We are used to being blown away by the destinations we visit but it is pretty rare to feel that about the actual Cruise Terminal itself – my visit to Galaport Istanbul Cruise Port Terminal aboard Regal Princess last week, was definitely an exception – because this brand new terminal is very different, it is completely hidden underground!
The worlds first underground Cruise Port Terminal.
Opened in October 2021 Galataport is the worlds first underground Cruise Port Terminal. Disembarking onto the dockside you are immediately faced with high, hydaulic, security barriers and are directed down a ramp leading to the terminal beneath. This is brightly lit, air conditioned and well signposted – it feels more like an airport than a cruise terminal! The $1.7 Billion new facility can handle up to three ships and 8,000 passengers a day and is expected to process 25 million visitors a year. Heritage buildings in the area have been restored and a new cultural, social and lifestyle destination been created for the city.
Galataport contains all the usual cruise terminal facilities – passport control, checkin area, duty free shop money exchange and ATM machines. However all of these – as well as the tour bus meeting point and the taxi rank – are inside the cool, airy terminal. I can see that this would be a huge advantage in the heat of summer in Istanbul and was very impressed with the ventilation system which seemed to be instantly removing any fumes.
Princess gave us barcoded security passes to use in Istanbul – there was no need to take a passport ashore – these passes contained all our details and were used to operate the automatic turnstiles at the terminal security barriers.
I really liked the design of this subterranean terminal and later discovered that it has been modelled on the ancient cisterns found in Istanbul. These water reservoirs attract thousands of tourists every year with their fascinating Roman and Byzantine period architecture so it is quite clever that the architect has referenced them in the terminal – in patterns used throughout, by rounding the shape of the columns underground and in the shape of the building above ground. You will probably be able to appreciate this latter best from the deck of your ship.
Perfect position for exploring Istanbul
Built in the Karaköy port area of Istanbul, just beneath the Galata Tower and close to the Galata bridge, the Galataport terminal is perfectly positioned for cruisers to explore Istanbul. I am going to follow this with a Cruise Port Profile on Istanbul itself, but just briefly it is with noting that if you are self exploring you can meet your tour or taxi driver inside the terminal. Turning right as you leave the building at street level, takes you to another taxi rank and – along the street to your left – the stops for both the HOHO bus, local bus and the Tophane tram stop. It is worth noting that the local bus and tram require travel tickets which can only be purchased with local currency- cards aren’t accepted – so it worth getting some cash in the terminal.
To the left as you exit the Terminal building you will find a huge shopping centre and a waterside walk along the Bosphorus to Galata Bridge. Here on the waterside the high hydraulic barriers, that seemed a bit intimidating as you left the ship, suddenly make sense! They are temporary – only raised into place when a ship is in port – the ramp entrances hidden beneath hatches. The waterfront cafes and restaurants have a perfect view of the ships in port and of the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia across the Golden Horn, when there aren’t any. It is a brilliant use of space for both cruisers and locals alike, you really must not miss it, take a few moments to pop up to ground level and explore if you’re coming and going on a tour from the underground coach park.
New Cultural hub for Istanbul
There is plenty to see in the immediate area of the Cruise Terminal if you are short of time or don’t want to head any further afield. As well as all the shops in Port Square and the riverside restaurants, the waterside promenade takes you towards the brand new ‘Istanbul Modern’ in Tophane Clock Tower Square. This is Turkey’s first western museum of modern and contemporary art. Also nearby is the MSFAU Museum of Painting and Sculpture with an extensive collection of Ottoman art, the Tophane Pavilion and fountain and the Nusretiye Mosque. Further on towards Galata Bridge there are more shops in the restored 19th Century building of the Post Office Fashion Galleria near the Peninsula Hotel and the Karakoy ferry.
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I hope you have enjoyed reading about this wonderful new facility for Istanbul and that it will be useful to you. I will follow up with a Cruise Port Profile for Istanbul – its a great city and I hope you get to visit someday! Maybe pin this on Pinterest so that you can come back to it later!
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