After terror scare, Istanbul making comeback as top cruise destination
Major cruise lines are beginning to return to Istanbul after removing the city from their top destinations in 2016 following a wave of terrorist attacks, travel site The Points Guy reported.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises became the first North American line to resume visits to the historic city when the 700-passenger Voyager arrived earlier this month for a two-day stay that was the highlight of a 12-night trip.
“The guests were very excited,” Christine Manjencic, Regent’s vice president of destination services, told The Points Guy.
She said city officials were enthusiastic as well. “They really went above and beyond for the first call back,” Manjencic said, noting that passengers were greeted with a folklore show on the pier. “There was a very good vibe.”
In 2015, Istanbul and its iconic tourist sites attracted more than 300 cruise ships and 600,000 passengers. But Regent and other cruise lines began pulling out after a suicide bombing at Istanbul’s main tourist square, a deadly shooting at a top nightclub, another suicide bomb attack at the city’s main airport and an attempted coup in July 2016 that saw tanks in the streets, according to Points Guy.
Regent sent an advance team to Istanbul to assess the security situation before committing to add the city to its destinations. “We are confident that now it is safe to go back,” Manjencic said. “The city for a few years now has been very quiet.”
Regent is just one of more than half a dozen lines that have announced plans to resume voyages to Istanbul, according to Points Guy. The French line Ponant and Greece’s Celestyal Cruises are returning soon, while major cruise lines Oceania Cruises, Holland America, Silversea and Windstar will return next spring.
Viking Cruises, Azamara and Crystal Cruises plan to resume Istanbul calls in 2021. For some, the return is a bit tentative.
“You test the waters. You see what happens. And then it takes you a while to really ramp up,” Frank Del Rio, chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which owns Regent and Oceania, told analysts in February.
Many cruise itineraries are set 18 months to two years in advance, and analysts said Istanbul stops would likely be added to future cruises in the coming months.
“What we are seeing is that people are jumping to get back there,” Manjencic said.
Istanbul is not the only Turkish port making a comeback, said Points Guy. Several small lines have returned to Kuşadası, gateway to the famed ruins of ancient Ephesus, with others planning to follow next year.
“When the [Eastern Mediterranean] is good, it’s as good as any, if not the best, of all itineraries,” Del Rio said in February. “We are all looking forward to being able to increase our presence there.”