Cruises to Haifa (Tel Aviv)

155 Reviews
Haifa (Photo:Phish Photography/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Haifa (Tel Aviv)

There's a popular Israeli saying: "Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays." This is not strictly fair to Haifa, the country's third-largest city. While it's home to the biggest and busiest port for any cruise itinerary to Israel, it has an undeniably bustling, businesslike air, there's also a real resort feel about the place. The center sprawls over the steep, lush face of Mount Carmel, the waterfront is lined with wide, sandy beaches, and the restaurants are famous throughout Israel.

Unlike Tel Aviv, which is relatively secular, and Jerusalem, which is deeply religious, Haifa is a multicultural community of six faiths living side by side. In addition to Jews, Christians and Muslims, Ahmedi and Druze people live there, and the town is the world center for the Baha'i faith, a belief system that fittingly believes in all the messengers of God and a unifying vision of the nature and purpose of life. Haifa's skyline is peppered with minarets and church spires, and the beautiful Baha'i Gardens -- a great swath of manicured green cascading down the hillside -- is the city's most famous landmark.

What's good about Haifa as a port of call is that it's more of a gateway to the rolling hills of Galilee and its associated biblical sights to the east -- as well as Akko, directly across the sparkling bay, with its magnificent Crusader city -- than a destination in its own right. Other highlights in the region include Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights (where Israel, Syria and Jordan connect). If you're after a relaxing day, head for Haifa's southern beaches.

Although Haifa is compact as a port, it's as hilly as San Francisco, so get those walking shoes ready. Shops and restaurants tend to be in clusters -- malls are big there -- but if you do want to discover street life, you can't beat the restored German Templar Colony at the foot of the Baha'i Gardens. It forms a continuous avenue from the stepped gardens through the restored 19th-century mansions -- now shops, bars and restaurants -- to the sea.

  • More about Haifa (Tel Aviv)

  • Why Cruise to Haifa (Tel Aviv)?

  • Haifa (Tel Aviv) Cruise Port Facilities?

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More about Haifa (Tel Aviv)

Why Cruise to Haifa (Tel Aviv)?

Pros:

Haifa's Baha'i Gardens are a must-see attraction and offer an excellent view of the city

Cons:

Beaches are small and limited, and subsequently tend to feel overcrowded

Bottom Line:

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.

Getting Around?

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. 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.

Language?

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.


Haifa (Tel Aviv) Cruise Reviews
Our ship docked in an industrial part of the port, so you had to take a shuttle out of the area to see the town. We took a ship's excursion to visit Nazareth, the baptismal site Yardenit on the River Jordan, and the Read More
Jenora2012
Haifa, Israel 3 * Free shuttle to the German quarter in town but there is very little to see or do there. The Station is close to the port, across a bridge but you are not allowed to cross the bridge. We had to reRead More
Sussex Duo
The city itself was great and we docked right in Haifa so you could just walk off. We had an over-night here. Saw many areas and had booked well in advance with non-ship tour providers. Passengers needed to go througRead More
vivace91
I’m glad I had a guide that could come to where ship was docked. I felt sorry for people who made private arrangements/took taxis when coming back to port as gate was far and shuttles not as frequent as they couldRead More
IndianaBeth

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