Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

AmaWaterways is offering land packages to Istanbul next year, the latest in a slow but growing string of cruise lines returning to Turkey after tourism to the once-booming destination all but froze in the wake of a string of terror attacks and political unrest.

The return, AmaWaterways says, was driven by demand for what it says had always been a popular land extension as well as an increase in sailings next year along the lower Danube.

The Istanbul extensions are offered from Bucharest, which is either the first or final call on sailings along the lower Danube, which is among Europe's less-traveled river cruise routes, but one growing in popularity.

Itineraries there visit the Eastern European and Balkan countries of Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria, which have cultures and sights quite different from the more popular Western Europe destinations.

AmaWaterways will double its sailings along the lower Danube next year, with 29 cruises, including four on the company's new luxury megaship, the AmaMagna.  

"The lower Danube cruises are seeing a very strong demand and with it the demand for travel to Istanbul had also increased," said AmaWaterways cofounder Rudi Schreiner.

"Although there are still occasional demonstrations in Istanbul, the situation has improved compared to where it was several years ago," he added. "The safety of our guests is very important to us and we do think that our guests will be safe in Istanbul."

AmaWaterways joins an increasing number of ocean cruise lines that are plugging Turkey back into their itineraries.

The handful of lines that were already operating there in 2018 are being joined in 2020 and 2012 by names such as Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Holland America Line.

Tom Stieghorst contributed to this report.

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