Cruise Critic member in Israel, happy to answer questions

** Please post your recommendations ONLY in response to request...do not start a new thread. Thanks!
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 04:08 PM.
#1
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Hi everyone,

I wanted to introduce myself and let you know I'd be happy to answer questions you have about Israel and visiting Israel. (I'm not a travel agent nor am I associated with any agent, I'm just a smiling resident happy to help out.)

I moved to Israel from New Jersey almost 10 years ago, and live in a Jerusalem suburb. [I'm about to take my first cruise- to the Mexican Riviera :-).]

I'll try to check this board a couple of times a week, and while I'm sure I don't have the answers to all your questions, I'll be happy to answer those I can.

Israel is a beautiful country, and I'm sure you're going to love every moment of it!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#2
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by ptcellen
Hi Ruth,
We were wondering if you knew of a licensed tour guide who will not take any $ upfront. We don't want to give a deposit incase we have to cancel out the trip for various reasons. Any suggestions you could give us about a guide or suggestions of what to see in those 2 days would be appreciated.

Thanks in Advance.Ellen

Hi Ellen and Colleen,

I'm sorry but I don't have the names of any tour guides- I occasionally take walking tours here, but have never dealt with an English speaking licensed tour guide.

As to what to see in the 2 days you'll be in Israel-

From the port in Haifa, you can focus on the north, from the Mediterranean thru the Kinneret (sea of Galilee). A 'see as much as you can' tour would probably include the city of Safed (a great place to buy art, btw),Tiberias (for the Kinneret), a quick tour of Haifa, and maybe getting into the Golan Heights. For something a little bit different, you can include the grottos at Rosh Hanikra, which is on the border with Lebanon, a visit to a kibbutz, to the town of Zichron Yaakov where the Rothchilds established a winery, and going as far south as Ceasaria. The ride thru the Galil (Galilee) is beautiful, very lush and green, and you might be able to stop in a Druze village along the way. There's also a small town in the Galil called Klil, where Israelis live a 'back to nature' life without electricity- there's a small artist's colony and a restaurant.

For a fun day that is not so tour intensive, you can go to one of a number of beaches from Haifa to Tel Aviv for rest and relaxation, or go horseback riding or ATV riding in the Galil.

From Ashdod you can tour Jerusalem, of course (if you haven't been to the Old City, then I highly recommend giving yourself 2-3 hours to walk around, preferably with a guide), and also include a trip to the Dead Sea and/or Masada. We're from the Jerusalem area and spend our free time exploring the area, so I have a long list of things to do:

- Herodian: Herod's fortress, south of Bethlehem in the Judean desert.
- Mitzpe Jericho: a town on the way to the Dead Sea, overlooking the city of Jericho, with incredible views of the desert.
- Ein Gedi: a kibbutz at the Dead Sea
- Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, and also Ammunition Hill: both were important sites from the '67 war, with bunkers built and used by the Jordanian army. From Kibbutz Ramat Rachel you also have views of Bethlehem and Herodian, and also a panoramic view of Jerusalem.
- Ein Kerem: a lovely 'village' that is actually part of Jerusalem; it's an important site in Christianity with stunning churches, but it's also a pleasure to walk around. It's also down the road from both Yad V'Shem (the Holocaust Museum) and also Har Herzl, our national cemetary where you will find the graves of Herzl, Golda Meir, and others as well as a very well done and informative multi-media presentation on Theordor Herzl and foundations of Zionism.
- There are jeep tours available in the Judean desert, south of Jerusalem.
- You can also take a Segway tour in Jerusalem, btw.

For something very different, you can take a drive along the Jordan Valley Road. It starts just north of the Dead Sea and goes to the Kinneret, and runs along the border with Jordan. The scenery is breathtaking.

I also highly recommend visiting Mini Israel, which is between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It's exactly what it sounds like - Israel in miniature (not tiny). Here's a link to their website: http://www.minisrael.co.il/home_en.html
I went with a group of Israeli friends, and we all had a surprisingly great time 'walking around the country'.

As to timing, much of Jerusalem closes down from Friday afternoon until after sundown on Saturday evening (many, but not all restaurants are closed, just about all stores are closed, and buses do not run), but some museums and tourist sites will be open. Haifa is more secular, as is much of the Galil (but not Safed), so most restaurants and tourist sites will be open.

