Saturday, January 4, 2014

Countries on the Black Sea by Cruise Ship: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Greece

We tend to be active vacationers. We like to get out and do things and usually feel a need for time after a vacation to recover. Sitting at the beach, or laying by a pool, reading, eating and getting a suntan, although fun in small doses, is not our free-time prescription. For that reason we avoided cruises. Then we discovered a cruise that minimized the things we found unattractive about them and offered some real advantages: exotic, out of the way destinations, night-time travel while we slept, and a hotel that moved with us, avoiding regular transport of luggage. 

The Oceania Nautica "Black Sea Serenade" started in Istanbul, Turkey on June 18, 2010, then hop-scotched to destinations around the Black Sea, traveling during the night, maximizing the amount of time during the day to get out and see things. Then, at the end, it did spend one full day traveling from the Black Sea through the Dardanelles to Ephesus, and then back to night-time cruising across the Aegean Sea to Athens, Greece, where we departed ship on June 30, 2010. We tacked on a little time on our own at the beginning in Istanbul and at the end in Greece, and it made for a fabulous experience we can recommend to anyone. 

This is a summary of the posts we did relating to that trip. Judy follows the time-line and narrates, in general, the flow of the trip. She focuses on the various activities, the culture, and the art. I tend to focus on food, religion and animals. There was not much in the way of animals on this trip. The links to our various posts follows our itinerary. 

Istanbul, Turkey:
We flew into Istanbul on the morning of Thursday, June 17th, checked in to our hotel and explored the balance of the day, on our own. On Friday, we went out with a guide we hired to see things we knew were not covered in our ship tour. We checked on to the ship late Friday afternoon, and spent the night on the ship. Saturday we spent the full day in Istanbul on an excursion sponsored by the ship and then left the port by ship at 11:00 p.m. that evening. 
Turkey: Istanbul, not Constantinople (Judy)
Black Sea Part 1: Istanbul (Judy)
Istanbul Spice Market (Bob)
Turkish Delight (Bob)
Baklava (Bob)
Erguvan Hotel Breakfast: Istanbul, Turkey (Bob)
Beyaz Balik Restaurant: Istanbul, Turkey (Bob)
Hagia Sophia - Istanbul (Bob)
Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque - Istanbul (Bob)
Rustem Pasha Mosque - Istanbul (Bob)
Chora, Church of the Holy Savior in - Istanbul (Bob)

Nessebar, Bulgaria:
The ship docked at 8:00 a.m. in Nessebar, also spelled Nesebur, and we were transported by small boats from the ship to the port. We did not take a ship tour, but explored the town on our own. It was a Sunday and we enjoyed a portion of an Eastern Orthodox Church service, our fist exposure to it. The ship sailed at 6:00 p.m. that evening. 
Black Sea Part 2: Bulgaria and Romania (Judy)
Restaurant: Nessebar, Bulgaria (Bob)
Eastern Orthodox Church (Bob)
St. Stephen's Church in Nessebar, Bulgaria (Bob)

Constanta and Bucharest, Romania:
The ship docked at 7:00 a.m. in Constanta and we took a ship sponsored tour by bus to and from Bucharest. The ship left port at 7:00 p.m. Judy's post on Romania is included above with her post on Bulgaria. 
Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest, Romania (Bob)

Odessa, Ukraine:
The ship docked at 8:00 a.m. in Odessa and left at 6:00 p.m. We took a ship tour for part of the day and explored Odessa on our own part of the day.
Black Sea Part 3: Odessa, Ukraine (Judy)

Sevastopol, Ukraine:
The ship docked at 8:00 a.m. in Sevastopol and left at 6:00 p.m. We took a ship tour in the morning and then met up with Judy's nephew and his wife, who lived in Ukraine, and had lunch with them in the afternoon. 
Black Sea Part 4: Sevastopol, Ukraine (Judy)
Uspensky Cave Monastery - Crimea, Ukraine (Bob)

Sinop, Turkey:
The ship docked in Sinop at 8:00 a.m. and departed at 5:00 p.m. We explored the small town on our own with some friends we met on the ship.
Black Sea Part 5: Sinop Turkey (Judy)
Alaaddin Mosque: Sinop, Turkey (Bob)

