8 Istanbul Cruises for the Disabled Cruise Reviews

We chose Viking because we had a great experience with Viking three years ago on a Rhine cruise. The cabin was beautiful, but there was nightly work being done on the deck above our cabin that woke us up almost every night. We complained, ... Read More
We chose Viking because we had a great experience with Viking three years ago on a Rhine cruise. The cabin was beautiful, but there was nightly work being done on the deck above our cabin that woke us up almost every night. We complained, but it still happened. Also, upon boarding we had difficulty finding our cabin. When we boarded the river cruise, there was a crew member escorting every guest to their cabin. On the cruise ship, we were on our own and it was more difficult to find. Our cabin was in the front on the upper deck where only one set of elevators actually went to our floor. The restaurants were good, but choices were limited in some places. For example at the pool, it was the same menu every day. It would have been nice to have the restaurants feature foods from the area we were traveling. The only restaurant that did this was the World Cafe and that food was like cafeteria food. The staff, just like on the river cruise, was outstanding, the only difference was that they seemed over worked, and they talked about it. They were working long hours with short down time and they mentioned this to the passengers. We had two problems with shore excursions. In Santorino Viking should not have allowed "leisure walkers" to go on the shore excursions. The hills were too severe and the sidewalks too uneven. The guide did her best, but a few people on our tour and a person we ate dinner with basically sat on the bus the whole time. When we were on the river cruise cruise, Viking had a modified versions of the daily tours for "leisure walkers" which were the over 55 and had difficulty walking, had walkers ,etc. In Dubrovnik we had a tour guide who was not sensitive to the over 55 crowd. In Dubrovnik they have their own currency and all of the public rest rooms required exact change with that currency. Having arrived just that morning and not knowing this several people on out tour needed to use the rest room and had no where to go. They ended up walking back to the ship and missing out on the rest of the tour. Sounds crazy, but it's a problem for the over 55 group. I would love to do more cruising with Viking, but it is too expensive. It's a special occasion cruise company for us. i'd like to see you stop mailing me so many catalogs. I'm in the direct mail business, so I know how expensive these are. I get a piece of Viking mail almost daily; some days multiple pieces, plus getting emails a couple days a week. Perhaps if you saved money with the mailings you could reduce the price of your cruises. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Viking Ocean is by far the best ocean cruise line we have taken. We have cruised with NCL, Princess and Celebrity and the level of service provided by Viking is a cut above the rest. First of all, we like their itineraries. We took the ... Read More
Viking Ocean is by far the best ocean cruise line we have taken. We have cruised with NCL, Princess and Celebrity and the level of service provided by Viking is a cut above the rest. First of all, we like their itineraries. We took the “Empires of the Mediterranean” tour from Istanbul to Venice and went to some fascinating venues including Santorini and Dubrovnik. Since there had been recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul for safety reasons, Viking Ocean cut short that visit and substituted Troy instead. Luckily, we had a pre-cruise booked for Istanbul and we did find Troy interesting. Viking Ocean appeals to us because it does not have the Las Vegas strip look of other larger liners. Passengers on our ship the Viking Sea, numbered around 600 because of people cancelling due to fear about terrorism in Istanbul, but the ship only has a capacity of around 940 passengers. Amenities such as elevator service equals that of larger ships. The stateroom we had was DV5 level and had 270 square feet plus a verandah. It was quite roomy and elegant. In fact, elegance of understated Scandinavian style would describe the Viking Sea. Everywhere there are little surprise nooks to sit in and read and art pieces to admire. The tone of superior service was set upon our arrival when we were greeted with champagne and the strains of music played by a classical trio. Our favourite hang out was the 2 level Explorer's Lounge with 180 degree views of the ocean. Viking Ocean is considered more expensive than other cruise lines, however I like the fact that all the costs except gratuities are pre-paid and you are not nickeled and dimed to death like on other ships. There are no continuous merchandise sales or photography sales pushed upon you. Amenities such as Internet, wine and beer with meals, and two hour free excursions are included in the price of the fare so there are no surprises when you get your bill. As we are not big drinkers we found that the wine veritably flowed! The food is excellent. The World Café serves buffet style and it included an ice cream and gelato bar, and a latte machine at no additional charge. Other lines charge for these items. Above all the regular coffee is very good. With other cruise lines the coffee