Norwegian Epic Cruise Nov 3-15, 2022

Below are the excursions we are planning for the ports and then in Israel after November 15. We will post more as we make decisions. * These are ports we have been to.

*Rome

Livorno/Florence

*Naples- train at the port to Herculaneum (see my advice under Naples if you want to go to Pompeii)

*Athens- take cab or train to National Archeological Museum and Plaka area

Santorini Island

*Kusadasi- will likely revisit just Ephesus since we have such a short time there

Istanbul

Patmos

*Rhodes We may catch a short tour of the island or just walk around Rhodes.

*Limassol- I need some ideas as I don’t want to repeat. We are also there on Sunday.

*Ashdod: Monday, November 14, 2022 Ashdod: Guided Tours Israel to the Dead Sea, Masada, and Qumran

*Haifa: Disembark and then travel to Jerusalem, northern Israel, and possibly Acre and the Galilee (we have been to Israel and don’t wish to repeat sites and towns.)

Benefits of independently scheduled tours

One of our favorite parts of longer cruises is touring with other passengers we have met through Cruise Critic. On our last trip to Israel, we did a similar itinerary on the NCL Spirit. Others we met on Cruise Critic also expressed a desire to plan and travel together. So, for a year we all researched and shared what we thought was the best of the best.

Private tours are almost always less expensive and cover at least as much as the ship’s excursions. Passengers can check out reviews which is something you really can’t do with ship excursions as you never know who they contracted with until you board their big bus (another problem with ship excursions.)

Often, you can tweak their excursions to accommodate a more individualized itinerary. I asked to see Acre, Caesarea Maritima, and the Baha’i Gardens in one day. No problem. Also, because our group stayed on schedule, our guide also took us to see the Aqueducts, something we didn’t expect.

I have learned a few things that can make a private group excursion great. First, get everyone’s name, emails, and cell phone numbers on a sharable doc. NCL neglected to notify the passengers that Kusadasi and the ship’s time were an hour apart. We were able to call one another the night before when one of us found out. Otherwise, some would have been an hour late.

Another thing is to agree to some group rules before you sign up. For our three days with GTI in Israel, I asked we all meet in a designated lounge and walk off the ship together. This wonderful group complied, and we were always early for our guide which meant that we managed to arrive at the sites probably before the majority boarded their buses.

We also looked out for one another at the sites. This kept the group together and eliminated folks wandering off. Really, you lose so much time with wanderers. People would notify the group when they saw restrooms or wanted to stop in a gift shop. We all sort of knew where one another was.

I think agreeing and complying with these basic rules of courtesy made us a very easy and unique group for our guide. I think we have all experienced “the couple” or family who was inconsiderate and decided to visit the crowded gift shop at the exact time the bus was supposed to leave. They then come onboard unapologetic while a busload of irritated passengers who have been waiting for 25 minutes glare at them.

Private groups are especially important for singles. One of our single ladies injured her leg in Limassol and one of the married ladies volunteered to go back to the ship with her. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice for this sweet lady as she wasn’t into ancient ruins. I doubt that anyone on an impersonal big bus tour would have agreed to accompany this injured person. Also, this single lady was always a welcome part of our group. Don’t worry about being the odd number when traveling. She was also a great photographer and provided us copies of her spectacular photos after the trip.

Not everyone went on all the excursions together. While in Naples, some had already been to Pompeii, so they did their own thing at Herculaneum.

We often ate our dinner meals together onboard the ship, especially with the specialty dining package. A few like us enjoyed a bit of dancing in the evening. It was a very cohesive group and we continue to communicate with one another. Also, one couple brought their nine-year-old daughter but assured me she was a great adventurer. Not only was that absolutely true, but she was perhaps the most perfect kid to travel with. She was kind, sweet, and mature beyond her years.

Israel:

We are also hoping to schedule a trip to northern Israel to visit Caesaria Philippi (Banias) and Tell Dan National Park. There are two options:

Guided Tours Israel: One day US$135 per person for Tel Dan and Caesarea Philippi (6-16 persons) from Haifa or Jerusalem with drop off in Jerusalem. We can schedule this almost any day of the week

OR

A Two Day Trip that covers several other sites in addition to Banias.

Wednesday, November 16: Two Day (one night) excursion to northern Israel

https://www.touristisrael.com/tours/golan-heights-and-galilee-tour-2-days/

GOLAN HEIGHTS AND GALILEE TOUR – 2 DAYS ITINERARY

Day 1

  • Pick up from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya & Netanya
  • Drive up through the Golan Heights passed Hamat Gader
  • Visit Mitzpe Shalom Observation Point
  • Visit Katzerin Museum
  • Continue to the former Syrian stronghold on Mount Bental which is now a lookout point
  • Stay for overnight on a Kibbutz in the Golan Heights area

Day 2

  • Explore the Banias (Caesarea Philippi) at the base of Mount Hermon
  • Continue on to Kal’at Nimrod, a cliff top fortress
  • Visit the beautiful Birkat Ram lake
  • Experience Safed, an ancient Jewish town, and explore its synagogues, the old city and the artists quarter
  • Head back to your hotel / accommodation