It was Friday, our final day in Israel. After visiting Jerusalem and Haifa earlier in the week, our excursion would take us to the ancient city of Acre. For sure, my Viking journey on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land was exceeding expectations. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.*
“Tomorrow will be Shabbat, so we say ‘Shabbat Shalom’ because it is the Sabbath,” said our tour guide Simon. “Acre’s markets will be crowded as people shop for food before sundown.”
A City Above and A City Below
“Acre is a 2000 year old city,” Simon said. “Acre was the main port in the north of the country during the 19th century. Then the port of Haifa was built and became the main port.”
The Old City of Akko (Akko means Acre) is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an historic walled port-city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. As we walked, we learned more about its secrets. According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, “Only in the Old City of Akko will you discover a perfectly preserved Crusader city being unearthed and brought back to life, located directly under the city built above it.
Upon entering the Old City, Simon pointed out the el-Jazzar Mosque, the largest mosque in Israel outside Jerusalem.
We passed The Turkish Bazaar and did a little shopping, before proceeding to the seashore area by the bay.
Then it was time to go below the city through Templars’ Tunnel, which originally served as a secret passageway for the Crusaders. We crouched down and tiptoed along the musty tunnel passageway, watching each step not to fall on the rocky path. The Tunnel extends 350 meters from the port to the Templar fortress.
Simon explained the different fortresses built at the time of the Crusaders. One was for the Templar order. The Templars were a monastic military order that guarded European pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land. The other was for the Hospitallers, established to treat the sick.
“There is a suspicion that the ships smuggled their products onto the town so they didn’t have to pay tariffs. They hid the products underground,” Simon said. “The Templars were the bankers and held the money of the pilgrims. They became very rich.”
A Bustling Market Street
My favorite part of the tour was Market Street, which was bustling with pre-Sabbath shoppers. It is the main street of Old City and runs from north to south. Supposedly during the Crusader Period this road led from the Hospitallers’ Gate in the north, along the route of the market to the port.
Market Street is a crowded thoroughfare with many stalls selling everything from fresh fish and vegetables, to sweet and savory pastries, to fragrant Middle Eastern spice blends and nuts, to homemade confections and more.
There were long lines outside the Humus Said hummus and falafel shop. However, Simon recommended a different restaurant nearby Old City where he favors falafel. Unfortunately, there was no time to stop at either place this trip. “You know what that means,” I said to L. “We’ll have to return some day.”
Dinner On Board The Viking Star
To close out our stay in Israel, we decided to have dinner at The Restaurant on board. Each evening features a Destination Menu from the port of call. I ordered an Israeli Chopped Salad for my appetizer, opted for the Broiled Grouper Fillet entree from the main menu, and selected the Destination dessert of Olive Oil Cheesecake. It was so good, so good, so good,
More To Come
The next three days we would spend at sea, sailing to Italy. While high winds prevented us from stopping at the port of Crete. I found days at sea to be especially relaxing. You see, one of my requirements was to try out the LiV Nordic Spa. Ooh, ooh, ooh, how could I resist?
Stay tuned – I’ll share tips from my Swedish massage, Nordic facial, and skincare analysis. Plus, I’ll take you behind the scenes into the galley to share how Executive Chef Donald and team keep the kitchen running smoothly on this huge ocean liner.
For now, shavua tov, which means “have a nice week” in Hebrew.
P.S. In case you missed my earlier posts about my Viking Ocean Cruise, check them out below:
♥ My First-Ever Ocean Cruise On The Luxurious “Viking Star”
♥ My Viking Journey: A World of Ancient Treasures in Athens ”
♥ My Viking Journey: A Visit To The Beautiful Island of Mykonos
♥ My Viking Journey: A Visit To Cyprus & The Goddess of Love
♥ My Viking Journey: A Day To Remember in Old Jerusalem
♥ My Viking Journey: Sightseeing In The Beautiful City Of Haifa
*Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Viking Cruises provided me with a complimentary press trip on the Cities of Antiquity and Holy Lands Ocean Cruise. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.