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Israel Ports - will we be lucky?


WESTEAST
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We are considering a 2023 cruise with a 2 day stop in Haifa and 1 day in Ashdod.  Our understanding is that Israel ports are frequently diverted to other ports due to the country's volatility.  We may proceed to book this cruise recognizing the risk that the cruise line will not stop but, are curious to hear from cruisers that were fortunate to visit or, not and their experiences.  

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Israel was on our bucket list, but for years we put it off "until the region settles down".

Eventually we realised that wasn't likely in our lifetimes, so we booked - the cruise included one day in Haifa & two in Ashdod.

Had no problems at all.

A great shared day-trip from Haifa, visiting Cana, Nazareth, a kibbutz, baptisms in the River Jordan. and Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Rented a car for two days in Ashdod, drove across the Negev Desert to the fort at Masada ( cablecar up to the fort, interesting history & glorious panoramic views of the Dead Sea), swam in the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, overnight hotel in Jerusalem, walking tour of the walled city next morning & back at the ship in time for tea.

 

We returned to Haifa for two nights on another cruise, again no problem. Took the train to the crusader city of Akko (Acre)

 

A few things to bear in mind.......

- Things can change quickly. Peaceful when you book doesn't mean peaceful when you go, and problems now don't mean problems when you go. The situation is almost certain to go thro several ups & downs between now & 2023

- Even if there's grief in the south (Ashdod), the north (Haifa) is very peaceful - local Israelis & Palestinians have learned to get along together.

- If you're unlucky & Ashdod gets cancelled, there's a good chance that your ship can remain in Haifa if there's space in the port. Jerusalem is a fair drive from Haifa, but can be done in a day-trip.

- We rate the chances of a land-based visit being screwed-up as significantly greater, since hotels are notoriously incapable of sailing to an alternate 😉.

 

JB 🙂

 

   

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Read on another post that all passengers were subjected to interrogation by the Israeli security forces. We expect security to be tight and don't have any details.  We've been through security checks such as in St. Petersburg and are curious if anyone can elaborate their experience.

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11 hours ago, John Bull said:

Israel was on our bucket list, but for years we put it off "until the region settles down".

Eventually we realised that wasn't likely in our lifetimes, so we booked - the cruise included one day in Haifa & two in Ashdod.

Had no problems at all.

A great shared day-trip from Haifa, visiting Cana, Nazareth, a kibbutz, baptisms in the River Jordan. and Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Rented a car for two days in Ashdod, drove across the Negev Desert to the fort at Masada ( cablecar up to the fort, interesting history & glorious panoramic views of the Dead Sea), swam in the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, overnight hotel in Jerusalem, walking tour of the walled city next morning & back at the ship in time for tea.

 

We returned to Haifa for two nights on another cruise, again no problem. Took the train to the crusader city of Akko (Acre)

 

A few things to bear in mind.......

- Things can change quickly. Peaceful when you book doesn't mean peaceful when you go, and problems now don't mean problems when you go. The situation is almost certain to go thro several ups & downs between now & 2023

- Even if there's grief in the south (Ashdod), the north (Haifa) is very peaceful - local Israelis & Palestinians have learned to get along together.

- If you're unlucky & Ashdod gets cancelled, there's a good chance that your ship can remain in Haifa if there's space in the port. Jerusalem is a fair drive from Haifa, but can be done in a day-trip.

- We rate the chances of a land-based visit being screwed-up as significantly greater, since hotels are notoriously incapable of sailing to an alternate 😉.

 

JB 🙂

 

   

Thank you for this info.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've also been on two different cruises (different lines) that made calls in Israel and did not have problems either time -- but as already cautioned, the area is volatile and I've read any number of posts here where itineraries were changed, sometimes at the last minute due to dust-ups.

 

Regarding the interview with Israeli authorities -- in my two experiences the Israeli security/interviewers boarded the ship at a prior port and then conducted interviews with every passenger in a lounge prior to arrival in Israel. It was very organized, you were given a time slot based on last name and things moved along expeditiously -- however I was not on very large ships either time.  They basically look at your passport and ask a few questions, some just to ascertain your basic info is correct and that what you says agrees with your passport and some regarding past travels (if applicable).

 

These visits were both more than 5 years ago, so no guarantees that it is still the same.

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On 9/25/2021 at 11:25 AM, cruisemom42 said:

I've also been on two different cruises (different lines) that made calls in Israel and did not have problems either time -- but as already cautioned, the area is volatile and I've read any number of posts here where itineraries were changed, sometimes at the last minute due to dust-ups.

