(9:40 a.m. EST) -- Greek-based cruise line Celestyal Cruises will return to Istanbul in 2019 for the first time since suspending cruises there in 2016.
The line will overnight in Istanbul as part of its seven-day "Eclectic Aegean itinerary," on Celestyal Crystal, which sails six departures from October 21 through November 25 in 2019. Crystal will also sail a "3 Continents Cruise" from December 2019, with calls in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus and Rhodes. It will continue to offer the itineraries in 2020, with series of cruises from March through December.
The new itineraries moves the line a step closer to offering year-round Eastern Mediterranean sailings, as first revealed by CEO Kerry Anastassiadis last October.
"We are thrilled to be returning to Istanbul, and to give our passengers the opportunity to visit Ephesus, Troy and Gallipoli, as well as Volos, Greece, the gateway to the fabled mountain landscapes of Meteora," said Mr Anastassiadis.
"And with our new three continents cruise, our passengers can now visit the Holy Land and the Pyramids, in addition to calling at our spectacular Aegean destinations."
He added: "Given our recent Cruise Critic awards for value, Shorex and service and the addition of these incredible ports of call to our itineraries, we continue to give new and returning passengers more reasons to sail with us."
As well the overnight stay in Istanbul, Crystal will call at Volos, Greece, for excursions to the mountains of Meteora, and to Canakkale, Turkey, for excursions to Troy and Gallipoli. The itinerary also includes a call in Heraklion, Santorini and a late departure (2 a.m.) from the party island of Mykonos.
The 3 Continents cruise calls at Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt, at Ashdod, Israel, at Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey, at Limassol, Cyprus, and at Rhodes.
Celestyal has been one of very few cruise lines which still includes Turkey on its itineraries, calling at Kusadasi for Ephesus. However, along with the rest of the cruise industry, it pulled out of Istanbul in 2016. Its return to Istanbul -- and Egypt -- will be seen as a huge vote of confidence for the region.
--By Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, U.K.