"From Haifa, it was nearly two hours' drive to Jerusalem, where we had a fantastic tour with a local guide.
"She took us up to the Mount of Olives, where we had a view over the city of Jerusalem and the garden of Gethsemane at the base of the mountain. She also gave us a good overview of the city and its history.
"We then got back on the coach and drove down to the old city to the Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall to give it its proper name. Our guide gave us all the information beforehand about this important site for Jewish prayer, as talking is not allowed. Most of us on the tour wrote little notes and prayers to leave in the cracks in the wall, which is a popular thing for visitors to do.
"We also went through the Jaffa Gate and along the Via Dolorosa, which is considered to be the holiest road in the world, and up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw a piece of the street as it was in Jesus's time; they had excavated along one section of it.
"Our visit to Jerusalem was shorter than I would have liked but it couldn't be helped because of the time it took to drive there from Haifa.
"From Jerusalem, it was only a short drive to Bethlehem; I was surprised by how close they are. We picked up a local guide in the centre of Bethlehem, from where it was a very steep walk up to the Church of the Nativity, which was very impressive; we passed grain crops and olive plantations on the way.
"Back on the coach, our original guide had a map up the front and she was very informative. She talked about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and was very philosophical about it. I didn't know a great deal about it before I went so it was very good to learn."
Value for money
Nerryl paid $161 for her full-day excursion and says it was excellent value, given that it was fully guided and included a good buffet lunch in a hotel in Jerusalem. Nerryl says she often makes her own arrangements during shore visits but prefers to join official excursions in more challenging destinations, or where there is a potential safety issue.
WHO Nerryl Hagenbach of the Sunshine Coast, on her 12th cruise with MSC Cruises.
WHAT A full-day tour of holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
WHERE The Israeli port of Haifa.
THE SHIP Nerryl cruised with a friend on MSC Orchestra (msccruises.com.au) on a seven-night cruise from Genoa, Italy.
As told to Jane E. Fraser
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