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Gulet cruises-keep your expectations realistic

Gulet cruises-keep your expectations realistic

Aug 9th, 2007, 07:08 AM
  #1  
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Gulet cruises-keep your expectations realistic

We have all seen the websites and claims of idyllic warm days at sea, wonderful food and attentive service. A "Blue Cruise" can be a nice experience but I would suggest that unless your budget is that of a sultan, your experience may fall short of the hype and exaggerated claims of yacht brokers and gulet operators.

Our family has just returned from three weeks in Turkey. Part of our itinerary included a four day gulet cruise from Bodrum. The cruise was not bad-many parts were very enjoyable and the time spent together as a family was priceless. The water was warm and clear and the food quite good.

We chose to charter our own crewed gulet rather than take a cabin charter. We have done both before in other parts of the world so we what we could and should expect. The gulet that we chartered was substituted last minute with another older but larger gulet. Apparently the other gulet was sold unbeknownst to our yacht broker and the new owner was not prepared to honour previous charter commitments. This left the broker scrambling the day before to locate another available gulet.

We had chartered a gulet built in 2004. We ended up with a gulet built in 1996. It was about 4m larger which allowed considerable deck space-nice for lounging during the day. The fore and the aft cabins were fairly large doubles, the side cabins which were supposed to also be doubles were very cramped-comfortable for our 13 year old, but I would not have wanted to sleep in them with a partner.

Our gulet had A/C-something I insisted upon because of the time of year. We had temperatures of 45C on some days, with a hot breeze. The A/C was only operated while the gulet's generator was on-about 6 hours during the day, mostly in the afternoon and for a couple hours in the evening at bedtime. Once the A/C was turned off, the cabins were so hot that we could not sleep in them. We ended up sleeping on the lounge cushions on the deck. I am aware that many people look forward to "sleeping under the stars" but it was not what we had planned to do-that is why we looked for a gulet with A/C in the first place. Just be aware that if you charter a gulet with A/C-it will not operate all day or when you really need it.

The food was quite good-some days were better than others. Unfortunately our eldest son became very ill on the second day-he threw up the salad from the night before and had stomach troubles for the rest of our time in Turkey. This was unfortunate and I cannot say for sure if it was caused by something he ate on the gulet or not. Our younger son also had an unsettled stomach on the third day. We were assured that there was no problem with salads or fresh vegetables and fruits-that the gulet cook was very careful etc. We have travelled enough to know to avoid salads and unpeeled vegetables. This time we were more lax than usual and the boys paid the price. The food was repetitious (especially breakfast) after the second day.

Should you decide to charter a gulet, you will be billed for daily food (25E-35E per person per day. It is important to set out your menu requirements before your trip. We did so and the cook did not disappoint in that regard. Drinks are supposed to be billed at cost. We noticed that there was no method of tracking who and how much was being consumed. All drinks were kept in one large cooler and the crew would take drinks from it as well. We noticed a number of times that the crew would take a bottle of water from the cooler, take a few sips and then place it back into the cooler with the rest of the drinks. This became a problem toward the final day when bottled water supplies were running low. At the end- the broker showed us the bills for the drinks purchased to supply the gulet and asked us to pay the full amount even for products we had not consumed (there were still drinks left over) and apparently for what the crew had consumed. It was not a large amount, and thus not worth an argument, but other charters we have taken were far more accurate and meticulous in this regard.

This is the first charter that we have taken where none of the crew took the time to straighten up the cabins and air out the blankets. There was water pooled in one corner of our bathroom that remained throughout the cruise until I mopped it up on the final day. The "shower" was an attachment to the sink. We have had this configuration before on other boats, but it was not what I was expecting this time. I suppose it was the consequence of being assigned to an older gulet than the one we had originally booked. The drains on the floor of each of the "heads" drained very slowly and were clogged by small debris and hair. The large mirror in our cabin had large and very obvious stains or smudges. it was not cleaned until I asked for it to be done on the second or third day. It wasn't "gross' but again, fell short of past experiences and expectations. That being said, the crew was meticulous in cleaning the decks and the exterior of the gulet.

The area around Bodrum is not particularly scenic, though the water is lovely. One thing to remember about gulet cruises-if you are on a cabin charter, you have no control over who your cruise-mates will be. You may be lucky to make some wonderful new friends, or you may end up with cruise-mates who are completely incompatible with your concept of an ideal cruise. Even if you charter a gulet, you still have no control over the boats that anchor beside you for the evening. We had two quiet nights and two nights surrounded by loud party boats.

