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.
The new terminal will accommodate the line’s World Class of ships, which will carry up to 7,000 passengers. MSC Cruises will operate four ships in total from Miami, including MSC Seaside. That ship debuted in late 2017. It currently sails year-round from Miami to the Caribbean.
MSC Armonia will begin homeporting in Miami in December 2018. She’ll offer the line’s first cruises to Cuba from the US. Additionally, MSC Divina will return seasonally to PortMiami. She sails to the Caribbean from October through March. And, MSC Meraviglia will make her North American debut at PortMiami in November 2019. The line’s largest ship, Meraviglia carries 5,714 passengers.
“The new agreement and expanded partnership with PortMiami and Miami-Dade County is another key step forward in the business growth of MSC Cruises, as we continue to strengthen our global footprint, with a strategic focus on North America,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises.
Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises USA emphasized the mutual economic benefit of the new terminal.
“PortMiami is committed to providing a world-class experience to its guests and thanks to a long-standing collaborative relationship with Miami-Dade County we are thrilled that in less than 18 months MSC Cruises will have four ships sailing from the Port. This will also allow us to make a significant additional contribution to the economy of Miami and the county in its role as the Capital of the Cruise World, especially thanks to the large percentage of international guests travelling to Miami and South Florida to embark and disembark from MSC Cruises ships calling PortMiami,” said Sasso.
MSC Cruises currently operates 15 ships. The line plans to expand to expand to 25 mega-cruise ships by 2026.