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"Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land"- Optional Tours Question

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My husband and I have a question about the optional tours offered on "Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land." Naturally, we want probably the most popular ones that everyone else wants and since we are not high rollers, we are also in the last category to book (60 days out). Have most folks been able to get "Jerusalem & Bethlehem" ($149/pp) and "Nazareth & The Sea of Galilee" ($149/pp) online or have these typically been sold out? We are hoping to get these optional tours booked before departure as we know from experience that spending time checking back on MyVikingJourney, with Viking directly, or onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk can be both time consuming and frustrating. Thanks for any feedback!!

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We are doing this cruise in March of 2019. I was under the impression that this was a new itinerary, but hopefully someone can answer your questions. We don’t have our excursions posted yet and I’m a little concerned because our three days in Israel span a Friday through Sunday and there is virtually no public transportation or even rental cars available Friday afternoon and Saturday (the two days we are in Haifa). Just curious — are there any “on your own” excursions from Haifa or Ashdod to Jerusalem where you are essentially just paying for transportation back and forth to Jerusalem? Thanks.

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We are doing this cruise in March of 2019. I was under the impression that this was a new itinerary, but hopefully someone can answer your questions. We don’t have our excursions posted yet and I’m a little concerned because our three days in Israel span a Friday through Sunday and there is virtually no public transportation or even rental cars available Friday afternoon and Saturday (the two days we are in Haifa). Just curious — are there any “on your own” excursions from Haifa or Ashdod to Jerusalem where you are essentially just paying for transportation back and forth to Jerusalem? Thanks.

 

You would think that they would have timed things better. This is not the first time they are calling in Israel.

 

 

Time to have a nice chat with the folks at tellus@vikingcruises.com -- before booking opens and before it is just too late to do anything about it. Once booking opens and if things start to sell out, contact them again and ask them to add more buses. Once you sail, it is too late to add buses but hopefully if everyone is proactive (read "nags"), Viking will do the right thing.

 

 

In Israel, the weekend is Friday and Saturday, so the car rental places will be closing early on Friday if they are open at all and they will be closed completely on Saturday. Even if you could find a place open on Friday, there would be no way to return the car on Saturday.

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We did this trip in November/December 2017 we had no trouble booking the tours we wanted, went on line and booked a mixture of pay and included, I can recommend:

 

 

Eternal Jerusalem and the Yad Vasheem museum, we paid £94.00 each and worth every penny

Hailfa tour and Acre, included and also excellent

Rosh Hankia also from Haifa, we had 2 days there.

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We did this excursion last November and had no problem booking it (DV cabin). It was an excellent day in very busy Jerusalem, due to a large extent to our Jewish guide. We had a couple of hours or so in Bethlehem, half of which was scheduled in a "tat" shop known to our Palestinian guide (who took over at the border). Bethlehem is not the most attractive of places, nor the cleanest.

 

I wrote some notes in the previous thread on this cruise (5 August)

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You would think that they would have timed things better. This is not the first time they are calling in Israel.

 

In Israel, the weekend is Friday and Saturday, so the car rental places will be closing early on Friday if they are open at all and they will be closed completely on Saturday. Even if you could find a place open on Friday, there would be no way to return the car on Saturday.

 

That was my point exactly. On the online itinerary it shows the first day in Ashdod and the following two days in Haifa, but the actual itinerary with the invoice has that reversed for some reason. Really poor planning, I think, to be in Israel on Friday and Saturday given the many closures on Friday afternoon and Saturday. That's why I am hoping Viking will at least "sponsor" transportation to Jerusalem from both ports, or at least offer an "on your own" excursion like they do from the port to Rome in Italy -- you basically just pay for the bus but no tour. Worse comes to worst, we'll rent a car in Haifa Friday morning and return it Saturday afternoon at Ben Gurion Airport (the only place the rental car offices are open on Saturday) and then take a sherut from the airport back to Haifa.

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You would think that they would have timed things better. This is not the first time they are calling in Israel.

 

 

Time to have a nice chat with the folks at tellus@vikingcruises.com -- before booking opens and before it is just too late to do anything about it. Once booking opens and if things start to sell out, contact them again and ask them to add more buses. Once you sail, it is too late to add buses but hopefully if everyone is proactive (read "nags"), Viking will do the right thing.

 

 

In Israel, the weekend is Friday and Saturday, so the car rental places will be closing early on Friday if they are open at all and they will be closed completely on Saturday. Even if you could find a place open on Friday, there would be no way to return the car on Saturday.

