Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where did the evening go?

Seems it was just a few minutes ago that I sat down at the computer to be my very own Internet Travel Agent to work out my One Day in Istanbul.

It was supposed to be insanely easy. See, the cruise ship docks at around 7:00 in the morning, I fly out at around 7:00 the following morning -- so I've got 24 hours to fill. I'm told that the cruise company will put me up in the Istanbul Hilton and give me a one day tour of the city for something like $650. (The damn Single Supplement rears its ugly head again.)

And I think, hey, no problem. I can book myself into the very same Istanbul Hilton, and then book the one day tour through the cruise company.

Except, unless I'm booking the whole tour/hotel package with them, my only choice is a 4 1/2 hour tour which dumps me at the hotel around 2:00 -- which is too late to do any other tours and I really don't want to spend half my time in Istanbul cooling my heels at the freakin' Hilton.

OK, no problem. I'll find a full-day bus tour I can book myself.

Except it can't be done from the port. The full-day tours all leave from the hotels, and they leave early enough that there's no guarantee I'll get to my hotel in time to catch one.

OK, no problem. I'll find a freakin' private guide. More expensive (not as expensive as Athens), but, hey, 24 hours in the city -- this is clearly one of those "time = money" situations where I should pony up the cash to not waste the time.

Except I can't find a well-recommended private guide. And I sure as hell don't want to take someone who doesn't come recommended, because, y'know, he'll probably take me to his cousin's carpet shop for the hard sell.

OK, no problem. TripAdvisor is letting me down here, but the message boards at have lots of reviews of Istanbul-specific private guides.

Except they've got several hundred pages on Mediterranean ports, and you can't search the message boards unless you're a member.

OK, no problem. I'll join the damn message board. Joined, confirmed my membership, started searching for drivers in Istanbul and found a tour company that is very highly recommended.

Except not in Istanbul. Apparently, they're terrific around Ephesus, but the quality is questionable in Istanbul. OK, no problem. I keep searching. And searching. And I find a private guide with a good rep in Istanbul. I go to his website and see that he charges about $200 for a day tour.

Except not if you're staying outside the Old City. $200 is for a guided walking tour. (Apparently, all the good stuff in Istanbul is conveniently located all in the same area, where there are several hotels.) And guess where the Istanbul Hilton ISN'T.

OK, no problem. I'll find a hotel in the Old City. Much searching Cruisecritic and Tripadvisor, until I find a hotel everyone agrees is good. (Bonus: they have their own Turkish Bath and spa in the building.) (Bonus because TripAdvisor reviews of the big touristy Turkish Baths are pretty much unanimous that the architecture rocks but the experience blows. It took me some time to discover this.)

So (and I think I know where my evening went now) ... I've got a not-yet-confirmed reservation at the hotel, an email in to the walking tour guy ("Are you available that day? Wanna meet me at the port with a reliable taxi driver?"), and a tentative plan for an 8 hour tour of the city and a reasonably priced turkish bath/massage back at the hotel. Whew.

It only took four hours.

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