10th November, 2021
The Dardanelles Strait was transited early the next morning with a low mist hiding the top spires of the brand new bridge being built across the Strait – one of the world’s longest single suspension span structures, apparently. Into the Marmara Sea by morning coffee time, we cruised along to reach our ETA at Istanbul Pilot Station for 17:00 that afternoon.
The Bosphorus – a narrow strait of water leading up to the Black Sea, with Istanbul located on its banks – is normally one of the most chaotic and busy traffic lanes out there. Ferries, fishing boats, leisure craft and large commercial cargo traffic all fight for their little bit of sea here, and therefore it is wise to allow for a good amount of time to proceed the 6 miles or so up to Istanbul. However, I am particularly fond of the extremely powerful whistle (ship’s horn) Saga has had fitted to their new ships and, along with our pilot, was delighted to note how effective it was in immediately clearing a path ahead of us.
Just 20 minutes later at around 17:45, with not a scrape on the bow, we were easing alongside the brand new ‘Galataport’ terminal to the seeming delight of several hundred spectators armed with” selfie sticks” nearby.
We’re here for a night and a day, and what a place. Just the 6th cruise ship to call so far in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, we felt privileged to feel we have the docks to ourselves. East meets west here, the border between Asia and Europe in many ways, not just geographical or cultural. A bustling hive of a metropolis, there is just so much to see and do.
Tours offered scenic sightseeing aboard coach, foot or boat, covering palaces, mosques and other well-known landmarks such as Taksim Square. My regular date for the lunch, our Chief Engineer Mark, wanted to find a street-side Turkish barber shop to sort his mop out, and I needed to get my new leather dinner shoes shined because apparently - according to my other half – they were in an ‘unacceptable state’ (upon close inspection, there may have been a couple of miniscule stains tarnishing the otherwise unblemished leather).
Having been successful on both counts (my shoe shining cost me the equivalent of 12 pence, and Mark’s haircut an eye-watering £1.60), we settled on a small terrace nearby overlooking the bustling harbour to enjoy an extremely good value lunch. Of course – for this was Turkey, and it was Mark’s turn to put his hand in his pocket.
Well, all port calls must come to an end, and as the sun lowered over the Blue Mosque it was time to let our lines go, and repeatedly blast the ship’s whistle again for about 25 minutes in order to clear a track ahead of us out of the Bosphorus. A fresh northerly breeze had set in overnight bringing chillier temperatures but fortunately the sun shone brightly for our stay, and allowed for a beautiful sailaway from this fascinating city.
Captain Kim Tanner
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