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Europe Cruise Day 15
Monday, September 20th
Istanbul, Turkey

With the change of cruises here is the map that just covers this second cruise.

Day 15-16 Map

Since the next several stops are in Turkey, here is the time for this area. It is the same as Athens.


Arrival in Istanbul is scheduled for approximately 4:00PM. Today's shore excursion starts shortly after this at 4:30 and is called Istanbul Deluxe Part I. It is scheduled to last approximately 3 3/4 hours. Here is Holland America's description of it.

Istanbul is the only city in the world that is located on two continents, and today you will experience both sides of the city. Leave the port of Istanbul and drive to the Old Town. Your first stop will be at the Spice Market where you will walk past a myriad of stalls selling ancient spices such as frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cumin and “rice spice.” Take a moment to watch the trading, which occurs the same way today as it has been done for centuries. Next, visit the magnificent Underground Cistern, built during the reign of Justinian. This 6th-century subterranean water reservoir features a ceiling supported by 336 Corinthian columns and is known as the Underground Palace. After a short drive to the pier, you will board a private motorboat for a one-hour cruise on the Bosphorus Strait—without a doubt one of the most beautiful waterways in the world. During the cruise you will notice that the Bosphorus shoreline is bedecked with numerous old traditional wooden Turkish villas, 19th-century Ottoman palaces, fishing villages and green hills on both sides. You will also view the Rumeli Fortress—the castle built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror as a part of the preparations for siege of Constantinople. Enjoy refreshments during your cruise. At the end of the day, you will return to the ship.

This excursion should arrive back shortly after 8:00PM. It does not really matter as the ship stays here tonight and I get part 2 of Istanbul Deluxe tomorrow.

How it actually happened!!!
(written November, 2011)

This second cruise begins with the ship sailing north and northeasterly out of Athens (Piraeus) into the Aegean Sea. At the northeast corner of the Aegean Sea is a narrow strait called the Dardanelles or previously Hellespont literally meaning the "Sea of Helle". It is known as this due to the treacherous winds and tides that occur here. This strait connects the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. This strait is where the well known World War 1 battle of Gallipoli occurred lasting 10 months and taking more than 200,000 causalities. Gallipoli is a peninsula on the north side of the strait.

The Sea of Marmara or Sea of Marble is named after an island which is a rich source of marble, an important building material in this area. Istanbul is located at the spot where the Bosphorus Strait connects to the Marmara Sea. The Bosphorus Strait is the only navigable route in to or out of the Black Sea. The strait is 31 Km long. Its maximum width is just over 3 Km and the minimum width is about 700 metres. It is the worlds narrowest strait used for international navigation and takes some very careful navigating as you can probably imagine if you look at the picture below.

Bospherous Strait from Wikipedia

The Black Sea is at the top.
The Sea of Marmara is at the bottom.
Istanbul is the large grayish areas on either side of the strait at the bottom.
(Image from Wikipedia. Taken from the International Space Station in 2004.)

Istanbul is the third largest metropolitan area in Europe (after London and Moscow). It is the only city in the world to be situated on two continents. Besides connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea the Bosphorus Strait also acts as the dividing line between Europe and Asia. As of 2010 Istanbul's population was approximately 13.26 million people. The metro area (which includes all the suburbs) covers an area of 5,343 square kilometres (2,062.9 square miles).

The city has also been known as Byzantium and Constantinople. The history of this area is far too complicated to describe here other than to say that evidence has recently been found to indicate that there have been settlements in this area back to the 7th millennium BC which was before the Bosphorus Strait was formed. Byzantium came to be around 660 BC. Constantinople (meaning the city of Constantine) was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine 1 (surprise, surprise) who started building it in the year 330. Constantine also built several of the locations I visited over the next day and a half. It lasted until May 1453 when the Ottoman Turks captured it after an 8 week siege. Its name was changed to Istanbul after that.

I think that is enough history for now, so back to the cruise. The ships arrival was scheduled for 4:00PM. Here are some pictures taken as the ship approached the southern (Sea of Marmara) end of the Bosphorus Strait which you can see in the picture above.

Bow Panorama

As I think I have said previously that passengers are not usually allowed on the bow, but were as the ship approached Istanbul.
The weather was always a factor when deciding to open the bow as it can be very windy.
If you look at the flag in the top centre of this three image panorama
you can see that it was quite windy but I guess it was not enough to cause a problem.
The bow of the ship is pointed right at the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait with Europe on the left and Asia on the right.

Istanbul Aisa Side Panorama

This panorama of three pictures shows the Asia side of Istanbul. The Bosphorus Strait is at the far left edge of the image.

Approaching Istanbul 1 Approaching Istanbul 2
The Blue Mosque on the left and the St Sophia Museum on the right with some buildings of modern Istanbul in the background. Some of the ships passengers watching as it passes the historical parts of Istanbul.
Approaching Istanbul 3 Approaching Istanbul 4
A view of what it looked like from one of the ships decks. A less hazy closer view of the two buildings.
Approaching Istanbul 5 Approaching Istanbul 6
The southern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait. Looking down the strait with the Bosphorus suspension bridge in the distance.
Approaching Istanbul 7 Approaching Istanbul 8
The Asian side of Istanbul. The European side and the Bosphorus
(as the locals call the strait).
Approaching Istanbul 9 Approaching Istanbul 10
The coaches lined up on the dock awaiting our arrival to take the 700 or so of us going on the late afternoon shore excursions. The St Sophia Museum from where the ship was docked
(or soon to be docked more accurately).

Approaching Istanbul 11

There was a strong off shore wind and the ship had a hard time pushing itself up to the dock.

From the blog....

During the docking process Monday afternoon it was so windy that the captain had a hard time getting the ship to the dock. There was a tug boat standing by but after some delay the ship made it to the dock.

More from the blog talking about the upcoming shore excursion.

The difficulty in getting the ship docked delayed everything that was rather too tightly scheduled to happen right after the ships arrival. Everything got pushed back about half an hour which caused some grief.

Vista Lounge 1

People waiting for the delayed shore excursions to begin in the Vista Lounge.

The blog continues.....

This is the first port of call for the 1600 passengers who got on in Athens so things were more confused than normal. Apparently almost 700 passengers went on shore excursions that were scheduled to leave between 4:30 and 5:00 last evening. They did all leave but somewhat later than scheduled. Mine, called Istanbul Deluxe, Pt. 1, left about 15 minutes late. The three main things on the schedule were the spice bazaar, a wild place for sure, the Basilica Cistern (yep this really is an underground water cistern just across the road from what is likely Istanbul’s most famous landmark, the St Sophia Museum or Hagia Sophia if you prefer which is right next to the Blue Mosque) and an evening cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. 

So without any further a due, on to the shore excursion!

Shore Excursion 1 Shore Excursion 2
Istanbul traffic is notorious, here is some of it. The water is called the Golden Horn and the bridge is called the Galata Bridge.
Shore Excursion 3
I am not sure if these were scenic cruise boats or what but they were colourful.

The first stop is the Spice Bazaar. The blog says......

The Spice Bazaar, which was just a short distance from where the ship docked, is a place that really needs some photos to describe. It is a mad house of people selling just about every type of spice, amongst some other things, that you can possibly imagine. I will see if I have a picture or two that may be able to convey the assault on ones senses that happens. You will probably think that it would be smelly but it was not as bad as you might think.  

Here are some pictures.

Spice Bazaar 1 Spice Bazaar 2
The exterior of the Spice Bazaar. It sure was a crowded place.
Spice Bazaar 3 Spice Bazaar 4
These two pictures are almost identical. One is taken horizontally and the other vertically showing the crowded space.
Spice Bazaar 5 Spice Bazaar 5a
You can get just about anything spicy you might want here. Here is a close up of the names on the signs just in case you cannot read them in the previous picture.
Spice Bazaar 6 Spice Bazaar 7
Outside the bazaar were these food carts.
The yellow things standing up on the cart are cobs of corn.
If you need some nuts, (the editable kind, not some people you might know), well here is your place!

The next stop was the Basilica Cistern which is located in the area near a couple of Istanbul's better known landmarks are located, those being the Blue Mosque and the St Sophia Museum or may be better know as Hagia Sofia. Here are a few pictures taken in this area before entering the cistern.

Shore Excursion 4 Shore Excursion 5
The St. Sophia Museum. The Blue Mosque.
Police Station
Would you believe that this is a local police station?
Well you should believe it because it is!

From the blog about the cistern.....

The Basilica Cistern was built by the Byzantine Emperor I.Justinianus who was in power between 527 and 565 AD. I believe he is the same one who had Hagia Sophia built during the same period. It is approximately 460 ft. (140 meters) long, 230 ft. (70 meters) wide and 29.5 ft or 9 meters high. Its area is apparently is 9,800 sq. meters or 105,486 square ft and can hold 100,000 tones (metric tons) of water. I do not have the amount in gallons or litres, that will come later. This will need a picture or two as well so I will see what I can do.

For the record the approximate gallons and litres are, 26,916,936 gallons or 99,996,190 litres.

Cistern 1 Cistern 2
The view as one enters. There are 336 columns each 9 metres tall.
Cistern 3 Cistern 4
There are 12 rows. Each row has 28 columns.
Cistern 5 Cistern 6
98 of the column capitals are of the Corinthian style. There is 4.80 metres between each column.
Cistern 7 Cistern 10
The rest of the capitals are of the Doric style. The walls of the cistern were built with 4.80 m. thick bricks and made waterproof by being thickly covered with Khorasan mortar.
Cistern 8 Cistern 9
Two of the columns have Medusa heads as bases. Nobody is sure why.
One theory is that Medusa had a hair of snakes and any body who looked at her would be turned into stone.
If you looked at her upside down though you would not be turned into stone. So that is why she is upside down here.
Another theory says that statues of this type were used to protect important places and that is why it is here.
Apparently most researchers think that they are just here as column bases and nothing more, but who knows.....
Cistern 11 Cistern 13 (Roof)
The ceiling is arched to carry the weight above. A closer view of the ceiling arches.
Cistern 12 Cistern 14
There is even a small cafe down here. The view as you leave.

After leaving the cistern the excursion headed back towards our next stop which was back the way we had come. Here is one picture of that.

Shore Excursion 7

This is the same bridge (the Galata Bridge) we crossed earlier from the opposite side
and seeing something here that could not be seen from the other direction.

Here is some more from the blog talking about the next stop. Some of the information that I have used at the top of this page is repeated here but I did not think that it would hurt.

The final item for this excursion was a cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. First, a couple of Bosphorus Strait facts, it connects the Sea of Marmara (marble) with the Black Sea. It is only a couple of kilometres wide at the narrowest point which is in Istanbul. It separates Europe from Asia. When you approach the Strait from the Sea of Marmara side (the west side), Europe is on the left and Asia is on the right. Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents as it is on both sides of the Strait.  The cruise sails down the Europe side and back along the Asia side. This took just about an hour and fifteen minutes. It is not the most exciting thing to see; particularly when it was dark, but it gives one a good sense of the area.

Here are some pictures taken on the cruise.

Cruise 1 Cruise 2
The Bosphorus bridge is lit up with moving patterns of different coloured lights each night. A view along the European shore with what I think is the Dolmabahçe Palace in the distance.
Cruise 3 Cruise 4
The moon over the Asian side of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus Bridge with what
I think is the Dolmabahçe Palace on the left.
Cruise 5 Cruise 6
I am almost certain that this is the Dolmabahçe Palace which is an example of Ottoman Baroque architecture. The Asian shore from the strait.
Cruise 7 Cruise 8
An older style ship at anchor. This is the Ottoman Neo-Baroque style Ortaköy Mosque.
Cruise 9 Cruise 10
The ship and the Mosque from a distance. The Bosphorus Bridge and the moon from the Bosphorus Strait.
Cruise 11 Cruise 12
More lights on the Bosphorus Bridge.
Apparently this is one of the busiest bridges in the world.
As you can see the clouds were quite low and creating an interesting effect over the bridge.
Cruise 13 Cruise 14
More lights. Slightly different colour of lights.
Cruise 15 Cruise 16
Another mosque on the shore of the Bosphorus. The Faith Sultan Mehmet Bridge in the distance with the centre of the Bosphorus Bridge in the foreground.

More from the blog.....

After this, there was a bus ride back to the ship. Arrival back was approximately 9:15PM.

Here are a few pictures taken as I returned to the ship.

Wasterdam Night 1 Westerdam Night 2
The Westerdam at night from the bow. Another view from part way down the ship.

Once aboard the ship I took several more pictures. Here are some of them.

Night From Ship 1 Night From Ship 2
The St. Sophia Museum (Hagia Sophia) and the Blue Mosque from high up an the ship. Taken from the front of the ship looking back along it towards the Bosphorus Bridge in the distance.
Night From Ship 3 Night From Ship 4
The Asian side from the ship. A building and the Asian side again from high up on the ship.

One last comment from the blog about this day.....

With the departures being between 4:00 and 5:00 most people did not get any dinner. They all came back between 9:00 and 10:00PM expecting to get something. Only the Lido restaurant on deck 9 was open, so many went there. I did not but all the reports indicate it was bedlam up there as there was not enough staff or food apparently. What probably made this problem worse was that the 48 hour time period for not letting passengers serve them selves (the Norwalk virus thing from one of my previous posts) had not expired yet so everything had to be served instead of letting people get it themselves. It would also appear that the ships culinary management did not handle the people very well either. From what I have heard today, it was not pretty.

So on that note, we head on to tomorrow and the Istanbul Deluxe Part 2 shore excursion.

Page Created: August 3, 2010
After Trip Update Started: October 29, 2011
After Trip Update Completed: November 1, 2011
Last Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 6:11 PM

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