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Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Haifa, Israel

26 Oct 2022
Allie Hubers

It’s Day 7 of our cruise and today was our third and final day in Israel. Our beautiful ship made the short journey last night from Ashdod to Haifa while we slept off yesterday’s Dead Sea adventure. 

Odyssey of the Seas docked in Haifa

Our morning started a little later, which was a welcomed change. Our meeting time was 8:00am since the ship had to arrive in port and clear immigration.

We had breakfast in the Windjammer and it was packed! I have yet to feel like the ship was crowded until this morning, which is pretty good considering it’s Day 7. I grabbed a latte in the Diamond Club and made my way to the Royal Theatre for our excursion meeting time.

Angie and I got to meet two fans of the Royal Caribbean Blog in the elevator, which was a wonderful way to start our last day in Israel! We love meeting readers in person so please say hi if you see us around the ship or in port!

Today, we had scheduled a full day tour from Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee. While waiting for our excursion to leave, the captain came on to make an unexpected and disappointing announcement.

Unexpected Cancellations

In a subdued voice, the captain stated that the Haifa bus drivers were on strike today and some tours would be cancelled due to lack of available busses. He went on to explain that there was no way Royal Caribbean could have anticipated this happening.

Because of the strike, some tours needed to be cancelled. The captain started to announce the tours that would not be operating today - and the tension in the room could be cut with the knife.

We held our breath as they listed the cancelled tours. I truly thought this is where our good luck would run out! We’ve been fortunate with our tours and ease of immigration, especially after hearing some of the bad experiences others have had.

We’ve heard horror stories of people who have tried to do their own thing in port by taking a taxi only to get themselves in sticky and scary situations. We’ve also heard from people who booked independent tours and were left behind because they didn’t clear immigration quick enough.

Others said they did their own tours or grabbed taxis in town without issue, but it seems hit or miss for those that did independent tours in Israel.

The captain listed 3 different half-day tours that were cancelled, in addition to the small group tours to Nazareth and Galilee. When he first said the town names, my heart sank that our tour was getting axed.

Cancelling the half-day and small group tours makes sense from a business perspective, as they’d want to keep the most expensive tours (i.e full-day tours) running.

We were so grateful that our tour was still on and the group breathed a sigh of relief.

Nazareth Exploration

We were on our way to Nazareth once everyone was on the bus. We weaved through Haifa on our way up to Nazareth. One family that came running on at the last minute said they snagged last minute spots when their small group was cancelled.

I’m sure it was a mess back on the ship as people scrambled to figure out their plans!

Haifa is British-influenced and the architecture definitely reflects this compared to Ashdod. The area was certainly more modern than Ashdod as well.

First on our itinerary was a stop at the Basilica of the Annunciation in the town of Nazareth. This is known by Christians as the location of the immaculate conception.

Inside the church, there was a large alter hidden away where it’s believed the Angel Gabriel made the announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. There was a line that we could have waited in to get a closer look, but we opted to not wait in the line.

Right next door was the site that Christians believe to be the workshop of Jesus’ father, Joseph. We went downstairs to see the ruins of which the church was built upon.

Mom missed this entirely because she waited 20 minutes to use the bathroom - which she said did not have an adequate toilet seat or toilet paper. The not-so-glamorous side of travel!

Up next was the Church of Multiplication, where we were greeted by a grumpy bathroom attendant. I swear she was some local woman who plops in front of the bathroom at this church and charges the tourists for entrance fees. She was waving a huge wad of cash!

Our guide, Leon, brought our group under a shaded tree to read to us the biblical miracle story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish to feed 5,000 people. It was a quiet moment among Tour Bus #4 and certainly set the scene.

Inside was the actual rock, now displayed under an alter, believed to be the rock where the miracle was performed. We weren’t able to get too close to the alter because it was blocked off.

Lunch and Sea of Galilee

After a short drive, we arrived at a resort located on the Sea of Galilee for lunch. Inside, we were served a delicious buffet with stunning views of the Sea of Galilee. By this point, we were getting to know the others on our Tour Bus #4 and enjoyed sharing stories about our Israeli experiences.

This was definitely the best buffet of the 3 days that we were served and most at our table agreed.

Without much time to explore, we snarfed down lunch and scurried down to the shore to put our hands in the Sea of Galilee. We snapped a variety of photos with other members of our group before it was time to head to the next stop. Dad even dunked his hat in the sea so it had a lasting touch.

At this point, our guide Leon was herding us around like sheep to get us from place to place on time. He would announce after each stop, “Well, we lost 4 but found 2 during lunch” when referencing tour members that couldn’t keep up.

Apparently, the Israeli tour guides are told to expect 10% of each bus to be missing at any point, which is somewhat concerning. It was a fast-paced tour though, and if you couldn’t keep up or you wandered away from the group, there wasn’t much wiggle room for time in the schedule.

