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Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Bazaars

Hi Everyone,
1) My husband and I will be arriving in Istanbul next weekend and we have a 23 hour layover before we head over to Naples. When we arrive on Saturday at 4:40pm, we will have time to take one of those dinner cruises (with belly dancing :) on the Bosphorus. My question is, has anyone taken any of these, and if so, which one (company) did you use? There are several out there to choose from, and their ratings are all over the map in regard to the food, service and entertainment. Also some seem sketchy in that they advertise "unlimited" local drinks in their price, but then when you send them an email to ask about it, they answer back that the price with alcohol is higher than what is quoted on their website. Also some reviews have noted some problems with credit card issues and also being made to pay twice. The next morning/early afternoon will be spent visiting some highlights in the Sultanahmet area before we head back to the airport.

2) On our way back from Naples, we again have an overnight layover. This time we are taking advantage of the free hotel that will be provided by Turkish Airlines. Our flight back to the states leaves at 2:05pm. (14:05) on a Thursday. What time should we be at the airport, and do you think we would have time to make a quick visit (2 hours?) to one of the bazaars? And if so, which one do you suggest?

Thanks for your help!

Posted by
1934 posts

Your question is a little confusing since you say you have 2 overnight layovers but you only mention 1 night in a hotel (on the return).

When do you arrive in Istanbul? Is this your first trip there? If it is, are you certain you want to spend your evening on a Bosporus dinner cruise? A ride on the Bosporus is very nice, but if you have just a few hours for sightseeing, you might want to consider something else - like a strategic tour of a few key sites that interest you.

If you have most of the day to do other things and you're adding a Bosporus cruise for the evening, here's a company that's honest and well-reviewed. I used them for a day tour and an airport transfer.

As to your transfer back to the airport - if Turkish is arranging it, I am sure they can give you feedback. I found the airport to be big and there were about 4 security to check in with a desk clerk, one to get through the general security (this one was slow), one later on somewhere (can't recall where) and then one more right at our gate. It took awhile.

Posted by
14267 posts

Istanbul has many charms. Belly dancing isn't one of them. Honestly, it sounds kind of hokey and very touristy. To really appreciate belly dancing (it is an art form and quite difficult to master), you have to know a little about it; and who knows how good it will be on a cruise that's aimed at tourists or for that matter, how good the food will be. Turkish beer (Efes) is pretty good pilsner. In Turkey I drank beer as a rule, not wine, so the wine couldn't have been very good, since I much prefer wine to beer. The local "whiskey" is arak/ouzo (not sure what it's called in Turkish). So that's probably the selection you'll have.

My companion and I took a late afternoon cruise that took about 1.5 hours. We enjoyed the scenery and especially returning to Istanbul with the sun setting behind the iconic skyline. If you are eating and/or watching entertainment, you'll miss the lovely scenery.

From the old city (Sultanakhmet) it takes about an hour to get to Ataturk airport by tram, with one change. A taxi will be simpler, not too expensive - you can book in advance - but possibly no faster, or even a bit slower, since traffic can be v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w. And as Valerie said, there may be multiple security checks. I remember standing in line for a security screening at the entrance, before getting to the check-in counters. If you're luggage is checked through to your final destination and you have your boarding passes, you won't need as much time. But the airport is quite large and the signage isn't always clear . . .

Posted by
23 posts

Valerie and Chani,
I have updated some info in my original post. Yes, we are staying two nights. We already have our E-visa and only have carry on luggage. With the first layover, I figured at best we would get to out hotel around 7pm. This is our first trip, unplanned but required due to the layover! My husband is a little uncomfortable about walking around the area at night. We are staying about two blocks away from the Blue Mosque. We were thinking about the dinner cruise because they come and pick you up and return you to your hotel after it is finished. (12am) It had dinner and entertainment all rolled into one...easy!! The description says the ship leaves before sunset, drinks on the top deck to watch it, then dinner below and the entertainment. There are many beautiful pictures that people took at night that shows the beautiful buildings and scenery at night, so I am sure we will see some highlights. In most reviews, people said they had a great time and it was wonderful. Do you have any other evening suggestions besides taking the dinner cruise? Oh, and we are new senior citizens!! (60)


Posted by
2204 posts

Just to help you with your time frames:

In terms of your arrival at Istanbul Airport, even though you have your e-visa, you must still go through their immigration line to enter. You then have a longish walk inside the airport to get to the Metro, and time then needed to get currency and your Metro card. This line was close to an hour on hour trip. We stayed near where you stayed, it was a full 2 hours to get there from leaving the airplane.

On your way out - Istanbul Airport Security: Security screening to enter airport. Passport control line to go through, although this is a stamp-out, this was still 20+ minutes in line when we left. Full security screening before entering gates area. Also, although flying Turkish Air out, the system would not allow us to complete check-in and print our boarding passes online, this is additional airport time. The Grand Bazaar is not far from where you will stay, and by the Tram line that you need to get to the airport Metro. If your luggage is checked thorough so that you only have a day-pack, you might be able to squeeze it in early before going to the airport,
say, 9AM-10:30AM. It won't be crowded then.

Posted by
1934 posts

The additional info helps. If you're committed to the Bosporus cruise, have a look at Efendi Travel - at least you'll know you're working with an honest company. You'll definitely have time to wander a bit the next morning before you head to the airport, especially if you're early risers.

One more thought: Istanbul seemed very "foreign" to me (and I've traveled a pretty fair amount) and I was very glad that, when we arrived in Istanbul, there was a driver at the airport with my name on a sign. He picked us up and took us straight to our apartment. It's not a luxury I've done very many times, but it was quite reasonable in Turkey and it was a stress-free way to arrive in Istanbul.

Enjoy - it's an exciting city!!

Posted by
430 posts

In reply to your question about bazaars we really enjoyed the Arasta Bazaar right below the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Park. It's touristy but has a good variety of shops.

Posted by
101 posts

I took one of those dinner/belly dance cruises and it was fabulous. I remember paying about $70., it was worth it. I have no idea which company it was as I purchased it through my hotel. They pick you up at your hotel, then serve you dinner below while cruising. After dinner, you go up on deck and watch the belly dance show. Afterwards, they bring you back to your hotel. Enjoy!
I never found driving to the airport to take that long but have always had trouble finding the correct airline counter to check in. Do give yourself sufficient time.
Pam from Bath

Posted by
14267 posts

So you are arriving jetlagged and probably sleep-deprived, and you are thinking of being out until after midnight? If you are pretty sure that you'll sleep a lot on the flight into IST, you might manage it. But I would be falling asleep in my soup and my body would be aching to stretch out on a bed long before the cruise ended.

On your first arrival in Istanbul, take a taxi or have your hotel arrange for a shuttle. It is too confusing to try to figure out how to use the tram system and then you'll be left in the middle of Sultanakhmet having no clue how to get to your hotel. 2 blocks from the Blue Mosque could be across the street from the tram stop or it could be a 15-minute walk (without luggage) - IF you know where you're going.

My friend and I (2 retired women) came back to Sultanakhmet by tram every night from a tennis tournament . . . well after 11 p.m. We always felt safe, lots of people still out and about in late October in the main streets. It was very quiet by our hotel, but well-lit. After she left, I had no qualms about being out late on my own.