Tag Archives: istanbul

Client Report: Viking Ocean’s Star in the Mediterranean

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 17.22.42

Our agents at Willamette Intl Travel booked a cruise with Viking Ocean for long-time client Nancy T. Now Nancy’s come back from her amazing trip through the Mediterranean. Hear what she has to say about the voyage:

How was the Ship?

The Viking Star is absolutely stunning. It is very well thought out. Even though there were over 900 people on the ship, you never felt crowded. Our room was quite large and the bathroom was exceptional – full size shower and heated floor! The food was amazing. We loved the sauna and snow grotto room. Because we took an extensive excursion every day, we really didn’t have time to try out all the amenities on the ship. You could spend your entire trip onboard! There are so many beautiful places on the ship.

You did the pre-cruise extension, Two Nights in Istanbul, with Viking. How was the hotel?

Istanbul was beautiful. A side note to Viking—the Conrad hotel is not well placed for visitors. I know Viking will be getting a lot of feedback regarding that. It’s a beautiful hotel but not situated well for those wanting to explore Istanbul. Lots of business people and conferences being held there. It’s  a 30 – 40 minute walk to the nearest transit station and then another 20 minute ride to the old section. Taxis from the hotel to the old section are expensive because of where the hotel is placed and all the traffic.

(Note from Wittravel: The Conrad is a superb hotel, but indeed may be suitable for those travelers who wish to relax before their voyage. For those who want quicker access to the sights and smells of Istanbul, we can arrange nights in many excellent hotels closer to the city center. Call us for a one-on-one consultation.) 

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 17.23.49

Tell us about the Excursions — how was Istanbul?

We did the guided tour provided by Viking on the first day – well thought out. The second day, we walked and took the light rail to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Also went to a small bazar. The next day was spent entirely at The Topkapi Palace which is huge. We were too tired to get to the Grand Bazaar or go to the recommended spice market. It was good we had done the smaller bazaar since it had spice stores there.

We did see some of the Syrian refugees. It broke our hearts. Turkey is trying hard to deal with them compassionately but their patience is running out. There are already over 2 million refugees and a million more are expected. I have a greater regard for Turkey and its place in our world.

We loved all the other, added-on excursions we did. I fell in love with Montenegro. Our excursion was 5 hours that day. Santorini was amazing – that was an 8-hour day. Athens was a 6-hour tour. Kusadasi ( Ephesus) was a 3.5-tour.

Final Thoughts?

It was an amazing, exciting trip. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to explore that part of the world. Another side note – the majority of passengers on the ship had already on it for ten days before we got on it. They had combined this trip with another one which started in Barcelona.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 17.24.09

Viking Cruises launched its first ocean-going itinerary in May of this year. Ocean voyages have been fully booked up well into 2016! Viking’s world-renown cruise line has ranked highly on multiple travel lists, including Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Travel + Leisure World’s List, Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards, and National Geographic’s The 10 Best of Everything. The ocean cruises continue the Viking tradition of an all-inclusive experience, from all onboard meals, cultural enrichment, complimentary room service, to shore excursions, wifi, self-service laundry, wine, beer & soft drinks, and all port charges and government taxes.

The Viking Star is an all-veranda ship that accommodates up to 928 passengers. Combining Viking world-class standards with refreshing itineraries, the Viking Star is the ultimate luxury voyage that enhances each destination port. From the lavish 270-square-foot veranda to the premium Owner’s Suite spanning a whopping 1448 square feet, there’s something for everyone on the Star. She will be equipped with multiple restaurants, serene Wintergarden lanai, Piano Bar, Explorer’s Lounge, and a Nordic Spa. The Star will also have as its token jewel an Infinity Pool that is cantilevered over the ocean—the only one of its kind among cruise ships worldwide.

Call us for more information on Viking and their ocean and river itineraries. Contact 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

2 Comments

Filed under Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

All About Day Tours

A new, foreign country can be daunting. Imagine heading out with only yourself and a guidebook. You can waste precious trip time wandering unfamiliar streets and unexpected corners with only a vague sense of the highlights. Where is that Cafe you’re friend told you about in Montparnasse?

Why not hire a local guide for a few hours or even for a day? Friendly, approachable guides love to chat about their city and introduce visitors to the local culture. Theirs is a personal, tailored touch that can’t be replicated from a guidebook. Since they already know all the best places to visit and the best way to get there, they can be a great source to save valuable time and money you could instead spend on that gelato.

