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Sun, sea, and anything else you might want from a good holiday will be found on a gulet cruise.
We first went on a gulet holiday in 1998 and became, like most other gulet guests, instantly hooked and have since returned twice. We went with Virgin Sun in October 1999 which was their first year offering gulet cruises.
Gulets are traditional wooden boats with accommodation for up to 16 people. they sail around the exquisite coast of Turkey stopping in idyllic bays and occasionally in larger ports.
A gulet holiday is special for several reasons: sailing is is the most relaxing way to travel, dress is very casual - shorts T-shirts, swimwear or nothing, shoes are not worn on board; and the beautiful, warm turquoise sea is always available for swimming, water sports or fishing.
There are thousands of gulets sailing in the area and one’s enjoyment of the holiday in these mini floating hotels is heavily dependent on the crew and your travelling companions.
In this opinion, which I should warn you is quite long, I will tell you about our experience with Virgin covering the flights, and reps and how the holiday compared with the brochure description and previous gulet cruises.
The flights both ways in the ‘big yellow banana’ were very good. There were no delays at all which made a refreshing change. I was very impressed with all aspects of the flight and the way Virgin made the flight actually part of the holiday. In fact I would go as far to say the flights with Virgin were the best we have experienced on a package holiday.
As we boarded we were given newspapers and comics and children were given goody bags. Soon after take off we were offered ice-lollies which was fun.
There was as very useful safety film regarding safety while on holiday shown during the flight which was entertaining as well. The food on the flight was a bit different from the norm – I think it included a baguette filled with chicken and roast Mediterranean vegetables.
Another thing that made a good impression was the fact that when I mentioned to one of the hostesses that I suffered badly from pain in my ears she offered to bring me some karvol and this really helped.
The reps were very nice and friendly but absolutely no use at all. They really didn’t seem to know anything about gulet holidays and I think they should be better informed. Being on a gulet is very different from a hotel based holiday because you are quite isolated most of the time – although there is always phone and radio contact if necessary. I think it would be better if the rep had phoned up on a daily basis and spoken to a guest just to check if there were any problems.
There are two things in particular that I think the reps should have been aware of. First and most important is safety. I think there should have been a specific safety talk when we arrived on board. There were 2 non swimmers on board and it turned out that we did not even have any life –jackets until we asked for them. Also in several bays there was algae in the water and people were unsure if it was safe to swim – the Captain said he didn’t know.
Another problem which is apparently very common on gulets is cockroaches. I think the rep should tactfully explain this problem because discovering this for yourself can come as quite a nasty shock.
The Adonis was a standard gulet and fairly typical. The cabins are very small – not much bigger than a double bed. There is one cupboard and two drawers in which to keep everything so it gets very cramped. In high season, however, most people hardly use their cabins – most sleep outside on deck.
The en suite is equally small. Ours had a shower cubicle, toilet and basin. The brochure says that there is hot and cold water but the Adonis did not have hot water – the element was broken apparently. Whether you get hot water is luck of the draw on gulets and in Turkey generally. On previous cruises we had an endless supply of hot water when we weren’t expecting any but the shower was a hand held variety – not in a cubicle.
The brochure says the toilet is pump action but on the Adonis we had the luxury of electric flush action. But pump action ones aren’t too bad when you get used to them. What does come as a shock is the fact that you don’t flush paper in Turkey but this is put in a special bin.
On all gulet holidays the meals are included. The food is quite simple and very healthy but how excellent it is will largely depend on the cook. I’m afraid I did not think the cook on the Adonis was as good as on previous trips but that was just my opinion (I was vegetarian at the time and I think this annoyed the cook but on previous cruises there were several veggies and they were very well catered for)
Breakfast is always the same – cheese, cold meat, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Bread, honey and jam and boiled eggs, omelettes or eggy bread with tea and coffee. Lunch is usually a one course cooked meal and Dinner will have two courses. Sometimes there will be a barbecue.
For more information on the the meals, accommodation, and gulets in general you could look at http://www.bluecruiseturkey.com/index.html
The best thing about the Virgin gulet cruise is the fact that it is ALL INCLUSIVE. On other gulet cruises water is provided with meals but all other drinks have to paid for. The drinks on the gulet are a bit over priced compared to shore prices and being on board most of the time you really don’t get any option. Virgin’s all inclusive gulet cruise caused quite a stir in the area and when we met up with captains we knew they commented that we were on the ‘free drinks’ gulet.
