Part 9 - Haifa / Sea Day / Sea Day
Day 11 – Haifa
For this day, we had deliberately not made any excessive plans. There were many offers to visit Galilee, Nazareth and other holy places. However, we had decided before already that our trip to Jerusalem would be our personal highlight. We didn’t want to dilute this highlight with extra stress or more extensive sightseeing. That’s why we were in no rush to leave the ship that morning and took our time to enjoy breafast on the outside deck of the Ocean View Cafe.
Haifa’s main attraction are the Baha’i Gardens, also known as the shrine of Bab. These gardens also mark Haifa’s cityscape. Our only plan was to visit the gardens and see what else the day brings.
The terraces of the Baha’i Gardens are visible from afar, so our destination of the day was easy to find. We simply walked from the port to the large promenade at the foot of the gardens.
The area around the main street is also called the German colony, founded by German Templars in 1868. Today there are only a few stone houses left, albeit in a more or less well maintained state.
The houses are easily recognizable by their German inscriptions and pious messages.
From the promenade we took one of the modern public buses which took us to the entrance to the Baha’i Gardens on Mount Carmel.
Form up here we had a beautiful view of the bay of Haifa and with it our ship in port.
This was another location boasting plenty of my much loved bougainvillea.
At the same time we got a first view of the 18 garden terraces and the Shrine of the Bab.
The “Bab” was the most important companion and supporter of the founder of the Baha’i faith, which counts 5 – 8 million followers worldwide. The Baha’i faith teaches a monotheism focusing on the belief in one God as well as the mystical union of religions and the belief in the union and equality of mankind.
Free tours are offered at the entrance of the gardens, which we were happy to take. We only had to wait a few minutes in the entrance area which we spent admiring the beautiful plants and flowers.
When the tour started we followed a guide and walked down the beautifully landscaped terraces. We made a few stops to listen to the explanations of our guide who talked about the religion, the life of the founders and the gardens.
Besides the shrine, the gardens are also home to the international archive of the Baha’i community as well as the Baha’i educational center, which is why the gardens are also considered the world center of the Baha’i.
However, the main part of the area is the shrine with its golden dome. Here lie the remains of the “Bab”.
After visiting the gardens we returned to the main road and followed it back through the German Colony.
In addition to the old houses of the Templars there are also some restaurants whose attractions weren’t only good food but also free WiFi.
We let ourselves be tempted by one of them and enjoyed a tasty lunch while bringing us up to date on the internet.
After that we went into a small shopping center where they even had a shop called Sawgrass. I guess the owner must have been to Sawgrass Mills, Florida...
Then we returned to the ship and enjoyed a relaxed late afternoon over a cocktail at sunset at the Sunset Bar before the Silhouette set sail again.
Later in the evening we were in for a little treat. As part of the ongoing 50% offer we had booked a table at Qsine. Having heard so many positive things about it, we were curious what to expect.
In Qsine, the unusual already starts with placing the order. Everybody is given an Ipad and can basically “like” dishes. The dishes are always designed to be shared. With the help of the waitress you can then choose some of the individually selected dishes, and you are ready to go. Everything is served in an extravagant presentation. Spring rolls, for example, are served stuck in little springs. A tribute to the pun!
The Taj Mahal dish is a selection of Indian specialties; the Chinese is a mix of little bowls with Chinese delicacies, etc.
We ended up stuffed but kept being tortured with more delicious deserts by Mimi, our waitress.
In the Centrum, the fun dance competition “Dancing with the Officers” was presented that night. Based on the TV shows, some of the guests were paired up with members of the crew instead of stars and had to perform different dances. We laughed until we cried. The winner was the female ship’s doctor with a male guest from South America. Although such games are usually not our thing, we thought this one was very well done.
Afterwards we had a drink at the Martini Bar where we met friends we had made on this cruise.
The super-fast bartenders at this bar were another example of the excellent service onboard the Silhouette. As part of our beverage package, Birgit ordered a Martini. The bartender mixed the drink and left Birgit the whole shaker with a friendly wink – it served a total of three Martinis. They weren’t stingy!
Day 12 – At Sea
After our eventful days in Israel we really enjoyed the sea days. On this ship they were easy to fill, too.
At the Guest Service Desk they had copies of current newspapers in different languages. The library also offered a lot of reading material and you’d also find quiet places to play games.
By the pool, the volleyball tournament officers vs. hotel staff provided good entertainment.
I decided to pay the buffet a visit at lunchtime while Birgit enjoyed the sun on the deck. During lunch I met Debby and Bob, a couple from California who we had got to know during the cruise. We sat together on the terrace of the Ocean View long into the afternoon and talked about anything and everything and the incredibly interesting story of Bob’s life. And so another sea day had quickly gone by.
That evening we made a real job of my “cruise search” mission and gave the result some last finishing touches. After we had already booked a cruise on the Anthem of the Seas for 2016 at the Future Cruise Office in the early days of this cruise, we returned to book a cruise for the Summer of 2015. Due to our enthusiasm about the Solstice Class and the beautiful experiences on the Greek Isles we booked a cruise on the Reflection with beautiful destinations like Santorini and an overnight in Istanbul. The nice perks like beverage package, paid gratuities together with a nice on-board credit didn’t leave room for a guilty conscience. Yes, we are cruise addicts...
Day 13 – At Sea
This was another relaxed day at sea. Gym, breakfast, wellness and relaxation... a cruise can be really stressful. Which is why I had to brace myself at the lunch buffet, which was very special today. Besides mediterranean specialties like Gyros, Humus and stuffed vine leaves they had more tempting deserts on offer which even included a chocolate fountain!
Throughout the day we spoke to a few other guests who had done organized tours to Jerusalem. The delayed departure from the ship, the traffic jams and the combination with other sites meant that some only had a maximum of 2 hours in Jerusalem, during which they were rushed through the city. Thanks to these stories we appreciated once more our trip to Jerusalem, despite the hassle with the car rental.
In the evening we bumped into the nice family from Oklahoma again and had a drink with them at the Martini Bar. They had booked a table at the Tuscan Grille later in the evening. Ken, the father, jokingly said “We can sneak you in”. We took him up on it and said we’d love to join them if it were alright with them – we still had some OBC left. It was nice to see that they were happy about it and so we had unexpected plans for dinner.
I am telling you the following story because it is just another example of the excellent service onboard. We extended the reserved table from 4 to 6 people with the manager of the restaurant. I jokingly asked that a table for 6 would surely be on special offer that night. She laughed back and friendly replied “It’s a sea day, but surely there is something we can do...” After another delicious meal 30% were taken off our bill. What we like about it is less the money saved but the easy and friendly service.
This is why I can easily repeat that to date we have always experienced excellent and generous service from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. This is why we remain faithful and loyal to them out of conviction.
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