Day 113/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Haifa, Israel, Day 2.
Day 114/138 A Sea Day
Our tour today was to Caesarea, Jaffa and Tel Aviv and the tour was to be 10.5 hours long. The start time of our tour was to be 8am, so we had our breakfast room service ordered for 7am. That’s when things started to go wrong.
The room service breakfast showed up at 6:45am. Now that is not a big deal; 15 minutes early, we can work with that. What was wrong was I had ordered cereal and there was no milk. I had also ordered toast, and instead of toast, got bread, which was not toasted. Ok. We can still live with this. We have sustenance to help us with the long day ahead of us, so we ate what we could, ordering an almond milk for my cereal, and proceeded to get ready for the day.
I have stomach issues from time to time and wouldn’t you know it, my stomach started to act up. We finally were heading downstairs at 7:50am for our tour and on the stairs I scraped the back of my heel sharply on the stair treads. The stairs have a different length as we walk between the decks with cabins, shorter, (3-8), and longer when we get closer to deck 2 and 1. Anyway, I scraped my heel and now it was hurting. We met in the Star Theatre and when our tour number was called we headed out to the bus. I was ahead of Richard but I was one of the last people to get on the bus. Not trying to shame anyone, but people who get their tour bus number written on their ticket now go straight to the bus, instead of waiting to be called in the Star Theatre, so whenever we go to the bus, we are one of the last people to get on the bus. I sat down and thought there must be something wrong with the seat in front of me, since it was leaning against my knees. No one was in the seat in front of me, so I looked at the seats in front of me, to see if they needed to be adjusted forwards. The seats would not adjust. I thought to myself how strange, that there is absolutely no leg room on this bus! I moved to the row behind my original row, and wouldn’t you know it….the same problem! By now Richard was on the bus and he sat down beside me on the aisle seat. I was so uncomfortable with my knees up to my chin and my lower back already starting to hurt. We moved one row back to try and see if there was another row perhaps with more legroom, but all of the seats on this bus were cramming people in with no legroom. I am 6 feet tall and have very long legs and this bus was not working for me. I looked at Richard and said “I’m out”! I was not in the best of moods anyway, given the rough start I was having already to the day, but the bus situation was going to be completely unbearable for a 10.5 hour tour of which at least 5 hours of that tour time was going to be spent on the bus. We left the bus and asked for our tickets back so the tour operator would know that they had two less people on the tour. The tour was an optional tour which we paid for, but unfortunately the bus was completely unacceptable, uncomfortable and not what I would expect from Viking for paying for an optional tour. The one good seat on the bus was in the middle at the back and one tall man had already claimed that seat, with his legs sticking out in the middle of the aisle.
Quite disappointed about having no plans for the day in Israel, we left the bus, walked back across the pier and got back on the Neptune. Now we had to figure out what to do for our last day in Israel, because the tour situation on the Viking contracted bus was not going to work.
We came back through security screening on the Neptune and went to our cabin and dropped our stuff. I grabbed my ipad and keyboard to go and blog in the Explorer’s Lounge on Deck 7, where Richard joined me after going down to the Explorer’s Desk on 1 to hand back our tour tickets. I’m sure we will end up eating the cost of the tour, but it could not be helped.
While up in the Explorer’s Lounge, I ran into our friend Donna who was weaving and asked her what her and Bill had planned for the day. Donna was waiting for Bill and then they were going to decide what to do.
Trying to figure out what to do in Haifa is difficult. It is not like we could just walk out of the port and go to town, because we could not. Haifa port is a bit tricky because there is no way out of the port except if we are: 1) on the shuttle bus to German Town, or 2) on an included or optional tour. Taxis were not allowed to come into the port, which really restricted what we could do on our own.
Richard came upstairs to Explorer’s Lounge and by that time our friend Bill had come and joined Donna. Richard had an idea that he had got from Mara, the Guest Services Manager. For some reason today the Shuttle bus was making two stops. The first stop was at the train station and the second stop was at German Town. So if we took the Shuttle Bus, we could get to the train station, and figure out somewhere to go on the train!
The train schedule to the town of Akko, where we had been yesterday was fairly regular and since we knew our way around Akko, we decided to go back to the town and explore it, at a more leisurely pace. Bill and Donna were onboard with our adventurous plan and we agreed to get on the 11am shuttle bus which would drop us off at the train station. The train to Akko was at 11:35am and would take about 25 minutes, making 5 stops along the way.
The shuttle bus dropped us at the train station at 11:20am. Richard walked ahead of us to go to the train station and figure out how to use the ticket machine to buy 4 tickets to Akko. Before we got into the train station we all had to pass through security screening for our purses and knapsacks and walk through a metal detector. Richard got the tickets which were only 9 Israeli New Shekel ($3.31 CAD) each and we proceeded through the gates to find Track 2, walking down the platform, down the stairs, across the hallway, up the stairs, and we made the train, with a few minutes to spare.