was so awful I had to get a specialty coffee card. At night this buffet served excellent sushi, crab legs and other seafood. There is an outside grill plus wonderful specialty restaurants such as Manfredi's which serves Italian fare and the Captain's Table where you can do food sampling and wine pairings. They have a more traditional restaurant plus a buffet or grill when the specialty restaurants get booked. You are allowed 2 bookings of each specialty restaurant and unlike other cruise lines you are not charged extra for these. Another surprise was Mamsen's where you could pop in for a heart-shaped waffle for breakfast. Also, there was the Wintergarden where everyday they served tea time pastries, sandwiches and scones to the strains of the classical trio. Most of the time we took the more lengthy paid excursions instead of the 2 hour free ones however the level of the free ones that we took were good. There were fascinating enrichment lectures on naval warfare, art and music aboard ship. We attended sessions on naval battles that fit with the territory we passed including Gallipoli. These warfare talks were given by a Rear Admiral of the British Navy. The entertainment was with one exception of an outside singer, provided by the ship's singers and dancers. They were a small but a mighty talented troupe. We thoroughly enjoyed their performances particularly the way troupe members mingled jovially with passengers, Loads of fun! We especially enjoyed the trio of male singers who put on a tribute to the "Rat Pack" in the Torshaven Lounge. The house band was terrific too! Since this was the maiden voyage of the Viking Sea there was a glitch with our air conditioning that was resolved to our satisfaction. The gym is small and there are no classes but enough equipment to get the job done. We loved this voyage so much that we have booked another Viking Ocean trip called "Barcelona, the Baltic and Beyond" for 2017! Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We went on a Viking three week river cruise in 2014 and found it excellent so we, myself, husband and eldest daughter, booked on a Viking Ocean Cruise for 50 days departing Istanbul on 3rd April 2016 After we had booked, we found out that ... Read More
We went on a Viking three week river cruise in 2014 and found it excellent so we, myself, husband and eldest daughter, booked on a Viking Ocean Cruise for 50 days departing Istanbul on 3rd April 2016 After we had booked, we found out that this would be the Viking Sea's maiden voyage and were a little apprehensive but decided that we would trust the Viking company and made our plans to have a few days in Istanbul and then board the vessel on 3rd April, 2016 We had booked a Junior Penthouse Suite and our daughter had Deluxe Verandah right next door on Deck 7. We chose the Penthouse Suite because of the large area of 405sq.ft and it was close to lifts, swimming, dining and the winter garden area. We were welcomed aboard at 11.00am. our boarding time without any problems of hold up. Our luggage was taken onto the boat and the thing that impressed us on boarding and indeed on the whole of the 50 day trip, was the smiling welcome and greeting that everyone from the Captain, the officers, all the staff and crew gave you every day. It was so welcoming and you immediately felt like 'family' aboard and with every single member of the ship smiling and asking how was your day, etc. you responded with an equal smile and answer. Viking are to be praised for training all their employees in this manner. Our cabin was perfect, the bed and down pillows comfortable. We had two television sets, a refrigerator stocked with drinks and goodies, our own coffee pod machine and plenty of drawers and wardrobe space. The cosmetic and jewellery drawer that lit up with LED lights when opened so you could put your make up in the mirror in its lid. It was so good I drew out the design and measurements hoping to have something similar constructed in our own home when we got back. The bathroom/ensuite was another thing. Heated floor, two basins, huge heated towel rails and a big acrylic shower recess which was huge. Love the tap where you could just adjust the temperature and flow of the water and it was always hot whenever you wished to shower day or night. Toiletries were provided and were of a high standard as were the huge white soft towels changed as often as you wished. The restaurants, bars and grills where you could always find somewhere available to eat and the food was just out of this world. We tried all the restaurants and each was really special in its own way. We did use the World Cafe mostly for breakfast and lunches as it was on our deck level. The food variety was fantastic and you could have as much or as little as you wished. Never in the whole 50 days of our cruise did we have to queue up with no more than two or three people at the counter. The Chefs Table was a five course degustation menu with complimentary wines with each course. Bookings were essential but there was never a problem getting in. The Restaurant was delightful and a really comprehensive menu as was Manfredis with an Italian menu. The Pool Grill and Mamsens were also incredible as was the High Tea served every afternoon at 4.00pm in the Wintergarden. The entertainment provided was world class bringing in international artists on the piano, violin, singing and