Monday, May 7, 2012




Three majestic, magnificent seas brought me triple delights on my Crystal Serenity cruise from Istanbul, Turkey to Venice, Italy. In addition to sailing me to far away places with strange sounding names (like Kusadasi, Kotor, and Thira), these three seas afforded me a chance to enjoy three of my favorite things


CRYSTAL Let me make it Crystal clear that there is little wonder why the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine rated Crystal Cruises the “Best Cruise Line” (Mid-Sized) for 2011. The ultra-luxe cruise line’s score marks the 18th time the company has won its category--more than any other cruise line, hotel, or resort in the magazine’s history. 


My recent Crystal Serenity cruise affirmed the belief of Conde Nast Traveler’s readers, and I couldn’t state it any better than Crystal’s President Gregg Michel who said that the readers “continue to appreciate and recognize Crystal’s unwavering focus on delivering what sophisticated travelers want: new, life-changing itineraries and on-board experiences, plus a chic sense of design and space that also makes them feel at home.” 



 ÇIRAGAN The Çiragan Palace Kempinski Hotel is an historic Ottoman palace dramatically situated on the European shores of the Bosphorus. This incomparable view reflects the grandeur and glamour of the hotel itself, which is the only palace in Istanbul to have become a five-star hotel.

In a previous life, this grandiose property was a residence for sultans.  The palace, built by Sultan Abdülâziz, was designed between 1863 and 1867. This was a period in which all Ottoman sultans used to build their own palaces rather than using those of their ancestors.  Çıragan Palace is the last example of this period. The inner walls and the roof were made of wood, the outer walls of colorful marble. The construction and the interior decoration of the palace continued until 1872.

On January 19, 1910, a great fire destroyed the palace, leaving only the outer walls intact.  After that, the place served for many years as a football stadium.

In 1989, the ruined palace was bought by a Japanese corporation, which restored the palace and added a modern hotel complex next to it in its garden. The Palace, combining Ottoman-era sophistication, with state-of-the-art technological amenities, was renovated again during the first quarter of 2007. Fully restored to its former glory, it now resembles the authentic palace with its baroque style and soft colors.

The Palace Suites, with their vaulted ceilings, treasured antiques and rich textiles evoke the opulence of the Ottoman Era.  Guest rooms overlook either the Bosphorus or historic Yıldız Park, formerly a hunting forest for the sultans. 

With curtains drawn apart and balcony doors open, I breathed in the beauty of the Bosphorus as East met West.  From the comfort of my room in Europe, I could watch the sun glow over Asia as the morning mist crept over the European hotel’s garden.

Tugra, the hotel’s renowned restaurant that features a classic Turkish menu, is considered one of the finest restaurants in Istanbul. The feast begins with the ambience … rich Ottoman décor, live classical Turkish music and the ever-stirring backdrop of the Bosphorus.  Weather permitting, dining on Tugra’s terrace lit by the moon, a candle, and the Bosphorus Bridge, might well be one of the most romantic meals you will ever have.  The only thing missing is a handsome Ottoman sultan.
CIPRIANIThe day before my Crystal Serenity cruise began in Istanbul was a Cipriani day.  The day after my Crystal Serenity Cruise ended in Venice, Italy was also a Cipriani day…a Harry Cipriani day to be exact. 
That’s because I’m just wild about Harry!
Harry (Arrigo in Italian) Cipriani, the majority owner of a string of establishments including Harry’s Bar in Venice and Cipriani Istanbul in the city of the same name, is the son of Giuseppe Cipriani who founded Harry's Bar in Venice in 1931. 
When Arrigo’s father Giuseppe was working at the Hotel Europa in Venice just before the 1929 Crash, he lent a down-and-out customer named Harry Pickering about $5,000 USD.  Years later, Pickering returned to Venice and paid him back five-fold. Cipriani used that money to start the bar which he named Harry's Bar after Harry Pickering. 
Harry’s Bar became a hot spot for celebrities like Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart. The bubbly Bellini, a magical blend of white peach juice, sugar and sparkling Italian wine, (often mistakenly dubbed champagne) is reputed to have originated there.
When I met the world-renowned Harry some two decades ago, he told me "I'm the only man in the world named after a bar.  I was born, on April 23, 1932, less than a year after Harry's Bar opened."
Meeting Harry for the first time many years ago, I expected a stereotypical backslapping bartender who would be garbed in a slightly soiled apron tied behind his back.  Instead, what I got was an elegant graduate lawyer, immaculately dressed in a hand-tailored suit, who graciously greeted his patrons as if they were guests in his home.   
It was destiny…it was fate…it was bashert…that the Cipriani Istanbul should open mere months before my arrival in Istanbul.  Of course, I had to dine there. 
Located in the heart of the lively Levent business district, the restaurant features classic dishes from the original Harry's Bar in Venice.   The interior reflects the warm, timeless, inviting decor of Cipriani locations worldwide.
It was destiny…it was fate…it was bashert.  It was also divine!
When the last night of my Aegean Odyssey arrived, I headed straight to Harry’s Bar in Venice. It has been said that, in the legendary city of Venice, more tourists ask directions to Harry's Bar than to the Piazza San Marco. 
Giuseppe Cipriani, Harry’s son, made an interesting observation. “Istanbul and Venice shared a strong relationship over the centuries and have many similarities,” he said.  “It’s a curious fact that even the painter Bellini who inspired my grandfather to name the signature drink he invented in 1948, went to work for the Ottoman sultan at the end of the XV century.  Let’s just say that we are bringing Bellini back to Istanbul, an incredibly beautiful and vibrant city, one of the few capitals of the world.”
Arrigo (Harry) Cipriani beware! You can’t escape me.  From Cipriani to Cipriani, I have dined in Cipriani restaurants around the world and will continue to do so. I will follow you anywhere!
 JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer Awards and an International Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.

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