We were quite excited for today as it was the day that we would begin our first cruise, from Istanbul to Rome. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very frustrating day.

We had collected our packed breakfast from the restaurant the night before to eat at the airport and said goodbye to our 2 lovely servers, Aphrodite and her colleague.

Aphrodite, Vicky, Trevor and the other server

Our flight from Athens to Istanbul was at 08:00 so, we had asked the taxi driver who had driven us from the airport 2 days ago, to pick us up from the same place where he had dropped us off at 06:00. We were up at 05:00 and left the hotel 45mins later. We had to walk the one block but were ready and waiting in good time. And wait we did! We watched dozens of taxis go past, with even some stopping to ask if we needed a ride. “No, thank you.” we replied with confidence, as we believed that our requested driver would appear at any moment.

A taxi in Athens

He still had not arrived by 06:05 and a particular taxi driver was convinced that he would not come, so he insisted that we go with him. Our first question was the cost and he immediately said, “€40 is the standard fee to the airport.” That was €20 less than we had paid to the other driver! Well, he got us to the airport in good time, dropping us off at one end of the building and, just our luck, Aegean Airlines was at the other end. A long walk! There was some good though, as we could go via the special needs queue.

An Aegean Airways plane

We went directly to the Boarding Gate and the gentleman assisting me, expected to leave me there. He was surprised that he had to accompany me to the plane as it was parked on an outside tarmac and I cannot climb the stairs. This meant travelling on the bus with the all the other passengers and then using the lift to get on to the plane. I was very pleasantly surprised when he took me right to my seat. Maybe he was making sure that I wouldn’t ask for anything else, but he was smiling.

Our flight to Istanbul was uneventful and we arrived on time. We were met at the plane by a fellow who could speak NO English. We tried to speak to his colleague, explaining that we wanted to be left near the taxi rank but inside the building while we organised ourselves, in preparation for embarking the ship. They had a long discussion and the next thing we knew is that we were near the taxis but, outside the building, in a bitterly cold wind.

Trevor went to discuss being taken to the ship with them and it resulted in a discussion as to where the ship was docked. We had the information that it was at Galataport but they were all adamant that there was only an hotel there. Eventually, one agreed to drive us to that area and see if we could find a ship. As we neared the port, the chimney stack of a ship rose above the buildings. The driver got a real surprise but now the question was ‘how to get to it?’ That turned out to be quite a mission.

A taxi in Istanbul

The taxi stopped in a lay-by and took out our luggage. Before we could blink there was a young man offering help. He said that he was with the ship and directing us where to go. Having been on several cruises we accepted this as it is normal for a ship to have staff available to meet and assist passengers. He led us to a security gate and then asked for money. Oh no, not another scammer, but we didn’t pay him a penny.  We went through security and learnt that it was the entrance to Galataport, the new and world’s only underground port facility developed exclusively for cruise ships.

We stepped from this security zone into an enormous empty square without a sign or person to direct us to the ship. It was no good asking the security staff as they simply ignored one. There was a building directly opposite which looked promising, so we went over to it only to be told that it was a museum. A gentleman told us to turn towards the building on our left, walk down beside it for 100m and then turn left into the building. Getting wet and pulling our luggage we did just that only to learn that we were now in a shopping mall with no signs indicating which way to go. There were 2 men fixing some lights and we asked them, only to receive a shrug of the shoulders.

We took a guess and walked down another passage and a minute later another man came running after us and said, in English, “I will show you where to go” and so we followed him walking and walking and walking for miles. We finally reached an arrow sign saying, ‘To Ship’ and he said to follow more signs, which were present. More walking until we met a uniformed man indicated to continue down another corridor. Finally, we met a ship’s representative who told us to take our luggage to a counter. I couldn’t walk one step further due to the pain in my feet so I sat on a water pipe, there were no benches, and the representative said that he would get me a wheelchair. In the meantime, we were directed to another security system and Passport Control. Now it was a long queue and no sign of somewhere to sit until exiting security.

Finally made it through security and Passport Control when the wheelchair arrived. I was so very grateful as there was still a long walk to the ship and we were able to take the lift and I didn’t have to walk up the long ramp up to the ship itself. We made it, even if it had taken 7 hours since waking, 4 hours since boarding the plane and 2 hours since landing.

Our ship, the Vista

Once on board we discovered that there was a very large hotel with 2 or 3 restaurants, the roofs of which were flat and covered with a shallow layer of water which the seagulls just loved.

Seagulls on roof