 

Hi Peregrina651,

 

Thanks for the info. It is nice to know that the weekend is Friday and Saturday. We will be in Haifa Saturday and Sunday. Our shore excursions will be available to reserve in 21 days, so we will be in close touch with Viking. Hopefully, all of the INCLUDED tours will be available this time around! ;)

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We did this trip in November/December 2017 we had no trouble booking the tours we wanted, went on line and booked a mixture of pay and included, I can recommend:

 

 

Eternal Jerusalem and the Yad Vasheem museum, we paid £94.00 each and worth every penny

Hailfa tour and Acre, included and also excellent

Rosh Hankia also from Haifa, we had 2 days there.

 

This is really good to know. Since our Nov. 4th cruise is already sold out (not surprising), hopefully we will be able to book the excursion we want. Thank you for the recommendations, too....will take a closer look.

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This is really good to know. Since our Nov. 4th cruise is already sold out (not surprising), hopefully we will be able to book the excursion we want. Thank you for the recommendations, too....will take a closer look.

 

Hi, can you tell me whether any of the shore excursions from Haifa on your cruise include a round-trip, same-day visit to Jerusalem, either on your own or as part of a guided tour? I know there will likely be one from Ashdod, but was curious about Haifa. Thanks!

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Hi, can you tell me whether any of the shore excursions from Haifa on your cruise include a round-trip, same-day visit to Jerusalem, either on your own or as part of a guided tour? I know there will likely be one from Ashdod, but was curious about Haifa. Thanks!

 

Hi Cocopico,

Yes, there are two excursions from Haifa...same-day visit to Jerusalem. We are looking at this one "Jerusalem & Bethlehem" 7:15am-7:15pm $149/pp (This excursion is also offered again from Ashdod, so we have 2 chances to reserve and purchase)

 

Jerusalem & Bethlehem: On this in-depth excursion, witness the legacy of Jesus in two of Christianity’s most important cities. After a scenic drive, make a photo stop at the Mount of Olives, with its breathtaking panorama of the Old City. See the picturesque Gardens of Gethsemane and visit the impressive Church of All Nations. Then, walk into Jerusalem’s Old City. You will see the Western Wall, where Jews insert written prayers into the mortar’s nooks. From here, view the Temple Mount, crowned by the glittering Dome of the Rock, sacred to Muslims. Follow the Via Dolorosa, or “Way of Sorrows,” the road Jesus walked bearing the cross, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—site of Christ’s crucifixion, entombment and resurrection. (An internal visit to the tomb cannot be guaranteed.) Continue to Bethlehem for exterior views of the Church of the Nativity, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important place of pilgrimage for Christians.

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Hi, can you tell me whether any of the shore excursions from Haifa on your cruise include a round-trip, same-day visit to Jerusalem, either on your own or as part of a guided tour? I know there will likely be one from Ashdod, but was curious about Haifa. Thanks!

 

FYI...This excursion is also offered as a round-trip, same-day visit from Haifa to Jerusalem:

Eternal Jerusalem & the Yad Vashem Museum 7:15am-7:45pm $149/pp

 

Pay your respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and follow in the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem. Dedicated to the six million Jews who lost their lives and those non-Jews who made efforts to save them, its exhibits chronicle Jewish life in Europe before and after the atrocities. You will see the Valley of the Communities, where names of 5,000 lost Jewish communities are inscribed on walls; marvel at the several thousand trees planted along the Avenue of the Righteous; and witness the sobering Hall of Names. Later, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed by Judas after the Last Supper. After stopping at the Church of All Nations, enjoy the vistas from the Mount of Olives. Then, explore the Old City of Jerusalem. View the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and buried, and the Western Wall, Judaism’s most holy site.

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FYI...This excursion is also offered as a round-trip, same-day visit from Haifa to Jerusalem:

Eternal Jerusalem & the Yad Vashem Museum 7:15am-7:45pm $149/pp

 

Great - thanks!

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The bus journey from Ashdod to Jerusalem is at least an hour shorter each way than from Haifa to Jerusalem. Going from Ashdod last year, we had enough time to see what was advertised for the tour. Previously, we had toured from Haifa (different cruise line, but essentially the same tour) where we did a bit of Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, lunch and more of Jerusalem, now in the dark but less busy than in daytime. The return bus trip in darkness to Haifa was sleepy time! We preferred the Ashdod trip.

 

Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee was excellent. We were not rushed at any time, and were well educated on the significance of the religious history of our journey. We had an hour in Nazareth and then spent a further hour where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee (Ultra-expensive tourist trap here, even more expensive than in Jerusalem). We had an explanation of the importance to Israel of the Golan Heights as we viewed them across the Sea.

 

We can recommend both tours, from Ashdod to Jerusalem and to Galilee from Haifa. The Viking tour from Haifa to Jerusalem last year did not seem to achieve as many gold stars as did ours from Ashdod, mainly because of the length of the bus journeys which ate into the time in Jerusalem.