Trabzon, Turkey:
The ship docked in Trabzon, also spelled Trabson, at 8:00 a.m. and departed at 6:00 p.m. We took both a morning tour in Trabzon and then an afternoon tour out-of-town to the Sumela Monastery.
Black Sea Part 6: Trabzon, Turkey (Judy)
Hagia Sophia - Trabzon, Turkey (Bob)
Black Sea Part 7: Trabzon, Turkey: Sumela Monastery (Judy)
Sumela Monastery (Bob)

Sochi, Russia:
The ship docked in Sochi at 8:00 a.m. and departed at 4:00 p.m. Here we had to take a ship tour to get off the boat, or otherwise would have had to obtain our own Russian visa. That morning I learned that you do not go to the ship doctor for diarrhea medication. He was going to quarantine me and not allow me off the ship. What I had was not that bad and I hadn't come all that way to miss Russia. So, I back-pedaled out of the doctor's office as quick as I could and ended up being just fine (note for future cruises: take diarrhea medication). 
Black Sea Part 8: Sochi, Russia (Judy)
Salmon Roe (Bob)

Yalta, Ukraine:
The ship docked at 8:00 a.m. and departed at 4:00 p.m. We took one of the ship tours.
Black Sea Part 9: Yalta, Ukraine: The Voronstsov Palace (Judy)
Black Sea Part 10: Yalta, Ukraine: Lividia Palace (Judy)
Beluga Caviar (Bob)

Cruising through the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles:
This was our only day spent solely on the ship. But it was a great day with lots to see at times, particularly a view of Istanbul from the ship in the Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait, and views of the World War II site of Gallipoli. Besides, we'd been very active the past week and it was nice to have a rest day. 
Black Sea Part 11: Leaving the Black Sea (Judy)

Ephesus, Turkey:
We arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey at 8:00 a.m. and left at 4:00 p.m. We took a ship sponsored tour that took most of the day and allowed us just a little time back in port. 
Black Sea Part 12: Ephesus (Judy)
Ephesus (Bob)
Black Sea Part 12A: Mereymana: House of Mary (Judy)

Athens and Delphi, Greece:
We arrived in Athens at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 30th. We took a cab to our hotel, then spent the rest of the day exploring Athens on our own. On Friday, we hired a cab for the entire day and drove through the Greek countryside to see Delphi. On Saturday, July 2nd, we left Athens on a flight leaving at 11:15 a.m. for home. 
Black Sea Part 13: Athens, Changing of the Guard (Judy)
Black Sea Trip 14: Ruins in Athens (Judy)
Temple of Hephaestus (Bob)
Temple of Olympian Zeus (Bob)
Black Sea Trip Part 14: Christianity in Athens (Judy)
The Areopagus or Mars Hill (Bob)
Church of the Holy Apostles: Athens, Greece (Bob)
Black Sea Trip, Part 15: Eating Our Way to Delphi (Judy)
Restaurant: Athens, Greece (Bob)
Psara's Fish Taverna: Athens, Greece (Bob)
Athens Meat and Fish Market (Bob)
Feta and Spinach-Stuffed Bread (Bob)
Patrikomas's Tavern: Delphi, Greece (Bob)
Black Sea Trip, Part 16: The Oracle of Delphi (Judy)
The Delphic Oracle (Bob)
Greek Graffiti (Judy)
Black Sea Trip, Part 17: The Acropolis and The End (Judy)
The Acropolis (Bob)

I've learned since that cruises intentionally leave port in the late afternoon to force patrons to eat and drink on the ship, part of where they make most of their money. That is a little irritating because we could have used several more hours in many of our ports and I really enjoy eating the local cuisine. I still dream of the meal of Greek salad and lamb we ate in Delphi after we got off the cruise. But on the positive side, the places we visited would have been very difficult to navigate on our own by car, plane or boat transportation and multiple languages, and we would have spent most of our time traveling between destinations. Plus, we made some friends on the ship that we ended up spending time with on shore and on board, both for meals and some games. 

I would liked to have spent another day in Istanbul and I would like to go back and spend several more days in Greece. In fact, I think at some point a cruise between Greek Islands may be in our future. 


  1. It's great to join these cruises. You get to visit many places, and you also learn how ships work. You're right that ships mostly leave in the afternoon, so perhaps eating out earlier is a good idea, if you plan on sampling the local cuisine. Did you go up to observe how the captain did his work? Were there any minor emergencies while aboard? Anyways, have fun on the next cruise!

    Arthur Greene @ Machine Marine

  2. This is really a beautiful experience to travel in a cruise . These countries are wonderful .