We paid more than $1000US per day for this cruise. Was this a dream cruise? No. Did we enjoy the time we spent together as a family? Yes, even though our sons (13 and 16) found it too long. Would we do it again? Probably not-this felt like camping on the water. Camping is fine-but not at that price. I could not wait to get to a hotel and take a proper shower at the end of the cruise. We done cabin charters and crewed charters twice before in other parts of the world-there is a similarity to all. This can be an enjoyable experience if you are realistic in what this type of holiday can offer.
pirouette is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 10:03 AM
  #2  
 
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Thank you, Pirouette, for a most informative discussion of your gulet cruise. I have cruised those waters, and know how lovely they can be -- as well as how small things, like party boats, or nearby generators, can ruin a lovely anchorage.

Care to share the charter company, so we cant say we weren't warned?

nukesafe is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 12:31 AM
  #3  
 
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Interesting. We had a very different experience with our "Blue Cruise" and really loved the experience, boat and crew. We have a 6 yo who had the time of her life!

We also did it for MUCH cheaper. I will have to ask my dh who is not here at the moment but it was something like 100 or 200 dollars per person for four nights and 3 days.Super cheap for such lodging and 3 meals a day, my child paid half price.

We took it from Fethiye to Olympos and loved the Torquoise coast. You can read about our experience here on our blog with pics...starts here:
http://www.soultravelers3.com/blog/5...0D8D4282F.html

I think you do bring up good points tho and perhaps to a certain extent it is a hit or miss. I would be very disappointed if I paid that much and had the experience that you had.

I also knew that it was impossible to get AC on any gulet at night as it said so in several guide books. I have never been as comfortable in a sail boat any where in the world as I am in a nice hotel, so I did not really expect that. I did not care for sleeping outside with a bunch of strangers ( but hubby and child did not mind at all). I don't think I would have minded if we were the only family on board.

We had no problems with the food, but we did have some bouts with vomiting due to very rough seas ( which could have been avoided). I hear that is highly unusual.

Our food ...3 great meals a day..was included in our cheap price, but the drinks were not. We only drink water or tea so that was not a problem for us. We ate everything so took a chance with the food too, but lucked out with no problem. ( No matter where you are food can be a problem in any country).

Our gulet was impeccably clean so no problems there and we inspected it before giving our money.

We lucked out with no party boats the whole trip altho some on our boat had their moments. I think it is a good idea to always have ear plugs for travel of any kind.

Was our experience ideal? No, we had some really rude people aboard that we could have lived without as they were abusive to the very hard working and sweet crew.

Still, we managed to have a great time and would do it again in a second. I thought I would do one like you next time, but maybe not. I know people who have done many of these cruises and come back year after year because they love them.

We found it a once in a lifetime kind of experience ( tho not perfectly ideal) and very idyllic, so we are thrilled we did and would do it again ( altho not every year and with great caution as you are a bit at other peoples mercy).



WTnow is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 04:06 AM
  #4  
 
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Gulet cruising itself is a must do thing and something really special to experience.

It is most important to have one with good crew. Equipment etc. can be important but not major issue.

Generally speaking most gulets with A/C run it for about 4 hours a day. Soem gulets does have a better utilities so they are able to run more and you do not even hear the generator.

Last week we disembarked from a 4 days private gulet charter with friends.

We had 26 meters beatiful brand new boat with 4 cabins only.
We have choosen the menu beforehand and boat the beverages ourselves.
Thsi was not a exploring journey so 4 days Gocek to Marmaris gave us plenty of time to spend time swimming at magnificent bays. We told the captain our concern is only relaxing and any extra time there is, we want to swim. ( coming from Cappadocia you only want to swim ofcourse
We avoid busy bays but found hidden coves, we did not have any neighbouring boat more than two and no partying. If we did not liked the environment we moved, so captain was good at navigating silent areas.

Cabins were spacy, food was excellent, crew was gentle and very polite.

It was not cheap but not expensive either (maybe because we were all travel professionals)
One night we all slept on deck and was great fun to wake up and wash face in the sea. Evening swims with glass of cold chardonnay in hand was the most memorable. In the high august A/C to run before sleeping time gives you enough atmosphere to go into a cool cabin and sleeping is comfortable. One morning towards the sunrise we wake up and went on sleeping on deck.

As a resume of my recent experience and what I know of Gulets:

Book gulet with reputable company, get the specs and the information about the crew, decide about the food beforehand, decide on the route and be clear of your aim of this gulet holiday, avoid cabin charters or accept this is going to be a gambleyou have 50% - %50 chance to enjoy.