Please feel free to ask me any more questions, I'm happy to answer

Ruth
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#4
686 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Ruth,

Thank you so much for your suggestions. We will write again if we have any questions. Do you know what the weather would be like in mid Nov? Will it be very cold? By the way, where are you from in N.J.? See, I already had questions.HaHa.

Thanks

Ellen
#5
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Hi Ellen,

Mid-November should be in the 60's during the day and the 50's at night, but depending on how sunny it is, it can feel a bit warmer or colder. While the rainy season will have officially begun, the rain doesn't usually start until December, but you could hit a rainy day. I'm not very familiar with the weather in Haifa, but Jerusalem can get chilly at night, even in the summer.

I was born and raised in Paterson, and except for about 5 years in NYC, lived in the area until moving to Israel.

Keep those questions coming
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#6
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by Orange County Murphy
Ruth,

Thank you so much for your helpful suggestions.

Colleen

My pleasure!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#7
South Western Ontario
1,812 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Hi Judy

Thanks for all the information. We will be in Israel in October off the Rotterdam VI.

We are in Haifa from 8 am to 11 pm and then Ashdod from 6 am to 8 pm. Is there enough time to see both Old Jerusalem and the Dead Sea on the one day? How long a drive is it from Ashdod to Jerusalem? I'm quite confused about distances.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
cheers
jan


"I haven't been everywhere but it's on my list."
- Susan Sontag

Prior Cruises:
NCL (1); HAL - Prinsendam, Volendam (2), Statendam, Oosterdam, Westerdam, Veendam (2), Rotterdam (4); Crown Princess; Ryndam
Last cruise:
Ryndam, Southern & Western Caribbean, 2013
Next up:
nothing planned
#8
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by ldog

Thanks for all the information. We will be in Israel in October off the Rotterdam VI.

We are in Haifa from 8 am to 11 pm and then Ashdod from 6 am to 8 pm. Is there enough time to see both Old Jerusalem and the Dead Sea on the one day? How long a drive is it from Ashdod to Jerusalem? I'm quite confused about distances.
Depending on traffic, it will take about 90 minutes (or longer) to get from Ashdod to the Old City; then it's at least another 60 minutes from the Old City to the Dead Sea. (There may be a shortcut to get from the Dead Sea to Ashdod so that you don't have to go back via Jerusalem, but I'm not sure.)

[The driving distance from Ashdod to Jerusalem is less than 50 miles, but that's just to the entrance of Jerusalem- you'll have to drive thru downtown traffic to get to the Old City (in addition to any rush hour traffic you'll hit on the way to Jerusalem).]

You'll want to take 2-3 hours to tour the Old City- I'm not sure if you have a particular religious slant that you'll want to take, but in any case between the 4 quarters of the Old City, and the souk, there is a lot to see and absorb.

You could fit in a trip to the Dead Sea as well, but it will be an exhausting and somewhat hurried day. Figure if the ship docks on time, the earliest you could be in Jerusalem would be 8AM, and maybe a bit later because of rush hour. 3 hours in the Old City, then 60 minutes to the Dead Sea is already approaching 1PM, and you have to be back at the ship by 7PM, so you'd have to start heading back to Ashdod by 5PM. Do you want to see Masada? Float in the Dead Sea (it's a lot of fun!)? Stop for a camel ride along the way? The drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is breathtaking, and you'll want to stop for photo ops along the way as well.

Just out of curiosity- is your ship offering any shore excursions that include both the Old City and the Dead Sea? That might give you a clue as to whether it's really doable. They are both 'must see' places, but I've never taken any visiting friends to both on the same day. Personally, I'd lean toward skipping the Dead Sea and focusing on both old and new Jerusalem, but I can understand why you'd want to squeeze in both if you were able.

HTH!

Ruth
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#9
North West England
126 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Hi Ruth

We will be visiting Israel in October. I have been trying to find out how to travel from the port of Ashdod to Jerusalem without using an organised tour. Depending on who wants to go with us we could be any number from 2 to 10. What sort of price would a taxi be? Is Sheroot a possibility? Is there a bus or train service?

We like to 'do our own thing' so generally don't take tours. My rough idea once we get to Jerusalem to to take the hop on hop off bus and explore what we want. May also book a tunnel tours.

