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. I indicated the number of ships in port at the end of each port. That is one way to determine “our competition” if we choose to do independent tours. NCL has been very slow to add excursions. I don’t know what’s up. They just say to keep a look out.

* Indicates ports we have been to.

Rome

We will likely be in Civitavecchia one day before at the Museum Guest House near the port. We have been to Rome several times and can give you our opinion on where to visit. If you go to the Vatican, purchase your tickets before you leave.

We will stay in Ostia for two nights and then take the train to Civitavecchia. Maybe, if we don’t have jet lag, we will take the train to Rome.

Here’s the helpful link for the shuttle bus from the bus/train station to the port. It also includes local pharmacies.

http://www.civitavecchia-servizi-pubblici-srl.it/portlink/

Taking the train from Civitavecchia to Rome:

https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/civitavecchia-rome-how-get-there

Livorno/Florence Fri Nov 4, 6 AM – 6 PM

We are going on the tour Cheryl is arranging. We decided against the open air sightseeing bus in Florence because of the short distance between the main sites, the difficulty in sometimes getting on a bus, and the long wait between buses. Also, there are five other big ships in port to compete with!

Cheryl’s Tour to Florence: I have priced out the following tour for the port of Livorno, with Italy tours.eu

Please let me know if you would be interested…

Option #2 — Semi-Private excursion (most popular option)

If you wish to share with other participants, we also have a Driver and Guide tour which is subject to minimum 6 persons signing up.  The price for this personal and quality excursion with only 6-8 persons per mini-van is 109 Euros per person only!

Our semi-private tours include:

* Personal pick-up at the start of the tour from the port of Livorno (the same pick-up as offered for the ship’s tours)

* Personal drop-off at the end of the tour – 100% on time! 

* Touring in a mini-van for minimal walking and maximum access to sites (any other option will mean LONG walks to sites) 

* Touring with a driver + expert English speaking guide in Florence

* Flexible and accommodating service  

* High quality and personal experience in a semi-private/small-group setting (max 8 guests per minivan and 16 per guide in Florence)

* Tour duration: 8-9 hours and always in accordance to your ship docking times

* Cost of Accademia Skip-the-Line tickets: 26 Euros per person (optional – closed on Mondays)

Here is an overview of the tour – BEST OF FLORENCE (without Pisa):

Meet your English-speaking private driver next to your ship at the Livorno port. Using new mini-vans, we will whisk you through the Tuscany country side to the city of Florence (we use mini-vans for an easy access to sites & minimal walking). In Florence you will meet our lovely English speaking expert & certified guide to start a two-hour guided walking tour of the most important sites Florence has to offer. Here are only some of the sites included on this walking tour: (you will see much more!)

Terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza Santa Croce, Santa Croce church, Piazza del Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Piazza della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio), Piazza della Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio (the old Bridge) , The leather market and much more!

You can choose to skip-the-line to the Accademia Museum for a short guided tour with our expert guide to see the iconic statue of David (there is also a good replica outside which you may choose to see for free instead). Alternatively, you may enjoy the free time to explore the many shops, watch street performers, or simply the views over the river.  You can also visit the Uffizi Museumduring your free time in Florence (please let us know in advance and we will recommend a time slot for this visit). We will return you to port in the afternoon with plenty of time for disembarkation. In essence, this quality and affordable small-group tour will cover all the highlights of Florence in one day and at your own pace! 

Please note that unlike most small-group tours from this port, on our shore excursions, you will enjoy the services of an expert guide when in Florence. We do not recommend covering Florence with a driver only as drivers are not permitted to walk through many sites and you can end up wandering Florence on your own. Enjoy a quality service instead with one of our excellent expert guides, avoid long walks to sites and skip-the-lineto the Accademia to see ‘David’ while paying less than the bus tours!

Five other ships in port

*Naples Sat. Nov 5 11- 8

We will take the train at the port to Herculaneum and do the touring ourselves (see my advice under Naples in the travel to Europe section of this website if you want to go to Pompeii.)