We were able to help ourselves to drinks whenever we wanted – tea, coffee, soft drinks or wine, beer and spirits. But unlike previous cruises there was no ice available for drinks.
The brochure lists the following attractions:
Free windsurfing – All the gulets I have been on have one sailboard, a couple of kayaks and some snokling equipment. On our holiday the sailboard was broken –it didn’t have a skeg. But one of the guests was not only a sailboard instructor he was also able to make a temporary spare part. If it had been left to the crew we wouldn’t have been able to use it.
Free use of snorkelling equipment – don’t rely on it. There were a few masks which leaked and no flippers. This was the case on the previous holidays too so take your own equipment. Another essential item is waterproof sandals or jelly shoes as there are a lot of sharp stones and spiky anemones about.
Sunbathing towels – weren’t offered and annoyingly I hadn’t packed any.
Air conditioning – not on ours there wasn’t but I know there is on others.
On board library – this seems to comprise a few books which previous guests have left behind. I was very disappointed that they do not have any books or information at all about places of interest in the area.
Ideal for family – I don’t think this holiday is really suitable for children.
In fairness to Virgin I don’t think their description is any different to other travel brochures describing the same holiday. The faults lie with the gulet owners and is something one has to put up with.
The brochure gives no indication that the gulet hardly docks in a harbour for the duration of the cruise. It actually only goes into port one or two night of the holiday unless the guests really demand it. This comes as a surprise to most people and could be a major problem for those who don’t swim. I think the brochure is quite misleading in this respect. The itinerary is as follows in the brochure:
Fri - Ekincik bay – the brochure mentions an ‘after dinner stroll’ which seems to imply landing. Sat – Dalyan. This is billed as an optional trip. It is a fabulous day out but it is not really optional because if one does not go on the trip the gulet remains all day moored in the middle of a busy (rather diesel fumy) bay so it is not much fun. The Dalyan trip however is really excellent we have been on a full day trip which cost £12 including lunch and a half day trip for £6. You travel up the Dalyan river passing ancient rock tombs, a visit to the ancient ruined city of Caunos and on to the mud baths and hot springs. Sun – Gocek was the only stop we made in a port. Gocek is a small one street town with several bars and a few shops. There is a wonderful ‘traditional’ bar which has lots of open fires and low tables with cushions and huge hookahs to have a go with. We had a wonderful impromptu “Turkish evening’ there. The host encouraged us to dance, gave us instruments to play and hats and wigs to wear. He said he could have arranged a belly dancer if we had phoned to say we were coming. Mon – stop at Olu Deniz - Not only does it say this in the brochure but the rep also told us we would have a wonderful day there. In fact it is not possible to land at Olu Deniz because there are restrictions on the number of boats to stop the area being spoiled. In fairness to our Captain he did suggest that we could go into Fetiye a day early and he would arrange a bus to take us to Olu Deniz so we could enjoy it properly. Unfortunately the weather changed – it was the last week of the season - so we didn’t bother. Tues – Cove with a few tavernas – seems to imply landing but we didn’t. Wed – We went into Fetiye a day early as planned.
All the captains have their favourite bays and stopping places and will follow their own itinerary unless persuaded otherwise. On previous cruises we often stopped close to land or at least we were offered the choice of going onto land by the tender So this problem, if it is seen as a problem, affects all gulet cruises and again is not Virgin’s fault. But perhaps they should make some things a bit clearer in the brochure.
Most brochures tell you about the relaxing tranquil nature of these holidays but they don't tell you about the nightlife. This varies from cruise to cruise depending entirely upon the guests. It can be party night every night or relaxing after dinner chat under the stars. The crew normally 'entertain' at least once during a cruise. We have experienced amongst other things several large captains, dressed in ladies underwear, belly dancing on the table; a midnight sail to capture the captain of another gulet, games with potatoes string and matchboxes and of course parties. Parties usually occur when several boats are moored in the same 'quiet' bay.
All in all it is the best holiday we have ever had and everyone we sailed with also felt the same. Highly recommended.