CRUISE THE PLANET
Traveling internationally on a regular basis, I’m as concerned about being safe abroad as any other traveler and take precautions that I hope have kept me safe. After five trips from the strategically located Turkish port of Istanbul, the recent bombing at Ataturk International Airport really hit home. Not that presumptive evil doer ISIS is the first to cause trouble in the area. Security has been a concern in the Middle East for a long time, causing those who sell travel there to pay extra special attention. As a result, hot spots are taken off itineraries in an abundance of caution. Security measures go up a level on board. We go ashore in groups or take the guided tour. It would be really easy right now to push travel plans forward, hoping for a more congenial travel environment in the future. That would be a mistake, especially to skip Istanbul and the lovely country of Turkey.
I had never been to Turkey in my life until a bit more than a year ago. As itineraries had it on a number of cruise lines, Istanbul was a turnaround port to get on or off cruise ships. Then the Syrian element came into play, the Paris attacks happened and much of the world of travel began to shut down a bit. Airline flight schedules and routes planned far in advance continued to fly, but with fewer passengers than in the past. A couple bad reports of something happening, somewhere in the world can have a devastating effect on tourism. Before the maiden voyage of Viking Sea not long ago, Whitney and I visited Istanbul, briefly. Our itinerary had called for us to embark the ship in Istanbul then stay overnight, allowing time to explore the city rather than sail away from it immediately. That changed when some tourists were attacked in a popular Istanbul bazaar.
In Security Concerns vs. Travel-Thwarting Fear I talked about the actual situation on the ground in Istanbul and how it was so much different than what was depicted in the news. We felt safe and would not doubt be safe staying in perhaps over-policed tourist areas.
But that’s nothing new. This song has a very familiar melody to me.
It’s been five years since I traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico. The occasion was to see first hand just what danger lurked in wait of cruise travelers to come along. Attacks on passengers and crew caused Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line to send their ships elsewhere in an abundance of caution. What I found was a friendly city with warm, caring people like I might have met anywhere else in the world. In a 2011 Gadling article, Mazatlan Is Safe, Just Ask The Dead People, I explored the issue of crime in Mexico as it relates to tourists.
Safety confirmed, I walked the streets of Mazatlan during the Day of the Dead stroll and festivities like thousand of others who joined in the annual event. Held in Mazatlan’s old historic district, the centuries-old tradition honors those who have died with a walking procession through town in a Mardi Gras sort of way, celebrating life.
In Santorini, Greece not long ago, we were warned that ATM machines may not have cash to dispense. It was said that there were long lines to deal with as the government had limited daily cash withdrawals. That made the warning to watch for would-be criminals hanging around the area seem quite plausible. Once there, we found plenty of ATM machines dispensing cash, no lines or lurking hoodlums and the best Baklava on the planet.
Had I not made those trips, I would never have experienced some of the most interesting places in the world, found magnificent Baklava or brought a number of lifelong dreams to life. A good chunk of that pleasurable travel happened for me on sailings that began, ended, or stopped in Turkish ports. Here is a gallery of what will be missed while Istanbul is out of the mix, something we hope does not last long this time.