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Everything posted by IgKh

  1. Right, Haifa is out of the question too. Even if a cruise line does want to dock there (which I doubt, as any sane insurance company will not cover it), the logistics simply don't allow it at the moment. The country is mobilized - everything non essential is closed (which includes almost all tourist sites), there are no buses available to run tours, many restaurants are only working to prepare food for the reserve forces and evacuees, etc.
  2. Currently it would appear that cruise lines are removing port calls and cancelling cruises that embark here for the next two weeks or so. However the situation here is entirely unprecedented and rather dire. This is not your average periodical flare up, it is much much worse. While I truly hope otherwise, it is likely in my opinion that tourism here will not be advisable for the rest of the year. No reason for it to be. It is far from the war and beyond the reach of Hamas rockets. Any port calls to Eilat however are probably out of the question however.
  3. OK. If your tours during the holiday and the subsequent Shabbat are organized and you'll be picked up from your hotel, that's good. That does rule out anything within the walls of the old city, since vehicle access there ranges from highly restricted to non-existent. I normally like to recommend staying in a hotel in or around the Western City center (the so called "triangle", bounded by Jaffa Road, King George V Street and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall). This area has good access to the old city as well as other attractions, and is very lively in the evenings with lots of restaurants / cafe / bars. But during the holiday it will pretty much all be closed and will have to suffer through re-heated hotel breakfasts and dinners. On the other hand, you arrive in the tail end of the holiday, so just two nights and then you'll have three "normal" nights so it could be acceptable. Otherwise, consider Arab or church owned lodgings in the area north of Damascus gate, Arab majority areas aren't as much affected. OTOH, the Damascus gate area is a known trouble spot for violent flare ups, which are somewhat more likely during Jewish high holidays. You can also move hotels, or perhaps even spend the first two nights in Tel Aviv? I wouldn't stay near the market, you'll be dependent on the light rail to get anywhere else and the traffic in the area is ridiculous. I also wasn't aware there were decent hotels there at all?
  4. If you don't mind me asking, do you practice the Jewish religion (in particular, keep Kosher)? Did you intentionally plan on coming on the Jewish New Year holiday, or did it just turn out like that due to the timing of the cruise? Personally I don't view Rosh Ha-shana in Jerusalem as exciting, more like a 3 to 5 day long house arrest. Checking in would not be an issue tough. Everything else might be.
  5. Earlier, but there isn't a specific time. The very last busses on Friday end about one hour prior to sunset, but frequencies typically drop 3-4 hours before. Trains have fixed Friday and Holiday eve schedules that differ based on whether daylight saving time is in effect. Check with an app like Moovit, Google Maps, etc for exact time for whatever service you need.
  6. I concur with the other posters. Making a 11:30 flight out of Tel Aviv airport after disembarking in Haifa is impossible. Trying to do the math: 1. Looking at my papers from the Rhapsody cruise last Summer, earliest luggage tag was for 7:15. Self assisted was 6:45, but Haifa port is about the last place recommend do self assist; there is a *lot* of walking involved with the temporary terminal (like seriously, a lot). September is still hot, even in early a.m doing this with luggage in tow is the opposite of least Hassel. 2. You need to go through border control in person. All in all, disembarkation would take at least 40 minutes I think. If everything went well, you are in the port gates at around 8:00. 3. The train station is very close, but it'll take time to clear security there, buy your tickets, etc. You might be lucky and catch the 8:01, but more likely will wait for the 8:52 direct - arriving at the airport 10:20 (though schedules change, so check closer to the date). You might just manage to see the check in desk for your flight closing down! Eat whatever change fees and move to a later flight.
  7. You are welcome. Sunday transport is most definitely not impacted by Shabbat. However Sunday morning is the weekly peak hour, and therefore morning trains are likely to be particularly busy; tickets can't run out so it isn't a problem, but you have a little trouble getting seats.