Really looking forward to our visit. Last time we were in Israel was 26 years ago for our honeymoon. Shame on us for taking so long to come back!
#10
Kissimmee FL USA
286 Posts
Joined May 2000
Hi Ruth,

We cruised to Israel last summer and loved it so much that we a comming back this September for 3 weeks. We docked in Haifa over night and hired a private guide to show us around we stated at the Dan Panaroma after touring Jeruselem and then went to Masada and the Dead Sea. We could use so halp on this years trip. Can you help?
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Dawn Princess 11/97 - Regal Princess - Grand Princess 7/99
Renaissance R4 7/13/00 - Rotterdam 7/20/01 -Radiance of the Sea 12/22/01
Royal Princess 8/10/02 - Brilliance of Sea 7/23/03 -Golden Princess 12/27/03
Constellation 8/14/04 - Pride of America 6/25/05 - Westerdam 8/19/05
Norwegian Jewel 7/23/06 - Viking Century Sun 7/9/07 China - Oceania Insignia 8/6/08
Constellation 3/13/10 Nude charter- Viking Vietnam on the Tomle 8/18/2012 - Azamara Quest 8/7/2013 - Nieuw Amsterdam 2/9/2014 Nude charter
MSC Divina 8/23/2014 - Infinity 10/13/14 - Constellation 2/12/2015 Nude charter - Viking Ingvi 8/15/2015 - Celestyal Crystal 1/29/2016 Cuba, HAL Eurodam 6/23/2016, Royal Princess 8/27/2016, Carnival Victory 2/2 2018 Nude Charter
#11
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by Bewer
Hi Ruth

We will be visiting Israel in October. I have been trying to find out how to travel from the port of Ashdod to Jerusalem without using an organised tour. Depending on who wants to go with us we could be any number from 2 to 10. What sort of price would a taxi be? Is Sheroot a possibility? Is there a bus or train service?

We like to 'do our own thing' so generally don't take tours. My rough idea once we get to Jerusalem to to take the hop on hop off bus and explore what we want. May also book a tunnel tours.

Really looking forward to our visit. Last time we were in Israel was 26 years ago for our honeymoon. Shame on us for taking so long to come back!
I think doing the 'hop on/off bus' is a great idea, as are the tunnel tours. I finally did the tunnel tours last year with visiting friends, and it was fantastic. The on/off bus has a stop by the central bus station, so if you take a bus in from Ashdod you'll be all set.

I've only gone to Ashdod by car, but there certainly are buses that run to Jerusalem. I would imagine there will be cabs at the port, and they can take you to the bus station in Ashdod. There might be a sherut that runs from Ashdod to Jerusalem as well; either the cab driver can tell you about it and take you to a stop, or there might even be one waiting at the port. Sorry I can't be of more help, but I'm not even sure where the cruise ships dock in Ashdod- I've only been to the cargo terminal.

Because of the distance and traffic from Ashdod to Jerusalem, you might want to check the shore excursions offered, so that you don't have to worry about racing back to the ship after the day of touring.

(I know I've mentioned that to others, and I want to assure you that I don't work for the cruise line!)

BTW- for anyone who is reading this who doesn't know what a 'sherut' is:
it's a shared van. They are very popular in Israel; some follow the regular bus routes, others offer alternate transport between cities. I use them all the time to get to/from the airport.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#12
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by SteveS
Hi Ruth,

We cruised to Israel last summer and loved it so much that we a comming back this September for 3 weeks. We docked in Haifa over night and hired a private guide to show us around we stated at the Dan Panaroma after touring Jeruselem and then went to Masada and the Dead Sea. We could use so halp on this years trip. Can you help?
Hi Steve,

3 weeks in Israel- great for you! I'm not sure what sort of help you are looking for; give me an idea and I'll be happy to give some advice.

BTW- if you are going to be here mid-September, keep in mind that the High Holy Days (Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) are at that time, so there will be a few days when tourist sites are closed.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#13
North West England
126 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Originally posted by happy trailer
I think doing the 'hop on/off bus' is a great idea, as are the tunnel tours. I finally did the tunnel tours last year with visiting friends, and it was fantastic. The on/off bus has a stop by the central bus station, so if you take a bus in from Ashdod you'll be all set.