dancing which was augmented by the permanent entertainers, four male and four female giving many evenings of opera, music, dancing which kept us enthralled. There were several other musicians, pianists, a three piece band, a three piece classical group, and a guitarist which played in various sections of the ship daily and there was always the resident vocalist and Viking Band setting the scene with toe tapping numbers to take you to the dance floor every evening till midnight. There were so many information talks with specialist experts on board enlightening us with information on the geology, history, ships and their development from little rafts to the great ships of today, We learnt all about the European Union, and I could go on and on about all the interesting facts and talks that were available if you wish to attend. The Port Talks availing you of everything about the next port you would be visiting and all the amazing excursions provided with competent guides and drivers with their big comfortable buses. Viking Sea Cruises are advertised as an enrichment cruise about the history and culture of the many places and countries you visit. In our case of 50 days it was 18 countries and 38 ports. The cruise is definitely more for the mature 50 plus traveller and there are no children on board under 18 as there are no facilities for them. Being retired and not as agile as earlier years this was the perfect cruise for my husband and self and our daughter who is 57. Once on board everything is covered with your initial fare. Wine and beer was supplied at lunch and dinner and there were numerous VIP cocktail parties where plentiful drinks were supplied. Gratuities were included in your fare and as one cruiser said, he had been on board for three weeks and hadn't spent a penny. Of course a visit to the hairdresser, beauty salon, massage etc. incurred a fee as did the items in the jewellery shop and Viking shop, but to spend there was purely a choice. They did have another shop where you could purchase necessities like toothpaste, some medications for colds or sore throats and any other little things you might have forgotten to bring or had used up. I should mention here that Viking are incredibly particular about cleanliness and hygiene. There were many little hand spray machines scattered all over the ship where you could sanitise your hands and definitely before entering any of the dining rooms. They always had a lovely smiling crew member welcoming you to wherever you were going to eat and they would remind you so politely to disinfect your hands before eating. There was a doctor on board but we managed to go the 50 days without any problems with health or catching any colds or tummy upsets. To my knowledge the ship was pretty free of any nasties for the whole cruise. Our cabin stewards cleaned every vertical and horizontal surface in our cabin daily, Mirrors, walls, balcony, ensuite, nothing was missed and it was vacuumed daily, sometimes even twice a day. Towels and sheets were changed on a daily basis and all in all we were treated like I think the Kings and Czars and their families were looked after in the magnificient palaces we visited on our excursions. All I can say, for people who want to have a really interesting cruise without gambling, big water adventure equipment and other enticements, Vijking have got it right. With a passenger maximum of 930 people, nothing was ever crowded and there was always plenty of room wherever you wanted to be. I can only recommend them as a exciting and marvellous cruise operation and especially as I commenced this review, the smiling and welcome and great to assist you attitude of all their officers, staff and crew really makes your day such a pleasant and happy time. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We have been on numerous cruises on many different lines, and we think Viking tops them all. Embarkation was inviting, efficient, and organized. Tours at every port were on time, well-led by absolutely outstanding tour guides and ... Read More
We have been on numerous cruises on many different lines, and we think Viking tops them all. Embarkation was inviting, efficient, and organized. Tours at every port were on time, well-led by absolutely outstanding tour guides and well-organized. I keep saying organized, but Viking never leaves a passenger wondering or wandering. Guides in the ports are clearly marked. Embarkation and disembarkation features many Viking stafff holding signs "pointing the way" to the 'correct' bus. The Viking Sea is elegant and spotless from stem to stern. No casino was a welcome gift. No photographer in your face every day and selling pictures was another welcome gift. An all-adult cruise line was another welcome gift. We dined in each of the four restaurants during our cruise; the food was superior, and the service was equal. I could go on and on listing individual servers and crew who deserve our highest accolades. They are superbly trained and superbly helpful and generous with their time, service, and interminably kind demeanor. Our Deluxe cabin had a spacious balcony which we enjoyed. The bed was most comfortable, and there was a large wardrobe, and plenty of drawer space. My wife and I are professional musicians, and the entertainment was top drawer. For example, a young tenor singing "Nessun Dorma" is a rarity on a cruise ship, but Constantine 'nailed it' (and I have accompanied many a singer twice or thrice Constantine's age that didn't sing it any better). My wife and I would go on a Viking cruise again in a heartbeat...we're already scheming, in fact, to see if we can manage a trip on Viking's next new ship in 2017 (this was the maiden voyage of the Viking Sea, and we are eager to see the Viking Sky and the Viking Sun, one each in 2017 and 2018). Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We wanted to see new destinations in Turkey, Greece and the European eastern Adriatic, and follow it with areas of Italy and the Riviera ending in Barcelona. We have enjoyed Viking River Cruises and thought the small ocean cruise ship was ... Read More
