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Four Favorite Cities In The World Visited By Cruise Ship

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I’ve been fortunate and have more than 60 cruises “under my belt”, yet there’s many areas of the world I’ve yet to visit, that are on my “bucket list”. At the same time I’ve already visited some fabulous cities, and I’ve compiled my list of favorites here.

#1 Istanbul, Turkey – Prior to my first visit to Turkey I had what proved to be a very distorted view of what the city and area would be like. For reasons unknown I expected I’d find a “ 3rd world” style country, where tourists were tolerated, but unwelcome.

What I found was a friendly and helpful population, and certainly one of the most magnificent cities in the world. During a pre-cruise and post-cruise stay we found we felt perfectly safe just walking the streets, traveling from one awesome site to the next. We also found a populace which was quite proud of their secular society, though the majority of the population are Muslims.

A nice thing in Istanbul is many of the sites you want to visit are located in close proximity. If you have no mobility problems you can quite easily walk from one to the next.

If you research Istanbul at all before you go, the most likely image you’ll remember is pictures of the world famous Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is a functioning Mosque. Before you enter you’re asked to remove your footwear, and no bare shoulders or shorts (for both men and women) are allowed. The structure is quite unbelievable, and a must see.

Just down the street is another magnificent structure, The Church of the Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia. It dates back to the 6th century and was constructed for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It was turned from a church to a mosque in the 15th century when the minarets were added. In 1930 it was made a museum.

A bit further along the same stretch of road is The Topkapi Palace, built in the says of the Ottoman empire and is lavishly decorated. There is so much to see here, and get a glimpse of the life of the Sultans. The former imperial residence is a spectacular museum that has one of the largest collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain.

As if visiting these incredible structures isn’t enough, you have to make time for a visit to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world, with almost 5000 shops spread out, joined by 58 covered alleyways. The Grand Bazaar can feel like a maze, so watch the signs, and be aware of where you’re wandering. Bargaining is a necessity for any purchase, no matter how small, so go prepared to have fun with it. The shopkeepers are some of the smartest anywhere, so you certainly don’t have to worry about insulting them with low offers.

Then you aren’t going to want to miss a visit to the Spice Market, and the amazing aromas of the incredible varieties of spices, dried fruits, nuts and Turkish delight. There’s also more variance in the types of stores now, offering some of the merchandise you’ll also find at the Grand Bazaar

If you are staying in the Sultanamet area all the sights I’ve mentioned are within walking distance.

To get a taste of modern day Istanbul, a taxi to Takim is highly recommended. This is a modern outdoor pedestrian mall, filled with many of the high fashion European and American shops, and plentiful dining choices, as well as street vendors.

#2 Florence, Italy – When speaking about Italy, it’s difficult to compete with magnificence of Rome or Venice, or the beauty of the Sorrento and the Imalfi Coast, but Florence sticks out as my personal favorite.

The central area of Florence has streets to narrow for large tour buses, so much of it serves as a pedestrian walkway. Seeing Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece statue of David, at the Galleria Dell’ Accademia, will take your breath away. Follow that with a visit with the masters of Renaissance painting at the Uffizi Gallery. (Pre-purchase admissions to both to avoid the long lines). Then spend the rest of your time simply strolling the streets with a must-do walk across the Ponte Vechhio bridge, where you can be blinded by the bling from the windows of all the jewellery stores.

There’s certainly much more to see in Florence as well, but I’m happy to repeat the day I described above over and over again.

# 3 – New York City, New York – What can I say; it’s the Big Apple! A visit to Manhattan, and you really do feel like you are in the “downtown of the world”.

New York is generally a starting or ending point for cruises, not a port of call, and as such a pre or post cruise stay of several nights should be a must when you’re scheduling your trips.

I’m no expert on the city, and a quick Google search will certainly describe all the highlights you have to choose from. But there’s some things I’ve really enjoyed on my visits, that I can give personal recommendations too.

Many of the sights and neighbourhoods of Manhattan can best be seen and visited using the Hop On- Hop Off buses.

As I described above, in Istanbul and Florence, I truly enjoy walking in cities I don’t really know when I am visiting. I find it gives me a more intimate feeling of my surroundings, and the people I encounter. And New York is certainly no different. For a visitor, though there’s thousands of taxis available, it’s a great walking city.

I love walking along Broadway from Time Square up to Central Park, and coming back, weaving my way through the streets between Avenue of the Americas and Broadway. A walk during the day has to include a lunch stop at the famed Carnegie Deli for the mountainous sandwiches, crisp pickles, and the biggest knishes I’ve ever seen.

Then stroll back towards Broadway to attend an evening play. Then dinner either before or afterwards in the Theatre District, at my favorite restaurant, Becco (355 West 46th Street),

a wonderful, inexpensive, delectable, Italian restaurant.The next day I’d arrange a tour to Ellis Island, then walk through the areas surrounding Wall Street, and Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center stood. Walking back towards Time Square a stop at the Brooklyn Diner (

255 West 43rd Street) is a high priority on my list, for the best and biggest hot dog lunch plates. I’m a “good eater” and I have a tough time getting through it. I know many people view having a hot dog from the street vendors in Manhattan as a right of passage, but for me it’s the Brooklyn Diner!

# 4 – St. Petersburg, Russia – St. Petersburg has so much to see and do, that I think it’s almost imperative to splurge and book a private tour during your ship’s visit, rather than ship‘s shore excursions. Most ships overnight in St. Petersburg, though some stay for three days and two nights. The longer the stay, the better.

The thing about St. Petersburg that draws me in is the drastic contrasts between the opulence of it’s aristocratic history, and the “grey” feel of many of it’s present day buildings.

The most well known spot to visit is of course The Hermitage; the world’s second largest art museum. The art collection was begun by Catherine the Great, and that collection grew to the point, that today it is housed in four buildings, and palaces,, collectively called The Hermitage. An informed guide is as essential as a visit to this incredible art museum.

Then there are the two must see Palaces – Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and Peter the Great’s Peterhof. Peterhof was founded at the very beginning of the 18th century by Emperor Peter the Great.

It is located on the Baltic Sea, and also features the most stunning summer gardens, as well as sterling samples of Russian artistic culture of the 18th and 19th centuries.There are certainly other museums and several Cathedrals, such as The Church of Spilled Blood, and St. Peter’s Cathedral, worthy of visiting, but what we truly enjoyed on our visit was a visit to the St. Petersburg subway system. The subways system was built deep into the earth, and travels underwater in many areas (St. Petersburg is an intertwined joining of many islands). The subway stations were built deep underground for security purposes. Each station is quite different, and the opulence of the construction materials certainly surprised us; as well as the lines themselves being lit in sections by crystal chandeliers.

A visa is required to disembark the ship in St. Petersburg. However the licensed tour operators, as well as ship’s tour operators provide the visas. You only have to apply for visas yourself if you plan to get off the ship and tour entirely on your own, which is not admissible if you don’t speak and read Russian.

I invite our readers to share your favorite cities to my list, along with a brief explanation of what it is that makes them special to you.

– A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –

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