By David Barclay | September 21, 2022
One of the things I enjoy about planning travel is learning new and exciting options to see the world. I also like the opportunity to try new travel experiences myself, as these tend to be the most memorable parts of my personal travel. Upon returning, I love to share the highlights with my clients and create excitement for them to also partake of these travel options.
This fall my wife and I were scheduled to take a 15-day cruise around the Black Sea on one of our favorite ultra-luxury cruise lines. Needless to say, that sailing was cancelled earlier this year and we were left to look for other travel options. One aspect of the cancelled itinerary we were drawn to was an overnight port stay in Istanbul, a city we have not previously visited. I therefore began investigating options for a ~2-week trip to Turkey which would include a multi-day stop in Istanbul. While I was sad to be prevented from taking another voyage by water, Turkey is an incredible country with lots to see. To my delight, while I was brainstorming options with my on-the-ground team at Sea Song Tours, they suggested I consider chartering a Turkish gulet for part of our trip and sail the Turkish coast. My wife and I loved this idea, which would allow us to combine our passions for travel by both land and sea.
In future blog posts I’ll provide details on our trip, both the cities we visited and our experience on the gulet. Today I wanted to share the basics of chartering a gulet. I met with my resident expert, Mustafa Acar from Sea Song Tours, for an in-depth discussion of this interesting option for exploring Turkey. I will not be able to detail everything I learned in this blog post, if you are interested in learning more and think a Turkish gulet charter might be right for you, please reach out so we can discuss!
Turkish Gulets 101
What is a Turkish Gulet
Turkish gulets are traditionally designed one, two or three mast wooden sailing vessels. While gulets share a similar design, they are typically custom built and therefore have their own personalities and charm. Gulets typically range in size from 20-40 meters and have 3-9 cabins, with room for 6-18 guests. Gulets are fully crewed and generally the number of crew members is equal to the number of cabins (though on some of the luxury gulets there may be additional crew members).
Types of Gulets
Gulets generally fall into one of four categories:
- Standard: This is the basic level of gulet. These gulets typically have 3-4 cabins and can accommodate up to 6-8 guests. Standard gulets will typically have a crew of 3-4.
- Deluxe: these gulets are generally larger than standard gulets, with 4-5 cabins and able to accommodate 8-10 guests. Typically have a crew of 4-5. Their larger size may allow for extra water toys (but be sure to check the spec sheet of any gulet you consider chartering if specific water toys are important to you).
- Luxury: Larger than deluxe gulets, these ships have 4-6 cabins and can accommodate 8-12 guests. They will have large crews and many extras that might include a jacuzzi, full bar in the salon and premium water toys.
- Super Luxury: Only a few ships in this category sail the Turkish coast. These ships can rival the size and amenities of a luxury motor yacht, and come with a charter price tag to match.
Is a Gulet Charter Right for You?
There are many reasons to charter a gulet but key among them is the freedom that having a privately chartered vessel brings. The gulet sails on your schedule and desired itinerary and you can change that itinerary if your interests and mood change as you sail. Feel like eating on shore for dinner, just tell your captain and he will advise of nearby ports with good dining options. Feel like swimming in a secluded cove, the ship will stay as long as you want. About anything is possible as long as the captain agrees that it won’t prohibit you from reaching your disembarkation port on time.
Gulet charters provide a private and casual voyage, and typically do not provide an adventure or expedition type experience. Expect to balance time between sailing to different locations along the Turkish coast and time spent enjoying those locations. Guests can spend their time relaxing onboard, playing in the Aegean waters, visiting ancient ruins, exploring deserted islands, sunbathing on uncrowded beaches, and visiting small coastal towns.
Gulet charters are very good for adults (friends or family) who want to travel together. But gulets can also be a good option for families with children and multigenerational trips. There are no age restrictions, but the gulet crews do not act as babysitters, so parents are responsible for supervising small children on board. Guests with disabilities can also enjoy a gulet charter, but should be cognizant of any limitations to their participation in the types of activities common on a gulet charter to ensure they do not feel they are missing out on some of the fun.
Where They Sail
Turkish gulets are typically harbored in either Bodrum or Gocek. Charters are typically 7 nights long, from Saturday to Saturday and can sail between Bodrum & Gocek or depart from and return to one of those two ports. If the itinerary is important, be sure to communicate this early in the chartering process. Individual gulet embarkation and disembarkation ports may be pre-determined by the itineraries planned for the prior and following weekly charters for that gulet.
Even though several Greek islands are relatively close to the Turkish coast, Turkish flagged gulets typically do not sail into Greek waters (and Greek flagged ships do not sail to the Turkish coast) as coast guards for each country are likely to stop and perform a multi-hour marine health inspection of foreign flagged vessels. There’s no better way to put a damper on a wonderful sailing experience than to have to sit through one of these marine inspections, so Turkish gulet captains will ensure they remain in Turkish waters for the duration of the charter. If you wish to visit both Greek and Turkish islands, please advise early in the chartering process.
It should also be noted that the areas where gulets sail, in sheltered waters near the coast of Turkey, are generally known for calm seas. Gulet hulls are also designed to provide a very smooth sailing experience. Those generally prone to motion and seasickness will find that sailing on a gulet can be a calm and enjoyable sailing experience.
While gulets have masts and sails, most of the time the ships will move from location to location using their motors. This is done mostly for expedience, both avoiding the time needed to raise and lower the sails, and because the ships generally travel faster when using their motors. If sailing the Aegean sea is important to you, be sure to mention this early in the chartering process to ensure the gulet chosen for your charter is properly crewed with enough deck hands to efficiently sail for part of your charter.