Day trips can be simple walking tours around Rome, dinners with flamenco dancers, or full day excursions to see Stonehenge. They can be tailored to your needs, providing private services for you and your family or group tours with 12 or more people at affordable prices.

We at Willamette Intl Travel have contacts all over the world that come highly recommended. Have a destination in mind? Let us open your experience by arranging day trips with any one of our great guides. Here is a sample of the best:

Anselmo in Lisbon. Anselmo and his band has provided tailor-made tours all over Portugal and Spain for the last 15 years, specially designed for private families and small groups. They can take you on unforgettable day trips to Sintra and Lisbon or multi-day tours through the Douro Valley, Santiago de Compostela, or the amazing cities of Batalha, Tomar and Evora. “Just a note to tell you how wonderful Anselmo has been. If you can imagine being squired around Portugal by Mr. Carson of Downtown Abbey, but with a sense of humor, you can get a sense of Anselmo” ~~ Carla, client of Wittravel

Spanish Trails in Barcelona. This group offers amazing and unique tours in and around Barcelona.Their tours include wine tastings in the Catalonia countryside, sea kayaking along the Costa Brava, and food and wine tours in the city.

A&R in Rome. Adrienne & Renato are a husband-wife team, she from Portland and he from Naples. With their team of local guides they can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Their services include close, personal attention illuminated by a background in art history and mythology.

Chocolatine in France. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Chocolatine offers private services in France that are 100% tailored to your needs. We work closely with them to arrange private excursions in Paris and elsewhere in France. Recently, they have helped to track down a client’s ancestral ties in battlefields in Alsace-Lorraine.

Meli in Istanbul. Meli is the founder of MeliTours, an exceptional tour company based in Kusadasi. For years they have escorted our clients in unique itineraries in Turkey, Greece, and on sailing trips along islands and coasts.Their guides are passionate, knowledgeable, and geared toward the interests of each individual guest.

Laura in Cape Town. Laura’s Township Tours is operated by Laura Ndukwana who was a born and bred in Guguletu, South Africa. As a tour guide for 17 years, she is the perfect guide to Cape Town, opening up the experience with her personal anecdotes of day to day life in the area. Laura is also actively involved in community projects that aid local children.

Marissa in Buenos Aires. Marissa is a unique one-woman operation in BA, and has organized tailor-made tours in and around the city for the past 12 years. “When you spend a day with Marisa in the fabulous city of Buenos Aires, you become Argentinian!!” ~~ John @ Wittravel

2 Comments

Filed under News, Tour Guides

Reading List: Istanbul

Read before you go! Today we’re taking a look at the multilayered land of Turkey. Almost no other country has such a diverse abundance in history, culture, and people. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Pamuk, Orhan. Istanbul. Turkey’s most famous writer overviews Turkey’s most notable city. Excellent overview on the modern city.

Orhan Pamuk. My Name is Red. The first Pamuk novel you should read. A fiendishly devious tale of intrigue and romance, set against the backdrop of 16th century Istanbul.

Judith Herrin. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. A brilliant study of the history of the Byzantine empire, chronicling from the rise in the 4th century to siege of Istanbul in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks.

Umberto Eco. Baudolino. A fictional account following a gifted multilingual liar and his adventures with Emperor Barbarossa, with priest-kings, and the siege of Constantinople.

David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace. Chronicles the fall of the Ottoman Empire and brings to light how the modern Middle East and Turkey developed.

Agatha Christie. Murder on the Orient Express. The classic novel by Agatha Christie about the muder of European’s most famous train line. Follow detective Hercule Poirot as he sleuths out this mystery.

Ann Marie Mershon. Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter: Backstreet Walking Tours. A unique collection of walking tours that delve into the hidden world of the bazaar—its workshops, caravanserai, gardens and courtyards.

Greg Malouf. Turquoise: A Chef’s Travels in Turkey. Follows chef Greg Malouf through spice markets, soup kitchens, and delicious restaurants for the enticing flavors of the Mediterranean.

Elif Shafak. The Bastard of Istanbul. A colorful tale of Asya and the four sisters of the Kazanci family against the backdrop of Turkish identity.

Hilary Sumner-Boyd. Strolling through Istanbul. A classic walking guide through Istanbul’s magnificent history, complete with anecdotes, hidden gems and secret histories.

Leave a comment

Filed under News