Waiting on the platform with Bill and Donna for the 11:35am train to Akko.
Our train arriving right on time.
The trains were made by Alstrom which are the same train manufacturer that the ‘GO’ trains in Ontario are made by. The configuration of the trains was very similar too, with the trains being double decker trains. We went upstairs and found 4 seats together, with two facing forward and two facing backwards and we had a nice, air conditioned 25 minute train ride along the coastline to Akko.
Once we exited the train station in Akko, I asked Richard if he had downloaded a map of Akko and he said he had not! Great! Now what? He had looked at the map though and the good thing about Akko, is if you can figure out where the sea is, then the Old City is right next to the sea.
A local park in Akko. I liked the structure of the graduated wooden beams into the park.
A memorial in a park in Akko.
We started walking and after about 10 minutes we found a sign that pointed us left, to the Old City of Akko. A pretty simple walk, among the residential area of Akko brought us to the place we had been yesterday with the Viking buses, right outside the gift shop for David Miro! We even saw some fellow Viking passengers who were taking the Included tour of Akko, on Day 2 of our time in Haifa port.
Our first stop was to visit the market where we had been yesterday. There were not as many stores open as there had been the day before when we had visited on Saturday, but there was still a great selection of stores open. We found a nice little restaurant at the intersection of a few different paths in the market and as it was time for lunch we decided to stop. I had a hankering for a freshly made falafel sandwich! I love falafel sandwiches and I was looking forward to having a fresh one made right in front of me today! Richard wanted a beef schwarma and as luck would have it, the little hole in the wall restaurant had the rotating beef schwarma cooking outside the restaurant.
Everything anyone would want on a falafel or a schwarma sandwich was right in front of us! Everything was so fresh and tasty!
Making the falafels and frying them fresh in front of us!
Shaving the beef for the SCHWARMA.
So yummy! I asked for some hot sauce to go along with my falafel and it was delicious! Homemade, with olives in it too!
Now that’s a big beef schwarma sandwich!
Donna and Bill also had smaller schwarma sandwiches and we were also invited to have a selection of mezza which included pickles, olives, peppers and pickled cauliflower and turnips. All delicious foods to accompany our sandwiches. It was so nice to finally get a falafel freshly made in Israel! YUMMY!
We did not even see this gorgeous street the day before when we visited Akko. The bright colours on the stores made them so very inviting!
This vendor was willing to ship to Canada for ‘free’!
A little laneway off the main shopping street in Akko.
Quite the quirky display outside this home! They obviously are quite proud that Napoleon lost at Acre or Akko in 1799! And it seems they also use this wall to express their political opinions.
After lunch we wandered down a few nice laneways that we had not had time to visit the day before and we stumbled upon a couple of art galleries selling some very interesting art and jewellery.
While Donna and me had a look around the galleries, Richard and Bill took off for the boardwalk by the sea, where there were many young, orthodox teenage Jewish boys enjoying boat rides, and swimming in the sea.
The seaside in Akko.
Richard discovered a beautiful restaurant which he thought would have been the perfect spot for Viking to do a buyout if there had been a lunch option on our included tour the day before. The restaurant was very nice and let us use their washroom too.
Seahorse statue at the port in Akko, Israel.
Bill and Richard just hanging out in Akko.
We meandered our way back to the old market in Akko, and bought a few souvenirs to bring home with us.
Donna bought some traditional Israeli sweets.
We hadn’t intended on spending all day in Akko, so it was soon time to walk back to the train and on our walk, I was lucky enough to see my first pomegranate tree, with a pomegranate growing on it! I have always enjoyed pomegranates, but I guess I never realized where they grew or what the tree would look like, that they grew on!
A close up of the pomegranate.
Waiting for our train back to Haifa.
I used the ticket machine to buy us our 4 tickets back to Haifa Central Station and after about a 20 minute wait, the train arrived, we got on and sat upstairs again, watching the coastline on our right hand side.
When we got back to Haifa Central Station, we realized that the Viking Shuttle bus had just gone by us and we had almost 50 minutes to wait for the next Shuttle bus. Rather than stand around at the train station doing nothing, we decided to walk to German Town, where we knew the bus would be stopping at 5:30pm. German Town was the next block up from the train station, so our walk was not that far.
We knew where the shuttle bus pick up and drop off location was in German Town, since we had been there yesterday, so we headed for the spot and proceeded to wait for the shuttle bus. The bus picked us up exactly at 5:30pm and we headed back to the ship. Our little adventure on the train and back to Akko had given us exactly what we wanted. We got a small taste of what the trains in Israel were like; learned how good Israeli street food tasted; enjoyed a day on our own with friends exploring and found more wonderful spots in Akko, in the beachfront area we had missed the day before.
