We'll be cruising and will have one day in Istanbul. We'll be in port from 9AM - 6PM. Any suggestions for what we should plan to see and do?
Wow. There’s, like, 5 days of “must see” in Istanbul.
I’d prioritize Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.
Agree with Scudder about the priorities. If you have time, you might try to work in the spice market and the bazzar. Regardless, we suggest you take a tour through the cruise line. They are more expensive than doing it on your own, but they know the lay of the land and can avoid a lot of wasted time. In addition, if you are on a tour through the ship, the ship will wait for you if you are delayed returning. And that is a good feeling since traffic can be terrible at times. We took a tour through the cruise line with a local company (forgot the name) and were very pleased.
Shore excursions through the ship go off the ship first thing. After your excursion, you can walk or take the Tünel Funicular up to Istiklal Street. I'd suggest taking the funicular up and walking down. There are good places to eat along this street. Doing the sightseeing yourself or by hired tour guide, you will leave the ship after the ship's excursions and elite status passengers.
RS Istanbul Guidebook explains the workings of the tokens and transit cards. For one day you may not use up the minimum payment, but two people can use the same card. The card makes it easy to use buses, trams and funicular. The Cruise Terminal is on the New District side of the Golden Horn near the Galata Bridge.
Lynette, I have used Ekol tours in the past for Istanbul and Kusadasi- shore excursions- much less than the ship's and private- excellent. They are reasonably priced ( cash only and tip the guide and the driver separately ( and generously in my case, they were so good). They stood in line for the tickets, took us to good Turkish meals, and shooed away the vendors while giving great info. Valentina seems to be the main contact.