Over the course of our 11 day Mediterranean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox this summer we will be spending three days in Turkey. Our ship will overnight in the port of Istanbul so we will have the better part of two days there and we will also be visiting the port of Kusadasi. After conducting a fair bit of research on both ports I have decided that we will spend part of our time in each with a private tour guide and part of the time exploring on our own. The tour company that I have chosen is Ekol Travel which is well regarded for the guided tours that it provides in both Turkey and Greece. I have exchanged numerous emails with Valentina in the office of Ekol and she has been extremely helpful in planning days that will be enjoyable for our family in both ports.
Our ship will be docking in the historic city of Istanbul on a Saturday morning at 7am and will remain there until 2pm on Sunday. I have read on-line and been assured by friends who have visited Istanbul that it is a very easy city to get around on your own, however, I have decided that we will do a half-day tour on the first day. As easy as it may be for us to get around to the major attractions in the historic area of Istanbul, I think we will get more out of the experience with a guide who can add the richness of details to what we are seeing. And I know, without a doubt, that my kids are more likely to absorb information imparted to them by a guide since they both have a tendency to tune me out if they think that I am trying to educate them.
We will be picked up in the port of Istanbul by our guide and transported to the historic area of the city which is known as Sultanahmet. There we will visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace (including the harem), as well as the Grand Bazaar for some Turkish-style shopping in one of the world's largest covered markets. When our tour is complete we will be able to explore more of Istanbul on our own before returning to the ship for the night and will also have the next morning for independent exploration before the ship's mid-afternoon departure.
The following day we will be docking in Kusadasi around 10am and departing at 8pm. Kusadasi was a traditional seaside village that has become a thriving commercial port due to its proximity to Ephesus which is the best preserved classical city in the Eastern Mediterranean and very popular with cruise ship passengers. Our guide will be picking us up at the cruise terminal at 10:30am and transporting us to Ephesus for a tour. Our tour will include the Terrace Houses which are two restored houses that had belonged to wealthy Ephesians and are finely decorated with mosaics and frescoes. We will also stop to see the Temple of Artemis which was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World - there's not much left of it but I think it's worth including it just to say that we have seen it. Our entire tour will only be about 4 hours but I think that will be plenty long enough in the heat of August. Our guide will return us to Kusadasi and we will spend the rest of the day in the port checking out the cafes and shops and perhaps strolling to nearby Pigeon Island or fitting in a bit of beach time.
The ports in Turkey are the ones that I am most excited about visiting on our travels this summer. I have heard so much lately about what a fabulous destination Turkey is that I feel certain that this taste of Turkey is only going to whet our appetite for a future visit. I already have a future visit partially mapped out in my head so I hope that, with my inflated expectations, I don't end up disappointed.