We wanted to see new destinations in Turkey, Greece and the European eastern Adriatic, and follow it with areas of Italy and the Riviera ending in Barcelona. We have enjoyed Viking River Cruises and thought the small ocean cruise ship was right for us. The ports were beyond our expectations and the included shore excursions were very informative and allowed ample time for further exploration on our own. The crew was friendly and ready to meet every need. The ship was a beauty and beyond state of the art. We had a penthouse Veranda stateroom which was spacious with ample dresser drawers, and closet space to meet our needs. The self service laundry and complimentary pressing service we were nice extras and the daily restocked beverages and snacks were more then we expected. All in all it was a very relaxing cruise, in a beautiful ship, with an outstanding staff, and great amenities. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
I appreciate that some people like the massive cruise ships that are on offer, especially as all seem to be vying for your trade with on board credit, free drinks (very limited), massive facilities, lots of entertainment; the truth is ... Read More
I appreciate that some people like the massive cruise ships that are on offer, especially as all seem to be vying for your trade with on board credit, free drinks (very limited), massive facilities, lots of entertainment; the truth is I'm done with them. Having sailed Holland America in Sept 2014 for two weeks (too long), I found it too much of a hassle each time you had to disembark and the general kerfuffle in boarding such a large ship, lets face it the days of cruising being exclusive had now turned into cruising for the masses, hence our short trip in the Silver Wind. Yes, it is probably the oldest ship in the fleet, yes it is expensive compared to the leviathans on the sea that you can sail, yes you have to be prepared to forgo the various entertainments that accompany those ships, but what you get is cruising as it should be. Excellent facilities, service reserved for a five star hotel, food and drink of the highest quality and dare we say it? The crowds that often make the whole holiday experience tiring. I like the fact that you berth in ports too small for most cruise liners, trips where there will be a maximum of 15 to 20 people mean more of a personal experience, no hustling to get big groups back on the coaches, take your time (within reason) and enjoy what you came to see. As for the age of the ship I found that you could probably see where it would need an upgrade or two, especially the bath panel being loose, the toilet being a bit inconsistent, paint on the windows giving away it's age, but for me small things that don't detract from the fact that you are treated as an actual valued guest. Big ships? nah not for me, short cruises in luxury surroundings, now that's more like it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We boarded the Quest in Istanbul, after a problem with the berthing location, which had been changed from Sarayburnu to Karakoy before we arrived, and Azamara had not informed us. We found the berth after a wild taxi ride, reimbursed by ... Read More
We boarded the Quest in Istanbul, after a problem with the berthing location, which had been changed from Sarayburnu to Karakoy before we arrived, and Azamara had not informed us. We found the berth after a wild taxi ride, reimbursed by Azamara. Our boarding was flawless and hospitable, but we were surprised at the security measures taken ; more than at an airport! Our cabin, port side, Level 6, was fine, with verandah, and was for disabled; however, the automatic door opener did not work and we were told later that a new part would be delivered within 22 days. We were very impressed with the dining in the Discovery Restaurant; the food, the variety, the service, the organization were at least as good as any restaurant in our area in Marin, CA. The Windows Cafe , which is buffet style , we used for breakfast and lunch was also very impressive. A wide variety of foods with nothing missing and attentive service, even to the point of assisting with carrying your choices to your table. Nanunga, one of the few women waiters, was in both Discovery and Windows and impressed us with her good natured assistance. Entertainment was OK, but not outstanding. WiFi was a rip-off. Visham at Client Relations was very helpful and patient, and Yasemine at Concierge, too, was very helpful. The Land Discoveries were a mixed bag. Part of the problem was that the descriptions of the arduousness of the various Land excursions were not always accurate. For example, the description for Santorini vastly under-reported the number of steps required on the tour, particularly if one was to take the cable elevator back, which most people do; that part alone had over 100 steps! Ephesus, on the other hand, had an over-stated difficulty, as my traveling companions reported, so I missed out on what was a nice tour. Disembarking went very smoothly . In summary, we really enjoyed our first cruise and liked the personal, caring touch of the Azamara Quest. We'll do it again!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania ... Read More
