Zamir, our guide seemed like a nice individual, but someone missing the basics of providing a professional tour. Yes, he could tell you the plants with the white stuff on top were cotton, and trees were almond, avocado or orange and some basic stories from ancient history, but he generally waited until we had questions to point anything out. Most of the time, he was listening to the Israeli news station on the radio or taking calls, which he always put on speakerphone as he and the party conversed in Hebrew. Ironically, although he was taking many calls, he refused to provide me with his cell phone number. For obvious logistical and for potentially unexpected situations, having the guide’s cell number, even if never used, is something I consider basic protocol. Even if his phone blocked international calls, not giving your clients your cell phone number is an odd decision for someone whose clients only have international lines.
As our travels continued, it was also clear that our guide had a touring agenda. We had expressed a preference for certain places and sites. No matter, we were seeing sites he wanted to take us to -- even when we affirmatively identified a disinterest in the place. When we got to our preferred attractions, it appears that such was no more than a coincidence with his agenda. For example, we expressed a desire to ride a camel and he said he knew of no place where we could find a camel. However, when we stopped at one of Zamir’s designated sites, a gentleman was offering camel rides. We spoke to the gentleman and rode his camel – an individual that Zamir says has been offering such rides in that location for more than a dozen years.
At times, we felt hostage to this driver and his own personal plan. Day 3 in Haifa was the worst. The day prior and at the start of day three, we expressed a desire to go to the beach, even if it was for a short time. He told us that the kids would better like Rosh Hanikra grottos, where a cable car takes visitors to see grottos formed by the sea. Therefore, he took us there, despite a continued press for time at the beach. The cable car ride experience: 1 hour drive there, 45 minutes in line outdoors in the heat with some shade produced a grand total of 75 seconds in the cable car, and the grottos themselves are interesting, but nothing worth spending a half day getting to for a short time of exploration.
There was no plan B. We had scheduled these days way in advance. At that moment, we tried to look for the positive and conclude that the driver was having an off day.
The final insult was the repeated denial of our request to go to a grocery store. The driver continued to identify that he did not know where one was, despite our passing some on main roads. At the very end of our tour, he took us to some trashed out bodega a few blocks from the ship -- and when the bodega did not have what we needed, our guide was out of solutions. Therefore, we asked to return to the ship, a few hours before our time was to expire, paying him for the unused time.
Toward the end, the guide kept hounding us to send an email to his bosses letting them know what a great job he was doing. He wanted us to do it from his van on our smart phone - an interesting request from a guide who never gave us his cell phone number.
In sum, this may be one of the worst excursions we have ever taken, and certainly the most expensive bad excursion we have ever taken.