You can take the train to Herculaneum Scavi. First, go to the Colombo Porto tram ($1-4), take it to the Napoli Porta Nolana train station. Hop on the train to Herculaneum but be sure to get off at Scavi.

Here is an audio tour of Herculaneum ($2.99) found by Cal, one of our fellow passengers https://www.ercolano.tours/

From Rick Steve’s forum: It is a metro station called Municipio and it’s finished. There you can take an M1 train to Piazza Garibaldi, where there is the Circumvesuviana station. Half of the Circumvesuviana Trains from Piazza Garibaldi go to Herculaneum, Pompeii and Sorrento.

TICKETS ENTRANCE TO THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK OF ERCOLANO:

  • Tickets can be purchased at a cost of  € 13.00  on site   and online at  www.ticketone.it 

MSC Opera in port

*Athens- Mon Nov 7 12-9 PM

We will take a cab or train to National Archeological Museum (open to 3:30) or the Acropolis Museum (open to 5 PM) and the Plaka area. We are always happy to have a small group make the trek together. Let me know. We can go off in our own directions once we reach the museum or the Acropolis (if that is your destination.)

Here are the directions I received from a person in Naples: It is a metro station called Municipio, and it’s finished. There you can take an M1 train to Piazza Garibaldi, where there is the Circumvesuviana station. Half of the Circumvesuviana Trains from Piazza Garibaldi go to Herculaneum, Pompeii and Sorrento.

Bring a jacket. It is chilly and windy up on the Acropolis.

We are the only ship in port

Santorini Island Tues Nov 8, 8 AM to 9 PM-

Randi Terrier is arranging this trip. Please see Post 100 on the Cruise Critic Roll call page for our sailing. “I’ve been in contact with Marinakis Tours in Santorini

They have a bus that holds 20 people, tour is 6 hours, can start & end at Tender dock, or Fira Gondola.

It’s a good itinerary, hitting all of the major points of interest. One thing I would like to do would be to schedule a stop in Oia at sunset, which is about 5PM.

We are in Santorini for 13 hours, so a longer tour is better, and this price gets better with more people.

So far, the ships’ tours are very pricey, e.g., $200/pp, for 4 hours

Examples for basic 6 hours, not incl gratuity or add-on hour(s): 

8 ppl — $580 – $72/pp

10 ppl – $640 – $64/pp

16 ppl – $820 – $51/pp

Let me know your interest, and I will see if I can setup a group, where we can work out how to pay them in advance”

Discover the charm, wonder and history of Santorini, one of the top destinations in the world, with Marinakis Tours. Let Marinakis Tours, which was founded in 2000, assist you in the most beautiful Santorini experience. Our staff can offer all the essentials of the perfect holiday: exceptional value for money, destination knowledge and attention to detail. The agency generously provides pick up from and to your cruise ship, the airport or your hotel. Let’s get started!

Our journey begins from Fira or we may pick you up from your hotel or cruise ship and we stroll to discover the hidden gems of the caldera and take pictures. Afterwards, we proceed to visit the beautiful village of Firostefani where we will enjoy the caldera and admire the view of Therasia, a beautiful island and debris of the old Santorini, the Volcano, the mountain Skaros which is protected by UNESCO and the numerous blue-roofed churches. The journey continues to Imerovigli where we can see and take pictures of the caves, the place where the old inhabitants of the island used to live. Then, we head to the edge of Imerovigli to see the well-known Skaros, an UNESCO protected mountain that really floats in the air and take pictures of the region. On the way to Oia, we can witness red, black and yellow volcanic lava on the left side of the mini bus. On the right side we see the Caldera and the Aegean Sea and the second volcano of the island, Columbo, which is underwater. Visiting Oia, we see many old, blue-roofed traditional churches, old houses, traditional coffee shops, boutiques and art galleries and you get the chance to try a bite of the traditional Greek baklava as you drink your coffee. We head to the old Venetian Castle which is located on the edge of the island to admire the beautiful view of Oia and take some time to visit the local shops (optional choice). We head to the southern part of the island to see the following villages and the island’s highest point, where the Prophet Elias Monastery is perched at almost 2,000 feet (600 m), enjoy the scenic view of the island and take photos for about 15′. Then we head to the village of Pyrgos where we will take a stroll to see the blue-roofed churches, the caves and the Venetian Castle for many amazing photos for about 30′. Then we visit Santo Wines, a traditional Santorini winery, and grasp the opportunity to sample the local wine. Afterwards we head to Akrotiri, a traditional village of 150 people where the well-known Red beach and the archaeological city are located (the archaeological sightseeing is optional). Then we head to Perissa, the most beautiful Black Beach in Europe and make a stop for some coffee, Greek lunch or a snack and swimming. After this marvelous tour, we get you back to your hotel or the destination of your choice.

