Monday, January 16, 2012

Holy Land Cruise Boarding – Finally !

Chapter 2 of Traveler Al’s “Almost a Last Hurrah”

The Galata Tower from the ferry boat terminals
Sunday, November 6th finally arrived.  I left the hotel just before Noon to take a taxi down past the ferry terminals, over the Old Galata Bridge to the cruise port in Kadiköy near the junction of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. 
By the way, the Golden Horn is a river valley that leads southwest into the Bosporus that curves between hills on the European side of the city. The name comes from the legend that during the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks so much golden treasure was thrown into the Golden Horn’s water that the treasure gave the water a golden color.

 Map of Istanbul - emphasis on the old city and European side of the city.

Istanbul has had many names in its long history.  It was founded by the Greeks under King Byzas about 770 BCE then later known as Byzantium by the Romans.  Emperor Constantine the great, of the Roman Empire renamed the city Constantinople after himself and rebuilt it extensively about 330 CE. The Ottoman Turks laid siege to the city in 1453 capturing it after a 53 day siege of the city. The Ottoman influence ended when the group of Young Turks led by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk led a revolution to create a modern, secular nation in Turkey.

For more information about this amazing city you may click on this link.
Boarding the Constellation

I arrived at the cruise terminal before lunch hoping to be allowed to board the Constellation right away.  We were told we must wait in the terminal, a large warehouse like room with many rows of plastic chairs lined up, because the ship was having “special cleaning and sanitizing” performed inside.  The special sanitizing and cleaning procedures and alterations of procedures on board the ship continued throughout the 27 days I was aboard her.  We learned that the ship had had quite a number of cases of flu and the norovirus on the two previous cruises.

I will explain the remedial measures taken by the staff to combat the spread of the illness in a later entry.

We were allowed to board about 1:30 PM, but were told we could not go to our cabins as they were still in the process of being prepared for our arrival.  We could go up to the buffet and pool decks for lunch and to wait there until it was announced that the cabins were ready. We had to take our hand baggage with us.

Celebrity Constellation from the dock 

The enormous, beautiful Constellation is quite a contrast to the small ship I and my family had taken to move to Turkey back in the middle of the 1950’s. 

 MSTS - Pvt. Elden H. Johnson        

A Side Trip Down Memory Lane

We rode on the (MSTS) - Military Sea Transport Service’s vessel, Pvt. Elden H. Johnson for a 23 day voyage that started in New York City with stops in Casablanca in French Morocco, Tripoli in Libya, Naples and Liverno in Italy, Athens in Greece and finally Istanbul. The ship was very small and usually made supply runs to and from the Canal Zone in Panama and airbases in Greenland. 

Milk was limited to small children after just 3 days at sea, however, in keeping with passenger cruising tradition, the food and service in the small ship’s dining room was very good.

My sister Vicki's 4th birthday on the Johnson. Notice the furniture shackles on the wall.

On that long ago February voyage, we did run into a gigantic storm on the Mediterranean Ocean just outside of Naples. The Johnson’s rails were going under the waves as the ship pitched and rolled. Cups and other crockery were tumbling along the decks after falling from cabinets in the dining room. Meals were served on wet table clothes to keep glasses and plates from sliding off! 

My little brother, Larry, was sitting in a chair that was shackled to the wall in my parent’s stateroom when the shackle broke. The rolling of the ship threw Larry and the chair completely across the stateroom. 

We spent more than 24 hours taking the high seas to shield a small Italian Navy gunboat that had lost its rudder in the storm.

 Italian gunboat in distress during a storm.

This was the first and only time in my life I was seasick.  I remember thinking that I would trade my right arm for a piece of solid ground that was just 4 feet by 4 feet to stand on to let my stomach calm down!

 Okay! - Back To The Present

I had lunch and continued to read my Kindle electronic book.  This device saved me untold pounds of weight on my trip. I had it loaded up with 45 books that included not only fiction, but city guides for the various places the ships were stopping.  The Kindle has been one of the best purchases I have ever made.

