Where will I go on a Black Sea cruise?
Black Sea cruises typically depart from Istanbul or Athens and visit resort towns and sophisticated cities all around the Black Sea’s coast. Itineraries vary, but from Istanbul, you may visit port cities in Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. Often Eastern Mediterranean cruise ports are included in these itineraries as well.
How long does it take to get there?
Many Black Sea cruises depart from Istanbul or Athens, which is about a nine-hour flight from New York City.
When is the best time to cruise the Black Sea?
The main Black Sea cruise season begins in mid-April and runs through October. The summer months of June, July and August are always the warmest, but also the busiest. If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures, consider traveling in the shoulder seasons in the spring (April and May) and fall (September and October). Temperatures are still pleasant -- average temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s -- and there will be fewer people visiting the sites and packing the beaches during this time.
How long do these cruises last?
These trips typically last seven to 14 nights, although longer sailings are offered.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports are required for all international visitors. Visa rules vary by country.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood at most resorts, shops and restaurants connected to the tourist trade.
What is the time difference?
Most of the Black Sea region lies seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
Currencies vary depending on your port of call. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Tipping is customary almost everywhere, but be sure to review all bills before handing out gratuities.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals. Many churches and cathedrals in the Black Sea region require some degree of modest attire for visitors. You may not be permitted to enter if wearing "too short" shorts, and women may be asked to cover bare shoulders (it's a good idea to tuck a lightweight scarf into your purse or tote).
What should I pack?
Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try – watching a Romanian folk show in Constanta, or hiking the legendary Crimean Battlefields in Sevastopol, for example -- and pack accordingly. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits if traveling in summer; protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers are advisable no matter when you travel. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most towns and cities along the Black Sea filter their tap water, but some of the smaller destinations still suffer from occasional quality issues. First-time visitors often opt for bottled water, which is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss your itinerary. Medications that ward off seasickness and stomach bugs also might come in handy.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters; these same devices come in handy for U.S. citizens who plan to sleep on shore during their stay, as much of Europe uses the 220-volt outlet.
How do I make a telephone call from the Black Sea?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work in the region, so make back-up plans before embarking on your cruise.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Most hotels in the Black Sea region offer air-conditioning. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy? Can I haggle over prices?
Shoppers will find a little of everything here, from high end fur coats and leather to jewelry and carved wooden souvenirs. Lively bazaars and street markets are common shopping venues in the towns and cities along the coast. You can choose souvenirs that capture the spirit of this diverse region -- pick up a beautifully decorated pysanka Easter egg in Ukraine, for instance, or an intricately woven carpet in Turkey. Give haggling a try if you feel comfortable. In many places you can negotiate better prices, especially if you’re paying with cash.
How do I get around?
Transportation in and around the cities and towns of the Black Sea region is similar to what is available in other parts of Europe. You’ll find taxis and public transportation when sightseeing in larger cities; smaller cities might offer bicycle rentals or pedestrian-friendly streets and squares. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Rental rules vary by country, but most companies require renters to be at least 21 years old. However, the proliferation of public buses, trains and ferries make car rentals largely unnecessary in this region.
What can I do there?
Impressive architecture, ancient ruins and castles, and many cultural experiences await visitors to the Black Sea region. Consider a historic tour of Constanta, Nesebur or Odessa during your visit. Spend time shopping in traditional bazaars and markets, which offer an interesting selection of local food, wine and spices. The beaches are a major focus for visitors, of course, so be sure to stake out a seat on the sands of Varna or Sochi, often praised for their uncrowded shorelines and beautiful waterfront parks.
Do you have any photography tips for this region?
There's plenty of seaside beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter.