Earlier this year, Regent Seven Seas Voyager became the first cruise ship in four years to dock in Istanbul, according to a local newspaper. The ship was greeted by an official welcome ceremony and Istanbul is now expecting 24 cruise ship visits by October – very few compared with 2015, when Istanbul received 300 ship calls and 600,000 passengers, but it's a big leap forward to a positive new future.
Cruise lines have been giving the historic city a wide berth since an attempted coup in 2016, but now security has improved Turkey and its cultural capital are back on several enticing 2020-21 itineraries. A new cruise terminal is being built at Galataport, due to open in early 2020, and Istanbul's sometimes controversial ultra-modern new airport – projected to be the busiest in the world – is scheduled to be fully operational by 2027.
Luxury line Seabourn is one of the companies returning to Turkey next year, alongside competitors Regent Seven Seas and Silversea. Its 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation will sail four seven-day eastern Mediterranean voyages between Istanbul and Athens, Greece, in October 2020. Sister lines Princess and Holland America Line are also sending ships back to Turkey next year and all-inclusive budget line Celestyal Cruises' "Eclectic Aegean" itineraries kick-off in October, offering six overnights in Istanbul.
Other cruise lines putting Turkey back on their itineraries include boutique line SeaDream Yacht Club, which is adding eight new cruises in 2021 for SeaDream II that will sail in the Black Sea and call at Istanbul; Oceania, Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Windstar are all visiting Istanbul next year too. If you're looking for Eastern Mediterranean cruises, now's the time to book.
EGYPT, JORDAN, ISRAEL
Evergreen Cruises and Tours has launched its 2020/21 program in Egypt and Jordan, which introduces extensions to Israel from Nile cruises on its fly/land/cruise packages. In Israel, highlights include cruising the Sea of Galilee and exploring Tel Aviv with a local guide and visiting the 4000-year-old port of Jaffa, while Evergreen's signature "You're Invited" events include visiting a Cairo home for a cooking demonstration and dinner with an Egyptian family. Book before December 31, 2019 for deals such as free flights on Egypt and Jordan tours of 15 days or longer. See evergreentours.com.au [https://www.evergreentours.com.au]
River cruising in the US is an increasingly popular addition to the European and Asian river-cruise scene. The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) operates four ships on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia and Snake rivers and its fifth ship, American Countess, is due to launch next year. Cruise Traveller is offering savings of up to $US2000 per couple on an eight-night culinary cruise of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers onboard the 166-passenger paddle-wheeler American Duchess next April – chef-led cooking demos and regional cuisine are highlights of the history-rich itinerary. See cruisetraveller.com.au
WW2 PACIFIC HISTORY
Mat McLachlan, war historian and founder of Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours, has teamed up with Cruiseco to offer a 10-night cruise in Papua New Guinea that explores the history of World War II in the Pacific. Five historians along with award-winning journalist Chris Masters will join McLachlan to host up to 200 guests on this special voyage, which will feature tailored workshops, lectures and shore tours. Departing from Brisbane on August 26, 2020 on P&O's Pacific Dawn, fares start from $2599. See cruising.com.au
How many countries does a typical two-week river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest travel through? Last week's answer: King Neptune
LUXE City Guides are produced by plugged-in resident experts who really know their city. The pocket-sized print versions (76mm x 15mm) for more than 30 countries come with a free digital destination app that features offline maps, geolocation and more. You can also buy Grand Tour boxed sets covering a variety of regions. RRP $24.99. See au.newhollandpublishers.com
EIRA AND JOSEPH BATTAGLIA, SEAFORTH, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN 18
LAST CRUISE A 10-night expedition cruise from Broome to Darwin on the Kimberley coast on Le Lapérouse, our second expedition cruise with Ponant. We visited many out-of-reach bays in Zodiacs driven by expedition leaders, who explained the history, geology, and flora and fauna. One of the highlights was seeing Montgomery Reef rise out of the sea when the tide dropped, it was wonderful to see the exposed land with seabirds diving for fish exposed on the reef. Another highlight was the Horizontal Falls, where a massive amount of water flows through small openings in the McLarty Range. We saw crocodiles basking on beaches, watched a dugong slowly swimming alongside our Zodiac and hundreds of seabirds. Our final Zodiac cruise was along the King George river to the King George Falls, where a Zodiac awaited with champagne!
NEXT CRUISE P&O Cruises' Bounty Adventure in October, which visits places where the Bounty landed in the Pacific. The itinerary includes Norfolk Island, three Fijian islands, and Nuku'alofa and Vava'u in Tonga.
DREAM SHIP Any Ponant ship, for small-ship cruising in French-style comfort.
DREAM CRUISE A sub-Antarctic expedition cruise to see the wildlife, especially Macquarie Island's king penguins.
DREAM PORT Bora Bora, French Polynesia. I'd love to snorkel in that turquoise water among manta rays and reef sharks.
BEST CRUISE TIP Find out before you go if there are any formal nights – even expedition cruises have gala or special nights.
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