We chose not to take a ship's excursion as they all seemed extremely long & we did hear many weary comments along these lines when we chatted with other guests afterwards. We were a group of 3 couples & just wanted to see the ... Read More
We chose not to take a ship's excursion as they all seemed extremely long & we did hear many weary comments along these lines when we chatted with other guests afterwards. We were a group of 3 couples & just wanted to see the real Jerusalem & wander the ancient streets to feel the ambiance (as Micky Flanagan would say).
We did this by initially trying to book a private tour from the UK beforehand but all enquiries led to trips of the same 10-15 hour length. Then given the uncertainty of Jerusalem, we knew that the Ashdod part of last year's cruise had been cancelled & the ship diverted elsewhere we didn't want to commit & didn't even purchase any Shekels prior to travelling.
We were advised to use one of the few taxis that are licenced to enter the port area, according to shore services the ordinary Ashdod town taxis could not be relied upon to wait or return for us. I still don't know if that is true or not, we never met anyone that was not friendly and honourable. It is an hour plus to Jerusalem& one our group negotiated a price of 560 euros for 2 taxis to take us to jerusalem, drive us to wherever wanted for 3-4 hours & back. Funnily enough this price matched exactly the £100 each way each taxi, the $630 US dollar package we had been quoted before & by shore services because £400 = 560 euros= 630 dollars.
The tour went well & our axis could park closer to the sights, and got to Mount Olives even though it was due to closed to tourists imminently because there was a new wave of rioting in temple mount & rockets had been fired on Ashdod the previous evening, the first in a year. Our driver was very laid back about this as Israel has 'many enemies' & this is their normality. We never felt in danger what's so ever even when we realised that we crossed the Gaza strip without knowing it.
We started with an overlook of Bethlehem which to be honest didn't look that impressive. Then the western wall & the wailing wall, which was packed because ti was a religious holiday, up Mount Olive, the garden of Gethsemane & Mary's Church. We ended with an unescorted walk through the alleys & souks which was delightful.
Pomegranates at 50p kilo were a bargain which we bought. Again we felt perfectly safe, you can tell that the different factions just tolerate each other & there is plenty of police presence. in our opinion it was well worth the effort of doing it ourselves, seeing & feeling the real Jerusalem and we didn't return tired & exhausted like many of those on the ship's trips. Read Less