Capharnaum Visit

Up next on our busy day was a visit to Capharnaum, which is a small fishing village known as the Town of Jesus.

It’s pretty mind blowing when thinking about the religious and historical significance of these incredible places. These are things you’ve only ever read in books and then suddenly you get off a cruise ship and they come to life.

At times, it was almost too overwhelming for my brain to comprehend.

In Capharnaum, we were able to see the synagogue where Christians believe Jesus taught regularly. The archeological sites surrounding the structure are thought to have been part of the homes back in Jesus’ time.

There was even a room specially marked with a cross that’s believed to be the room Jesus would stay when in Capharnaum at the House of Peter.

These remains date back to the first century BC…. Absolutely mind blowing! There was a church built upon the ruins of Saint Peter’s house, which have been excavated beautifully.

There was no time to waste though, as we were back on the bus and onto our next stop! The tour busses worked as a moving unit shuffling us tourists swiftly from one historic site to the next.

Mount of the Beatitudes

Not too far from Capharnaum was the Mount of the Beatitudes, which is a hill that is believed to be where Jesus gave his sermon on the Beatitudes. The beautifully designed church is located on top of the Mount and gives sweeping views of the Sea of Galilee.

We had all but 20 minutes to explore this site. There were tons of tourists going up to the church in unison and then shuffling back to the parking long after taking in the sites.

I loved photographing these pillars on the church balcony, which gave enchanting views of the Sea of Galilee.

We had one final stop to the Jordan River before we would make our way back to the ship. I was shocked to see the sun already setting, but we’d seen a lot in the day already and Leon kept us on a tight schedule so we wouldn’t miss anything.

Jordan River

Our 3 days in Israel went out with a bang by ending the tour with a stop at the Jordan River. This was the place that Dad was most excited about visiting!

The river is actually quite small and resembles more of a creek. There is a gift shop at the entrance that’s been obviously designed and structured to accommodate the bus loads of tourists that come to visit.

Christians believe the Jordan River is where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist; many also choose to get baptized in white robes in the river for the understandably significant nature of the river.

Although the historic site of the baptism took place in Jordanian territory, Israel is where most tourists come to see the river.

As we approached the river, I was stunned to see it appear emerald green yet clear enough to see large fish swimming. It was flowing gently and surrounded by lush trees. There was a large group that was getting baptized together in the river with touching music playing from a stereo for all to hear.

With only 20 minutes to souvenir shop and take in the sites, Dad went down the stairs that was crowded with some part of the baptism group. He gently dunked his head into the river for his own baptism renewal.

He rose from the stairs and launched his fist into the air in celebration. This was a big moment for Dad - it was so special that we could be there with him.

Shortly after, I ran down to put my hands in the river and Angie followed.

We watched as mom went down and put her own hands in the water. She came back up the stairs with tears in her eyes, overcome with emotion.

She said she wasn’t expecting to feel so touched by the experience, but I also think it symbolized her conquering her anxiety that she had about this trip visiting Israel. She knew it was a bucket list trip for Dad and originally said she wasn’t going to join us on the Israel tours. 

After much thought, she mustered the courage to join us and I think she was both relieved and joyous in the moment.

We must have started a trend, as many others from our group ran down to touch the water as well from this staircase.

20 minutes went by quickly as we rushed into the souvenir shop and frantically picked out t-shirts to purchase. Back on the bus, we were headed for the port.

Home Sweet Home

After another 10 hour tour in the hot sun, it felt so good to get back to the ship. This is one of the reasons I love cruising and why these types of cruises are my favorite.

We’ve been exploring and touring Israel for 3 long days, and I don’t necessarily think that our family would have enjoyed an Israeli-intensive land tour. I truly value the comfort of coming back to the ship each night to reset and refresh.

Cruising allows you to immerse yourself and a new culture and be out of your comfort zone while still returning to a clean room, a delicious meal and maybe even a Lime & Coconut cocktail.

Our day ended with dinner in the dining room. We enjoyed recapping the last 3 days together and sharing our favorite moments of the trip. Memories were shared among seafood risotto, beef tenderloin and autumn turkey dinner complete with chocolate cake, creme brûlée and apple blossom.

Somehow, everyone else had energy to go to the silent disco, live band in the Music Hall and acrobatics show tonight. They said everything was fairly busy, so everyone is ready to let loose and have fun! I chose to spend my night finishing the blog because I did not have much time today to work on the bus with how busy our tour was. 

Tomorrow we have a sea day, which is very much needed after everyone had three very busy days in Israel! Our plans for tomorrow are minimal, but will absolutely include a lot of sleep. We also have plans to see The Book, which is a show in the 270 Theatre - that should be fun!