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania cruise out of about 25 in total, and as expected was thoroughly enjoyable. The food and service were as good as we had experienced on Insignia last year. Rather than adding to all the existing good reviews of Oceania ships I intend to focus on the Black Sea ports.   I always try to do a lot of research before a cruise as we prefer to explore on our own than on organised tours and this is especially important for us in recent years as my husband uses a wheelchair for any distance more than a couple of hundred yards. Some of the ports on this itinerary were quite difficult to research as there was very little information available. I hope the following may be of help to future visitors.   Istanbul, Turkey   Our third visit to one of my favourite cities and we had the luxury of starting the cruise with an overnight stay. We had visited the main attractions before and, being a Sunday, the Grand Bazaar was closed so we decided to start with a look around the new part of the city. Leaving the port we turned right and walked along to the tram stop, bought "jetons" (1.5 Turkish Lira each = 60p = $1US) and took the tram one stop to Kabatas. This is the end of the tram line and from there we used the  underground funicular (well signposted, disabled access lifts and uses the same "jetons") to take us up to Taksim Square. There was a large military parade in progress, something like remembrance day it seemed, with hundreds of soldiers, military bands etc, but once they left the square was quite deserted.   From there we walked along the main street of Istaki Kadesi (follow the old trams to find the right street). Most of the shops were open and there were a few street vendors too. Our plan had been to take the "Tunel" funicular back down but we seemed to miss it at the other end of the main street (there was a Metro station which I think was probably the place) but we kept walking down, found the Galata Tower, and continued along a steep downhill street which brought us out by the Karakoy tram stop at the Galata Bridge. From there we took a tram up to Sultanhamet, the central part of the old city. The Blue Mosque, Cistern & Hagar Sophia are all easy to find within this area as is the Grand Bazaar.   However, this time we wanted to visit Topkapi Palace, as we had neer previouslly been there. From the map it looked as though we had to walk down the hill to get in, but in fact from that entrance we had to push back up a steep hill to get in (entrance 20 Turkish Lira = 8 GBP = $12US each). The palace is huge, they have tried hard to give wheelchair access wherever possible but of course by the nature of an old building some parts were difficult. but we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around and looking at several exhibitions (did not visit the Harem which would have been 15 lira extra). On leaving we found an exit which led to a gate just behind Hagar Sophia - a much easier route for anyone else who wants to visit ! Just follow the road with Hagar Sophia on your immediate left and you will arrive by the Topkapi wall.   We then walked down the hill to the Spice Bazaar at the bottom of the hill near the Galata Bridge, which was open and very busy even though it was Sunday, and some internet sites had said that it would be closed.   From here it would be walkable back to the ship but we opted for the tram again, as we find them so convenient and easy to use in Istanbul. Getting on at the Emminunou stop almost outside the Spice Bazaar involves quite a lot of steps down to an underpass and, surprisingly, there is no disabled access lift at this stop. Fortunately husband can manage the steps and I can carry the wheelchair ! We got off at the Tophane stop, to the old city side of the port and waked back - there is very little difference between the  distances of the 2 tram stops to the port - just a few minutes walk either way.   Nessebur/Nessebar, Bulgaria   The old town  is on an island linked to the mainland by a causeway and we tendered into a harbour close to the old city. I had been nervous about the accessibility here due to the hills and cobbled streets and Oeania's daily newsletter "strongly discourages the use of wheelchairs in this port". We decided to try with the backup plan of going to the beach if it was impossible to see the town. The cruise terminal itself was very hard work, numerous steps up and down into the customs building etc and from there we were immediately greeted with a huge flight of stone steps up to the town. However, there were some shops along a flat road to our left and passing those we arrived at the bus terminal, from where there was a nice gently sloping smooth tarmac slope up to the main square of the town. I would recommend this route for anyone other than the most active.   