scheduled port was missed due to rough seas and a nearby one was substituted. Antalya was interesting and we did not mind as we had not scheduled any tours there. Next was Cyprus. We took a ship's tour to a 1200s fortress, wine museum and tasting, and to a small village where the church was the site of a Holy Relic. In Israel we docked in Haifa for two days, rather than one day there and one in Ashdod. Ashdod was not visited due to its proximity to Gaza. All tours ran from Haifa. We were very glad we'd chosen the overnight to Jerusalem through the ship. Although not cheap ($649pp), it was worth every penny. Our guide, Elaun, was fabulous. He has duel US and Israeli citizenship and was extremely knowledgeable as well as entertaining. On the first day we visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem, seeing many of the most famous sites. This week was a wonderful week to be there as the lines were very short, unlike a visit during the height of the Christmas season. On the second day we had a wonderful tour of the Masada and a visit to the Dead Sea. The ship's excursions that included the Dead Sea went to the Lot Hotel where we enjoyed a nice lunch and then had a couple of hours to float in the Dead Sea. The area is beautiful with the mountains of Jordan reflected in the water. It was astounding, though,to see how much the Dead Sea had shrunk. No wonder if was in my book of places to see before they are gone! We felt safe the entire time we were in Israel and do not hesitate to recommend that others visit there.
After Israel we visited Crete and Naples, the two ports that replaced Egypt. In Crete we had a gracious local guide who explained much about the current Greek economic situation when asked. We had visited Knossos on a previous Jade cruise. That is the main attraction in Crete, in my opinion, but we enjoyed our tour of the mountain region and a seaside village where we had a nice lunch in a local restaurant. In Naples our ship's tour was canceled and we replaced it with another one, a walking tour of Naples that featured the Bourbon Tunnels. This was new to us. The original tunnel was begun by one of the Bourbon kings and the area was expanded in WWII to be a huge underground bomb shelter. Our guide Luca also explained the history of unification and I learned why many Italians immigrated to the US after that, including my great-grandfather who was from Sicily.
Onboard we were privileged to have the World's Greatest Cruise Director, Gary Glading as our cruise director again this cruise. We sailed with him during the same week last year on the Jade to the Canary Islands. I mean this literally. There is nothing Gary cannot do. He speaks at least six languages and does shows in the Italian restaurant and in Le Bistro. He has been a performer himself and had his own TV show.
Service from the crew was excellent as usual. We learned that a number of them will be joining NCL's new ships when they enter service in the next couple of years. The Jade is the Goldilocks ship for us: not too big, not too small, but just right. Entertainment was highlighted by a male vocal quartet, 4Ever. They were outstanding. The acrobats were excellent and I enjoyed their show even though that is not my first choice of entertainment. We did not attend the stage shows after the first when we realized they were the same ones we'd seen last December.
This cruise was a very affordable and enjoyable way to visit Israel while enjoying other ports and sea days as well. I highly recommend it.