The launch of the new Galataport cruise terminal in Istanbul has had a major impact on the recovery of Turkiye’s cruise sector, with more than 200 cruise calls scheduled through the rest of the year, representing 450,000 passengers.
Istanbul cruise officials say the new terminal has become the “face of tourism” in the city, which until 2016 was a major homeport and cruise destination on the Eastern Mediterranean cruise circuit.
Cruise lines pulled out of Turkey due to political instability and security concerns during the mid-2010s, but had begun to resume cruises to and from Istanbul just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The new cruise terminal opened in 2021, just as the global cruise industry began to resume operations at scale, especially in the Mediterranean, and the timing has been prescient.
Figen Ayan, chief port officer at Galataport, said “ships began to arrive one after the other” after the facility opened in October. “Galataport has become the face of tourism,” she told AFP in an interview carried by France24.
The state-of-the-art cruise terminal features an underground customs and passport control area, a restaurant by celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, better known as Salt Bae (inexplicably famous for sprinkling salt on food), and a shopping centre.
The terminal was launched a year later than planned due to the pandemic, but has proven popular with cruise lines and their passengers.
Part of the appeal is its location. Galataport is located in central Istanbul, where the Golden Horn meets the Bosporus, opposite the 18th century Maiden’s Tower on the Asian side of the city, and just across the Golden Horn from the 15th century Topkapı Palace on the European side.
The project opened up a 1.2-kilometre (three-quarter-mile) coastline that had been closed to public use for 200 years and is situated amid a cluster of hotels, cultural venues, and cafes and restaurants.
“Galataport Istanbul is much more than a cruise port,” according to Ayan.
Around 30 cruise ships have so far docked at Galataport and 200 more are expected by the end of the year, which amounts to 450,000 passengers, with 1.5 million per year projected for the near future.
“Now we can say that we have left the pandemic behind and that the cruise sector, which is an important segment of tourism, has revived and is on the move,” Ayan said.