Happy travelling,

Murat

(can not await next years gulet sailing, 4 days with family members , 4 days with friends and one portion is already booked!)
propertravel is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 04:56 AM
  #5  
ira
 
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>Evening swims with glass of cold chardonnay in hand ...<

How do you do that without spilling the wine?

ira is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 10:47 AM
  #6  
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Thanks to the last two posters for their input. Just to be clear-we did book with what was considered a reputable company. I was well aware that A/C only operated for a maximum of 6 hours a day but was not aware that part of that would be in the afternoon when the captain was taking a nap. When we did tell the captain that it was simply too hot to sleep below deck, he then extended the A/C later into the evening. It was helpful, but given that we had an older gulet, the A/C was more effective in some cabins than in others. You should be aware that the time of our cruise was exceptionally hot. We had temperatures in the mid 40's C with a hot breeze.

Part of the problem was the age of our gulet and lack of proper cabin servicing. I knew enough to chater a gulet that was newer (i.e. less than 5 years) but unfortunately we had a last minute substitution. If you charter-you pay in advance and are really in the hands of your broker and what he or she can find available if there is a problem with the original gulet.

As I said, our experience had both positive and negative aspects. We have travelled a lot and had a baseline of expectation due to prior crewed and cabin charters that we have done in other parts of the world.

By all means try a gulet- it is a great way to spend time with family or a group of close friends. We also had very good luck with a cabin charter and have maintained friendships with the couple that we met several years ago.

One other thing-we are non-smokers. If this is important to you and your family, you should address it upfront. Many people in Turkey smoke and our entire crew was no exception. They were extremely charming and polite but our limited Turkish and their limited English made communication a challenge sometimes.

The captain was very good at finding quiet bays but could not control those other gulets that would join us very late at night. By then it was too late to move. Few people realize the extent to which their voices (or music) carries over water.

As to swimming with a cool glass of Chardonnay-just ease yourself down the ladder-glass in hand and back gently into the water with glass hand extended in the air-Cheers!
pirouette is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 11:01 AM
  #7  
 
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>How do you do that without spilling the wine?

I did not do this, but could have. The water is EXTREMELY salty and bouyant there ( more than I have ever experienced before) so that helps.
WTnow is offline  
Aug 15th, 2007, 08:21 PM
  #8  
 
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Boy, Sorry to hear your Gulet trip was not magical (like ours). Our ship was certainly not luxe, we too had to sleep on mats on the sun deck, but I loved it. And I am a middle aged proper, (what's the word?.....Soccer mom, only older. I love the nicer things in life, but when we travel I just try to go with the flow, whatever it is! What's that saying, "the most important thing to bring on your trip is your sense of humor". I'm a believer. On our gulet, whe rented a cabin and there were 4 Americans, and 5 Germans. We had a Captain, a Cook and a, I don't know, I called him our babysitter. He saw to our needs which was quite a feat because the crew only spoke Turkish and French, so the only way we communicated with everyone was through hand signals and some pigeon German, English and French. It was wonderful though. It was also only 4 days from Antalya to Kas and I hope to do it again. It's not what I ever expected, I heard the word yacht, and imagined a JackieO experience, but just as well. It was truly an experience that was completely out of my reality, but thats what I like about travel. I could stay home and go to the lake, if all I wanted was comforts of home. I also think if I would have taken my kids or friends I would be worried about their experience, and maybe that's why you didn't enjoy it as much as you could have. You felt responsible for their good time. Oh well, live and learn.
zwho is offline  
Aug 16th, 2007, 07:32 AM
  #9  
Lee
 
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Please do post the name of the lax company. At those prices, checking the state of the boat more than a day ahead is mandatory. I noted very poor business practices involving my gulet cruise last year. You should post on Trip Advisor, if you have not done so.
Lee is offline  
Aug 16th, 2007, 09:14 AM
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Hi Pirouette;
I understand the circumstances of your gulet cruise and feel sorry for the part you did not enjoy.I posted my experience with notes for future gulet cruisers sake additionally to yours.

Changing the gulet a day before part is really pitty.

If guests are non smokers crew can be asked at least to smoke outside of the kitchen area. Generally smoking in cabins are not allowed. Within our crew only the cook was a smoker for a chance.

WTnow & Ira, I was on the water and holding the glass with chardonnay pretty easy, some of our frineds tried the spahetties long clorful stick you can bend and sit on and provided almost on every gulet, one friend had a waterbed with spaces between air tubes like glass holders, he was replacing cans of cold Efes beer in them. I could post a picture if you want and try next time Or I am happy to join you to show & train how to drink on the water...Any possibilty to swim and drink is apportunity to me.......just kidding...but really its a nice experience especially when the water is very bouyant as WT said.

Greetings from Sunny Cappadocia (ooops, now rain started all of a sudden)

Murat
propertravel is offline  
Aug 16th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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All this talk about drinking wine while swimming is making me wonder ... is the ocean at Rhodes equally salty? I don't think I'll have time to go swimming in Turkey but Rhodes is a possibility ... maybe a probability if you folks tell me that I can drink my wine while floating in the water.