From the tour operator:

The price is depending on the number of people.
It is 400 EUR for up to 2 people and 30 EUR for each extra passenger.
 
About the extra hour, let us know the total number of people so we can provide you with the price.
 
In order to reserve the tour, you will have to pay upfront the 100% at the link below:
https://www.santorini-view.com/bus-tours/discover-the-wonders-of-santorini-6h-by-marinakis-tours/
 
You can cancel for free 7 days before the scheduled date of the tour.

From Donna: Someone on Cruise Critic gave this advice: “when you get onboard, there are touchscreens near the elevators, and lobby areas, the touchscreens will have an option to choose tender tickets.  If you want off early, select a tender at earliest avail, it might be like 24 hrs before the tender port visit.  I don’t remember that detail.”

If you have gold or above status in Latitudes, you get priority access on tenders.  

We are the only ship in port

*Kusadasi- Weds. Nov 9 6:30 AM-12:30 PM

For Ephesus, I have made arrangements with Ephesus Shuttle  who understands and have accommodated our very limited time (6:30 AM to 12:30 PM.) Thus far, NCL has no ship excursion listed, and this seems to be the most efficient and cheaper way to go with a good company. I doubt any ship excursion can beat this price, even with the $50 credit. Entrance fees are included. Let me know if you are interested. dgawell@gmail.com

Thank you very much for your Reservation for our Private tour.

We will organize Private for you and your friends on your roll call.  Just for your group

Max. number of travelers will be 10 pax. When you have more than 10, we will organize more guides and vehicles.  Lets say, there are 16 pax, there can be 8 in each van  or 10 in one and 6 in other van.  The price will be the same

The cost of the tour is 35-USD per person. If you want to visit Terrace houses, you can visit by paying 10-USD per person  during the tour
 

Please note that, we do not ask for any payment during Reservation, you can make the payment of the tour to our guide at the end of the tour in cash for by visa or master card. There will be 2 % bank charges for credit card payments .

9th Nov : NCL Epic
Private tour for your group : Ephesus –Artemis Temple ( Terrace houses can be added during the tour)

07:30 a.m. Meeting with our tour guide at Kusadasi port with Donna Gawell – EPHESUS SHUTTLE sign We will have 20 mins drive to Ephesus area. We will start visiting one of the main highlights in Turkey, Ephesus, one of the 12 cities of Ionian League (an ancient Greek district on the western coast of Asia Minor) is located near Izmir. As a port city it was a major departure point for trade routes into Asia Minor.

Walk through history along marble streets lined with wonderful public buildings, among them the Baths of Scholastica, the Library of Celsus; it was built in the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. by Gaius Julius Aquila to be a memorial to his father Gaius Julius Celsus Polemanus, the proconsul of Province of Asia. , the Temple of Hadrian and The Grand Theater are two of the most impressive buildings in Ephesus. Grand theatre was built in 3rd century B.C and it was later expanded to 24.000 spectators by the Romans in the 1st century A.D.

We will stop at Artemis Temple where used to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world as our last stop before drive back to your hotel / Kusadasi town center and port. The end of our services.

