Why go to Jerusalem?
See the holy sites of multiple religions, while noshing on authentic falafel and shwarma
The port in Ashdod is an hour-plus from the Old City, farther from Bethlehem and Masada
Worth the trek and long days to see Israel's major religious and cultural attractions
Jerusalem Cruise Port Facilities?
The main terminal offers a cafeteria, a currency exchange counter and two duty-free shops, but depending on where your ship docks, it might be difficult to get to the terminal building. The port is also far from the city of Ashdod. To get into town, take the shuttle to the main gate and a cab to Ashdod. The city is not a big tourist destination, but it does have several shopping centers as well as a nice marina and waterfront promenade for a stroll or dining with a view.
Good to Know?
Many first-time visitors to Israel are concerned about safety issues, due to terrorist attacks that have taken place in Jerusalem and throughout the country. However, it's actually quite safe to travel in Jerusalem. The crime rate is low, though it's always smart to take precautions, such as keeping your valuables close in crowded areas and not walking through deserted areas alone at night. Security is quite tight, and security guards are often stationed outside restaurants and stores, and they patrol buses and public transportation terminals. Don't be surprised by the number of guns you will see while walking through the city's streets. Metal detectors are quite prevalent, and men may be patted down and asked if they're carrying a weapon. Emotions can run high in the Old City, if someone wants to engage you in a conversation on politics, it's best to say nothing and politely walk away. Consult the U.S. State Department's website (travel.state.gov) for up-to-date information on safe travel in Jerusalem and all of Israel.
Many businesses in Israel close for the Jewish Sabbath, observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. If you're in town on a Friday, get to must-see sites early since many places begin to shut down as early as 2 p.m.
By Ship Tour: The majority of cruise travelers take shore excursions or private tours that provide transportation from Ashdod to Jerusalem. We definitely recommend some type of guided tour because the Ashdod Port is far from most attractions (more than an hour's drive to Jerusalem), and the port itself is tricky to navigate and is not within walking distance of the city of Ashdod. It's not worth the increased transportation time and hassle to tour independently if you've never been to Israel before. Plus, a guide is invaluable for giving insight into the historic and religious importance of the sites you will be seeing in Jerusalem.
By Taxi: If you're set on touring on your own, take the ship's shuttle to the main port gate, where you can catch a cab directly to Jerusalem. As always, negotiate the price in advance and check whether payment is only in shekels or if dollars are accepted.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) or shekels. (See www.xe.com for current exchange rates.) Most ships will not change euros or dollars into shekels, but credit and debit cards are widely accepted. In Jerusalem, ATMs can be found at Zion Square and the Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall; not all ATMs accept foreign cards, so look for machines marked with signs for Cirrus, Plus or other international brands. ATMs are difficult to find in the Old City; if you need cash, go to currency exchange offices near the Damascus and Jaffa Gates. The port's main terminal also has a currency exchange office.
Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, but English is widely spoken -- especially in tourist areas. Signs are printed in Hebrew and English, if not in all three languages. English-language menus are often available. 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?
Cruise ships dock at the Ashdod Port, Israel's busiest cargo port. While weekly cruises depart regularly from the port dock by the main cruise terminal, most visiting cruise ships dock in the middle of the industrial port, far from anything. Most lines will run shuttles to the main port gate or downtown Ashdod, since pedestrian traffic inside the port is prohibited.