Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009 – Istanbul, Turkey

     We finally arrived at 4:30 at the Istanbul Airport, along with a large group of Canadians here with their company.  The line for the Visa was very long and then so was the Passport line.  The wonderful sight was our luggage going around on the conveyor belt waiting for us.  As we went out the door, there were many, many people holding signs with names.  We split up and found ours.  Then we had to wait quite bit for the taxi service to get close to the terminal.  Our driver was extra polite while driving and let everyone go past us.  When we got within a kilometer of the port there was a huge traffic jam.  We were wondering if we would make the show tonight.  When we arrived at the entrance to go through security, we ended up behind a large group of Canadians.  Inside, there were no priority lines for checking in and we had a hard time getting the “helpers” to understand us.  We finally went down an empty aisle and they let us register and get aboard.  We got to our cabin about 7:40 and started emptying our smaller pieces of luggage.  We had to send the large one with the porters.  Our safe has to be unlocked by security, so we can’t use it yet.  Just as we were leaving at 8, our last suitcase arrived.

     We went outside the port entrance to wait for Bob and Sharon and the shuttle from Sultanas.  When we arrived at the restaurant, we went down two curved flights of stairs to the restaurant.  We were given  a table right up front because we booked through the Internet at  I had the fixed dinner at 45 Euros and Ray had the deluxe menu at 54 Euros.  I was served a plate of 8 mezes or appetizers.  I tasted most of them and was surprised that hummus wasn’t that bad.  I don’t know what the others were called, but one was rice, a salty cheese, some kind of cheese with dill, a tomato chunk, a piece of cucumber, something spicy, a bowl of beans, and something soft and orange.  Ray had a shrimp cocktail.  We drank the water and Ray had a cole slaw salad and I had one with lettuce, olives and carrots with a vinegar and oil dressing.  It tasted like a sub.  My dinner was chicken kebob and Ray had filet mignon.  Dessert was fruit and sweets.  It wasn’t that bad.  The show was very good and lasted about 90 minutes.  The belly dancing reminded me of Polynesian dancing.  There were 2 main girls dancing and a group of 6.  The girls were very good at moving specific parts of their body in time to the music.  They had some audience members on stage.  The show was to represent the Ottoman Palace life, customs and traditions in the Harem were explained.  There was dancing afterwards. 

IMG_4938   IMG_4952

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We left about 11:20.  The driver wasn’t sure just where to drop us off, and Bob had to give him directions.  In the cabin, we emptied the suitcase and went to bed.  We were very tired.

IMG_4933  Home for the next 21 days.

     Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city and its cultural and financial center.  Located on both sides of the Bosporus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe.  Founded by Constantine the Great on the site of ancient Byzantium, Istanbul (then Constantinople) was the capital, successively, of the Eastern Roman Empire (324-476), the Byzantine Empire (476-1453) and the Ottoan Empire (1453-1922).  We will visit the city at the end of the cruise.

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