 

Regarding the interview with Israeli authorities -- in my two experiences the Israeli security/interviewers boarded the ship at a prior port and then conducted interviews with every passenger in a lounge prior to arrival in Israel. It was very organized, you were given a time slot based on last name and things moved along expeditiously -- however I was not on very large ships either time.  They basically look at your passport and ask a few questions, some just to ascertain your basic info is correct and that what you says agrees with your passport and some regarding past travels (if applicable).

 

These visits were both more than 5 years ago, so no guarantees that it is still the same.

Thank you as this is exactly what we were wondering.  Having visited twice, what were your most memorable sites or, were there too many to state? 

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3 hours ago, WESTEAST said:

Thank you as this is exactly what we were wondering.  Having visited twice, what were your most memorable sites or, were there too many to state? 

 

In addition to two visits on ships, I also have been on a land tour, so my list will probably be more extensive than one can do on a single visit!

 

Keeping in mind that unlike many passengers who have a slant that is either Christian or Jewish, my interest is primarily in the sites associated with the Roman-era history of the region, my highlights would have to include the following:

 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- truly no other place like it in the world (at least not that I've seen). It is huge and full of small areas deserving of attention, definitely should be seen with a good guide or a guidebook to point out things like the Crusader-era graffiti on the walls...  I've been there twice and on my land visit was lucky enough to be there to see the unlocking of the doors in the morning.

 

The Western Wall -- Herod constructed things in a way that looks distinctly Roman, for example the huge, perfectly cut and trimmed blocks of stone (called ashlars) that make up the Western wall. In addition to the main area, if you go down to the end you can actually walk on the Roman-era street that ran alongside it (and including ruins of shops), see huge blocks that the Roman army toppled from the Temple mount above. I believe the area is referred to as the Davidson archaeological park.  I was also able to take both the Western Walls tunnels tour (loved it) and the City of David tour (a bit less enthralling).

 

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem -- particularly enjoyed it because when I was there, they had only recently started to uncover the original mosaic Roman/Byzantine era floors. I think those are mostly exposed now. But also a fascinating trip through history in a single building.

 

Herodion (Herodium) -- Did this from Jerusalem area with a private guide. The remains are fantastic and somewhat off the beaten path (on the West Bank). Built by Herod as a fortress-cum-residence, it is thought that he was buried there.

 

Masada -- Another Herod construction; not only the fortress is amazing but also the "hanging palace" in three levels. And for me, it was fascinating to look down from the top and still be able to see the visible traces of several of the Roman army camps as well as the ramp that they constructed to reach the entrance. 

 

Caesarea Maritima -- Herod created this along the lines of a Roman port, taking full advantage of their building techniques (including underwater cement used to help construct the port itself). The place is well restored and really gives a feeling of the era, particularly the circus and also the very photogenic remains of the aqueduct marching along beside the sea. Can be visited from Haifa.

 

Tzippori -- also called Sepphoris is a spectacular archaeological site. It was founded well before the Roman era but there are a lot of ruins from Roman times when it was a prosperous city, including some really stunning mosaics. Visited from Haifa.

 

Beit She’an -- an important strategic town since Hellenistic times and very extensive ruins (probably the most extensive for that era that I've visited in Israel) -- includes streets, colonnades, Roman baths, both a theatre and an amphitheatre, etc. Could be visited from Haifa.

 

There are other, smaller highlights for me but they are ones that probably require a longer trip. Such as the ruins of Hippos-Sussita or the necropolis of Bet She'arim.

 

Akko was interesting if you are into the Crusader period, but there is less to see there than I would've thought. The Dead Sea was something I could've passed on, although certainly not an everyday experience. Tel Aviv, while a pretty place and setting, didn't really do much for me either.  But as I said, I am much more into the history than the more modern-day stuff.

 

In Jerusalem I visited (with my "roman era" guide) a number of places that were interesting to me but perhaps a bit off the track for those on a schedule and wanting to see the bigger attractions. These included a Roman cistern, the Roman cardo (a main street) which is worth a quick walk by, the so-called "Ecce Homo" arch probably built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, and more.

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On 9/28/2021 at 6:22 PM, cruisemom42 said:

 

In addition to two visits on ships, I also have been on a land tour, so my list will probably be more extensive than one can do on a single visit!

 

Keeping in mind that unlike many passengers who have a slant that is either Christian or Jewish, my interest is primarily in the sites associated with the Roman-era history of the region, my highlights would have to include the following:

 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- truly no other place like it in the world (at least not that I've seen). It is huge and full of small areas deserving of attention, definitely should be seen with a good guide or a guidebook to point out things like the Crusader-era graffiti on the walls...  I've been there twice and on my land visit was lucky enough to be there to see the unlocking of the doors in the morning.