*** Private professional tour guide, Private Air Conditioned Transportation and entrance fees are included.

NOT included in above rates.
Any drinks , meals 
Any kind of other personal expenses
Any tips.

Notes;
a) Since all shore excursions involve some walking, we highly recommend that you wear comfortable low-heeled shoes and casual clothes.
b) sun glasses and hats are recommended,
c) Cameras are recommended,

Emergency contact numbers:
Ephesus Shuttle Kusadasi ( head office ) : ++ 90 256 618 33 75
Fevzi Turhan Mobile Phone : ++ 90 533 640 11 03

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any question you may have .
With our warmest love and greetings,
Fevzi Turhan
Specialized in Private and Small Group Tours in Turkey & Greece since 1993
Ephesus Shuttle
www.ephesusshuttle.com
info@ephesusshuttle.com

Ephesus Shuttle is owned by Curio Travel Turkey & Greece 
Member of Turkish Travel Agencies Association . Licence Nr. 6420
www.curiotravel.com
fevziturhan@curiotravel.com
Phone : ++ 90 256 618 33 75 ( pbx )

Note to fellow cruisers: I have chosen to not post any other excursions from other companies, especially ones from Viator. With middlemen companies like Viator, you are not able to communicate with the people who are actually taking you on the tour. This limited time in Kusadasi is problematic.

We are the only ship in Kusadas

Istanbul– Thursday, Nov 12 9 AM to 6 PM

Ekol Tour #2 is probably our best bet: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Ancient Hippodrome, Grand Bazaar. The tour guide will meet us about 9:15 and the entire tour is about seven hours. You will pay the guide directly with any currency (USD, Turkish money, etc. Also, you can pay EKOL directly on their site. We will be returned to the ship by 5PM.

Several of you have expressed interest in this tour of Istanbul. The price is excellent and decreases with the number of passengers (up to 19.) Personally, I’d like to keep it at 11 or lower, which would be $66 pp. That includes the tickets to all the mentioned sites. Valentia (the person I have been communicating with at EKOL) has been very responsive and is a good communicator, always something to consider! Please read below. 

Let me know if you are interested, either on this board or dgawell at g mail dot com. I’ll add you to our list.

Highlights
St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia), Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, The Ancient Hippodrome & Grand Bazaar

Any time you want: Meet your Private Professional Licensed Guide at Istanbul Port with your name sign and start for the Istanbul trip. Istanbul will most captivate your attention with the remains of many ancient civilizations and their culture, perfectly combined with the Turkish culture. There are impressive structures to be seen today: Topkapi Palace which has been the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans and the center of State Administration and contains the most holy relics of the Muslim world. We enter the Treasury section, where one can see beautiful displays, such as the ‘’Spoonmaker’s Diamond’’ – the 7th largest diamond in the world!! Blue Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. Basilica of Hagia Sophia is regarded as one of the world’s most important architectural monuments in the world! The monument dates back to 537 AD and has faced the consequences of several wars and invasions. It was repaired several times, it was once a church, later transformed into a mosque and finally a Museum. The Hippodrome of Constantinople, the center of Byzantine civic life, where horse and chariot races used to take place. The Hippodrome is also bestowed by popular monuments like the 3500 year-old Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius and the spiral bronze base of a three-headed serpent sculpture. Have a stop in Grand Bazaar an interesting and enjoyable experience in a historical shopping area. The bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world – the largest and oldest in Turkey, with 60 streets and over 4,000 shops. It is well known for its unique carpets, leather embroideries, jewelries of all kind, ceramics, antiques, handcrafts, spices shops and of course for inexpensive souvenirs shops. Drive back to Port due time re-embarkation.

NOTE: This tour is not including the harem section of Topkapi Palace because doing so would have pushed out the time to arrive back at the ship at an uncomfortable level (5:30).

Program order: The order in which visits are mentioned might be changed and/or adjusted, according to circumstances.

INCLUDING

Private Professional Licensed Guide
Transportation in Comfortable A/C Vehicles
Private Professional Driver
Entrance Fees to the Sights Mentioned Above the Itinerary
All parking and taxes

EXCLUDING

Any Gratuities for Guide & Driver
Any Meals and/or Drinks (Unless Specifically Mentioned)
Any Kind of Personal Expenses

2-3 PAX4-5 PAX6-10 PAX11+ PAX
$95$89$77$66

We are the only ship in Istanbul

Patmos Fri Nov 11 (tender port) 2 PM- 9PM

The two sites we wish to see: The Cave of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of St. John are walkable but up a hill. Perhaps a taxi or bus trip might be better? We have researched these sites and the websites are not helpful and give contradictory info. One person from the island said that these sites usually open when there are cruise ships and extend the hours.

Good video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzVYDmgkNfc

Likely will wait until we arrive in port and grab a taxi or bus. Perhaps NCL will post their excursions before we sail?

We are the only ship in port

*Rhodes Sat. Nov 12, 8 AM- 5 PM

We may catch a short tour of the island through NCL “Exploring Rhodes Religious past : 3/ 1/2 hours $49. (if they ever add it to our shore excursions) or just walk around Rhodes. The town is right by the dock and a lovely walkable city with lots to see and nice shops. There is a very nice colored map available at the tourist stand right at the port.

Tom’s Port guide for Rhodes is very comprehensive. Don’t let it overwhelm you. It is easy to explore the Old Town on your own from the ship. https://www.tomsportguides.com/uploads/5/8/5/4/58547429/rhodes-02-20-2015.pdf

We are the only ship in port

*Limassol, Cyprus Sun. Nov 13 9-6

We likely using this port as a day of rest and not booking any tours since we were in Cyprus in 2019. Perhaps someone would like to take the lead on these tours. I wrote to the manager of Spanos Bus Cyprus and here is what he sent me:

Please have a look at our shore excursions below and we are looking forward to your reply. We can also organize any other tour of your choice. You can also check the shore excursions of the ship and we can do any tour with our lower prices. After consultation with us, you can publish the tour in the forums such as CruiseCritic, Facebook etc and then it starts.

We are sending you our program and FAQ (questions). In case of any booking please send us your names / surnames, ages and a mobile phone number with your country code during the cruise. Then we will send you all the necessary information’s about meeting time and points in Limassol port.

Please do not hesitate to include this information and our shore excursions on any forum you participate such as CruiseCritic.com, Cruiseline.com, Facebook Group etc. If you know of any fellow cruisers that would like to register, please ask them to contact us through our website spanosbusescyprus.com forward slash contact-us. In this way, we will avoid any problems and misunderstandings. 

The official way is direct with us and not on any spreadsheet into Roll Calls. Everyone will receive email confirmation from us. All personal information’s will be kept completely confidential.

Spanos Buses Website: http://spanosbusescyprus.com

Spanos Buses Cyprus FAQ List: http://spanosbusescyprus.com/faq/

Reservations through website contact us: http://spanosbusescyprus.com/contact-us/ 

GENERAL INFORMATION: 

NOTE: The payment is due at the end of your Shore Excursion, in Euros (€) cash. We also accept US dollars and the amount will depend upon the exchange rate at the time.

NOTE: In our buses, depends on bookings (Buses or Minivans) we put minimum 16 people and maximum 30 people instead of 50 people like cruise ships do for their Shore Excursions.

NOTE: We would like to inform you as well that we use earphones wireless technology and you can’t missed a word from the Guide up to 60 meters (200 feet) away. We are the only ones here with these devices! Our goal is to provide excellent services for our clients.

LIMASSOL/CYPRUS:

Spanos Buses Program for NORWEGIAN EPIC CRUISE Guests 2022.

Arriving in Limassol Port on SundayNovember 13, 2022 at 9:00am until 6:00pm.

_________________

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 13, 2022: ( TOUR 1 )

Paphos UNESCO Tour 

(This Tour brings you to the scenic seaside town of Paphos, a small harbor town and popular holiday resort, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Price: 45 Euros per Person

Duration: 9:15 am until 4:00 pm.

– Payment at the end of the Tour

– Including all places with air conditioned bus or minibus

– Pick up services from the Port and return

– Licenced English Speaking Guide

– Mineral Water during the Tour

– Including Entrance fees in Archaelogical Places

– Guiding Tour Devices – Earphones wireless technology 

– Petra tou Romiou – Aphrodite’s Beach Birth Place Rock 

– Paphos UNESCO Tour (European Capital of Culture 2017)  :

– Tombs of the Kings

– Ayia Kyriaki church and Saint Paul Pillar

– Paphos UNESCO Archaeological Park, House of Dionysos Mosaics

– Free time in old Harbor and Medieval Castle (restaurants, souvenir shops, cafeterias)

– Return to ship

Our guides are licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, speak fluent English, and have excellent experience with cruisers.

_________________

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 13, 2022: ( TOUR 2 )

Limassol Highlights and Omodos Village Tour

(Discover the culture & people of Cyprus through this Tour)

Price: 45 Euros per Person 

Duration: 9:15 am until 4:00 pm

– Payment at the end of the Tour

– Including all places with air conditioned bus or minibus

– Pick up services from the Port and return

– Including Entrance fees in Archaelogical places

– Licenced English Speaking Guide

– Mineral Water during the Tour

– Guiding Tour Devices – Earphones wireless technology 

– Kolossi Castle (Foto Stop)

– Kourion Acropolis Archaelogical site

– Omodos  Village in Troodos Mountains

– Visit the Monastery of the Holy Cross 

– Visit the traditional wine press Linos

– Walk in the narrow streets of the village with our Guide

– Free time to buy souvenirs and laces or stroll around

– Visit Lambouri winery in Troodos mountain Region

– Wine tasting ( Including in price )

– Limassol City, old part 

– Walk in the old part of the city with our Guide and then free time (*The time will be cut accordingly)

– Return to ship

Our guides are licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, speak fluent English, and have excellent experience with cruisers.

With Spanos Buses Cyprus, The Best Service and Best Price!

Kind Regards,Spanos Buses Cypruswww.spanosbusescyprus.comHandy Telephone or SMS/WhatsApp/Telegram/Viber Message: +35799465693Fax Tel: +35725313960

Find us “Spanos Buses Cyprus”:

I need some ideas as I don’t want to repeat. We are there on a Sunday, so we may just wing it. Note: Cyprus as of mid-July requires masks indoor buildings and on public transportation. Most of your time will be outdoors.

We are the only ship in port

*Ashdod: Monday, November 14, 2022, 6 AM – 11 PM

Guided Tours Israel to the Dead Sea, Masada, and Qumran. We now have 17 passengers and a full van. Please contact me if you wish to be put on a waiting list which will likely fill up to the six minimum very easily. Please send me an email if you wish to be put on a waiting list. Leo from GTI and I are coordinating this, and I send your names and email to him. dgawell@gmail.com

Private Excursion to Masada, the Dead Sea, and Qumran (from Ashdod)

We have used Guided Tours Israel for three tours in Israel and chose them based on so many Cruise Critics giving them top ratings. We had a tight group who traveled together for those three days in Dec 2019 when the NCL Spirit was in Israel. I arranged for a customized trip to Akko (Acre), B’hai Gardens, and Maritima Caesarea. Because we were so efficient and always on-time, we were also able to visit the Aqueducts.

BTW, for those of you who aren’t used to doing small, independent excursions like this one, I can tell you it is FAR superior to those from the cruise ship.  I had people leaving notes on our cabin door and voice mails begging me to add them if we had any openings. The word about our travel group got around the ship!  We didn’t know each other before the cruise, but everyone clicked. Also, you don’t pay me, you pay directly to GTI.  I would just submit the names of our travel group.

Here are the details for the tour based out of Ashdod on Nov 14th from Guided Tours Israel

Dead Sea & Masada Excursion

Price: $125 per person (price as of 8/26/2022)

In our small-group tour of 6-16 persons (private tours also available)

Any group size welcome – sign up and join others from ship

Personal pick-up and drop-off – 100% on time guarantee

Full day excursion to Qumran, Dead Sea, and Masada

Admissions to sites are extra (payable directly on day of travel)

English speaking expert guide for the day

Great excursion or money back policy!

Visit the lowest place on earth and travel back in time for a history lesson like no other.

We will meet you as you arrive at the Ashdod port and together will make the drive down to the Dead Sea.  Enjoy a comfortable ride in an air-conditioned van for the 1.5 hour drive to the lowest point on the planet.

It is stated that Jesus was baptized along the point where the Jordan River meets the Dead Sea. It’s where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are thought to have been located and it’s the site where the Dead Sea scrolls were found – the oldest copies of biblical text! We will start with a visit to Qumran to discover the city where John the Baptist and his followers made their home.

Next, its time for a unique sensation that cannot be duplicated anywhere in the world – a float at the Dead Sea.  Change into your bathing suit and take your towel as you head towards the salty waters of this unique place, and follow it up with some great photos to take home as you cover yourself in curative muds.  

We will then make our way to the Fortress site of the Jewish Zealots – Masada.  We will ascend by cable car to the top of the mountain to visit the ruins and enjoy the great panoramic views.  Enjoy a unique experience learning about the story of the Zealots while you are standing at the place where it all took place!

Our rates are unbeatable, and our tours are conducted in small intimate groups for a better experience.  

We are the only ship in port in Ashdod.

Haifa/Tel Aviv

We will be at the port of Haifa at 6:00 AM and will likely be allowed to disembark about 7:30. Here are some options for travel to Jerusalem or Ben Gurion airport:

  1. https://www.beinharimtours.com/how-to-get-from-haifa-to-jerusalem/

2. The train

Advice on taking the train from Haifa’s cruise port (from someone in Israel):

In this case, it is really hard to do better than the train. When it runs, it is by far the fastest, most comfortable, almost the cheapest, and I think the least fuss overall. The Haifa Center station is adjacent to the cruise terminal entrance. There are no direct trains from Haifa to Jerusalem yet (and won’t be by November for sure), so you’ll need to change at one of the Tel Aviv stations – Tel Aviv University station is probably the easiest – change in the same platform. The Jerusalem rail way station is at the city’s main transportation hub and you should be able to reach your hotel from there with the light rail service (if relatively centrally located).

Both the Haifa – Tel Aviv and the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem trains run at least twice hourly. The fare is ILS 27 per person.

Do check closer to the date for railway construction work, although I think it is less likely in this period. If the train does not run for some reason, there is a direct bus service from Haifa to Jerusalem, though somewhat less convenient with luggage but still not too bad.

Trains on the coastal main line (Tel Aviv – Haifa) currently operate from Sunday to Thursday. I don’t see any scheduled engineering works for that date, but double-check a few days before at https://www.rail.co.il/en/pages/updates.aspx

While in Israel:

Our touring in Israel is probably attractive to those who have already seen Jerusalem and the Galilee. We want to spend a little time in Jerusalem to see the City of David and perhaps a few museums.

We are also hoping to schedule a trip to northern Israel. You are welcome to join us!

We found a two-night excursion from Ben Harim Tours:

https://www.beinharimtours.com/gems-northern-galilee-golan/

Golan Heights and Safed Tour, 2 Days

 

From $368Per

Overview

This Galilee and Golan 2-Day Tour heads north to the Galilee. We look down on the Sea of Galilee and see the Golan Heights creating a perfect backdrop.  We cross the River Jordan to the foot of the Golan Heights; pass Hamat Gader and stop at the Shalom Observatory for brilliant views. We tour Katzrin’s excavated Mishnah and Talmud-era village and visit the Golan Antiquities Museum. On Mt. Bental we tour former Syrian fortifications and then stay overnight at a Kibbutz guesthouse.