 

Some pax went on the tour to the Dead Sea, and gave it high marks.

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The bus journey from Ashdod to Jerusalem is at least an hour shorter each way than from Haifa to Jerusalem. Going from Ashdod last year, we had enough time to see what was advertised for the tour. Previously, we had toured from Haifa (different cruise line, but essentially the same tour) where we did a bit of Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, lunch and more of Jerusalem, now in the dark but less busy than in daytime. The return bus trip in darkness to Haifa was sleepy time! We preferred the Ashdod trip.

 

Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee was excellent. We were not rushed at any time, and were well educated on the significance of the religious history of our journey. We had an hour in Nazareth and then spent a further hour where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee (Ultra-expensive tourist trap here, even more expensive than in Jerusalem). We had an explanation of the importance to Israel of the Golan Heights as we viewed them across the Sea.

 

We can recommend both tours, from Ashdod to Jerusalem and to Galilee from Haifa. The Viking tour from Haifa to Jerusalem last year did not seem to achieve as many gold stars as did ours from Ashdod, mainly because of the length of the bus journeys which ate into the time in Jerusalem.

 

Some pax went on the tour to the Dead Sea, and gave it high marks.

 

 

This is good information for us to plan. Not sure what exactly we will be able to book when we get the chance but at least we have an idea of what we should ask for first. Since this is our first time to Israel, it will all be new to us and we look forward to seeing as much as we can. Thanks for your help.

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The bus journey from Ashdod to Jerusalem is at least an hour shorter each way than from Haifa to Jerusalem. Going from Ashdod last year, we had enough time to see what was advertised for the tour. Previously, we had toured from Haifa (different cruise line, but essentially the same tour) where we did a bit of Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, lunch and more of Jerusalem, now in the dark but less busy than in daytime. The return bus trip in darkness to Haifa was sleepy time! We preferred the Ashdod trip.

 

Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee was excellent. We were not rushed at any time, and were well educated on the significance of the religious history of our journey. We had an hour in Nazareth and then spent a further hour where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee (Ultra-expensive tourist trap here, even more expensive than in Jerusalem). We had an explanation of the importance to Israel of the Golan Heights as we viewed them across the Sea.

 

We can recommend both tours, from Ashdod to Jerusalem and to Galilee from Haifa. The Viking tour from Haifa to Jerusalem last year did not seem to achieve as many gold stars as did ours from Ashdod, mainly because of the length of the bus journeys which ate into the time in Jerusalem.

 

Some pax went on the tour to the Dead Sea, and gave it high marks.

 

 

Totally agree with you. I did some homework. On Nov. 12th, we plan to join a local tour (small group) for both Jerusalem & Bethlehem.

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The bus journey from Ashdod to Jerusalem is at least an hour shorter each way than from Haifa to Jerusalem. Going from Ashdod last year, we had enough time to see what was advertised for the tour. Previously, we had toured from Haifa (different cruise line, but essentially the same tour) where we did a bit of Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, lunch and more of Jerusalem, now in the dark but less busy than in daytime. The return bus trip in darkness to Haifa was sleepy time! We preferred the Ashdod trip.

 

Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee was excellent. We were not rushed at any time, and were well educated on the significance of the religious history of our journey. We had an hour in Nazareth and then spent a further hour where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee (Ultra-expensive tourist trap here, even more expensive than in Jerusalem). We had an explanation of the importance to Israel of the Golan Heights as we viewed them across the Sea.

 

We can recommend both tours, from Ashdod to Jerusalem and to Galilee from Haifa. The Viking tour from Haifa to Jerusalem last year did not seem to achieve as many gold stars as did ours from Ashdod, mainly because of the length of the bus journeys which ate into the time in Jerusalem.

 

Some pax went on the tour to the Dead Sea, and gave it high marks.

 

Agreed! Before you book your tours, look at a map. Do a google maps directions thing to see how much of your time will be spent on the bus.

 

We made our first trip to Israel this past February as a bus trip. Expect to do a lot of walking in the Old City of Jerusalem. The streets are cobble-stoned, very uneven, narrow in places and crowded.

 

 

The description of the Western Wall tour, says that Jews put little notes with prayers, etc. into the nooks. You do not have to be Jewish to do this. No one is going to stop you and ask you if you are Jewish before you approach the wall.

 

 

Personally, I found the Temple Mount to be even more interesting than the visit to the Western Wall (which can be difficult because it can be so crowded especially the women's side, which is a much smaller space). Non-Muslims are not permitted into the mosques up there but the chance to wander where the inner sanctum of the Ancient Temple once stood was amazing.

