It's views like this from Crystal Serenity that make me love waking up in the morning.
It was another picture-perfect day for our sail into Istanbul.
Europe meets Asia once again.
Istanbul is a city of opposites. Ancient meets modern. Cars zooming and stopped traffic. High-rise buildings and small shop stalls.
Our exploration tour didn't start until the afternoon, so I had time for a quick lunch with my friend Bart, Serenity's Head Sommelier. We had been trying for nearly two weeks to find some time between his busy work schedule and my busy touring schedule to get together and catch up on each other's lives. Took us until the next-to-last day to do so...but we did!
The Crystal team had arranged for a local vendor to provide lunch on board for those who wanted to sample authentic Turkish shawarma.
It's these kind of touches that make Crystal so special.
So we hopped on a bus to do a quick overview tour of Istanbul. Don't laugh, but one of the quick photo-op stops I was really interested in was the fish market.
Ok, maybe you aren't surprised, knowing that I am a foodie. Or that in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Georgia, the fish of choice is catfish. Nothing as exotic all all these.
Well, next it was on to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
I had a "pinch me" moment--I couldn't believe I was in Istanbul!! Emerson was all smiles, too.
Did I mention traffic?
We stopped along the Salacak waterfront for some coffee and tea.
And then it was back to the ship for one last dinner in the Crystal Dining Room.
Our Sommelier friends gathered with Alix and me for a silly shot.
Such a dear bunch. They are so kind and knowledgable. So much fun to be around.
Julia saw the size of her "Miss Steak" on the junior cruiser's menu.
And a gathering at the Avenue Saloon again, with some of my favorite people on the planet....Cousins Bill and Suzanne, and brother Ed and sister-in-law (I should drop the "in-law") Julie.
Alix got a quick photo with my friend Ross, finally off duty and able to get off the ship and enjoy some shoretime!
But friend Afzal was still in charge at the Crystal Cove, so we had to snag a quick pic there with him.
I know I have said it before. Crystal's ships are magnificent. Spacious, luxurious- nothing spared and every need thought of. But it is the crew of these wonderful ships-- the men and women who work day and night- who make cruising with Crystal such a delight.
This was the sixth summer we had cruised with Crystal. Some crew members come and some go, but there is always a large group of crewmembers who welcome us back. Maybe it is because we are a crazy bunch. Maybe because we seem to be always laughing and having fun. Maybe because we make an effort to get to know the crew. I don't know what it is that creates the bonds of friendship.
But it is the crew of the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony that make cruising with Crystal so special.
That's why I think of so many crew members as friends. Why I think of some of them as family.
That's why I think of it as "home"- a safe place where I am loved.