The old town of Nessebur/bar (the spellings seem to be interchangeable) is lovely, full of wooden houses and pretty little churches made from small bricks (in various states of repair). These days it is really a giant bazaar of several streets and squares (only about a quarter o f it cobbled, the rest is easily accessible for wheelchairs)  and the tourists flock in from the nearby beach resorts for a day of shopping. By lunchtime there were.hundreds of people waiting for buses back to Sunny Beach (fare 1 lei, I was told) and there was also a little train that cost 3 lei. We had bought a few Bulgarian Lei from home (1  lei = 50p) but there were plenty of ATMs in town. There we also a lot of money changing shops, although one shopkeeper told us not to use them as they sometimes give out fake money.   We debated a trip to Sunny Beach but the weather was not wonderful, it was cloudy and cooler than expected, so instead we walked across the causeway to have a look at new Nessebur. There are some hotels there and a few shops but nothing much. Further along the coast we could see some large hotels on a nice-looking beach but we did not walk that far, returning instead to the old town to use up our last few lei.   Constanta, Romania   The cruise terminal here is modern and bright but located in the middle of a large commercial port. There is a shuttle bus to Ovida square in the old town of Constanta about a mile or so away for $20 (yes $20 US for a maximum 3 mile round trip on  bus  - a rare black mark for Oceania!) but it was not a hard walk, even though it was hotter today. To begin with there is a long, flat, straight road to the port gate, which must be close to a mile. On the left just before the gate was a large bank with an ATM where we drew some Romanian Levs as we had been unable to buy any before leaving UK. We got 100 levs which was just over 20 GBP (so 1 lev = 20p = 30c US) but in fact the minimum withdrawal of 50 lev would have been plenty.   Once out of the port the casino building (no longer operating but an attraction of the city) is on your right and there is a short hill which leads up to some Roman ruins (less than impressive but work a quick look) just in front of the cathedral. The cathedral was quite nice - the entrance is on the left coming from the port, and continuing up that same street for a few minutes brings you to Ovida square. This square (actually more like a triangle) is home to a large archeological museum, which we did not visit but it looked very busy. Next to the museum is a smaller glass building housing the Roman mosaiacs (entrance 5 lev) and this was worth seeing, we thought. Beware of the toilet attendant on the square - she refused our offfer of a euros each but nearly frogmarched us to the museum cash desk to get change for her 1 lev fee !!!   There seemed little else of interest in the old city - as generally reported it is quite grotty and most of the buildings are in a serious state of disrepair. I had read on the internet about a double decker city tour bus aand had asked the local tourist representative about this when she came aboard Nautica that morning. I do like the availability of a local representative most port days on Oceania but on this particular trip found several of them to be quite negative and unhelpful. The Romanian lady first denied the existence of a tourist bus but when I persisted and showed her the internet pages I had printed out she 'remembered' and marked on a map where we could get it - on the corner of Tomo Boulevard and Ferdinand St (on some old maps still called Republikki). So we walked up Tomo Boulevard from the old sqaure towards the new part of the city, which was slightly nicer but nothing special. We found the bus stop then walked a couple of blocks beyond to the pedestrian shopping street (Stefan St) (found a free wifi connection outside Western Union which was useful) but soon returned to catch the bus.   The 'City Tour' bus is in fact a shuttle service to the nearby beach resort of Mamaia, but the advantage is that it runs right up the beach strip to serve the hotels whereas the local bus to Mamaia seemed to terminate at the very beginning. We got off the bus (fare3 lev - very reasonable) at the central stop of the beach strip by the casino and this seemed to be the main part of a typical beach resort - shops, fairground rides, cafes, bars and a cablecar stretching for miles along a nice sandy beach..   I enjoyed a swim in the sea at last, although it was not as warm as expected, and we sat in one of th beach front bars for a while (about 5-7 Levs for a beer or soft drink) before catching the bus back to the station. Tired by then, and still having 30 Levs to spare, we decided to get a taxi back to the port rather than try to work out the local bus. We told the driver to stop when his meter got to 30 Levs and in fact that took us just to the port gate (but I don't think he went the most direct route !). In any event taxis are  not allowed into the port so we had to walk the last mile back along the straight road. So for anyone unable or unwilling to do that walk both ways the only options here are a tour or the $20 shuttle -  and to be honest there is very little within easy walking distance of the shuttle drop off, so a tour might be preferable if you are not up for the walk. Constanta is certainly not my favourite port, but I must say we had a nice day, especially on the beach at Mamaia.   