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We are one day away from booking our excursions and see that 7 Optional tours are already Sold Out. Disappointing, but will have to book our private tours. I agree with what Senior Editor Colleen McDaniel with Cruise Critic writes... "Also worth noting is the disparity in quality between the ship's included shore excursions and its optional, for-fee offerings, which are, in some cases, significantly better." You just can't always get the optional shore excursions! We will see tomorrow what happens with the Included excursions.

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The bus journey from Ashdod to Jerusalem is at least an hour shorter each way than from Haifa to Jerusalem. Going from Ashdod last year, we had enough time to see what was advertised for the tour. Previously, we had toured from Haifa (different cruise line, but essentially the same tour) where we did a bit of Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, lunch and more of Jerusalem, now in the dark but less busy than in daytime. The return bus trip in darkness to Haifa was sleepy time! We preferred the Ashdod trip.

 

Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee was excellent. We were not rushed at any time, and were well educated on the significance of the religious history of our journey. We had an hour in Nazareth and then spent a further hour where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee (Ultra-expensive tourist trap here, even more expensive than in Jerusalem). We had an explanation of the importance to Israel of the Golan Heights as we viewed them across the Sea.

 

We can recommend both tours, from Ashdod to Jerusalem and to Galilee from Haifa. The Viking tour from Haifa to Jerusalem last year did not seem to achieve as many gold stars as did ours from Ashdod, mainly because of the length of the bus journeys which ate into the time in Jerusalem.

 

Some pax went on the tour to the Dead Sea, and gave it high marks.

 

Last night (60 days out) we were able to book "Nazareth & The Sea of Galilee", which surprised us! Thanks for the recommendations. Ashdod to Jerusalem was sold out, but we have a backup plan.

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Just a summary of our Shore Excursion booking today (60 days out in a V1 category) for Cities of Antiquity and The Holy Land departing November 3, 2018.

 

1. We reserved "Nazareth & the Sea of Galilee" ($149/pp) with no problem. Very excited.

 

2. We reserved all of our other Included Excursions with no problems (i.e. No Included Excursions were 'sold out' as in the past, so Viking is doing great with resolving that issue).

3. The only Optional Excursion that we wanted which was Sold Out was Ashdod to "Jerusalem & Bethlehem." (note: it was also Sold Out from Haifa, but we didn't want that tour anyway due to longer bus ride = 12 hour excursion). We have opted for a private tour from Ashdod and Viking gave us recommended tour operators as well.

 

 

Thanks again for all the feedback and recommendations!

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My husband and I have a question about the optional tours offered on "Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land." Naturally, we want probably the most popular ones that everyone else wants and since we are not high rollers, we are also in the last category to book (60 days out). Have most folks been able to get "Jerusalem & Bethlehem" ($149/pp) and "Nazareth & The Sea of Galilee" ($149/pp) online or have these typically been sold out? We are hoping to get these optional tours booked before departure as we know from experience that spending time checking back on MyVikingJourney, with Viking directly, or onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk can be both time consuming and frustrating. Thanks for any feedback!!

 

We did this cruise October 2017, we booked the entire cruise within 45 days of sailing. Some of the tours were already totally booked, however, once on the ship, you have the chance to be waitlisted for the booked tours and they also added popular tours. We were able to get the tours we wanted!

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We did this cruise October 2017, we booked the entire cruise within 45 days of sailing. Some of the tours were already totally booked, however, once on the ship, you have the chance to be waitlisted for the booked tours and they also added popular tours. We were able to get the tours we wanted!

 

That’s great to hear! We are hoping to do the same. Thanks for responding! :)

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mathtutor101

We are on the same cruise in the same category and were able to book our desired excursions as well. We opted to do private tours in Israel with Israeli-tours.com with another couple so that we could maximize our time in Israel. Our friends have been to Israel 3-4 times so the private tour will allow us to make deviations from the published tour. We are also staying 2 nights at the New Imperial Hotel just inside the Jaffa gate again to make the most of our time in Israel. Glad you were able to schedule your excursions. Hope to see you soon on board.

Linda and Jim

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mathtutor101

 

We are on the same cruise in the same category and were able to book our desired excursions as well. We opted to do private tours in Israel with Israeli-tours.com with another couple so that we could maximize our time in Israel. Our friends have been to Israel 3-4 times so the private tour will allow us to make deviations from the published tour. We are also staying 2 nights at the New Imperial Hotel just inside the Jaffa gate again to make the most of our time in Israel. Glad you were able to schedule your excursions. Hope to see you soon on board.

Linda and Jim

 

Excellent. That sounds amazing. While I know we won't see everything, we will enjoy just being "in the moment" and the experience of a lifetime. Looking forward to seeing you soon on board as well! Marsha and Byron

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