We met Gene and Margaret for a drink with Bill and Donna when we were back in the Atrium Living Room area and Gene and Margaret told us all about their Sea of Galilee optional tour which they loved and found an exceptional experience. Its too bad that things really got messed up for us in Israel when Viator cancelled our private tour to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, because had that tour been the one that we booked for today, we probably still would have proceeded with the tour, and not had to deal with the bad bus situation from Viking. I was getting the feeling that things were just not meant to be for us in Israel and it definitely opens up the opportunity to come back another time when we can explore without the long distance driving that the Viking day trip tours were forcing people to do. Last year the Viking World Cruise docked in Ashdod, a port closer to Jerusalem. Why we docked in Haifa, when it meant all tours would be a lot longer for everyone sure is a mystery to me, when Viking has experience with Ashdod from last year’s World Cruise.
So while the visit to Israel definitely did not turn out as we had hoped and I feel like all I saw was Haifa and Akko, we heard afterwards from someone we know who was on the tour bus that we got off, that the tour guide chose not to take the Viking guests to see the Tel Avis Bauhaus Architecture which had been promised in the tour description. The people we were speaking to had signed up for the tour to Tel Aviv specifically to see the Bauhus architecture and they did not get taken to see it. If I had been on the tour and stayed on the bus, I would have been fuming, since that was really part of the tour that really interested me, since I am a very big fan of different styles of architecture! Yeesh…I guess it was a good thing we bailed on the tour today! Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be and we figure out what we can do instead to make a good day, out of a bad one.
Day 114/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise
A Sea Day.
And a very busy Sea Day it is! We don’t have much time left to work on our Icon Project with Lyle and Linda, so our focus today was to try and get as much done as possible on the Icon. Of course I cannot share what we are building since the competition will be held after we leave Istanbul, Turkey in a few days and we have to keep our project under wraps until that time.
This morning the ladies who do needle art such as weaving, quilting, knitting, crochet, crewel embroidery, embroidery, or felting got together to put on an exhibition in the Wintergarden at 10am, so I popped up to support Margaret who made a beautiful quilt on this cruise; and Donna who has done some amazing weaving with her lap loom. I am very interested in weaving after having seen what Donna has been doing. Do I dare take up another hobby when I am back home? Margaret is supposed to be learning from Donna how to weave, so we will see if I find the time to learn too! Donna only taught herself through watching You Tube videos two years ago!
Margaret and her quilt. She made the quilt from individual hexagons which have paper on the back of them, as you can see on the right side of the picture. Margaret sewed the fabric to the hexagons and then after the quilt is all put together the paper comes off the hexagons on the back of the quilt. Margaret will back the quilt once she gets home and also put the border around this main part of the quilt. How gorgeous! And how talented to be able to do such a large project on the ship, in small working conditions.
The very talented Donna! She also makes her own looms and draws the picture onto the weaving fabric too!
Wow! Donna did so many rugs while on the Neptune for our cruise!
Beautiful woven wool rugs.
A photo of the tapestry Donna had woven of a Viking ship which she presented to the former Captain of the Viking Neptune. There is some talk that it may be kept on board the Neptune by Viking in a place of honour, in the future.
Needle art work created by the guests of the Neptune.
More needlepoint done on board.
In Art Class we were painting the state flower of Israel: the red anemone coronaria. I really like the process in this painting, using wet in wet and letting the paint bleed on the petals. We also used salt on the background of the painting to give a muted effect. I really like how my painting is turning out, but it is not quite finished yet as it still has salt on it and I need to tidy it up and smooth out some of the edges and hard lines with water.
Two girls sitting by the boardwalk.
While working on finishing the two girls painting, I watched two enrichment lectures in our cabin. One on spices and their many uses and the other on Ancient Greece. I have really enjoyed learning in 45 minute snippets on this cruise with the enrichment lectures, especially when I want to learn during the afternoon by watching our stateroom tv, instead of having to go to the lecture ‘live’ in the Star Theatre at a time that doesn’t work for me.
After having dinner in The Restaurant with friends, we headed up to the 8pm Bruce’s Brain Busters. We had to get back to our cabin for 8:30 so Linda could come over after Brain Busters to keep working on our Icon Project. Poor Lyle, Linda’s husband had gotten food poisoning at one of the restaurants on the tour to the Sea of Galilee with Viking, since the chicken had been undercooked, so he was not feeling up to working on our Icon Project. Yikes! Let’s hope Lyle gets better soon, as he is our chief engineer and architect!