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Cruises to Jerusalem

77 Reviews
Jerusalem (Ashdod) (Photo:John Theodor/Shutterstock)

About Jerusalem

Jerusalem fits a microcosm of the whole world into less than 50 square miles. Black-hatted Jews in long trench coats walk the streets of religious neighborhoods in hot desert weather; Israeli Arabs reverently approach the Dome of the Rock to offer prayers; devout Christians make pilgrimages to the places Jesus once inhabited; and immigrants from America, Ethiopia and the former Soviet republics form their own enclaves throughout the city's seven hills. Remnants of disparate historical eras are piled, one on top of the other, in an archaeologist's dream world -- ancient sites meet Roman ruins alongside reminders of modern Israel's tumultuous past. And, in the midst of these holy and historic areas, Israelis go to work, shop, eat out and hang out like citizens of any other city.

Most cruise travelers come to Jerusalem to see the religious sites of the Old City. Hectic, don't-waste-a-minute tours rush visitors to the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then on to Bethlehem or one of Israel's famous museums (the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial or Israel Museum, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls). And, of course, a stop at a market or souvenir shop is a must. Unless you book an overnight tour with a private guide (many ships call in Haifa the day before or after, allowing for overnight stays in Israel) and plan your own itinerary, you will likely feel overwhelmed -- it's simply impossible to see everything at a leisurely pace in one day.

Part of the problem is that Jerusalem is located inland, so cruise ships must call at the Port of Ashdod, more than an hour's drive from the city -- and that's without the inevitable traffic delays.

Despite the hassle, it's well worth the long day to see the holy places of three important religions, including the remains of the Jewish Second Temple, the site of Jesus' crucifixion and the spot where Mohammed ascended to heaven. Repeat visitors can opt for a more leisurely day, enjoying the shops and cafe culture at the Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall, haggling in the souk or shuk or visiting a number of first-rate museums. From Ashdod, alternate destinations include the beachside playground and cultural capital that is Tel Aviv, the dramatic yet melancholy ruins at Masada and the resorts by the Dead Sea.

One final note -- even as cruise travelers eagerly book Eastern Mediterranean cruises to see the Holy Land, many continue to be concerned about safety. Yes, terrorist attacks and other violence occur in Israel but, because of this, security measures are extensive and effective. Armed guards are plentiful, your bags will be searched and you may be diverted from areas where tensions are high. Don't let fear prevent you from enjoying this incredible city, which truly can offer something for everyone. Just get a good night's sleep, put on your most comfortable walking shoes, charge the camera batteries and be prepared to be wowed by a city that has rightly claimed more than its fair share of space in the history books.

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Cruise Critic Favorite
Celestyal Crystal
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ItineraryShipReviewsFull Details
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No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Oosterdam
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Norwegian Jade
Norwegian Jade

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1,975 Reviews
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Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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Norwegian Viva
Norwegian Viva under contruction at Fincantieri (Photo: Fincantieri)

9 Night
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Leaving:Istanbul
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74 Reviews
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Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
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9 Night
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1,975 Reviews
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210 Reviews
Leaving:Athens
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10 Night
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2,523 Reviews
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11 Night
Europe - Med Egypt & Greek Isles

2,523 Reviews
Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 11, 2023
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13 Night
Holy Land Cruise

74 Reviews
Leaving:Rome
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
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15 Night
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117 Reviews
Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Azamara
Oct 23, 2023
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7 Night
Europe - Greek Isles & Eastern Med

1,975 Reviews
Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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18 Night
Europe - Med Egypt & Greek Isles

1,975 Reviews
Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Feb 13, 2023
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9 Night
Israel Intensive Voyage

117 Reviews
Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Azamara
Apr 15, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Eastern Mediterranean

4,248 Reviews
Leaving:Rome
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about Jerusalem

Why go to Jerusalem?

Pros:

See the holy sites of multiple religions, while noshing on authentic falafel and shwarma

Cons:

The port in Ashdod is an hour-plus from the Old City, farther from Bethlehem and Masada

Bottom Line:

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.

Getting Around?

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.

Language?

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.


Jerusalem Cruise Reviews
Ashdod is far from Jerusalem. You need to have pre-arranged your day here. There's nothing much in this industrial port area. We had arranged third-party tours for all days in Israel and they were excellent. From AshRead More
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vivace91
We were looking forward to this port but were disappointed in the tour guide, so the day wasn't the best. We chose the city tour and the guide lost track of the group members so we ended up wasting a lot of time waitRead More
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kirkandmimi
Jerusalem was really crowded.Read More
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EmsMom
Gorgeous scenic drive, walk thru beautiful organic vegetable and herb gardens and got to try some wine!Read More
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claudial

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