At a minimum, a gulet crew will consist of a captain, chef and deckhand. Larger gulets with 4+ crew will add more deckhands and stewards. The captain is responsible for sailing the ship and is assisted by the deckhands. The deckhands may also assist with the setup of the gulet’s amenities (sunbeds on deck, water toys, etc.). On smaller gulets, the chef is responsible for both preparing all meals, and for serving meals and beverages. On larger gulets with stewards, the chef focuses on food preparation and the stewards serve the meals and beverages. Not all gulet crews are fluent in English, so it’s important to work with a knowledgeable expert who can ensure at a minimum that your captain is fluent.
Chartering a Turkish Gulet
The chartering season for gulets runs from April to October. June to August is considered peak season while April/May and September/October are the shoulder seasons. Charter prices will be highest in peak season and lower in the shoulder season. Temperatures in peak season will be warm and humid, expect to use the onboard air-conditioning at night. September and early October can be a great time to charter a gulet, as temperatures have moderated some, but the weather is still enjoyable and the water temperatures are still pleasant for swimming and water activities.
The Chartering Process
To start the chartering process, you will need to determine your desired sailing dates, your desired embarkation/disembarkation ports, number of guests (with ages) and your budget. With this information, your charter expert will identify a select group of available gulets that meet your criteria. Specifications and pictures of each gulet, along with a price quote for your desired sailing dates will be provided for review. Once you have selected your desired gulet, a contract will be signed by you and the charter representative and a deposit collected. Final payment is typically due 90 days prior to embarkation.
You will also be asked to complete a charter questionnaire that will collect guest details, diet & medical details, food preferences, and general interest in a variety of available activities. The crew utilizes this information to prepare for your arrival, so it’s important to accurately complete the questionnaire.
What’s Included and What’s Not
The charter rate typically includes:
- Fuel (typically up to 4 hours cruising per day)
- Use of air-conditioning (typically up to 12hr per day)
- All harbor taxes & dues within the Turkish territorial waters
- Use of the water sports (fuel extra charge)
- Internet (sufficient bandwidth for email & social media)
Items not included in the base charter rate include:
- Value Added Tax (VAT): 18% of base charter rate
- Crew gratuity (5-15% of the base charter rate, 15% is typical for good service)
- Alcoholic beverages (see Food & Beverage Provisioning below)
- Food & soft drinks (see Food & Beverage Provisioning below)
- Fuel cost for water sports and leisure use of the tender (you can pay the captain directly)
- Optional shore activities & tours
- Personal expenses
- Private marina fees (if requested by guests)
- Transfers from/to harbor/airport/hotel
Food & Beverage Provisioning
Food and non-alcoholic beverage fees are added to the base charter rate based on the number of guests and the length of the charter. While some gulets may offer a half board option (breakfast and either lunch or dinner) it is generally recommended to go with a full board package. The cost is generally reasonable and not significantly more than a half board package, and provides day by day flexibility to decide whether to eat on the gulet or at a restaurant while visiting a seaside town. The crew will utilize the information you provide in your charter questionnaire to determine which food/beverage items to provision for your charter.
Alcohol can be purchased in town prior to embarkation or procured in advance by the crew. My team at Sea Song Tours informed me that it is relatively easy for guests to procure their own beverages in Bodrum or Gocek (I will validate the ease next week when we embark on our charter). Crew procured beverages include a service fee/markup but have the advantage of being onboard when guests arrive. My post trip blog will compare the pros/cons and costs of both options. For guests who like cocktails, they will also need to procure any other required ingredients (other than fruit juices requested on the charter questionnaire).
Base charter rates vary based on the classification of the gulet and the time of year. Below is a rough guide, though formal quotes are required to determine exact pricing:
- Standard: €1,200 – 2,400 per day
- Deluxe: €2,000 – 4,000 per day
- Luxury: €4,000 – 10,000 per day
- Super Luxury: €10,000 – 30,000 per day
Full board food and non-alcoholic beverages will cost roughly €100/guest/day.
An 18% Value Added Tax will be added to the base charter fare and while tipping is completely optional, guests typically tip the crew 5-15% of the base charter fare at the end of the charter (with 15% being typical for good service).
While in total a gulet charter can rival the cost of many other luxury travel options, when broken down on a per cabin or per guest basis a gulet charter can be very reasonable for the luxury experience it delivers. Here are a few representative examples of gulet charter costs:
Standard Gulet – Peak Season (3 cabins, 6 guests)
|Base Charter Rate||€1,825/night||7 nights||€12,775|
|Full Board||€100/guest/night||42 (6 guests x 7 nights)||€4,200|
|Total per guest||€3,212|
Deluxe Gulet – Peak Season (4 cabins, 8 guests)
|Base Charter Rate||€2,400/night||7 nights||€16,800|
|Full Board||€100/guest/night||56 (8 guests x 7 nights)||€5,600|
|Total per guest||€3,178|
Luxury Gulet – Peak Season (4 cabins, 8 guests)
|Base Charter Rate||€4,300/night||7 nights||€30,100|
|Full Board||€100/guest/night||56 (8 guests x 7 nights)||€5,600|
|Total per guest||€5,140|
Intrigued by the idea of a gulet charter?
If a gulet charter sounds appealing to you, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss in more detail.
Owner, Barclay & Company Travel
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