Odessa, Ukraine   As expected, Odessa was a beautiful city full of amazing buildings, the opera house being the best of the lot. The cruise port is widely reported as being "right at the bottom of the Potemkin steps" which is it but there is quite a walk out of the terminal and across a long bridge over several railway lines then down some stairs (or sloping road, as we did) to the bottom of the famous steps. Fortunately there is a free funicular that runs just to the left of it and saves climbing 200 steps. At the top you find yourself in Primorsky Boulevard, a nice park  along the top of the cliff. Turning left leads to the City Hall and several museums, from where the Opera House comes into sight. Nearby we found a Bank of Piraeus which had an ATM with English instructions and withdrew some local currency (12 hryvnia = 1 GBP  so 1 hryvnia = 8p = 12c US). This was another currecny that seemed to go a long way - in all 3 Ukrainian ports a soft drink or beer  or ice cream was about 5/6 hryvnia from a stall or about double that in a cafe, public toilets cost 1 or 1.5 (and the attendants always seemed to have change).   After looking around the outside of the fantastic opera house we wandered down a road to the side of the large Mozart hotel and came to a park which turned out to be the city garden. Now, I am not usually a bad map-reader but I never did get my bearings in Odessa. The layout of the streets did not seem to correspond with either the map I had printed from the internet or the ones given out by the tourist information lady - but it did not seem to matter much as we found lovely things to look at just by wandering around.   Leaving the city gardens at the other end we turned left and soon arrived at an impressive building called the Vorontsov Monument - not sure what it was but it was surrounded by another nice park and a reasonable sized art & crafts market.   Continuing down the same street eventually lead to the Cathedral - it was further thn it looked on the map and when we got there only the crypt was open, but it was nice enough.   We made our way back to the funicular by a slightly different route (found free wifi near McDonalds in one of the main streets) and again enjoyed our day. Do be aware that maps are of little use here unless you have one with the street names printed with the cyrilic alphabet as well as English, as only the cyrilic ones are used on street signs and hardly anyone seemed to speak English.     Sevastopol, Ukraine   Sevastopol was another nice city and the map here seemed far easier to follow. From the port there is a road leading the short distance up to a square from where we walked along a very nice seafront park to the main  sqaure of the town, Lazarev Square (according to the map - again the street names were unrecognisable). Turning right at the roundabout (just past McDonalds) brought us into the central market. Later we followed the main street heading towards the famous Panorama Museum, visiting one of the catherdrals on the way. Unfortunately the Panorama is on top of a hill far too steep for us to climb with the wheelchair, but people who had visited al seemed impressed.   We walked back towards the ship along the seafront (Lenin) street which looked more direct but was not a very interesting walk, I think the other route was much nicer and did not seem much further. The tourist information lady had said 45 minutes to walk from the ship to the Panorama and I think that would be about right, it must be about a mile and a half to the bottom of the hill. There were horses there to take people up to the museum (husband declined this !!).   Apart from the Panorama there are monuments all over the city, mostly military I think, but it made it an interesting city to explore, nicer than I had expected,   Sochi, Russia   Russia can only be visited independently if you hold a Russian visa, which are difficult and expensive to obtain, which is a shame as Sochi looked like a nice resort town and we docked right on the promenade between 2 busy pebble beaches. However, one of our Cruise Critic group was kind enough to put together a tour with Sochi Holidays (www.sochi-holi.ru). It cost $70 US each for 10 of us for 5 hours with a driver and excellent English-speaking guide. We visited an Orthadox church, walked along the lovely seafront park then drove up Akhun Mount, 600 metres above sea level, to climb the observation tower for amazing views of the surrounding city, sea and mountains. From there we drove to Stalin's Dacha (holiday villa) which was interesting, visited a glorious old Spa Hotel from the Soviet era, sadly somewhat decayed now, and enjoyed a sightseeing drive around the city before returning to the ship at 2pm. This was considerably cheaper than the ship's tours and we saw much more. Also, all of the ship's tours stated that they were unsuitable for passengers with wheelchairs or walking difficulties, whereas our driver and guide really put themselves out to help - the only thing Paul could not do was the tower climb, everywhere else was fine. It was a very interesting day and highly recommended for anyone visiting Sochi.   