You simply can't come to Israel without taking the opportunity to visit Jerusalem, the historic city sacred to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The trip to Jerusalem takes about 75 minutes, and is followed by a fascinating tour including:
Garden of Gethsemane – Ancient olive trees shade this enclosure on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. It was here in this garden that Judas betrayed Christ.
Church of All Nations – Built at Gethsemane in 1924, the church features interior domes decorated with mosaic symbols of the countries that contributed to its construction. The Rock of Agony, where Christ endured his Passion, is located at the Altar.
Jewish Quarter in the Old City – Visit Mount Zion and walk along the Cardo Maximus, the Roman High Street built in 135 AD when Jerusalem was the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina.
Dormition Abbey & King David’s Tomb – Dormition Abbey is the site of the Coenaculum, the room where Christ and the Apostles dined at the Last Supper. Following the Crucifixion, it was here that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. The reputed tomb of the great monarch King David is adorned with 22 silver crowns representing the Kings of Israel who succeeded him.
The Western (Wailing) Wall – Enter the Jewish quarter through the Dung Gate. Revered as the sole remnant of the Second Temple (destroyed by Rome in 70 AD), the massive Western Wall is actually part of the Temple Mount foundation erected by Herod the Great. The Wall is the most sacred Jewish site in Jerusalem. From the plaza, you can view the Temple Mount dominated by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, sacred to Muslims.
Via Dolorosa – The "Way of Suffering" lets you observe the Stations of the Cross. Proceed uphill through the city’s narrow, crowded cobbled streets towards Calvary and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the final Stations are located.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher – The church is believed to enshrine the sites of Christ’s crucifixion, entombment and resurrection. The 12th century church is shared by several Christian denominations. Steep steps lead to the second level, where a shrine marks Calvary / Golgotha.
Bethlehem – Visit the Church of the Nativity, a major Christian holy site located above the cave that is thought to mark the birthplace of Jesus. This is one of the oldest surviving Christian churches in the world. Descend to the Grotto of the Nativity, where a silver star in the floor marks the very spot where Christ is believed to have been born.
The tours include a delicious lunch at one of Jerusalem's many hotels.
You'll return to the Haifa port in the evening, tired but satisfied. Take into account that this is a busy day filled with emotional experiences and a trip through time, so if you take a short nap on the bus that's perfectly understandable.
If your ship remains in Israel for two days, you have the option to choose a two-day trip that includes an overnight stay in Jerusalem, with the chance to visit the Dead Sea and Masada on the second day.
If you're leaving Israel tonight, we wish you a very pleasant voyage. If you're spending the night in Haifa and still have some energy – the city of Haifa awaits you with a range of attractions… but that's in a separate part of the blog!