Going to Turkey

I really trust and respect the members on this site. I have a question that might be asked a million times, but here goes. I am planning to book a Mediterraean cruise in 2014 which includes Venice, Croatia, Greece and Turkey. I have been looking forward to this trip, but everyone (including my wonderful husband) is telling me that it isn't safe in Greece nor Turkey. I know the people on this helpline have alot of experience with travel and I would like to have an opinion. Would any of you proceed with plans? Should I wait perhaps?

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2609 posts

It is impossible to say that any place in the world will be safe next summer, and we probably can't convince your husband of that, but there are tons of tourists in Turkey right now having the time of their lives. I understand he may have a concern about Turkey with Syria, but Greece? I was there a few years ago when there were some student riots in Athens and from the tv here you would have thought it was chaos. There was a small demonstration in a one block area, and that was about 3 years ago... and it's still there and millions of people have visited since. I would think if there were problems the cruise ship would just move on. I loved Turkey and took my 12 year old grandson there a few years ago. No one can tell you what to do and some people will cancel their trips and others will go, but if you want to book it, just get some trip insurance, or make sure you can change to another venue if you become uncomfortable before you go. Is he going with you, or is it just your trip?

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

It is completely unsafe there, and make sure to tell anyone who will listen how dangerous it is, especially anyone who is going to be traveling there from 20 September to 11 October.

Posted by Fran
Cape May Court House, NJ, USA
18 posts

Thanks for the opinions; I think I'll wait a little bit to book.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
172 posts

Please disregard the post from Matthew. It sounds as though it's a crude attempt at humor. By all means, go ahead with your trip. You'll be in good company and people will be watching out for each other.
I have traveled extensively in Greece, Turkey and Croatia and have never felt at all uneasy anywhere. If you don't go, you'll miss the experience of a lifetime.

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

I'm going to provide a long response and will run out of room before I finish, but my basic response is to go ahead and book your trip. I'll speak to Turkey mostly because I have more familiarity with it. The two biggest recent concerns that I've seen raised this year are the pro-Republic protests against the Turkish government and the ongoing civil war in Syria. The pro-Republic protests have tapered off and no longer seem to be a concern. There is a very recent thread called "Travel to Turkey now?" that should appear on the RS page very near to your post that looks at concerns with Syria and will give you additional opinions on that situation. I personally think there will be slightly greater risk of a terrorist response against a U.S. interest somewhere in the world, if the U.S. strikes Syria. However, I think it is unlikely to be targeted at a site within Turkey. I think in your case there is even less risk to what is already a low risk situation. As someone cruising, you will be spending your nights on a boat and will have a limited amount of time actually in Turkey. I'm guessing you'll be going to tourist sites - Ephesus via Izmir or Kusadasi and perhaps to Istanbul? You'll be no where near the riskier parts of the country (the southern border near Syria or eastern Turkey). Your biggest risks will be heat and annoying carpet sellers. In Greece your risks are most likely to be encountering anti-government protests or increased crime associated with the economy. Those are easy to address 1)avoid areas with protests (whatever the topic/target) and 2)use a moneybelt/avoid high-crime parts of cities. The risk of an attack or crime anywhere in the world involving you is low and there is no way to know where/when it will occur. For example, there was an incident at the 2013 Boston marathon. You could be robbed in your hometown. I say go and have fun.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
172 posts

One more thing. We have traveled extensively in the UK and Europe. The only time our car was broken into and stuff was taken was in London, right outside the British Museum, so crime can happen anywhere, including where you least expect it.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

You're on a cruise - your experience inland will be pretty limited as far as travel goes, so I wouldn't think twice about it. I traveled to Turkey on my own for over two weeks and then on a tour for another two weeks - and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. If you want to cut down your risk even more, just do everything in groups, including the excursions. When you ask if you should wait a bit, I guess I would say "wait for what exactly?" until there is peace in the middle east?

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

Yes, sorry, that was a weak attempt at humor. I have a trip planned to Bulgaria, Turkey, and then Israel at the end of September. I personally don't think an attack on Syria will have any impact on any of those countries from a tourism perspective, except maybe it could be a fire sale for tourists. I was in the Balkans for 3 months in 1999, the first half of my trip was when the Kosovo War was happening. Not sure why a small, contained war 2 countries over caused tourists to cancel across this entire region, but that remains my favorite trip. There were few tourists anywhere, and we stayed at very very nice hotels for just above hostel rates in Greece and Turkey. In sultanhamet, we stayed at a very nice hotel for I think $25/night. The desk guy, when he checked us in, whispered "please do not mention how much you are paying to any other guests" and he was not trying to be theatrical. And except for the hotel rates and lack of tourists it was completely normal and felt safe everywhere. And of course everybody back home was acting as if I were crazy and were worried WW III was going to break out. I also second the trip advisor advice. There are extensive threads in Israel forums talking about this and the DEs are pretty much getting annoyed already. The Syrian regime is fighting for its life. They have zero interest in widening the conflict, especially with Turkey or Israel, who are not a bunch of ragtag rebels but who have two of the most powerful armies in the world. I would also note the lack of travel advisories. Yes, there is one for Turkey in the area directly next to the border. That is about 1200 km away from Istanbul / the med. coast. Long story short, you should go.

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

Joan - on your theft comment. Funny how that works. I went to Morocco a few years back and everybody was warning me what a den of thieves it was and how everybody will try to scam you etc. Of course we had a wonderful time, everybody was friendly, it was chaotic but interesting, and nobody tried to scam us at all. So then we flew from there to Spain. "Whew, back in the civilized world." And of course we immediately got scammed by the taxi driver at the Seville airport! (50 euros for ride that should have cost half that)

Posted by Fran
Cape May Court House, NJ, USA
18 posts

Wonderful advise, everyone! Thank you! I am going to book my trip. I knew going to this message center I would receive great/truthful responses. I will show your response to my husband and hope he can be convinced.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
172 posts

I am very glad that we were all of help and convinced you to book the trip. Happy travels!
It would be interesting to know just what your husband was expecting would happen to you in Greece and Turkey.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I am glad you've decided to book the cruise. In addition to all that's already been said, know that if there is a credible threat to the safety and security of the passengers, the crew and/or the ship, the cruise line will find alternative port/s, even at the last minute, in the middle of your sailing.

Posted by Christine
Philadelphia, PA, USA
44 posts

We were on a cruise that sounds very similar to yours in 2011. We had absolutely no trouble in any of those locations, and never felt unsafe at all. There are no issues in Croatia. In the Greek islands, there were no issues. In Athens, we were there around the time some of the riots first started happening over the economy. While we did see a strong presence of riot police, we never felt that we were in any danger. We also never felt uncomfortable in Turkey. As someone mentioned, you will likely be in just the very touristy areas (Ephesus), and you won't be even close to any of the activity that is happening in Syria. Besides, who knows what will happen by 2014. My recommendation is to buy travel insurance, and make sure you understand the cruise line's cancellation policy. If things in the area become troublesome, you can always cancel as the trip comes closer. However, as someone else mentioned, the cruise line is not going to let anyone on the ship walk into a dangerous situation. They will change the itinerary if need me. My guess is that you will face a bigger risk from pickpockets, than any sort of polictical unrest.

Posted by Carol
Oak Lawn, IL, USA
90 posts

My husband and I are taking a cruise that leaves Venice on 11/2/13 and stops at all the countries you mentioned. I'll let you know how it turns out!