All cruise lines like to encourage the belief that any guests not on one of their own tours needs a visa to be able to get off the ship, but I can confirm that (as in St Petersburg when we toured with Red Oktober a few years ago) there was absolutely no problem or query- our tour leader had given our names to the immigration officers in advance and we simply walked through with everyone else and were met by our guide outside immigration, where we paid cash for the tour on the day.   Yalta, Ukraine   Yalta is a beautiful resort city located in a bay surrounded by huge mountains, a really stunning view. Even though it was a hot, sunny day the mist never quite cleared from the mountain tops. Again the port is right in the centre of town and there is a nice promenade with many cafes, stalls and designed outlet shops (but not particularly cheap from what I saw).   The tourist info lady gave out good maps on board and was informative about public transport - bus 5 or 11 goes from next to the cathedral to Livadia Palace (of Yalta Conference fame) and there is a ferry from the jetty about half way along the seafront that goes to the pretty Swallows Nest Castle. We decided against Livadia as it was very hot and we didn't fancy getting on a crowded bus. There were also taxis offering tours for $20 per hour to both of these main sights. We investigated the ferry but there were no English timetables and the Swallows Nest ticket booth wasw closed when we walked past fairly early. We intended to go back later but time went on as we explored the city, visited the Alexander Nevsky cathedral (the nicest on this trip) and the huge market area near the port (shown as a 'shopping area' on the map - follow the pedestrian street behind the Kodak centre) so we did not get around to it, and with anearly sailaway of 4pm we found plenty to do in Yalta itself. There are several grey pebble beaches but they were completely packed with people enjoying the weather - there was hardly room to stand on the beach, let alone lay down a towel, but the whole place had a nice family fun atmosphere. (Free wifi outside a large hotel at the far end of the beach, near a small tourist craft market) And as we left port we could see the Swallows Nest castle in the distance.   The following day was at sea but an interesting one as we sailed through the Bosphorus, passing Istanbul in the morning and the Dardanelles in the afternoon, passing quite close to the Galipoli monument early evening. the cruise director gave commentary at the points of interest.   Kusadasi, Turkey   Since our last visit about 8 years ago the cruise port has developed enormously and in fact the whole town has cleaned up a lot to the extent that the bazaar is now more like a shopping mall. But it is still a nice place to visit and wander around the shops within a few steps of the port.   When we tired of shopping we went to the city beach a short walk to the left from the port. It was nice to have a swim and cool off,  but the water was not very clear or, probably, very clean. But it is handy and you can rent a sunbed & umbrella for 5 lira if you want to stay longer. Maybe another time I would get on one of the many minibuses that pass the port every few minutes going to Ladies Beach a couple of miles away.   Santorini, Greece   We broke the habit of a lifetime and stayed on the ship - Paul hates heights and would not go up the cablecar, on our last visit I had taken the cablecar up and walked down.   Athens, Greece   We had to vacate our cabin by 8am and leave the ship by 9am, breakfast was available until 8.30am so it was not too early a start. Our flight home was not until 7pm and from internet research had found that we were able to leave our cases at the Student and Traveller's Inn in the Plaka District for 2 euros per bag for the day.   It was our 4th time in Athens and in the past we had been rather unlucky, delayed by general strikes and overcharged by argumentative taxi drivers, and my impressions of the city have never been that good. But I must say that this time everything worked smoothly, the taxi driver had quoted 20-25 euros for the journey and although I could not persuade him to switch on his meter he asked for 25 at the end which was fine by us.   We duly left our bags in the luggage room at the Students Inn and paid our 4 euros. No receipts were issued for either our money or cases, receptionist assured me he would recognise me and it was not necessary. We had already made sure that my jewellery, laptop etc were in our day bag and nothing of major value in the cases, but there was no problem, they were there safely waiting for me when we went back later in the day.   Having focussed on the Acropolis on previous visits we decided to do something different this time, walked first through the (wonderfully wheelchair accessible) Plaka to the flea market at Monastiraki then from there to Syntagma Square, mainly to check out the airport bus departure point but while there we saw the changing of the guard at the Parliament building. Later we walked through the lovely  National Gardens, where is was much cooler than in the city, to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus (2 euros each to go in but nearly as visible from the road really) and Hadrian's Arch. From there we wandered back through the Plaka to collect our suitcases then returned to Syntagma Square to catch the 4pm airport bus (X95 - runs every 15-20 minutes, costs 3.20 euros each).   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009

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