I've only gone to Ashdod by car, but there certainly are buses that run to Jerusalem. I would imagine there will be cabs at the port, and they can take you to the bus station in Ashdod. There might be a sherut that runs from Ashdod to Jerusalem as well; either the cab driver can tell you about it and take you to a stop, or there might even be one waiting at the port. Sorry I can't be of more help, but I'm not even sure where the cruise ships dock in Ashdod- I've only been to the cargo terminal.

Because of the distance and traffic from Ashdod to Jerusalem, you might want to check the shore excursions offered, so that you don't have to worry about racing back to the ship after the day of touring.

(I know I've mentioned that to others, and I want to assure you that I don't work for the cruise line!)

BTW- for anyone who is reading this who doesn't know what a 'sherut' is:
it's a shared van. They are very popular in Israel; some follow the regular bus routes, others offer alternate transport between cities. I use them all the time to get to/from the airport.
Thanks Ruth.
That was very helpful. I'll check out the cruise tours but they do usually work out considerably more expensive than do it yourself. We have done a few cruises now and normally find public transport is a good option although I always do as much advanced research as possible hence my question
#15
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by oceanpark
I am looking at a cruise to Israel in July as I can only travel in July and August. Will the heat be unbearable?
It depends on where you're from, and what sort of weather you are used to.

I'm originally from northern New Jersey, where we had hot, humid summers, and now, living in the Jerusalem hills, I don't have a need for air conditioning in my home (don't worry, everything all over Israel is air conditioned in the summer!). But, I find summers in Tel Aviv unbearable- very hot and very, very,very humid. Then again, a few hundred thousand people live in Tel Aviv and they manage!

As long as you wear a hat, use lots of sunscreen and DRINK WATER ALL THE TIME (I can't emphasis that enough!), you should be able to tour with little or no problem. You can plan your sightseeing around avoiding the outdoors during the hottest hours of the afternoon.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#16
upstate new york
546 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
Thank you for all your wonderful information. We will be on the Equinox and docking in Haifa October 29th and Ashdod on Friday October 30th. I have been in touch with a tour group, Gama tours and they suggested doing on Thursday Bahai Gardens, Massada, Dead Sea and Ein Gedi and back to the ship. Then on Friday doing Yad Vashem Western wall tunnels, old city, Kotel and the Jewish Quater and the Davidson Center. Is all this possible on a Friday? I have never been to Israel and am so excited I can hardly wait till October rolls around. Thank you for your help.
#17
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by marvelous M
Thank you for all your wonderful information. We will be on the Equinox and docking in Haifa October 29th and Ashdod on Friday October 30th. I have been in touch with a tour group, Gama tours and they suggested doing on Thursday Bahai Gardens, Massada, Dead Sea and Ein Gedi and back to the ship. Then on Friday doing Yad Vashem Western wall tunnels, old city, Kotel and the Jewish Quater and the Davidson Center. Is all this possible on a Friday? I have never been to Israel and am so excited I can hardly wait till October rolls around. Thank you for your help.
That's a VERY ambitious schedule (although I think there is someone on the 'tour companies in Israel' thread that said they had done something similar a couple of years ago).

That first day, you'll be spending several hours traveling, as Masada is about a 4 hour drive from Haifa.

To be honest, if you can swing it, I'd suggest you plan to spend the night in Jerusalem- you could easily fill a few hours in the evening/night walking around, touring, eating a great dinner, shopping, and then people-watching in a cafe.

The first day go to the Bahai Gardens, which are lovely, and then Masada/Dead Sea/Ein Gedi as planned. Then, instead of traveling 4 hours back to Haifa, you'd spend the night in Jerusalem. [You might even be able to take the tunnel tour at night, depending on how they are scheuled; we did it at night last year with visiting friends; and the kotel is right there, so you would see that on Thursday night, too. And, if you still have the energy, then you could also walk thru the Jewish Quarter at that time, and also walk along the walls.]

By staying in Jerusalem Thursday night, you can take advantage of one of our favorite things to do- the shuk at Machane Yehuda, which is in full swing and chaos on Fridays (we're there every Friday; just got back home a short while ago :-))- you'll be gawking, tasting, and laughing your way thru the shuk as you fight the crowds. It's a lot of fun, and delicious!

