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Cruises to Istanbul

Istanbul (Photo:muratart/Shutterstock)
Istanbul (Photo:muratart/Shutterstock)

About Istanbul

A geographic and metaphoric melding of East and West, Istanbul is the world's only city covering two continents. The Bosporus runs through the center; Europe lies to the west, Asia to the east.

For nearly 2,000 years, the ideally situated metropolis has been the keystone of some of the world's great empires, serving as capital city for the Romans (under the name Constantinople, as noted by the informative "They Might Be Giants" tune), Byzantines and Ottomans.

Inside the sprawling city, the secular and the sacred mingle -- minarets with nightclubs and dusty prayer rugs with designer digs. The idea of Istanbul as collision between East and West reveals itself immediately, with monumental churches cum mosques (the Hagia Sophia), Roman ruins (the Hippodrome, where horse and chariot races were held in Roman times) and unadulterated symbols of consumerism (the Grand Bazaar with its thousands of shops).

Even if the these iconic attractions are what draw many of its tourists to this vast (second only in size to Shanghai) city of 17 million inhabitants, visitors, dutifully plodding through them, may easily miss what makes this city one of the world's most vibrant right now.

Increasingly prosperous, Istanbul has exciting neighborhoods, upscale shops (not just the usual international brands like Prada but also fashion designs by Turkish clothiers) and a thriving restaurant scene that ranges from classic fare to newer, Mediterranean-infused interpretations of local standards. Its Museum of Modern Art -- handily located pierside, where ships dock -- is new and offers both rotating internationally-minded exhibitions and works from Turkish artists.

Istanbul is increasingly popular as a port of embarkation (or disembarkation) for a range of itineraries, from the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean Greek Isles trips to the migration, twice a year, of ships between Europe and Asia. You can find as many as six ships a day docking there. This noisy place, in which the magical call to prayer several times a day manages to overcome the sound of honking cars, is a great place to add a pre- or post-cruise stay.

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DAY 1: Venice

9 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Split, Korcula ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Istanbul

7 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Istanbul
Visiting:
Mykonos, Kusadasi ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Miami

117 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Antigua, St. Lucia ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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164 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Kauai, Honolulu ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Kusadasi, Istanbul ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

19 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Salalah, Safaga ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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20 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Istanbul
Visiting:
Dikili, Kusadasi ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Catania, Santorini ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Rome
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Monaco, Florence ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Kusadasi, Istanbul ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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15 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Haifa
Visiting:
Jerusalem, Limassol ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Split, Dubrovnik ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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8 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Dubrovnik, Corfu ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Jerusalem, Haifa ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Palermo, Malta ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Kusadasi, Istanbul ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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15 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Trapani, Malta ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Monaco, Florence ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Santorini, Rhodes ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Istanbul
Visiting:
Lesbos, Kusadasi ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Patmos, Jerusalem ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Haifa
Visiting:
Jerusalem, Port au Prince ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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59 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Stockholm
Visiting:
Helsinki, St. Petersburg ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Istanbul
Visiting:
Nessebur, Constanta ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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116 Night
Cruise to Istanbul

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Honolulu, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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Why go to Istanbul?

Pros:

Famous landmarks, like Hagia Sophia, can be seen from a variety of vantage points around the city

Cons:

Some sellers in the Old City and Grand Bazaar can come across as too pushy

Bottom Line:

Istanbul is rich in history and culture, thanks to its location between Europe and Asia

Istanbul Cruise Port Facilities?

There are no facilities inside the port, but just outside there's a collection of cafes, though these are generally oriented to young people enjoying the Turkish tradition of Narjile (which my guide described as "hubble bubble" -- hookah in other countries). Better yet, head over to the cafe and bar at the Museum of Modern Art, which is also within easy walking distance.

Good to Know?

In Istanbul's bazaars and many tourist shops, sellers can be quite brazenly and annoyingly persistent. When shopping for rugs, know that it's customary for the seller to offer shoppers cups of tea. It's considered good manners to accept, particularly if you are genuinely shopping (as opposed to browsing casually).

Also, in deference to Istanbul's beautiful mosques, churches and synagogues, it's advisable to wear respectful attire -- long pants or long skirts if you want to enter these historic sites.

Gratuities are expected, even at restaurants that levy surcharges. (Locals tell us to plan to tip 10 percent of the check and to pay in cash; otherwise the waiters don't get the money.) In taxis, just round up.

Getting Around?

By Cab: Metered taxis are plentiful, and they line up right at the pier; credit cards are generally not accepted. Be wary of any taxi driver who doesn't operate on the meter system.

By Tram: There's also a convenient tram, located a few hundred yards from the pier.

On Foot: If you have strong legs, it's possible to walk up one of Istanbul's infamously steep hills to the Beyoglu, the heart of the city's shopping district. Walking between the major sites, including the Bazaar, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, is also quite doable.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the Turkish lira. For the latest currency conversion figures, visit www.xe.com. ATMs are readily accessible.

Language?

Turkish is spoken there. English is generally spoken at major tourist sites and hotels, but not necessarily otherwise.

Where You're Docked?

Cruise ships dock at the Yolcu Salonu ("Passenger Terminal") in Karakoy, which is centrally located.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2015 Top-Rated Eastern Mediterranean Destinations

Istanbul Cruise Reviews

Le Bougainville
Sealegs19
Sail Date: Nov 2019
The most amazing, friendly, safe and wonderful city.... Read More
Celebrity Equinox
terrynovell
Sail Date: Sep 2016
mdid not visit Istanbul.... Read More
River Princess
somdcruisealong
Sail Date: Aug 2016
we did not go to Istanbul. We picked up the ship in Romania.... Read More
Mustering up again
Sail Date: Aug 2016
Our itinerary was changed due to the unrest in Istanbul. (A city that I love and want to go back to!)... Read More
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