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Celebrity, thanks for listening--Haifa shorexes


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When the new Apex cruise, Athens round trip to Santorini, Rhodes, Ashdod and Haifa first came on the boards, they were offering only six shorexes in Haifa...and five of the six were nearly identical--all centered around New Testament sites...and all five with the SAME sites--just different order and different amount of time.  The sixth one was a five hour tour that visited a monastery and a crusader crypt.  The first five all visited some combination of the Church of the Multiplication, the Mount of Beatitudes and the Church of the Annunciation...although at least one added St. Joseph’s Church and the Church of St. Gabriel.  All, I am sure, are great sites to visit IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN.

 

But, there is so much more to see out of Haifa--including some magnificent archaeological sites much, much older and more interesting.  Most of those churches visited on the group of tours noted above are actually 20th Century buildings--erected "on the site" where some biblical event supposedly happened...But the great archaeological sites--like Megiddo, Caesarea, Beit She'arim, Tzippoei and others are actually ancient archeological sites with relics dating back thousands of years.  These are sites that would be of interest to ANYONE visiting the area.  Yet, initially, Celebrity completely bypassed them.

 

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I contacted Celebrity to let them know.  To their credit, they actually but someone on the job...a woman in their Shore Excursions department named Zsofia...And, to her credit, she not only got working on it, she also kept in contact to keep me updated on the progress.  Also, know that this year, unlike most others, there were extra challenges associated with the Pandemic--which local operators were still in business, which sites would be accepting visitors, etc. 

 

Finally, yesterday, they have added more Haifa excursions...including two new Haifa excursions:

 

HFC6 Small Group Discoveries: Megiddo and Beit She’Arim (Strenuous, 8 hrs duration, $229 pp)
Set out on foot to discover the ruins of two ancient cities - Megiddo, which dates back to biblical times, and Beit Shearim, seat of the Sanhedrin.

Highlights:
• Begin your journey with a walk through Megiddo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel. Hear about Megiddo’s history dating back to biblical times as the site of Armageddon.
• View impressive waterworks and see where the richest Canaanite treasure ever discovered was found before settling into a delicious, buffet lunch.
• Next, walk the ruins of the principal city of Beit Shearim, the seat of the Sanhedrin when the center of Jewish life passed from Judea to Galilee.
• Enjoy a panoramic view of Haifa Bay from a lookout point on Mount Carmel on your return drive.

 

HFC7 Small Group Discoveries: Tzippory Mosaics (Strenuous, 5 hrs duration, $154 pp)
Beauty and history come to life in the ancient city of Tzippori, where you can spend time strolling the ruins before walking Mukraqa to take in spectacular views.

Highlights:
• Your first stop is Tzippori, once the capital of Galilee and birthplace of the Virgin Mary, with an impressive synagogue that was the seat of the Sanhedrin and the place where the Mishna was completed. View its beautiful Roman and Byzantine mosaics, and ancient water system.
• Enjoy the view during a drive through the Carmel mountains and then arrive in Mukraqa, where the battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is believed to have taken place.
• Stroll the monastery grounds and take in gorgeous panoramic views before your return to port.

 

So, a big thank you to Zsofia and to Celebrity for being responsive to customer concerns and acting quickly to offer some reasonable choices.  It was far more important this year than the usual in that we might be forced to use Celebrity shore excursions only so arranging a private small group tour, as we would usually do, may be off the table....plus, even if allowed, with a short time period to organize a group and a smaller pool to draw from, that small group might be difficult to pull together.

 

Again, thank you Celebrity.

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Tough choice. I have visited both Tzippori and Beit Shearim and highly recommend both although for most people (e.g., who are not true Roman history nerds like me), then Tzippori is probably more interesting and has some really nice mosaics.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

Tough choice. I have visited both Tzippori and Beit Shearim and highly recommend both although for most people (e.g., who are not true Roman history nerds like me), then Tzippori is probably more interesting and has some really nice mosaics.

It was a tough choice for us...We've been to Megiddo before--last time we cruised through Haifa...but missed out on Beit She'arim...Out private tour that cruise went to Megiddo, Caesarea and an historic Kibbutz along with a quick tour of Haifa...We's sort of preferred if they combined a full day tour to Beit She'arim AND Tzippori...But we don't mind going back to Megiddo...and what won it out for us is 8 hours of touring over 5 hours...We'll save Tzippori for the next visit!

 

Oh, and I guess I'm a nerd...I was a "Cultural and Historical Geography" major as an undergrad--taking classes in things like Archaeology (including, for example, a class in "Dating Techniques"--which contrary to what most people thought when I told them I was taking that, was NOT a course in romancing people of the opposite sex--it covered fascinating subjects like Carbon 14 Dating, Rubidium-Strontium Dating and Dendrochronology)...So, yes, I look at all of these archaeological sites a little differently than a lot of people...

Edited by Bruin Steve
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6 hours ago, Bruin Steve said:

When the new Apex cruise, Athens round trip to Santorini, Rhodes, Ashdod and Haifa first came on the boards, they were offering only six shorexes in Haifa...and five of the six were nearly identical--all centered around New Testament sites...and all five with the SAME sites--just different order and different amount of time.  The sixth one was a five hour tour that visited a monastery and a crusader crypt.  The first five all visited some combination of the Church of the Multiplication, the Mount of Beatitudes and the Church of the Annunciation...although at least one added St. Joseph’s Church and the Church of St. Gabriel.  All, I am sure, are great sites to visit IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN.

 

But, there is so much more to see out of Haifa--including some magnificent archaeological sites much, much older and more interesting.  Most of those churches visited on the group of tours noted above are actually 20th Century buildings--erected "on the site" where some biblical event supposedly happened...But the great archaeological sites--like Megiddo, Caesarea, Beit She'arim, Tzippoei and others are actually ancient archeological sites with relics dating back thousands of years.  These are sites that would be of interest to ANYONE visiting the area.  Yet, initially, Celebrity completely bypassed them.

 

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I contacted Celebrity to let them know.  To their credit, they actually but someone on the job...a woman in their Shore Excursions department named Zsofia...And, to her credit, she not only got working on it, she also kept in contact to keep me updated on the progress.  Also, know that this year, unlike most others, there were extra challenges associated with the Pandemic--which local operators were still in business, which sites would be accepting visitors, etc. 

 

Finally, yesterday, they have added more Haifa excursions...including two new Haifa excursions:

 

HFC6 Small Group Discoveries: Megiddo and Beit She’Arim (Strenuous, 8 hrs duration, $229 pp)
Set out on foot to discover the ruins of two ancient cities - Megiddo, which dates back to biblical times, and Beit Shearim, seat of the Sanhedrin.

Highlights:
• Begin your journey with a walk through Megiddo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel. Hear about Megiddo’s history dating back to biblical times as the site of Armageddon.
• View impressive waterworks and see where the richest Canaanite treasure ever discovered was found before settling into a delicious, buffet lunch.
• Next, walk the ruins of the principal city of Beit Shearim, the seat of the Sanhedrin when the center of Jewish life passed from Judea to Galilee.
• Enjoy a panoramic view of Haifa Bay from a lookout point on Mount Carmel on your return drive.

 

HFC7 Small Group Discoveries: Tzippory Mosaics (Strenuous, 5 hrs duration, $154 pp)
Beauty and history come to life in the ancient city of Tzippori, where you can spend time strolling the ruins before walking Mukraqa to take in spectacular views.

Highlights:
• Your first stop is Tzippori, once the capital of Galilee and birthplace of the Virgin Mary, with an impressive synagogue that was the seat of the Sanhedrin and the place where the Mishna was completed. View its beautiful Roman and Byzantine mosaics, and ancient water system.
• Enjoy the view during a drive through the Carmel mountains and then arrive in Mukraqa, where the battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is believed to have taken place.
• Stroll the monastery grounds and take in gorgeous panoramic views before your return to port.

 

So, a big thank you to Zsofia and to Celebrity for being responsive to customer concerns and acting quickly to offer some reasonable choices.  It was far more important this year than the usual in that we might be forced to use Celebrity shore excursions only so arranging a private small group tour, as we would usually do, may be off the table....plus, even if allowed, with a short time period to organize a group and a smaller pool to draw from, that small group might be difficult to pull together.

 

Again, thank you Celebrity.

So nice to hear that X did this. 

 

Credit also to you for bringing it to their attention, since many others on that cruise will benefit as well.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for sharing a positive.  I believe X does far more right than wrong but too often all that we hear about is the negative.

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8 minutes ago, jelayne said:

Thanks for sharing a positive.  I believe X does far more right than wrong but too often all that we hear about is the negative.

Agree. It's always nice to see these types of positive posts and positive reminders on the boards.

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I’m on an earlier Apex cruise and they are slowly adding more excursions each time I check. To be honest I’d be happy with just staying on the ship! 

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Steve, are the excursions for Celebrity only viewable after a cruise is booked?  We have been thinking of jumping on the August 14th sailing, but cannot locate the offered excursions and prices.

 

We will probably skip anyway unless Celebrity lifts the ban on self booked private tours, so fingers are crossed.

 

Hey, separate question ---- think CA will allow LSU and UCLA to play in the Rose Bowl in September? Another trip we are wanting to book but awaiting word on the game

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28 minutes ago, Lane412000 said:

Steve, are the excursions for Celebrity only viewable after a cruise is booked?  We have been thinking of jumping on the August 14th sailing, but cannot locate the offered excursions and prices.

 

We will probably skip anyway unless Celebrity lifts the ban on self booked private tours, so fingers are crossed.

 

Hey, separate question ---- think CA will allow LSU and UCLA to play in the Rose Bowl in September? Another trip we are wanting to book but awaiting word on the game

There's this link:

Shore Excursions Brochure | Celebrity Cruises

 

But it appears to be a little out of date--doesn't show the shorexes just added...but you get most of them.  You get to that link by going through the links at the very bottom of most Celebrity pages...Go to "Plan your cruise" and down to "Shore Excursions", then click on "View Brochure"...plug in ship, date and currency...And you get this...

 

For us, we would typically prefer private tours, but we have WAY too much OBC ($1750!!!  Thanks to having originally booked in 2019 under a different "deal", upgrading to a Sky Suite and picking up more along the way) and nothing else to spend it on (since we also got Premium Drinks, Streaming WiFi and included Gratuities...and, being Elite Plus get free laundry and other stuff...I've been to all the ports before, so I'll be okay with seeing whatever they show us on Shorexes...and a lot of ours are "Small Group"...and Celebrity has promised us smaller groups in general due to Covid.

 

As to the UCLA-LSU game on September 4:  I am expecting to be there (I'm a UCLA Season Ticket holder).  Every communication I've received thus far from UCLA seems to indicate business as usual.  Of course, with Covid, we're never that sure about anything anymore...We don't know if there will be any restrictions--ie capacity limitations, vaccination requirements, etc.   But it is still over four months off...and California has the best per capita covid numbers and vaccination numbers in the country:

 

Tracking COVID-19 in California - Coronavirus COVID-19 Response

 

As of today, we've fully vaccinated 39.8% of the California population and partially vaccinated another 19.6%...and we are administering over 325,000 vaccinations per day...We have enough inventory on hand to have 60% of the population fully vaccinated within the next three weeks.  Of course, that is "in a perfect world"...Some of those "on hand" doses will go to first-timers...and, unfortunately, there are some crazy or ignorant or just resistant people who won't get a vaccination...

But, OTOH, we'll get even more vaccine doses delivered as well.  In the meanwhile, we've been able to reopen a lot of venues--and not just because politicians want to spur the economy (never a big issue here in California) but because the actual Covid numbers are very much under control...Even Disneyland reopened yesterday.  In Los Angeles County, Covid cases are down to an miniscule 7-day average of 2.5 new cases per 100,000 population and Covid deaths down to 0.03 deaths per 100,000 of population.

 

As we continue to vaccinate in high numbers, those rates should continue to go down.  By the time Football season comes around, we should be in even better shape...Heck, I've even got a cruise booked out of Los Angeles in October!

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Steve....typically how many passengers are included in a small group discovery tour?  I called Celebrity and they could not provide me a typical number of passengers for a small group discovery tour for the two Israel stops.

 

Thanks...........Lane

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8 hours ago, wendyam76 said:

I’m on an earlier Apex cruise and they are slowly adding more excursions each time I check. To be honest I’d be happy with just staying on the ship! 

Things are changing both towards opening up in most parts of the world and local operators are anxious to start taking in some $$.  I expect a huge number of excursions to be listed in the next couple of months.  Will be good 👍

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1 hour ago, Lane412000 said:

Steve....typically how many passengers are included in a small group discovery tour?  I called Celebrity and they could not provide me a typical number of passengers for a small group discovery tour for the two Israel stops.

 

Thanks...........Lane

The official word on the website says it's capped at 24...But I am not sure what they will do--whether they might cut it down from that--for current Covid protocols... We've actually had Celebrity shore excursions in Europe in the past with 11 and with 19 passengers...The 11 almost seemed like a private tour.

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Thanks Steve. We too have been to those sights and would have done Haifa on our own. The boards are too quite to organize a tour to other sites.

WE are thinking of using a guide we had before for our 2 days in Jerusalem. Doesn't make sense to stay in town since Ashdod is so near.

Once I work on that (doing a B2B in August first) I'll post that to my forum.

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Don’t worry about the “New Testament” focused tours.   As Christians we took one.   Our guide was an Israeli who proceeded to condemn all the Christians sites we visited stating they were all myths.   She has berated the Palestinians stating they were all dirty, slovenly,  and did not belong in Israel.   Our bus driver was a Palestinian and must have heard this before so he ignored her.   In Jerusalem she marched us to the wailing wall bypassing the stations of the cross.   Luckily we saw Bethlehem without her commentary as she had to get off the bus as we entered Palestinian territory.   We all complained loudly when we returned to the ship about this guide.   

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She should have been fired. All Israeli guide, that I have used were very knowledgeable about all religions. One of our private guides was a Palestinian working for an Israeli company.

Did X give you a partial reimbursement? Whenever we had major legitimate problems they always tried to resolve the issues.

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3 hours ago, Covepointcruiser said:

Don’t worry about the “New Testament” focused tours.   As Christians we took one.   Our guide was an Israeli who proceeded to condemn all the Christians sites we visited stating they were all myths.   She has berated the Palestinians stating they were all dirty, slovenly,  and did not belong in Israel.   Our bus driver was a Palestinian and must have heard this before so he ignored her.   In Jerusalem she marched us to the wailing wall bypassing the stations of the cross.   Luckily we saw Bethlehem without her commentary as she had to get off the bus as we entered Palestinian territory.   We all complained loudly when we returned to the ship about this guide.   

Are you sure you got on the right tour?

Seriously, though, last time we cruised to Israel, we had many friends onboard our ship who took those Christian shorexes.  We didn't hear any complaining at all about the guides...Everyone seemed to love their guides.  To work as a tour guide in Israel, one must be licensed and there are educational requirement--so those licensed guides are VERY WELL versed.  As to the toured Christian sites being "mythical", there is actually some reasonable amount of truth to that in respect to many of them.  For example, they take tourists to a site on the Jordan River where allegedly John performed baptisms...Problem is that 2000 years ago, nobody went to the trouble to erect a monument and plaque on the spot.  Nobody really knows...so, they pick a good spot to take the tourists to...and you either buy it or not.  Some of the churches on the tours are described like this Built in 1953 on the spot where Joseph had his carpentry shop".  Guess what...Nobody really knows if Joseph had a "carpentry shop"...or if he did, where it might have been located...So, in 1953, somebody found a good plot of land on which to build...and decided that would make a good back story.  You either have to abandon logic and proof and take these things purely on faith...or you have to realize a lot of these stories are mythical.  I understand a lot of Christians inherently want everything they are taught to be completely unchallenged.  But many of us can see some degree of storytelling.  Yes, Christians resent hearing that some of their beliefs may not be provable and I can understand that (for a number of reasons).  But, if a tour guide tells me something cannot be proved and is likely "mythical", I understand what he/she is saying.

Now, that said, there are some things that have been clearly demonstrated as factual.  We know that Caesarea is the seaport built by the Romans...Why?  The structures written about in the day are still clearly evident today and archaeologists have been able to date and authenticate most of what remains.  Similarly, we know that Megiddo is the site of numerous historical events (and biblical references)  Why?  Again, archaeologists have done the work and enough still exists from ancient times to demonstrate it as fact.

But all of this is why I prefer to visit authenticated ancient sites and skip the modern buildings allegedly in a place something might have happened 2,000 or more years ago.

Oh, and in Jerusalem, EVERYONE should go visit the Western Wall--probably the most significant place in the City-- to people of all religions or even those who espouse no religion.  Lots of people visit Jerusalem for its historical and archaeological significance.