If you were able to do the tunnel tours Thurday night, then on Friday you'd have time to do the shuk, Yad VaShem, the Davidson Center, and the Old City. That's still a very full day, but doable, especially if you don't have to get back to the ship until the evening. After 4 or 5pm on Friday, you'll hit little traffic, so the trip to Ashdod from Jerusalem might only take an hour.

[Just to give you an idea where I'm 'coming from', last spring I traveled around the US for a month. While I was in San Francisco, I took a day tour to Yosemite. It was a 12 hour day, about 10 of which were spent in the bus driving to Yosemite and back. While I certainly am happy I took that tour, and still have clear images of the beautiful scenery along the way, and of course of the Yosemite highlights, I was already kicking myself in the park, and I'm still kicking myself, for not choosing the overnight tour. When you only have a day to see a special place, you have no choice but to run and grab what you can, but if you have a chance to stay the night, it's an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.]

I'm not saying that returning to the ship the first night can't be done- it's that staying overnight in Jerusalem will give you a chance to get a taste of the modern city as well, and that instead of spending the hours in the van returning to ship in Haifa, and then commuting to Jerusalem from Ashdod the next morning, you could spend that time touring, relaxing, and really 'feeling' that you have been in Jerusalem.

HTH!

Ruth
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature



#18
701 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Hello, thankyou for starting this thread it is very informative. Due to family commitments, this cruise has been on, then off and now on again! I am hoping it stays that way!

We arrive in Ashdod on a Sunday at 10am and depart at 10pm and then on the Monday we arrive in Haifa 7am, depart 9pm.

My husband worked on a farm near Be'er Sheva one summer many years ago and afterwards travelled for a while. He talks of Masada, tractors and melons! I wondered if you could suggest an itinerary that would include Masada and Jerusalem... not bothered about the tractors or melons!

We willl have 3 children with us. Although budget is important (Egypt overnight to pay for also!), I don't want to miss this opportunity of visiting Israel so would stay in a hotel if necessary. We only have 2 days and I don't wan't to rush round trying to see everything, just the main tourist sights in Jerusalem and Masada/Dead Sea would be great!

Should we return to the ship or stay overnight in a hotel? Could you suggest ways of doing either option please? ie what places to visit from which port and public transport vs taxi or private tour.

Sorry for so many questions. Thankyou!!
#19
upstate new york
546 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
Thank you for your suggestions. We had thought about staying in Jerusalem and then starting our next day of touring right from there. It is a good idea and we are going to discuss it being that I heard that the traffic is horrible to Jerusalem and back to the port. Again thanks Marilyn
#20
Israel
1,755 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by livylotte
Hello, thankyou for starting this thread it is very informative. Due to family commitments, this cruise has been on, then off and now on again! I am hoping it stays that way!

We arrive in Ashdod on a Sunday at 10am and depart at 10pm and then on the Monday we arrive in Haifa 7am, depart 9pm.

My husband worked on a farm near Be'er Sheva one summer many years ago and afterwards travelled for a while. He talks of Masada, tractors and melons! I wondered if you could suggest an itinerary that would include Masada and Jerusalem... not bothered about the tractors or melons!

We willl have 3 children with us. Although budget is important (Egypt overnight to pay for also!), I don't want to miss this opportunity of visiting Israel so would stay in a hotel if necessary. We only have 2 days and I don't wan't to rush round trying to see everything, just the main tourist sights in Jerusalem and Masada/Dead Sea would be great!

Should we return to the ship or stay overnight in a hotel? Could you suggest ways of doing either option please? ie what places to visit from which port and public transport vs taxi or private tour.

Sorry for so many questions. Thankyou!!

Hi! First, please read thru my previous responses (especially the one right before yours ), and you'll see lots of suggestions.

How old are your children? Do you want to gear your touring to them? There are several things you can add to your touring (some I have mentioned previously, too), including a short stimulator ride of Jerusalem history, a camel ride, and Mini Israel, which I highly recommend. Across from mini-Israel is the Latrun Tank Corp Museum, which kids (and adults) also enjoy. And they'll love floating in the Dead Sea!

I'm happy to answer questions, but it's easier for me if you're a bit more specific

Ruth
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature