Port and Shore Excursions
This was the reason for our trip!
After a port change by NCL that left us overnight in Haifa, we planned accordingly and booked both days with GTI, a private tour agency.
Our first day, Thursday, was spent in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea area. This was a great day to visit the Western (Wailing) Wall, because, as our guide shared, Tuesdays and Thursdays were bar mitzvah days, and there were many celebrations of this 'becoming an adult' day for Jewish young people. It also worked well because Fridays in Jerusalem are Jewish Sabbath, and many things closed at noon. Our guide was very informative about all the religious ties in the area, and I was struck with how well the 3 major religious cultures worked together. We walked through the old city. The Dead Sea was quite an experience! We were told to remove all metal, as it would turn from the salt (better to leave it in the cabin safe that day), and then enjoy the feeling of floating (face up only, please *smile*). Also, along the way to the Dead Sea, we experienced an Israeli/Palestinian checkpoint, traveling a bit through the West Bank. We were assured by our guide that it was quite safe, and he explained all about the conflicts and the settlements and the walls between the two groups.
Our second day, Friday, was spent in the Sea of Galilee and Tiberius area. Another full day of seeing the sights. First we visited Tiberius and the surrounding area. Then drove along the Golan Heights/Sea of Galilee, and ended up finally at the place where Jesus was baptized, according to tradition. Back then to Haifa, and a final stop to visit the Bahai gardens.
These were 2 VERY full days, made longer by the necessary extra driving time from Haifa to Jerusalem on Thursday, since we did not stop in Ashdod for security reasons. Our tour was only 16 people, and the driver and guide were fantastic! Most all places accepted US dollars, so there was no need to convert to their currency...don't forget to tip the guide and driver if you had a good experience...they work very hard!
Since Israel was soon, we were planning on having a slow day, just grabbing the bus into town for some shopping. At the bus stop, we were invited by a private tour guide to join his group, for a 4-hour ride up the coast. We were rewarded with breathtaking views of the coast, and a delicious lunch in Paphos, the turn-around point of our tour.
We were pleasantly surprised by all there was to see, the guide was friendly and very knowledgeable, and our lunch amazing.
We had visited Naples before (Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Capri), so planned on going to the Archaeological Museum, where many of the finds from Pompeii were kept. We were disappointed to learn that it was closed on Tuesday, the day we were there.
We did take the Hop On/Hop Off bus for a wonderful tour of the city and along the coast, and got a discount because it was 'off season' schedule, with fewer buses running and longer waits between the 'hops'. We just stayed on the bus for the entire route, leaving only once as it passed the ship to grab some much-needed hats and jackets. It was March, and cold that day. But that didn't stop the Neapolitans...it was wash day, and the colorful laundry hanging from many balconies along the route made for some great pictures!
For lunch, we experience a local 'caffetteria' packed with locals...it was great!
We had come in the night before, spending overnight in Rome. We have visited Rome before, both on other cruise itineraries and on our own. LOVELY city...try to spend time before or after the cruise exploring! But, word to the wise, if you would like to see The Vatican, book a tour before you go that will avoid the waiting lines.
Without warning, our private shuttle van was refused entry to the port, and we had to transfer to a port shuttle in a pouring rainstorm. This, according to the shuttle driver, does not normally happen. We figured out later that it was more than likely due to our visit to Israel, and security was tighter.