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We really appreciate all the valuable advice and especially love seeing the help from many board regulars who take lots of time trying to help any and all Our ship will overnight in Ashod (Thursday and Friday) so are not too concerned about Sabbath related issues other then having to consider getting back to the ship before sundown on Friday (we do not leave until around 10pm). After reading the comments we are leaning towards a private tour (trying to join one via our Roll Call) for both days. I also find the suggestions to stay in a Jerusalem hotel overnight to be an interesting idea. If the private tour idea does not work we might consider getting a rental car (sounds like a good idea if we wanted to DIY and visit Masada). Besides the 2 days docked in Ashdod our ship also spends a long port day in Haifa. The Haifa visit happens to be on a Saturday which does cause me some concern (is everything closed on the Sabbath?).
Last Oct we were on RCCL's Holy Land cruise. We docked 2 days in Haifa and 2 days in Ashdod. We did a private tour with other cc members using Guided Tours Israel. We were very happy with them. We certainly covered a lot of territory. In Haifa I would recommend either going to Ceasarea (sp?) or Akko. Or you can do an all day to Nazareth and the Sea of Gallilea. I think you'll find there are plenty of sites open on the Sabbath. Guided Tours Israel does either Christian or Jewish tours. So you get the slant on it that you want.
Just from your posts on the Italy board, I'm sure that you would have no problem going it alone in Jerusalem. My now-ex and I did it several times. It isn't that difficult to navigate. If you do a rental car, there is a large parking lot outside the Damascus gate - plenty of signs to direct you to it. Walking through the Old Town was fun. Easy to find all that we wanted to see. Both times we were there on a Friday (ex was there on business, we arrived Thu for and had Fri-Sat as our "weekend") and we had no issues with the Sabbath. We always made sure that we stayed clear of the pathways to the Mosque on Friday afternoon and were in our car and leaving town by sunset.
Appreciate the helpful suggestions from several posters. After considering the options we have decided to take advantage of the labors of a fellow cruiser and go on several small private tours in both Israeli ports. As much as we love to avoid excursions, the small size (about 8 of us) and the relatively low cost won out the day. Of course we could always change our mind and the idea of simply getting a rental car is very attractive. In fact we have debated renting a car for the 2 days we are in Ashdod and spending the night in Jerusalem..but for now the small group tour seems like a better idea.
Juanarcin, you did not say if your visit coincides with the sabbath. Tel Aviv is definitely the better place to go for nightlife (really nice along the waterfront too) but more stuff was closed than I would have imagined for sabbath so check before you go. There is plenty to see in Jerusalem that is not especially religious (I loved the old city despite the crowds) as said above but the Masada/Dead Sea/ Ein Gedi trip and then Tel Aviv also captures the spirit of Israel both religious and non religious without having to weave through crowds of passionate pilgrims from many parts of the world.
I am not really relegious, but I found it worth while and good to see, I would go back, well I loved the whole country, just far better than we expected, we found agood guide too, who charged us $500 perday for all six of us, he took us all around Jerusalem one day them showed us Acre, Rosh-hanikra, Keshet Cave Nature reserve etc on a second day http://www.rosh-hanikra.com/sitepage.asp?p=2&lan=eng
He really made the holiday special
mordi zissman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
The cruise ships use him too, but through them its well over $2000