Recommendations for private tour operators pls! Also itinerary questions.

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#1
30 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Hi,

We are looking forward to visiting Israel. Our ship docks in Ashdod (Thurs) and Haifa (Fri). We are a party of 4 adults and 3 young children, so it would work best to have a private tour.

We are Christians and would appreciate a Christian themed tour - it would be wonderful if someone could recommend one with Christian operators (experiential Bible knowledge).

I have read lots of positive reviews of GTI but the quote I received was more expensive than I'd expected (people seem to say around $600 for a private tour).

* From Haifa to the North of Israel: $125 per person
* From Ashdod to Jerusalem and Bethlehem: $119 per person
* From Ashdod to Jerusalem and Dead Sea : $135 per person
*
** 2 years old FREE
*** 4 & 6 years old less 10%

This would make it around $800 per day. I know child prices vary and they are taking up seats, but it seems a lot per child and as an overall rate.

Would this seem to be a fair going rate? Any other tour/guide recommendations would be gladly received.

Also, any advice about spending the whole day in Jerusalem versus going to Bethlehem or the Dead Sea, would also be very valuable.

Finally and possibly it's own thread, but I have read that it can be quite physically demanding. We have an off road double buggy for the younger children that the older child can take a turn in, but they are very moany walkers! The ship does not offer full day child care and I think the children would actually find it interesting to see the setting of the Bible stories they are so familiar with - but I am concerned that they can't keep up. I guess I could carry the youngest - a wriggly 11kg solution to overeating onboard!

Thanks in advance!
#2
267 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
We were on the Constellation Holy Lands cruise in Oct 2011. Visiting Israel was the main reason we booked this specific cruise and we researched our guide choice extensively. We booked with Moti Bar-Tuv (http://www.travel-israel.info) and could not have been more pleased. He was extremely responsive by email and worked with our "wish list" to create our itinerary. His fund of knowledge is amazing ( not only the Jewish and Christian faiths, history, Bible knowledge, but also about the Muslim and Ba'hai faiths, archaeological and cultural issues ) and he was fun to tour with. We started with Akko and Caesarea the first day, and then spent the next 2 incredible days in Jerusalem, with the final day in Nazareth and Galilee. We spent 9-12 hours each day with Moti, between the drives from the port to the sites and back, so they were very long days- but that was our choice as we wanted to see as much as we could in the 4 days - I am sure that you could modify your goals to accomodate the young children. There was a lot of walking especially in Jerusalem. The cost was $600 per day. We accomplished so much more with Moti than could have been possible in a group. It truly was the experience of a lifetime and exceeded our high expectations. We highly recommend Moti Bar-Tuv.
#4
67 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Hi Dita,

When are you traveling? Ashdod may not be a stop in the coming weeks/months depending upon the situation there. I think given the problems it makes sense to do a private tour with tour guide so you can be flexible. A tour guide can reroute to pick you up at Haifa and take you to Jerusalem (longer drive). If you choose a group tour I'm not sure if they will be as flexible (although perhaps they will if no ships are coming into Ashdod).

Just a thought!
#5
30 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Thanks Dragongirl. The flexibility of ports they operate from and if the port is cancelled have been important factors. Hopefully we can still do Jerusalem from Haifa if Ashdod is cancelled as we're looking forward to it more, the more we read..
#6
267 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
That actually happened on our cruise. At 1115pm the night before we were to arrive at Ashdod, we diverted to Haifa due to rockets being fired into the Ashdod port. Moti was already aware of the change before we called him and had modified the itinerary to allow us to do almost everything on the original plan. It did take a longer to get to Jerusalem but we still spent 2 amazing days there. Due to the length of the drive from Haifa we decided not to go to Masada and spend that time in Jerusalem. We also added Bethlehem. The cruisers who were in larger groups had a more difficult time rearranging their schedules on short notice.
#7
Austin, TX
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Originally posted by :)DITA
Hi,

We are looking forward to visiting Israel. Our ship docks in Ashdod (Thurs) and Haifa (Fri). We are a party of 4 adults and 3 young children, so it would work best to have a private tour.



Thanks in advance!
I'd like to recommend Shmuel Browns as a tour guide. We took a tour of old Jerusalem with him today and I can't say enough about what great experience it was. We saw many things we could never have seen with a ship tour and the cost was comparable. I will post more later when I am not on the clock for wifi. If you just Google his name you will find his web site. You won't be sorry!
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#8
19,652 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by Rio Brewster
I'd like to recommend Shmuel Browns as a tour guide. We took a tour of old Jerusalem with him today and I can't say enough about what great experience it was. We saw many things we could never have seen with a ship tour and the cost was comparable. I will post more later when I am not on the clock for wifi. If you just Google his name you will find his web site. You won't be sorry!
I have also taken a tour with Shmuel, of the Herodium (just outside Jerusalem). It was a place I was very interested in seeing and had read a fair amount about it. Shmuel provided a great tour and it is obvious how much he cares about the site. I can completely second the recommendation to use him as a guide.
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Wherever the wind takes me I travel as a visitor. (Horace)
#9
Oakton, VA USA
624 Posts
Joined Jun 2000
I was also on the October Constellation cruise that was diverted from Ashdod. Since you only have 2 days, I would not attempt to visit the Dead Sea. Although it a wonderful experience, there is so much to see in Nazareth, Galilee and Jerusalem. We were very glad we went to Bethlehem on our Jerusalem day. There was a huge line to go into the "cave" to see the birthplace of Jesus, but our private guide took us in via the exit.

We used GTI and were happy with the experience. We did not find the amount of walking to be difficult. The guides knew where to park so that there was never a long distance to cover. We are talking about returning to Israel as it was not possible to see everything in 4 days. Christmas and Easter looked different this year as we could visualize the locations in the readings.
#10
London, UK
413 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Dita,

I have made many trips to Israel, with and without children, and have both friends and family there.

You don't say the ages of your children, but if you have a double buggy and the eldest takes a turn in the buggy I suspect they must be quite young.

There's nothing like a bored/over-tired child (or three) to ruin the day for the rest. On a single day from Ashdod and another from Haifa you won't get to see everything, and whilst the children might like to see the places mentioned in the bible, the length of their interest is likely to be much shorter than yours. For everyone to get the best out of their day you will need to plan in some things for the children.

May I suggest that you spend a half day sight-seeing in Jerusalem. You won't get to see everything, but you will see the main sights and can save the rest for a return visit once the children are older. The drive from the centre of Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea is around 45 minutes, and a bit further to the beaches. On the way down you go through the desert past Bedouin camps and camels, and past signs showing how low you are in relation to sea level. You may also see wild ibex.

Ein Gedi public beach has a cafe, changing facilities, showers (essential after the salt water) and an opportunity to bathe in the Dead Sea. Nearby is the Ein Gedi nature reserve where David hid from Saul. It's a really interesting place, with wildlife, waterfalls, and the chance to bathe in the pools under the waterfalls.

Other places of interest for the children around Jerusalem include the Biblical Zoo out in the hills, and mini Israel near Latrun off the No 1 road to Tel Aviv. They and you may also enjoy a break at the Quarter Cafe in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which is in an elevated position with fantastic views of the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.

From Haifa you can drive to the Sea of Galilee where there are lots of biblical sites, and to the Jordan River. On the far side of the sea you can visit Kibbutz Ein Gev which is well known for its fish restaurant on the sea shore where you can eat freshly cooked St. Peter fish whilst looking out over the Sea. Nearby is Hamat Gadar nature reserve where you can bathe outdoors in hot sulphur springs, visit a crocodile farm and zoo, and see historic remains.

Hope this helps.

Paul S