For a glimpse of the real Turkey a cruise is hard to beat. Istanbul is the top stop for cruise ships, but they call at numerous Turkish ports where passengers can go ashore and see the wealth of history and culture the country offers.
Here we show you some of the best ports of call.
Best for city breaksWhere: Istanbul.
Why: known successively through the ages as Byzantium, Constantinople and now Istanbul, this classic city straddles Europe and Asia, making it the only one in the world that can claim to be where east meets west. It’s exciting, noisy, but easy to get around, and cruise passengers can take in the main sights in a day.
Must-see places include: the ornate rooms of the Topkapi Palace, where the ruling sultans of the Ottoman Empire once lived; the Blue Mosque; and the Grand Bazaar, which sells everything from antiques and jewellery to carpets. If you’re tempted to buy, bargain hard.
Who goes there:Princess Cruises; Hebridean International Cruises; Orient Lines; P&O Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; SeaDream Yacht Club; Seabourn Yacht Club; Costa Cruises; Silversea; Carnival Cruise Line; Crystal Cruises; Fred Olsen Cruise Lines; Holland America Line; and Island Cruises.
Sample product: Princess Cruises visits Istanbul on a 12-night cruise from Venice to Barcelona on Emerald Princess next year, from £1,435 per person including flights and transfers.
Best for ancient ruinsWhere: Kudadasi.
Why:a few cruiselines use Izmir to visit Ephesus, but Kudadasi is the nearest port to one of the best-preserved ancient cities on the Mediterranean. It was built in 1,000BC by Athenians but conquered by the Persians, Romans and Goths.
Highlights include:the Temple of Hadrian; the Baths of Scholastica; the brothel (indicated by a rather apt decoration); the Library of Celsus, which has been partly restored and the Roman theatre, with seating for 24,000 people. In the adjacent village of Selcuk is the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but not looking too wondrous after centuries of neglect. In Kudadasi, get a taste of modern Turkey in the colourful bazaar or top up your tan on Ladies’ Beach, open to all despite the name.
Who goes there: Ocean Village; Princess Cruises; Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Royal Caribbean International; Silversea; Thomson Cruises; Celebrity Cruises; Crystal Cruises; Island Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Sample product: Celebrity Cruises visits Kudadasi next summer on an 11-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise from Civitavecchia in Rome on Galaxy, priced from £1,399 per person, including flights and transfers.
Best for battlefieldsWhere: Canakkale.
Why: a little way north, on the opposite side of the Dardanelles – so narrow at this point that you can shoot from one side to the other – is Gallipoli, where 160,000 allied troops were killed trying to gain control of the area from Turkey during the World War I. Approximately 86,000 Turkish troops were killed during the defence, led by Mustafa Kemal, who went on to become Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.
Head south 20 miles from Canakkale and you reach Troy, made famous in Homer’s The Iliad as the place where the Greeks defeated the Trojans after a 10-year siege using a wooden horse filled with soldiers. Excavations have shown a city stood there for 4,000 years and there was a battle at about the time of The Iliad.
Who goes there: Princess Cruises; Orient Lines; Hebridean International Cruises and Thomson Cruises.
Sample product: Thomson Cruises visits Canakkale on a seven-night Crimean Discovery cruise from Thessaloniki on Calypso next summer, priced from £819 per person, including flights and transfers.
Best for historyWhere: Trabzon, Black Sea.
Why: this is a favourite stop for discovery cruiselines looking for something off the beaten track. Trabzon is the most important port on the Black Sea, marched over by Persians, Macedonians and Romans, who built roads and used it as a base for their campaigns in the east. It was the birthplace of Suleiman the Magnificent, who conquered northern Africa, Iraq, the Balkans and Hungary during his reign as sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s.
Cruise ship tours visit Altindere National Park to see Sumela Monastery and the 13th-century church of Saint Sophia, a museum containing Byzantine frescoes.
Who goes there: Hebridean International Cruises and Voyages of Discovery.
Sample product: Hebridean visits Trabzon on a 13-night Pearls of the Black Sea cruise from Istanbul to Constanta in Romania, priced from £5,380 per person including flights and transfers.
Best for the beachWhere: Antalya.
Why: despite being a big city, Antalya is one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts thanks to its beaches, restaurants, cafes and hotels. Lara Beach, 10 miles west of town, is one of the best stretches of sand in Turkey, and the beach at Belek is 45 minutes away. It’s perfect for sun worshippers, but for a break from the beach, wander in to the old town and look out for the old Ottoman houses that are now shops and restaurants. About 23 miles northwest of Antalya are the ruins of the town of Termessos, where the locals fought off Alexander the Great by bombarding his troops with boulders.
Who goes there: Silversea; Thomson Cruises and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
Sample product:Silversea visits Antalya on a seven-day Turkish