Why go to Haifa (Tel Aviv)?
Haifa's Baha'i Gardens are a must-see attraction and offer an excellent view of the city
Beaches are small and limited, and subsequently tend to feel overcrowded
Lush landscapes, stunning views and historic landmarks come together in this Middle Eastern gem
Haifa (Tel Aviv) Cruise Port Facilities?
The cruise and ferry terminal at the port includes a seating area, an expansive duty-free shop, a souvenir shop and a cafe. You can walk from there through the German Templar Colony to the base of the Baha'i Gardens, the Carmelit cable car and the nearest beach.
Good to Know?
Petty crime is rare in Israel, but you should, nonetheless, look after valuables -- especially on the beach. There is an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks, but you'll find people going about their daily lives, apparently undeterred. Depending on the security situation, keep an eye out for public demonstrations (stay away from these), and remain vigilant at all times. If you want to travel to the West Bank (for example, to Bethlehem), you will need a passport to get through the Israeli checkpoints, which can be time-consuming.
Trains are cheap and efficient if you want to travel independently to Akko (30 minutes) or Tel Aviv (75 minutes). Haifa itself is easy to navigate, either by using the Carmelit or a taxi. On foot, it's a challenge because of the steep hills; pedestrian routes cut through the hairpin bends via stone staircases, but you'll need a map.
Taxis are metered and can be hailed on the streets. They wait outside the port if a ship is in. If you can't find one around town, head to one of the big hotels, where they often gather. Round up the fare when you pay; a large tip is not expected.
If you want to go farther afield independently -- to Jerusalem, for example -- it can be done by train. But beware that you have to change, and there would be a certain amount of stress involved in getting back to the ship in time. Because the main jumping-off point for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is Ashdod, farther south, fewer tours to these cities are offered from Haifa, but they're easy enough to arrange. Cruise lines will tailor-make tours to either city, using a private car and guide; distances are short in Israel, so pretty much anywhere north of Jerusalem is doable.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The currency is the New Israeli Shekel or NIS. (See www.xe.com for current exchange rates.) Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Traveler's checks are an increasingly rare phenomenon, but they can be cashed in all major banks. Banks are normally open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday to Thursday. On Monday and Thursday, they're also open from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Fridays and the eve of Jewish holidays, hours are limited to 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Hebrew is the official language, along with Arabic (although in Haifa you'll hear less Arabic than in Jerusalem). English is the language of business, and most people speak it extremely well -- young people often with a strong American (versus British) influence. It's polite to learn a few words of Hebrew, if only for greeting people (shalom) and saying thank you (todah).
Where You're Docked?
Haifa port is right in the center of the city, an easy walk from the main sights. The railway station is next door, with direct trains north to Akko or, if you're feeling ambitious and have time, south to Tel Aviv. The cute little subway, the Carmelit, runs straight up the hill (the base station is a couple of blocks from the port) to Carmel Center, the main shopping and restaurant area.