 

The Western Wall -- Herod constructed things in a way that looks distinctly Roman, for example the huge, perfectly cut and trimmed blocks of stone (called ashlars) that make up the Western wall. In addition to the main area, if you go down to the end you can actually walk on the Roman-era street that ran alongside it (and including ruins of shops), see huge blocks that the Roman army toppled from the Temple mount above. I believe the area is referred to as the Davidson archaeological park.  I was also able to take both the Western Walls tunnels tour (loved it) and the City of David tour (a bit less enthralling).

 

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem -- particularly enjoyed it because when I was there, they had only recently started to uncover the original mosaic Roman/Byzantine era floors. I think those are mostly exposed now. But also a fascinating trip through history in a single building.

 

Herodion (Herodium) -- Did this from Jerusalem area with a private guide. The remains are fantastic and somewhat off the beaten path (on the West Bank). Built by Herod as a fortress-cum-residence, it is thought that he was buried there.

 

Masada -- Another Herod construction; not only the fortress is amazing but also the "hanging palace" in three levels. And for me, it was fascinating to look down from the top and still be able to see the visible traces of several of the Roman army camps as well as the ramp that they constructed to reach the entrance. 

 

Caesarea Maritima -- Herod created this along the lines of a Roman port, taking full advantage of their building techniques (including underwater cement used to help construct the port itself). The place is well restored and really gives a feeling of the era, particularly the circus and also the very photogenic remains of the aqueduct marching along beside the sea. Can be visited from Haifa.

 

Tzippori -- also called Sepphoris is a spectacular archaeological site. It was founded well before the Roman era but there are a lot of ruins from Roman times when it was a prosperous city, including some really stunning mosaics. Visited from Haifa.

 

Beit She’an -- an important strategic town since Hellenistic times and very extensive ruins (probably the most extensive for that era that I've visited in Israel) -- includes streets, colonnades, Roman baths, both a theatre and an amphitheatre, etc. Could be visited from Haifa.

 

There are other, smaller highlights for me but they are ones that probably require a longer trip. Such as the ruins of Hippos-Sussita or the necropolis of Bet She'arim.

 

Akko was interesting if you are into the Crusader period, but there is less to see there than I would've thought. The Dead Sea was something I could've passed on, although certainly not an everyday experience. Tel Aviv, while a pretty place and setting, didn't really do much for me either.  But as I said, I am much more into the history than the more modern-day stuff.

 

In Jerusalem I visited (with my "roman era" guide) a number of places that were interesting to me but perhaps a bit off the track for those on a schedule and wanting to see the bigger attractions. These included a Roman cistern, the Roman cardo (a main street) which is worth a quick walk by, the so-called "Ecce Homo" arch probably built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, and more.

What an amazing list of some of your favourites!  We will use this summary to guide us in our research of places to see.  Thank you for taking the time to provide this fantastic outline of your highlights.  Much appreciated.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 9/8/2021 at 5:37 AM, John Bull said:

Israel was on our bucket list, but for years we put it off "until the region settles down".

Eventually we realised that wasn't likely in our lifetimes, so we booked - the cruise included one day in Haifa & two in Ashdod.

Had no problems at all.

A great shared day-trip from Haifa, visiting Cana, Nazareth, a kibbutz, baptisms in the River Jordan. and Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Rented a car for two days in Ashdod, drove across the Negev Desert to the fort at Masada ( cablecar up to the fort, interesting history & glorious panoramic views of the Dead Sea), swam in the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi, overnight hotel in Jerusalem, walking tour of the walled city next morning & back at the ship in time for tea.

 

We returned to Haifa for two nights on another cruise, again no problem. Took the train to the crusader city of Akko (Acre)

 

A few things to bear in mind.......

- Things can change quickly. Peaceful when you book doesn't mean peaceful when you go, and problems now don't mean problems when you go. The situation is almost certain to go thro several ups & downs between now & 2023

- Even if there's grief in the south (Ashdod), the north (Haifa) is very peaceful - local Israelis & Palestinians have learned to get along together.

- If you're unlucky & Ashdod gets cancelled, there's a good chance that your ship can remain in Haifa if there's space in the port. Jerusalem is a fair drive from Haifa, but can be done in a day-trip.

- We rate the chances of a land-based visit being screwed-up as significantly greater, since hotels are notoriously incapable of sailing to an alternate 😉.

 

JB 🙂

 

   

thanks for your info.  This is very helpful for my planning to Israel in 2023.

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