Carpets, Mosques and Cruising the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey

by Mike Kneebone

Inside St. Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Inside St. Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

A Mediterranean cruise had been my wife’s and my dream cruise for a number of years.  After months of anticipation,  we set sail last October aboard the cruise ship Star Princess for 12 great days exploring the Eastern Mediterranean (Venice to Rome – with stops in Greece, Turkey, Italy & Monte Carlo).  

Istanbul was our third port of call and it had been high on our “bucket list” and it didn’t disappoint.  We had booked a full-day Istanbul shore excursion in advance through Princess (St Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Bosphorus Cruise).

Our stop was a carpet store near the Grand Bazaar.  We were ushered into a beautiful room upstairs and given some apple tea.  After a brief talk and demonstration they began to show us some of the most beautiful carpets we had ever seen.

We never intended to buy one, but they rolled out a gorgeous 4′ x 6′ carpet right in front of us.  We both fell in love with it.  We took it to another room where there was a great hardwood floor to get a better look at it.  We ended up being the first purchasers of the day (with an added discount….).

Back on the bus, we stopped briefly at the Hippodrome and then went on to the Blue Mosque and St Sophia.  Both were incredible but what struck us both was that St Sophia has stood intact for over 1,400 years and was the largest building with its massive dome for almost 1,000 years.  It’s great that it is now a museum and everyone can enjoy its grandeur and history.

We headed back across the bridge to the dock and then boarded our motor launch for a wonderful two-hour Bosphorus cruise including a great selection of Turkish dishes for lunch.  Seeing the city from the water (with a great commentary) is the best way to see the city.

Back on the bus again, and over the bridge, we enjoyed a couple hours at the Topkapi Palace.

We were late leaving since we were one person short but did finally get all of us on the bus and arrived back at Star Princess 10 minutes late.  I guess they had been calling some of our names over the PA…. we sure were glad we were on a Princess tour – wouldn’t want to be left behind.  Our day in Istanbul was everything we had hoped for and more.

Originally, we were disappointed to learn we would be in port on a Sunday and that the Grand Bazaar would be closed.  But, if it wasn't a Sunday with less traffic we never would have been able to have had such a full day.

One month to the day after we were in Istanbul, our carpet arrived and now it’s a lasting memory of our wonderful day in the city that straddles two continents.  We’ll never forget our day on our exciting Europe cruise — the people were very friendly and the city was amazing.