Though we have already been in Istanbul it wasn't an overnight like this one, so we booked tours for both days. The ship was arriving quite late in the afternoon (2:30 PM); the night before docking we got a note saying that our chosen ... Read More
Though we have already been in Istanbul it wasn't an overnight like this one, so we booked tours for both days. The ship was arriving quite late in the afternoon (2:30 PM); the night before docking we got a note saying that our chosen tour was canceled and to go to the Shore Excursions Desk if we wished to book a replacement. We realized that arriving so late plus the time spent going around such a metropolis would take relaxation time away from us and press us to rush off to dinner soon after the return so we stayed put to enjoy the beautiful surroundings onboard.
The second day we booked the tour "Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace" (having seen the first one but not the second). This tour was a real experience! We were NEVER told how much walking was involved in it. They informed us that "some" walking (?!), steps and change of levels were involved, suggesting to those with mobility problems not to partake that specific tour, and regardless that, a woman in a wheelchair took the tour and was only able to because her husband pushed her the whole way. Of course he relied heavily on help when steps and change of levels slowed down their progress and the whole group; all this effort went on for 10,000 steps (yes, you read right that's about 5 kilometers we estimated - one of the group had a wrist watch monitor) going from one site to the other during the 5 hour tour. It's impossible to understand why people with mobility problems ignore the warnings; it is a complete disregard for the rest of the group as much as for the Tour Guide.
Near the Blue Mosque, the tour bus left us on a corner and were told to take all our belongings with us because we won't return to the bus till the tour was over, five plus hours later!!! First stop, the Blue Mosque having to follow all their religious rituals (removing shoes, cover your arms and legs, head coverings for women, etc.), once inside this tour guide was talking, easily, for more than 1/2 an hour giving a lot of information about the place, though interesting most if not all will be completely forgotten by the majority later on; we were all standing around her with very unpleasant smells wafting about. Now comes the unreal part. The guide then told us that years ago all visitors to the mosque had to wash their feet before entering, this the tradition of removing your shoes. But over the last 50 years or so, as the masses became more "civilized" it was agreed that the washing of feet was no longer a requirement. And surprisingly, the tour guide then admitted that what we smelt was a combination of smells - dirty feet and a perfume or scent that was periodically sprayed around to mask the unpleasantries.(Inside of me I was screaming "I want to go home!!" Read Less