Cruising the Bosphorus at night
By Samra Muslim
“Samra Muslim has over 10 years of experience in public relations, marketing and communications, social media, event management and brand activation in a diverse range of industries. She is currently a student of social media in addition to her day time job as a marketer. She has been associated with Etihad Airways, and has worked for Starwood Hotels & Resort and Zindagi Trust in the past. She rants on her personal blog at www.samramuslim.com”
No trip to Istanbul can be considered complete till you have take a Bosphorus Cruise – and luckily one has different option to pick and choose from … like day cruise, sun set cruise, night cruise, dinner cruise to name a few!
Since I had been on the more touristy, guided day cruise last time I was in Istanbul, we opted to take the Night, Dinner Cruise on the Bosphorus this time around – and frankly it was totally worth it!
Booking the Cruise:
The toughest part is booking the cruise at the right price! Most tour packages we came across had this Cruise priced in the range of €80-90. Online we found the same priced at €45-55, but none of the websites responded to our booking queries.
So armed with the knowledge of online price and the fact that one must bargain for everything in Turkey … we went to one of the tour booking booths on Taksim Square, and were able to get a deal for TL250 for 2 persons (without any alcoholic drinks in this price).
Lesson: bargain for the right price and avoid the Euro pricing to get a better deal!!
A pretty hassle free part of the whole experience, a 16-seater van came to pick us from the hotel and drove us to the port where the boat awaited us. The tour company has a whole team and vehicles that pick and drop the passengers for the night based on their hotel locations, and their system seems pretty impeccable to me.
It is pretty big and well-maintained double decker vessel with the tour operator’s name “Turnatour” flashing in the front. The boat has an indoor dining hall, which seats at least 150 persons, and the center of the hall is a dedicated performance area/dance floor. This hall also houses a well stocked bar and a DJ station.
Upper deck, right now, was just for people who wanted to come up for a smoke or catch the lovely view of cruising between Asian and European Istanbul … but from the setup one could tell that in the summers, the part of the boat is used to host the performances.
We were welcomed with a mezze platter on our seats, and a basket of breads. Personally a big fan of Turkish Mezzes and this was pretty good as well. Unlimited choices of drinks (soft in our case) are available throughout the journey and waiters at hand to serve them on the table.
The Mezze was followed by the main course – and while there was an option of Fish and Chicken – no one was offered a choice, but rather whatever suited the servers was placed in front of us. We got the Chicken, and frankly it was pretty disappointing with absolutely no taste at all … the sides of veggies, rice and mashed potato were slightly edible (at most) – overall disappointing meal.
Dessert platters of Turkish Baklava was served right before the end of the journey, with a cup of Turkish coffee, and it was nice and sweet.
This begins with Asuk Masuk – a comedic imitation play of dwarfs enacted by two dancers – funny and cute to watch them interact with the crowd.
Belly Dancing follows and is the longest part of the entertainment act. The dancer was a right mix of fun, audience engagement and talent to make it an extremely enjoyable watch, and I could see people of all nations in the audience lapping it up (pun intended!).
What follows is extremely similar to a Pakistani mehndi performance – and is called the Turkish Henna ceremony. Here there is a ‘bride’ who comes with some men & women in traditional fancy outfits, who dance and do a ‘rasm’ … and then the groom joins in. This group of men and women then dance – while the bride and groom watch them (sounds familiar!!). In the later part there are some dances where the groom is dancing with the male performers and it ends with all the performers getting members of the audience to join them in a dance too. After this the floor is opened for the guests to dance for the next 2 hours as the dining hall turns into a club.
Totally worth the experience – every second spent on the Bosphorus is awesome and the night is no different! Just wish the food was a little more edible, as I am a HUGE fan of Turkish food …