 

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I emailed Celebrity shorex and asked how many passengers would be on a small group discovery tour and received the following response:

 

Now regarding your question on the amount of passengers I'm sorry but that is something we are not allowed to disclose, rest assured that we have taken all the necessary precautions related to COVID safety measures so our guests can still enjoy the excursions we have to offer.

 

 

I think the response is odd.  What is so secretive that Celebrity cannot tell me how many passengers would be in a small group tour?  If the number is capped at 24 and a regular tour is going to operate with half the normal amount of passengers due to Covid, why would I pay more for a small group discovery tour when the number of passengers would be about the same as a regular tour?

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16 hours ago, HLN500 said:

WE are thinking of using a guide we had before for our 2 days in Jerusalem. Doesn't make sense to stay in town since Ashdod is so near.

 

I don't know when you've been lately to Israel. This time, nobody travels abroad due to Covid (yes, we're fully vaccinated, but the "world" around us isn't...], the public transportation is largely avoided, again due to Covid, and the traffic is horrendous. REALLY.

 

You'll waste a lot of time on traffic, and risk not being back on ship. 

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We'll be docked in Ashdod overnight.

Won't be using public trans since the guide will have their vehicle.

Since we won't be their til the end of September, should be more normal then now.

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2 hours ago, HLN500 said:

We'll be docked in Ashdod overnight.

Won't be using public trans since the guide will have their vehicle.

 

Sorry, may be I didn't explain myself clearly --

 

I know that you'll be overnighting in Ashdod.

It will be a pity to waste precious time travelling to and from Jerusalem from Ashdod. The entrance to Jerusalem is clogged perpetually.

 

What I've meant by "public transportation" is that people now prefer to take their cars instead of using public transportation, thus increasing the traffic, which even before Covid stuck, was moving very slow.

 

But, of course, YMMV 👍

 

 

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6 hours ago, dani negreanu said:

 

I don't know when you've been lately to Israel. This time, nobody travels abroad due to Covid (yes, we're fully vaccinated, but the "world" around us isn't...], the public transportation is largely avoided, again due to Covid, and the traffic is horrendous. REALLY.

 

You'll waste a lot of time on traffic, and risk not being back on ship. 

thank you dani.  I had a cruise to Israel booked, 2 nights in Jerusalem and one day in Haifa, based on yours and a few others comments, we decided that to to properly do Israel for the first time is a land vacation with private drivers for much of it, so that is what we will plan. 

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24 minutes ago, LGW59 said:

we decided that to to properly do Israel for the first time is a land vacation with private drivers for much of it, so that is what we will plan. 

 

Good decision, if you have the time and want to do it properly.

 

Sometimes, we have to settle for just a "taste" of the place, instead of a land vacation. Santorini, Dubrovnik, Corfu come to mind.

 

Should you decide on a date, don't hesitate to tag me and I'll be more than happy to offer advice -- for example, when the High Holidays are (Passover in spring and HH usually in September/October).

 

 

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12 hours ago, dani negreanu said:

 

 the public transportation is largely avoided, again due to Covid, and the traffic is horrendous. REALLY.

 

You'll waste a lot of time on traffic, and risk not being back on ship. 

 

The traffic was quite bad enough before COVID. I can't imagine how bad it must be under current circumstances. 

 

On a cruise, where 2-3 hours of extra time not spent in traffic can make a huge difference in what one can see and enjoy, I would definitely agree with you to stay in Jerusalem. Not to mention the extra evening hours in the city -- the monuments are all beautifully lit up. (And food in Jerusalem is delicious!)

 

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Are you on the Apex in September LGW? If so would lover to share a driver.

Rethinking about overnight in Jerusalem

Cruise will be in Israel just after Succoth.

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On 5/1/2021 at 5:40 AM, Lane412000 said:

Steve, are the excursions for Celebrity only viewable after a cruise is booked?  We have been thinking of jumping on the August 14th sailing, but cannot locate the offered excursions and prices.

 

We will probably skip anyway unless Celebrity lifts the ban on self booked private tours, so fingers are crossed.

 

Hey, separate question ---- think CA will allow LSU and UCLA to play in the Rose Bowl in September? Another trip we are wanting to book but awaiting word on the game

When I asked Celebrity if you were required to book their excursions, they said no, it was up to the passenger. Where does it say otherwise?

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