The cabins were released for occupancy about 3 PM. I went down to put my carry-on baggage away and returned to the Sunset Bar, an open air bar at the stern of the ship on the Resort Deck – Deck 9 to take photos. 

The Galata Tower from the ship

 Topkapi Palace from the ship

 A panorama from Seraglio Point to the Galata Bridge as sunset falls on the City of Istanbul

The Constellation is registered in Malta - View of Topkapi
and Seraglio Point from Deck 9 - The Sunset Bar

 The Galata Tower in the sunset

The Mosque of Suleyman

 The lighting on the New Bridge over the Bosporus

The Constellation remained docked overnight for people to tour and to enjoy the sights of Istanbul.  I did take a long walk to go to a small grocery store and internet café alongside the dock during the second day the ship was in Istanbul. After shopping and checking my e-mail to get back onto the ship, I had to walk almost a mile down to the security check point at the port entry and a mile back inside the port fence to the ship.

Security is quite good on cruise ships.  Passengers must have any shopping bags, cameras and luggage they are bringing on board passed through the x-ray machines. Passengers must go through the metal detection devices and have their cruise pass inserted into the machine that reads the magnetic strip to bring up your photo and other information for the ship’s security personnel. One difference; unlike airport security you do not have to take off your shoes or belts going past the ship’s security check point.   
The cruise or sea pass also functions as your cabin key and charge card for the entire cruise.

 Examples of Sea Passes or Cruise Cards

The sea pass serve as a cabin key, security pass, your on-board charge card and tells staff whether or not you have unlimited soda drinks.  It also  has your lifeboat muster station listed. Different colored cards also tell staff how many past cruises you have taken with the cruise line.

The ship was docked very close to a beautiful mosque. We were close enough to hear the muzzein's calls to prayer. 

A call to prayer with a panning view of Istanbul

 Mosque next to the Constellation

The ship departed Istanbul just before sunset on November 7th, 2011 with the next stop being the Turkish town of Kusadasi (Kush-ah-DAHH –shi) near the ancient city of Ephusus, the second largest city of the Roman Empire after Rome itself.

 Saying goodbye to Istanbul

Leaving the cruise port

Seraglio Point - Topkapi Palace is to the right up the hill.

We got an excellent view of the city as the city rounded the gigantic Turkish flag flying from Seraglio Point below the Topkapi Palace.  Soon we were gliding past the Hagia Sophia (Aya So-FI-a) and the Blue Mosque which is named for the intense blue colors of the interior tile work.

Looking back towards the cruise port and the Golden Horn around Seraglio Point.

 The Domed Roof of Topkapi Palace

 Topkapi Palace from the Bosporus, Cadessi Kennedy and city fortifications

 Hagia Sophia - Now a museum, formerly an Orthodox Basilica and later a mosque

“The Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya as it is known in Turkish was actually a patriarchal Basilica that has been considered to be an embodiment of Byzantine architecture and also had the distinction of remaining the largest cathedral in the world until 1520. Built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, its interiors were richly decorated with artistic mosaics depicting various religious scenes and were supported by massive marble pillars.”  From Hagia

”The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii, Ottoman Turkish and Arabic: مَسجِدُ السلطان أحمد pr. masjedu alsultane Ahmad) is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923). The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.
It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.”  From Wikipedia.

 The Blue Mosque from the Bosporus, Cadessi Kennedy and City Fortifications

Soon we were out of sight of the magnificent city of Istanbul, it was time for our first superb dinner on the Constellation.    The ship continued on through the night across the Sea of Mamara through the Straits of the Dardenelles where the British Empire was mired in World War I trying to take the high ground at Gallipoli.   

Next –  Kusadasi and Ephesus


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  1. Very impressive. Beautiful photos and very interesting commentary.

    My memory is that I was tossed from the top of a bunk bed, and not from a chair. Oh, well, I still remember the trip across the stateroom floor!


  2. Istanbul is definitely included in my must-visit places list. Sitting in the middle of Asia and Europe, it is definitely a cross-cultural place. I love their culture, the food, the architecture, and the helpful locals. And you’ll always feel safe in Istanbul!