Monday, December 26, 2011

Israel - Day 2

After a very comfortable night's sleep and tasty buffet breakfast, our group boarded the bus again to continue the tour of Israel.  Today's itinerary would circle the Sea of Galilee to the north of Jerusalem.  Along the way the countryside was dotted with small towns, Bedouin settlements and date groves.
Our first stop was a kibbutz that recreated where Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan.  The was a large gift shop with various products ranging from religious to Dead Sea products.  A large terrace area overlooked the river and steps lead down to the water.  People were in the water being baptized as the crowds milled around watching the proceedings.  This is not the actual spot where Jesus was baptized, the actual site is in Jordan, so this was a recreation.
The drive continued north to the location of the Sermon on the Mount.  The large hill offers a panoramic view of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, and is crowned by a small church.  One of the tour members read from the New Testament as we stood on the terrace taking in the view.
At the base of the hill was the ruins of a town.  In the town were the remains of Peter the Apostle's house.  There were Roman ruins of the town which we wandered around that included grinding stones for milling grains among other items.  There were additional ships in port and this site was very crowded.
Lunch was served at a kibbutz on the eastern shore at the base of the Golan Heights.  There were several appetizer plates on the table when we were seated.  The liver pate with caramelized onions was delicious, and since no one else cared for it, most ended up on my plate.  Since the kibbutz raises cattle, lunch was steak.  Small individual desserts topped off lunch.  Since the kibbutz is self supporting, there was a  general store on the other side of the room.  Everything from fresh meat, to spices to pots to cook with.  The spices were sold in bulk, and covered a large table.
Our last stop before returning to the Pacific Princess was Nazareth.  There is a church built on the location where Joseph and Mary had their house.  There is also an enclosed ruin that is supposed to be the actual house, I accepted it was a representation of a house of that time period.  The actual town of Nazareth had grown into a small city.  There were crooked streets lined with apartments above store fronts.  After a brief tour we boarded the bus back to Haifa.
When on a cruise, there is a time given for all passengers to return to the ships so it can depart on time.  Just before this time, passengers names will be called that have not returned, and if they were on board please contact the purser.  Well, at 5:15, the names of 6 passengers were announced, two of them our tablemates.  A few minutes later, it was just those two.  The Pacific Princess was supposed to depart at 5:30, at 6:15 3 passengers were dropped off at the gangway.  It turns out they were on an excursion and had a minor medical issue, but had contacted the ship, so they were aware of the situation.
A few passengers had gathered on the upper deck to watch for the returning 'Gems of the Seas'.  At 6:40 a car swerved around the barricades at the end of the pier and sped towards the gangway.  Out of the car emerged E and J and the driver.  Watching from 10 decks up it was easy to see the driver was very mad from his body motions.  After  brief discussion, he grabbed the immigration paper from E, got in his car and drove off, E and J boarded, and the ship departed.
As usual, E and J were late to dinner, and the question of what happened was asked.  They had taken the train to Jerusalem on the first day to explore the city.  They wandered around the old city and did some shopping.  It was unclear exactly what went on, but E ended up behind the counter in one store with the owner, where he 'stole two kisses'.  It seems she allowed at least the first one.  They spent the night in a hostel that had partial walls, curtain separations and a shared bath, a little different than their shipboard accommodations.
This where the story versions start to differ.  E said they went to the train station at 3:15, J said E was haggling over gold jewelry and was reminded of the time which was already 3:15.  So they got to the train station late and missed the train, the bus would not be fast enough, so they got in a taxi.  The standard fare from Jerusalem to Haifa is 700 shekels, they only had 300.  They told the driver they had the 300 and he would be paid at the ship.  Once at the entrance to the port, the Princess port agent, the driver of the car, met up with the pair and paid off the cab driver the additional 400 shekels.  E thought that had gotten off easy.
The following day they were called to Guest Services and informed of the charge for about $125 for the cab fare.  E thought this was wrong since they told him how much they would pay.  But since English was not his first language, he understood they had some money with them and rest was on the ship.  We told her that was not bad because the ship could have left them and they would have to fly to the next port.  E was that would be bad PR and they would not leave them, obviously she has never been on a cruise where passengers had been left, because it does happen.

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