  8. The first thing to note is that Tel Aviv does not have a cruise port. All cruises that start in Israel embark in Haifa port, which is about 1 hour by train from Tel Aviv or 1.5 - 2 hours from Jerusalem. Getting to the country early is always a good idea, the more time the better. Arriving in Saturday is somewhat less convenient because public transportation doesn't run on Shabbat (which is from Friday evening until Saturday evening), so getting out of the airport requires a using a private or shared taxi or a pre-booked private transfer. However there is plenty to see and do in all of the main cities even during Shabbat, so that's not a problem. Regarding maximizing your limited time, in my opinion the key is cutting staying in the same place for both nights pre-cruise. You should pick one of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Haifa as your base of operations. Tel Aviv is lively and centrally located, but if you're primary interest is religious I'd base myself in Jerusalem. This will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the evening atmosphere there, and enjoy night-time attractions like the Tower of David light show. For your full day (Sunday the 19th), depending on what you were planning to do on your day docked in Ashdod, you can do an in-depth walking tour of the old city together with an extra location (Bethlehem, Mt. Scopus, Yad VaShem, the Israel Museum, etc), or perhaps join a day trip to the Galilee (although that will be a very long day trip, starting from Jerusalem). On Monday morning, you can take either the train (around 1:40 hours, changing in Tel Aviv) or the direct bus (either route #940 or #960) to Haifa to board your ship. Basing in Haifa is best as starting point for exploring the Galilee region and the north of Israel in general (e.g. Acre, Caesarea). It is also nice as a destination by itself, but probably not if that's the only place in Israel you are going to see. All depends on your interests and any "must see" sites you may have.
  9. US passport holders get a visa on arrival to the seaport or airport and do not need to apply for one ahead of time.
  10. Per what was posted to the app, Kosher menus are identical to last year. Including the Gefilte Fish on the Shabbar dinner menu.
  11. If that's the consideration, I'd say go with NCL out of Italy. The sailings from Haifa are *very* Israeli and the crowd in the Summer will be almost all families. While never say never, I don't think you'll have serious chance of meeting a romantic partner in that environment, relative to say a random bar in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Food wise, note that this season Rhapsody will have a different Kosher dining setup. The MDR will serve the regular Royal Caribbean menu, but the area in deck 5 normally containing Chops and Giovanni's Table will be converted to a special Kosher dining room serving three meals a day for a $20 per day surcharge. The menu for that is unknown yet, but will probably differ from last year's special MDR menus. Rhapsody is currently underway on her Transatlatic, and once the first Haifa sailing of this season starts next week they'll probably be posted on the app and/or local social media.
  12. The municipal beaches are easily accessible. The nicest in my opinion is the stretch of beaches to the south east of the city - from north to south, they are Carmel Beach, Dado Beach and the Students' Beach. They are sandy, and the northern two are well developed. Reachable using BRT line #1 from the terminal, get off at Ha'Etzel stop for Carmel Beach or the last stop (Hof HaCarmel) for Dado Beach. It operates all week, including during the Shabbat. Closer to the cruise terminal you have the Bat Galim beaches. The stretch starts behind the port breakwater, after the navy base. It is within walking distance (about 15-20 minutes), which can be reduced by taking the same BRT #1 to Dolphin Junction stop. They aren't as nice in my opinion as the southern beaches, but have a life guard on duty off season as well. Municipal beaches are free to enter, but beach chairs etc need to be rented. Do not go into the water if there is a black flag posted on the life guard's station. For a more unique / adventurous beach day, you can consider going to either Akhziv/Achziv or Dor national parks. Getting to either by public transit is trickier but doable. Google to see if you like that type of place.
  13. Wait, you mean the flight arrives 3:15 PM on the same day you board the ship? I expect it to be completely infeasible. While the ship may not leave the port until 11:00 PM, it certainly does not mean the passengers who embark that day can show up until then; unless specifically contracted otherwise, the check in staff, luggage handlers and immigration officials aren't just going to hang around until night! Double check the check-in window with NCL, I suspect that it will close around 5 or so. A 3 PM scheduled arrival to Tel Aviv airport will have high chances of leading to being denied boarding, even in the most optimal case.
  14. On Anthem (which should be very similar, if not identical, to Quantum - you can get barista made specialty coffees in Cafe 270, Windjammer and in La Patisserie (across the Esplanade from Cafe Promenade). No inherent difference between the three, just find which has your favorite barista. You can indeed also order specialty coffee in the Main Dining Rooms, but they prepare it there with office-style automatic machines. While they use the same beans, the result is much lesser in my opinion and not worth a punch. I like to get a morning Late in La Patisserie and take it with me to the MDR for breakfast.
