Israel is now back on the Mediterranean cruise itinerary. There are two ports in the Holy Land where cruises dock - Haifa and/or Ashdod in different orders and for one or two days. This gives the discerning visitor to Israel many interesting options. Of course, the first is the cruise land excursion offerings. These are contract arrangements with Israel based tour agencies and the typical excursion is with a bus load of 40-50 guests. The itineraries, while certainly worthwhile, usually include a significant amount of time spent shopping and eating lunch.
There are a growing number of cruiser participants, including my wife Marilyn and I, who find it worthwhile to work with an licensed tour guides at the ports of call to organize tailor made itineraries for groups up to 15 participants.
Below is a description of a recent trip that Marilyn and I organized for a very nice mother and son visiting here from the USA. They were passengers on the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Sea that docked first in Haifa and then Ashdod. They were interested in a Jewish oriented visit.
After picking up our guests, we took them directly to the Louis Promenade above the Bahai Terraces and Gardens a short drive from the Port. Note that there are guided tours of the gardens at 12 Noon each day. The view from the upper terraces is a dramatic panorama including the strikingly blue Haifa Bay, and further north Akko to the white cliffs of Rosh HaNikra on the Lebanese boarder.
We then drove to the archaelogical site of Zippori in the Jezreel Valley. This was home of Yehuda HaNessi the President of the Sanhedrian, the Jewish court, who redacted the Mishna, Jewish commentaries on the first five books of the Jewish bible. Zippori, a national park, The Jewell of the Galilee, offers a very good short descriptive movie on the site.
Our first stop was the Zippori water system - a very large ancient cistern. We were able climb down into the man made reservoir. Definitely worthwhile.
We then walked out to the Roman road (decumanus and cardo and the Nile House mosaics) We then walked up to the upper section of the site and visited the spectacular residence with fabulous mosaics including the "Madonna of the Galilee." Our final stop was to visit the 5th century synagogue with the "Promise to Redemption" mosaic.
We then moved up to the Golan Heights to visit the Gamla National Park - a beautiful site where a dramatic episode of the Jewish revolt of 66 CE payed out - the Masada of the north. Gamla is also a magnificent vulture sanctuary. We then drove on to the Peace Lookout next to Kibbutz Kfar Haruv that provides a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee from the Golan.
Our trip down to Jerusalem started with an adventurous decent from the Golan with views of the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Once in Jerusalem, we settled our guestgs into the Three Arches Hotel of the Jerusalem International YMCA and headed for the Western Wall Tunnel tour followed by a late snack at the Cafe Aroma on Emek Rafaim St. in the German Colony.
The next morning, we took our guests up to the Mt. of Olives Lookout to view the Old City on our way to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea offers visits to Masada, King Herod's hideaway, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, bathing in the Dead Sea (we visited Mineral Beach) and Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
Back in Jerusalem we visited the Old City four quarters (Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and and Christian) did some shopping in the Cardo for Judaica and then drove back after a full day drove our guests to their ship now docked in the Ashdod Port.
We were pleased to offer the door to door service with visits to Haifa, the western and lower Galilee, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Marilyn and I enjoy creating tailor made tours and look forward to serving more guests off cruise ships visiting here in the future.