The Turquoise Riviera Feature
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The most charming way to visit the Turquoise Riviera, or the Aegean Coast, is on a Blue Cruise, on a gulet—a wooden motor yacht or sailboat. Time has done remarkably little to spoil the crystal clear waters, pine-clad inlets, and limpid lagoons. This will be one of the most unforgettable holidays you've ever had, but there is some organization necessary.
How much will it cost? Gulets come in all shapes and sizes, the majority with between 4 and 12 two-person cabins. To hire your own boat, prices work out to between $80 to $150 per person per day in July and August, about half that in April or October. Most charter on terms that cover all but food and drink. After a discussion with the boat's cook, you and a member of the crew go to the local supermarket and load up. Cabin charters—when you join a group of strangers—are generally on an all-inclusive basis, and start at about $300 per week.
When to go? May is pretty, uncrowded, and charters are cheap, but the water is cooler. June is warm and still not too busy. July and August are hotter, busier, and more expensive. September and early October are often perfect at sea, but the mountainsides are less green.
Other things to consider are how long you have and which port is closest to the sites you want to see. Fethiye is a major jumping-off point, as are Bodrum, Marmaris, and Göcek. Ideally, two weeks are needed to see the whole coast from Bodrum to Antalya, but most travelers only have a week.
Look for a boat with a large area for relaxing in the stern and a good flat space on the foredeck for sleeping outside in hot weather. Don't accept anything too squashed: eight cabins in a boat under 80 feet is too much. If you're out in July and August, look for air-conditioning—and enough power-generation capacity for it. Ask about extras like a windsurfer or kayaks.
The captain is important, too. Make sure you can communicate, and if you're arranging the cruise from abroad, insist on a telephone conversation before sending your deposit. Look for someone who listens to your wishes, and be wary if you are met with a patronizing "leave-it-all-to-me" attitude. If you want to sail rather than motor, you need to be doubly sure you have the right vessel. When you get to the boat, check the captain's license, insist on seeing life vests, and test emergency equipment like radios.
If you're hiring a boat after you've arrived in Turkey, you can walk down the quayside and haggle, but this can be a risky in high season. Most people book months ahead. Look for operators registered with both the Turkish Association of Travel Agencies (TURSAB) and the Chamber of Shipping.
On the Internet there are sites for individual boats, and large agencies operating from major ports. For Marmaris, try www.yesilmarmaris.com. Fethiye is popular, with www.albatrosyachting.com, www.bethereyachting.com, www.compassyachting.com, www.fethiyeyachting.com, or www.alestayachting.com. Antalya is served by www.olymposyachting.com.
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