Where's BudMan when I need him?
MikeBuckley is offline  
Aug 17th, 2007, 02:17 AM
  #12  
 
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Yes Mike you can also do that at Rhodos......Actually more your skills are developped you can do it on every water
I am getting there...........

Cheers,
Murat
propertravel is offline  
Aug 17th, 2007, 05:00 AM
  #13  
 
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Actually more your skills are developped you can do it on every water

Okay. I'll practice in the bathtub.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Aug 17th, 2007, 12:23 PM
  #14  
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A couple of you have requested that a post the name of the yacht broker that arranged our gulet cruise. The internet is a very powerful tool and a great equalizer for travellers seeking information above and beyond that which is provided by travel agents, hotels and the travel industry generally. It can also potentially destroy a small business and someone's livilihood. I do not wish that consequence to befall the broker that we dealt with.

Part of the problem was the time of year that we chartered the gulet-our Turkish travel agent who made our land arrangements declined to arrange the gulet portion of our trip. They maintained that it was difficult to find a reputable agency that would book a gulet for less than a week in high season. There were also concerns about the availablity of gulets-many of the good ones are already chartered out for longer trips at that time of year. There will always be a broker/gulet agent who will take your money, but with a limted supply of available gulets, they may not be able to meet expectations with the product that is ultimately offered/available.

There are exceptions-we were offered another gulet through a different broker-apparently an American family had to abbreviate a previously booked two week cruise. it was available for part of the time we wanted, but the dates did not match up as well with the rest of our itinerary. I had also made a commitment to our original broker which I felt duty bound to honour. The gulet we were supposed to have also fell within the category of an exceptional circumstance. it was a private gulet not usually available for charters. It was relatively new and the owners had agreed to make it available for four days in July. This gulet was available through our broker and not part of any charter fleet.

We got a telephone call in our hotel about three hours before embarkation. Our broker advised that the original gulet had been "sold" and the broker had only learned of it in the last few days. The new owners were not prepared to honour the charter commitment and had actually changed the cabin configuration on the gulet. it would no longer have been suitable even if it had still been avaialble.
I suspect the broker took whatever gulet was available on 24-48 hours notice. Apparently inspections of available gulets were carried out the day before and the broker felt "comfortable" with the substitution because we were ultimately getting a larger gulet with a crew of three instead of two. The gulet was much older than the one we originally booked-but it didn't really matter because at that point we didn't really have any other availble options. The gulet itself was not awful-I was just expecting better.

Could our broker have done more? Maybe. It is hard to know if this was just an unfortunate set of circumstances converging at a time when there was limited availability.

Just to be clear-the broker we used was not through a random selection on the internet. The agency was a recommended broker on another well-known Turkey travel site. Some changes have been made to that site and individual yacht brokers are no longer being recommended. It is suggested that those seeking a glet charter use a travel agent. That is probably good advice.

If you do wish to deal directly with a broker or gulet operator, then I would strongly suggest that you take the time to ask for references-and take the time to check them.

I should add that our sons enjoyed the gulet very much-they just found the cruise too long. Swimming and kayaking was not enough activity to sustain their interest for four days.
My review may have been less critical had this been our first charter experience. It was no and we knew what we could and should expect.

Maintain a sense of humour and go with reasonalble expectations and you will likely have a wonderful time.

pirouette is offline  
Aug 17th, 2007, 05:47 PM
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pirouete, I applaud your well balanced, sensitive review of the situation, especially your decision to decline posting the name of the broker. Sometimes truly unusual situations can happen beyond a business person's control and such situations command a commensurately unusual response. Your response is appropriate.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Aug 17th, 2007, 06:11 PM
  #16  
 
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Very interesting report. Sounds like you make lemonade out of lemons. Many would be screaming mad at less than what you put up with. It's great that you could still enjoy it.

When we went to Turkey a few years ago we debated the gulet thing back and forth and finally decided against it for some of the reasons you mention -- mainly the close quarters and unknown travel mates (since there are only two of us charter wasn't considered). When we got to Marmaris, we had fun walking along the docks and being approached by many people wanting to show us their gulets and trying to sell us a cruise on the spot very cheap even for just the two of us ("we can stock up and depart tomorrow"). That was the end of May or first of June and there were dozens available. We declined, but I've always sort of regretted it.

But frankly it would take a lot to get me to do it when when the heat is something like 45 -- AC or not. Wow! For the Celsius challenged -- that's 113 F.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 08:08 AM
  #17  
 
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Hi Pirouette;
I also liked the way you approach the issue with one incident could cause end of business via internets strenght.
I gather you found the overall service acceptable as you mention in different words. Hope you try again sometime and find what you look for and have even more fun as your sons will be older by than.

Greetings & regards,
Murat
propertravel is offline  

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