Many have lamented the loss of the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Catering to a much younger crowd than the big ships, their small wooden vessels would ply the azure waters of the Caribbean with only 60-100 passengers. Famed for their onboard parties and themed nights, they were responsible for many lifelong friendships and more than a few romances. While they have sadly not operated since 2007, those seeking to mellow out aboard a small yacht with the young and the young at heart should know they still could. Not in the Caribbean, but in the Mediterranean with a Turkish Blue Cruise.
I first heard of these cruises in 2006 during a week spent in the backpacker hangout/ancient city of Olympos, Turkey. Utilizing 20-25 meter wooden yachts known as Gullets, Blue Cruises travel between various cities and villages along Turkey’s southern “Turquoise Coast”. Available ports include Marmaris, Izmir, Fethiye, Olympos, Kas, and the regional capital of Antalya. The most popular is the three night/four day run between Fethiye and Olympos. This was the journey I chose. In peak season, this cruise goes for $250 US per person and $205 pp in the shoulder seasons before mid May and after mid September. The fare is for a double cabin and includes hotel transfer, all meals and tea or coffee with breakfast. Other drinks, including water and soft drinks are not included, but can be purchased from the crew on a tab basis.
My starting point of Fethiye is no stranger to the tourist trade. The city is known as Little Britain for the charter flights that everyday bring hundreds of sun seekers from the likes of Manchester and Leeds to the nearby Dalaman airport. English is widely spoken, and the exchange rates are posted daily outside the restaurants and carpet shops. A double room with breakfast can be had for $36 US a night at the pleasant Duygu Pension, a ten minute walk along the shore from the harbor. Traveling solo, I opted for the dorm at Ferah Pension across the street. Located atop the Pension building, the dorm affords jaw dropping views of the bay and of the many ships, including the catamaran ferry to the Greek Island of Rhodes. A comfy bed and delicious Turkish breakfast set me back all of $11 US. They also offer a small swimming pool and free pick up from the city bus terminal. Dining in town is not cheap, but there are plenty of options. Many restaurants advertise “Authentic Turkish Cuisine and English Spoken”. I chose instead to visit the downtown fish market. Here you can select your favorite from the catch of the day, then take it next door to be prepared to your liking.
During my 2006 visit, many fellow travelers had either warned me about, or encouraged me to use certain ships. These were typically because the person had either found the ship to be too raucous, with drunken debauchery until the wee hours, or the opposite, too boring. I carefully considered all this advice, then completely ignored it and asked the manager of my Pension to book my cruise for me. I was a little apprehensive as the minivan pulled up to take me to my ship, seeing that my days of drunken debauchery are some years behind me.
I had no reason to fear. My ship was called the Kubra, and my shipmates were a great bunch from all over the globe. Among them was London/Houston couple, both of them IT consultants, two men from Barcelona, two young women from Korea, and a Turkish grandmother, a nurse like myself, celebrating her fiftieth birthday with her best friend of many years. The Captain, known simply as “Captain”, his wife and school-age daughter made a total of 12 people aboard.