Day 96 – Ashdod, Israel. We arrive at port about 6:30 and the ship is cleared before 7:00. Our "one on one" screening of yesterday covers today also. We just need to show our landing permit and passport, walk thru the terminal building, have our bags x-rayed and board our bus.
Is is about 70 in the morning, again with heavy overcast skies. I think the overcast is as much sand in the air as it is moisture. The sun peeks out for a little while, and about 20 drops of rain do fall at one point during the afternoon. By the time I return to the ship, the temperature has dropped to 66 degrees, and there now is a 20 mph wind.
My tour today is a leisurely tour of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Not having much interest in religion, I don't take the tour for the religious significance of the sites, but to see the countryside and the old buildings, The bus windows are very dirty. The driver is asked to clean them before we leave the port. Many other drivers do this while they are waiting for passengers to board. He ignores our initial request.
The tour guide relays our concerns as we leave the port and the driver then tells us he will clean them at a gas station, our first stop for a rest room break in about an hour. When we stop he announces they won't let him clean the windows at this stop, but he will do it at our first stop in Jerusalem. Well you can guess the rest of the story, he never does clean them. I am sure this was reflected in his tip by most other passengers also.
Over the course of an 8 hour day we visited many of the religious sites around Jerusalem. I swear there were some places that we drove by 6 times as we went around and around in circles. Traffic is heavy and congested. There are tour buses everywhere. Parking spots for buses are scarce, so he stops and lets us off, drives around in a circle and then comes back to pick us up, only making traffic worse. If more parking were available, traffic would be reduced 75% or more.
The lunch buffet was almost identical to yesterday, but the beef was better and I was told the fish not as good. The real surprise was the reception hall itself. The floor sloped about 5 degrees. This was less costly than leveling the site. It didn't feel as strange as I thought it would, in fact there was an advantage. By rotating my plate the juice from the beef ran under my serving of rice. How convenient.
The biggest entertainment for the day was Alexandra. She lost her group and couldn't find her bus. Our guide took pity upon her and allowed her to board. As she walked thru the bus every time there was an empty seat she asked if someone was sitting there. At least 3 people in front of me said yes, there was, even though the seats were empty. I should have paid attention, but didn't. For the next hour all I heard was how nasty her tour bus guide, and HAL escort were and that they just ran off and left her, she wasn't going to get to see what she wanted, it was all their fault, etc, etc. She also left her purse, passport, money, credit cards, and all identification on the bus. And yes that was the guides fault also because he told her it was safe to leave items on the bus.
When we arrive at lunch she is able to get back with her group. Thank God!
Then I learn the rest of the story. Her tour guide was the same gentleman I had yesterday, and he and the escort spent 30 minutes looking for her and couldn't find her. He then contacted his office which notified all the other buses to be on the lookout for her.
From the other passengers I learned she has done this several other times, the most recently, several days ago, and it took the guide and the escort 45 minutes to find her. I now realize how perceptive I was 10 weeks ago when after telling everyone at the dinner table how sick she was that day, that I decided to put her on my mental "passengers to avoid" list.
Once back on the ship I take some pictures of the port. A ship in front of us is unloading 50 foot long 8 foot diameter iron pipe. The one behind us unloads rebar. There are numerous container ships, several grain ships, a roll on roll off car carrier, several oil tankers, and many other ships I can't identify. I only see one military ship, but just before sailaway three or four fighter jets and several military helicopters fly overhead. There also are about 30 ships waiting to enter the harbor.
There were quite a few armed military in one area of Jerusalem where there have been some stabbings. And at various bus stops there were hundreds of individual military personnel that were headed home for the weekend, a common occurrence on Sunday.
Tonight's entertainer was Francisco Yglesia from Paraguay playing a harp. He left London about 10 days ago to board the ship in Aqaba, but his harp didn't arrive with him. Fortunately it showed up at 10:30 last night, about 90 minutes before we sailed. Different, but fun.
We are sailing at 18.7 knots tonight. That means the "magic fingers" are at work in most of the cabins, no quarters required. Tomorrow is a sea day as we head towards Piraeus (Athens), Greece.