On day 2 we explore the Kibbutz then visit Mt. Hermon Stream Reserve and see the Hermon River and Banias. We tour the remains of a Roman city called Panias set among lush vegetation, waterfalls, and streams. We see the 13th-century Kal’at Nimrod fortress before continuing to our final stop is in the holy Jewish city of Safed.

Tour Overview

Tour on Map Day 1: Golan Heights

The Golan Heights Tour takes you north through the Plain of Armageddon and past Megiddo into the Galilee. The Galilee has rolling hills, farmlands, vineyards and the beautiful Sea of Galilee. Crossing the Jordan River we ascend the Golan Heights through lush countryside. We pass Hamat Gader, a site with hot springs used by the Romans and modern-day spa-goers. We travel to the Shalom Observatory and from this elevated point we have stunning views all the way to the Sea of Galilee. In Katzrin we see an excavated Jewish village from the Mishnah and Talmudic eras. Nearby we visit the Golan Antiquities Museum and see archaeological discoveries from the Golan plus a film on the ancient Jewish city of Gamla.  At Mt. Bental we explore the remaining Syrian bunkers and trenches captured by Israelis in the 1967 Six Day War. 

Sites During the Tour

Mount Bental

Syrian Fortification, Mt Bental

The Talmudic village, Katzrin

Yardenit Baptism Site

Overnight stay: Golan Heights Day 2: Northern Galilee

This tour day starts with a look around the kibbutz to learn about this unique community. The tour travels to the foot of Mt. Hermon and the Hermon River. We stop at the Banias a former site of a Roman city dedicated to the God Pan. The lush forests, streams and waterfalls of the Banias are so beautiful it has been compared to the Garden of Eden. We tour Kal’at Nimrod, a 13th-century fortress perched on a hilltop where there are brilliant views of the Golan. Next, we stop for lunch in a Druze restaurant before traveling to the holy Jewish city of Safed. Here we tour the Caro Synagogue, Ari Synagogue and the Artists’ Quarter before returning south and leaving the Galilee and Golan.

Sites During the Tour

Nimrod Fortress

Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream)

Abuhav Synagogue, Safed

Highlights

Guaranteed departure – makes your trip planning much easier and gives you complete peace of mind

Join the tour directly from your hotel and enjoy a high-quality touring experience for a fair price

2 fully guided days with a local professional guide

1 night accommodation on bed & breakfast basis at a Kibbutz guesthouse

Enjoy a spectacular view across the Galilee to the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights

Discover the lush countryside of the Galilee, Israel’s northern region, home to the Sea of Galilee

Drive through the farmlands and vineyards of the Golan Heights

Hotel drop off – End your 2 day experience when you are returned to your hotel

Availability

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English

Accommodations and Prices

Tourist Class

$368

PER PERSON

The tour includes:

  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off service
  • Entrance fees
  • 2 fully guided tour days with a local qualified and licensed tour guide
  • 1 night accommodation on bed & breakfast basis
  • Transport by air-conditioned vehicle

The tour does not include:

  • Lunch, dinner, drinks

Notes:

  • Comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and water are recommended
  • Modest dress is obligatory for visits to holy sites; covered knees and shoulders
  • A single traveler supplement is required
  • High season supplement is required
  • Swimming at a local pool may be possible, bring a bathing suit, etc.
  • During high season, due to changing volumes of travelers on the tour package, overnight lodging in the north is likely to change owing to availability.
  • Booking is subject to terms and conditions

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.)

Another advantage of doing some traveling together is limiting your travel circle with smaller numbers during these times of possible COVID outbreaks.

Often, you can tweak their excursions to accommodate a more individualized itinerary. When I was in Israel in 2019, 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, email, and cell phone numbers on a shareable 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 and inconsiderate people. People would notify the group when they saw restrooms or if they 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. 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.