In 2015 Istanbul saw some 300 calls and 600,000 cruise guests. Most Black Sea itineraries used the port for turnaround operations with a well-linked international airport nearby.
Geopolitical issues sent traffic into a nosedive, with cruise calls falling off dramatically, with just 42 calls in 2016.
“It killed the port,” said Figen Ayan, vice president of cruise operations. “The traffic dropped to zero calls for 2017 and this year.”
But things are slowly coming back for 2019, she said.
The cruise port in Istanbul was privatized in 2014 and now falls under the Global Ports Holding banner.
Among scheduled calls for 2019 are the Seven Seas Voyager, and the Celestial Crystal, which has October and November berth bookings.
Coming by cruise ship to Istanbul is a journey in itself, as passengers enjoy an amazing view sailing into the harbour with world-famous monuments such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
“In Istanbul, there’s so much to offer already in the city – even if guests don’t go out beyond the old city. Most of the shore excursions stay downtown for city tours and highlights visits,” said Ayan.
At the port, a massive investment program is underway to upgrade the waterfront area, including a new cruise terminal set to be ready by 2020.