Celestyal Cruises is returning to Istanbul for the first time since 2016. Celestyal had been one of several cruise lines to cancel calls to Istanbul and the rest of Turkey in late 2016 over safety concerns following a series of terrorist attacks and a failed coup attempt.
The cruise line will first call at Istanbul again in 2019 as part of the new seven-day Eclectic Aegean itinerary, which will sail six departures from October 21, 2019, through November 25, 2019. The itinerary will include an overnight stay in Istanbul, as well as calls at Volos, Greece, for excursions to the mountains of Meteora, and to Canakkale, Turkey, for excursions to Troy and Gallipoli. Other calls will include Heraklion, Santorini and Mykonos, the last of which will feature a 2:00 a.m. departure to let passengers enjoy the island’s nightlife scene.
2019 will also see the launch of Celestyal Cruises’ seven-day “3 Continents” cruises, with five sailings in December of that year. The first sailing will depart from Piraeus on December 2, 2019, while the fifth will depart December 30. The itinerary will call at Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt; Ashdod, Israel; Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; Limassol, Cyprus; and Rhodes, with shore excursions focusing on history and culture.
In 2020 Celestyal will continue its three- and four-day Iconic cruises, as well as offer a number of options for seven-day itineraries. Seven-day Eclectic Cruises will sail from April 6, 2020, through May 11, 2020, with a second series running September 7 through October 2020. The seven-day Idyllic Aegean cruises will sail from May 18 through August 31, while the 3 Continents cruise will sail from March 2 through March 30, and November 2 through December 2020.
Celestyal said that it extended its 2019 and 2020 seasons as a first step toward its goal of sailing year-round Aegean cruises. All-inclusive drink packages, all onboard meals, entertainment, select shore excursions, port and service charges and gratuities are included in the cruise fare.
A number of cruise lines had cancelled calls to Turkey in 2016 after a failed coup attempt and a series of terrorist attacks raised concerns regarding the security situation in the country. Travel between the United States and Turkey was suspended entirely in 2017 following a diplomatic dispute stemming from the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee, with full visa services not resuming until December of that year.
The State Department’s Travel Advisory for Turkey is currently at Level 3 out of a possible four: Reconsider Travel. The advisory warns travelers of the potential for arbitrary detentions and terrorism targeting Western tourists and expatriates, particularly along the border with Syria and in the southeastern area of the country.