  15. There is a local bus that goes to Ein Hod from the Haifa Carmel Beach railway station (Route #691 operated by Kavim Bus Company), but its' schedule is not very frequent - you can see using Google Maps. If you want to go there independently, you might find taking the train to Atlit station and taking a taxi from there to be more convenient. Ein Hod is at most a half day visit, so you can combine a visit there with a visit to the Nahal Mearot National Park (cave complex co-inhabited by prehistoric humans and Neanderthals) or with the Atlit clandestine immigration museum.
  16. I personally like Haifa itself, but I'm very biased since I used to live there and that's where my Alma mater is. There are multiple special interest museums (I'm particularly fond of the Israel Railways museum, the Hecht Museum of Archeology, the naval museum and the Mada-tech science museum). You can also join a guided tour of the Bahai Gardens if you didn't have the chance already. Markets wise, the Wadi Nisnas market is indeed much slower on Sundays (not fully closed, but most shops are). The Talpiot Market however is open, and has become a really trendy area for restaurants experimenting with modern Israeli cuisine in the recent years. (A few months ago I posted a Rhapsody of the Seas cruise review in the Royal Caribbean forums, which has a relatively extensive pre-cruise portion, maybe that will help you get an idea). Going beyond Haifa, there are many many unique and interesting sites in Northern Israel - Caesarea is the obvious one you haven't mentioned (it's kind of on the beaten path). I can think of others - I like Zippori National Park and the adjacent Beit-Shearim national park, there is Safed, Nimrod fortress, Rosh ha-Nikra / Ras a-Naqoura, and much more. If you have any particular types of places you are interested in, I'll be happy to try and come with more specific suggestions.
  17. Related question - I've booked Azamara for the first time for March 2024. I'm currently Platinum in the Crown and Anchor Society. Logging into the Azamara cruise planner site, it says I was matched to the Explorer tier. Both levels aren't much, but some free Wi-Fi and a bag of laundry are still useful perks. Given that sailing will happen after end of reciprocity, should I expect the match to hold or will it be rescinded?
  18. I don't think this is entirely accurate. The current situation is that Haifa's cruise terminal was closed last May after structural issues were found. It was replaced by a temporary one built inside a nearby hangar. The intention AFIAK was to make the needed repairs and re-open the permanent terminal ahead of the 2023 summer season. However given the scope of the work and the rapid increase in cruising activity, it was decided to demolish the terminal building and build a new larger terminal, capable of handling the turnaround of larger ships. The temporary terminal will continue to be in use until then. There is a not related project underway of redeveloping the port's old British administration building into a museum and restaurant, but it shouldn't impact any port operations.
  19. Thank you, I'm glad it was helpful for you. I do think that the shows were indeed lacking (not remotely in the same league as the entertainment on the big ships). Other activities were more than plentiful, easily filling two sea days. However I think that you should decide firstmost on the itinerary. This is not a ship I'd want to do e.g a Transatlatic on! P.s. if you are contemplating any of the 2023 Haifa sailings, please note that the dining scheme will change and will not be as described above.
  20. The Haifa sailings are marketed mainly to Israelis (and its' quite a unique product for RCCL). While there is an official peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, the relations aren't too good. Egypt is considered a high risk country - such that many public servants aren't allowed to visit there without special clearance. It is also quite difficult to obtain a Visa for going into Egypt proper (beyond the Sinai Peninsula, which has special status under the agreements). Keeping Egypt in the itineraries would have seriously hurt their marketability. FWIW the press release sent out to the local press here yesterday states that 96% of the Rhapsody sailings out of Haifa in the 2022 season have completely sold to capacity. That's seems very good for a ship that old, and probably swayed the decision; need the squeeze the lemon while you can...
  21. Lots of people on my last sailing made this mistake. Quite easy to make it actually, since the "correct" answer to this question is the opposite of the other two... As said, it is easily fixed during check in at the port. Didn't hear about anyone's planner purchases being cancelled because of that.
  22. Heard some rumors about Rhapsody perhaps going to sail out of Haifa for the entire 2023 summer season (currently it is planned to homeport there just September to November)
  23. The Passenger Locator Form is finally also being scrapped. Passengers arriving starting next Sunday (October 9th 2022) no longer need to submit it.
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