“ Captain: Mehmet Kucuksemerci „
This year we decided to have a two stage holiday and chose to return to Turkey, where we had had a very enjoyable holiday the previous year. We returned to the same area, south-west Turkey, but to a different destination and style of holiday. The first week would be aboard a gulet, cruising around the coast, and the second week, land-based, at a hotel, either to get over our cruise, if it proved less than successful, or to continue to chill out but enjoy a little more variety. Cruises are very much more about the company you keep than about the cruise itself. In bad company a cruise can be a nightmare: there's no getting away from them. We needn't have worried, our fellow guests were a delight. The cruise was booked through Anatolian Sky, who also booked our hotel for the second week, and arranged the transport between each leg of the holiday. We had arrived at Dalaman Airport and were to pick up our gulet - Semercioglu IV - at Selimiye. The cruise would journey around the coast arriving finally at Marmaris, from where we would travel on to Turunc for our second week. Selimiye turned out to be nothing more than a very small village, which was a pity because I had been hoping to change Sterling into Turkish Lira, for spending money. As it turned out, unlike Kalkan, where we had stayed last year, there was nowhere here to change money. The only facility for obtaining Turkish currency here was a single ATM! Selimiye is, apparently, a popular port for gulet cruises, judged by the number of such boats moored in the small harbour. Our host's boat was the first in line and clearly a very new one, judged by the excellent condition in which we found it. We left our luggage at the foot of the gangplank and climbed up towards the deck. Here we were asked to take off our shoes; barefoot is definitely the order of the day. Our shoes were lodged in a cabinet so that we could easily reclaim them when we went ashore. We were greeted by Captain Mehmet and his delightful daughter, together with their three man crew, who would look after us for the week. We were shown to our cabins and shortly after, our luggage was delivered. We had been recommended to use soft bags that would squash down, so as not to take up too much space. In fact, our cabin was quite generous in the space available: the large double bed far from took up all the space available. The cabin even had its own en suite! In fact, a couple of opportunities were missed and mistakes made when the boat was built: The bench seat next to the bed had a lift up cushion and, underneath it, a removable lid but the inside was unfinished, so making it unsuitable for storage; the dressing table and mirror were in the far corner of the room, with no overhead lighting, so making it entirely unsuitable for purpose; the toilet seat was facing in completely the wrong direction, so making getting on and off of it a real ordeal! However, apart from these significant oversights, the accommodation was pretty good. Our first day was one of settling in and getting to know our fellow guests. This particular boat has nine cabins so, for our cruise, there were about a dozen on board. We remained moored overnight to depart the following day. Our first night's sleep let us know what to expect: each cabin is equipped with an air conditioning unit but it is only available to use for about three hours in the early evening. It is at this time that the captain switches on the electricity generator so this is also the time when you should be recharging your iPods, laptops and so on. In order that the cool air doesn't escape you need to remember to close the portholes in your cabin. Generally we found that it did make a difference but that the cabin temperature did increase during the night. I was prepared to sleep there but my wife often found it too hot. The alternative is to find somewhere up on deck, on one of the areas where you can chill out during the day. It was advisable to find somewhere under one of the canopies as there was always a very heavy dew every morning and, if you were out under the open skies, you would get soaked! It was also advisable to cover yourself with insect repellent. In some, though not all, locations it was evident that mosquitoes were abundant, especially in some ports like Marmaris, where we got bitten something rotten. Although this area is not a malaria hazard, my wife did come back with what looked suspiciously like West Nile Virus! We never got bitten in the cabins. The week consisted of cruising slowly from one bay to another, stopping on the way at any interesting locations. The cruising was all done under power as the boat had yet (at the time of our cruise) to be equipped with sails. I understand that sails were being made; we had just selected our cruise before they ere delivered and fitted. We did see other gulets under sail but winds were generally light and most were under power as well. Wherever we stopped for a while there was the option to swim or to be taken ashore on the boat's inflatable. Mostly we would swim, which we could do right from the boat, from the steps let down to water level. The water was crystal clear wherever we went and clean. However, snorkelling was a bit of a disappointment as nowhere did we find anything really interesting below the surface. I didn't even get to use the waterproof cover I bought for my new camera! The boat was equipped with mattresses all over, both out in the open and under the canopies and, if watching the world sail past started to get a bit too much you could retire to one of these and chat with your fellow guests, read or listen to music, or all three. Or drink... The boat operates on one of two basis for drinks: you can either pay an up-front payment of £150 per person or £300 for a couple and drink whatever, whenever; or else you can pay for what you drink, when you drink it. Now, £150 of alcohol in a week sounds an awful lot but with a bottle of wine valued at £17, it would soon get used up. Most guests seem to go for the former and assume that everyone else has as well, with the result that you may find someone else dipping into your bottle, even if you are on the latter option, which can be embarrassing. In practice, they don't actually keep track of how much you have to drink and, to be fair, on our cruise, everyone drank responsibly. However, there is a certain amount of booze on board when the boat starts the cruise and no more is bought if it runs out. A group of Australians who took the whole boat for a cruise, drank the bar dry on the first day; they had a dry cruise for the rest of the week, serves them right! No sympathy with these idiots who seem to think that they have to live up to the stereotype. Our food was certainly very healthy, with lots of fresh salads and vegetables. It did tend to be a bit unvarying though. One of the guests caught fish on a line trailed behind the boat and the chef cooked them for us in addition to the food supplied. I have to say that the fish, not quite sure what it was but I've never seen anything like it before, was probably the tastiest of the whole cruise! However, we didn't really have any complaints about what was supplied and, I suppose, there is limited opportunity for fine dining on a boat as small as this one. The shore visits where wherever we arrived at an interesting port. We had a chance to have a look around these small towns and often found that we all joined up at a suitable bar for a drink and a chat, even though that was what we did much of the time on board! At one location we were joined by the captain and his daughter as well. So, what was the overall verdict? Well, we certainly enjoyed our time very much and would have no hesitation in doing it again. Of course, you are very much at the mercy of whatever guests are also aboard and there is nothing you can do about that. Was it a perfect cruise? No, there were still things that could be better and we also were disappointed that the boat was not at that time equipped with sails and that we therefore had to travel around solely by engine power. The crew, however, could not have been more friendly and welcoming and we did everything we could not to abuse their hospitality.