The main perk of working in Turkey's tourism industry is, of course, partaking in the same travel itineraries that we plan for others. What's more, in our efforts to perfect our own annual Blue Cruise vacation, we gain valuable experience to incorporate into our suggestions and guidance for clients. Win-win!
This year was one of our best trips yet, thanks to a hilarious group of friends and a brilliant route. But there were a couple of snags, as can be expected when you're trying to assemble a group of people coming from various parts of the world. No matter - these are the experiences we learned from, and will avoid next time around!
Without further ado, I give you
THE BLUE CRUISE 2015 TRAVEL LOG
or "The Real World Bozburun '15"
Day 1: Marmaris
We flew into Dalaman airport the first morning, where we had a transfer van waiting to bring us to the port of Marmaris. Well, most of us did. With guests flying in from California, the UK, Germany, Italy, and Istanbul, it's hardly surprising that there were a few unavoidable delays along the way. Because of a flight mix-up that morning, we got off to a late start on the boat, but it easily could have been a lot worse. Next time around, we'll have our friends meet the night before departure in the port city, to allow more of a buffer zone for possible delays.
There was a silver lining to having a few hours to kill before we embarked - we were in Marmaris! The boat was docked by Marmaris' old city, which is a charming hillside labyrinth of narrow streets draped in bougainvillea. Some of our group went off in search of peṣtemals - thin Turkish hamam towels. We advise all our friends to bring a couple of these versatile towels to the boat, as they pack easily and ensure you'll always have a dry towel on hand. The rest of us went to pick up some floaty beds and noodles (also the floaty kind, not pasta.) Sometimes the boat already has noodles, but as the sea water destroys them very quickly and they cost about 2 lira per noodle, we like to stock up anyway.
By the early afternoon we had assembled our entire group of 12 on the boat and were more than ready to get the show on the road. There was one last thing to do, however, and that was to go through customs. The route we planned this year took us from Marmaris and the coast of Turkey on the first night straight to Rhodes the following morning, so we needed to officially exit Turkey before we left the port. This is not generally a long or arduous process, but if you do plan a Blue Cruise that takes you between Turkey and the Greek islands, be prepared to spend some time and money paying for the right to cross borders. It is definitely worth it. But by this point on our first day, having already been delayed, we were itching to swim!
Finally, mid-afternoon, customs completed, we were on our way. It was glorious.
We stopped for the night in Kadırga Koyu, which is a beautiful cove, but still quite close to Marmaris. There were already several boats moored there (we were a bit late to the party), but it was the first and last cove we anchored in that was even remotely "crowded." But nothing mattered by that point. We swam, we had wine, there was fish on the grill.
I will take this moment to tell you generally about the food we ate on board, because I can't possibly remember the precise menus for each meal, nor would that be interesting to read. The first night was pretty special though, because we had mountains of seafood. They served us octopus salad, fried calamari, shrimps sautéed in butter, and whole grilled sea breams. Along side all that came various salads and vegetable dishes. We had a seafood feast one other night during the trip, but they also served us mouthwatering grilled chicken, pasta with freshly made tomato and olive sauce, cauliflower salad with yogurt, mücver (zucchini fritters), eggplant and potato salad with tomato sauce, haydari (strained yogurt with fresh herbs) and lots more. I wish I had pictures of our meals for this blog, but the honest truth is that we demolished all of it as soon as the plate hit the table. So you'll just have to imagine it: it was simple, healthy, gorgeous Mediterranean fare. Breakfast was always a traditional Turkish spread: tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, feta and kaṣar cheeses, honey, jams, nutella, fresh fruit, some kind of egg dish or french toast, sometimes sucuk (Turkish sausage), tea and coffee.
After feasting like kings some of us collapsed from travel exhaustion and others went night swimming. It had been a long day but overall, a successful one.
Day 2: Rhodes
The Aegean is the calmest in the early morning hours, so we were off to Rhodes at dawn. Three or so hours later we arrived at port and were served breakfast while the handler came to take our passports to the border office. By late morning we had completed the customs process and received our guest cards that would allow us to enter and exit the port freely.
Rhodes Old Town is a medieval walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We split into smaller groups and set off to get lost in the back streets, to shop, sightsee, and idle in the cafes. In the mid-afternoon we reconvened on the boat for lunch, and then some of us headed out for a swim while others napped or read. The public beach right next to the port in Rhodes has startlingly clean, clear water, so we didn't have to go far to swim, but some of our group took a walk to another beach with beds and umbrellas.
After swimming and showering, we headed back into the medieval city for dinner. We had a reservation at Marco Polo Restaurant, set in the garden of the boutique hotel Marco Polo Mansion. It was an incredible meal in an even more incredible setting, and ended up costing far less than we had anticipated for a group of 12. We would not hesitate to recommend it (or to go back!)
After dinner we wandered a bit, and, by happy chance, came across a live music performance in an open air bar. I don't know how to describe it any other way than this: SO. MUCH. FUN. When the band finished we were legitimately bummed.
We headed back to the boat to sleep, but the port was unfortunately quite loud, so many of us slept below deck. Of course it's not unusual to sleep in the cabins, but we often choose to sleep outside under the stars, so nights spent in port can be less picturesque.
Day 3: Symi's Coves
Symi already had a spot at the top of our list of favorite Greek islands, but after this trip it might have reached the pinnacle. We came from a different direction than we had in years past, and so explored a side of the island we hadn't yet seen - and it was seriously breathtaking. Our first stop was Nanou Bay, a sliver of beach surrounded by steep hills on either side. It was very windy when we first arrived, but we were able to moor behind a rock wall that protected us, and it was PARADISE. We were surrounded by the type of scenery that epitomizes the Blue Cruise: jagged coastline, pristine water glittering under the sun, and the feeling that you're a million miles from nowhere. It was the first full day we spent in typical Blue Cruise fashion - swimming, reading, eating, drinking, laughing.
The water was chilly for a only a moment. Some off us set off with noodles and snorkel gear to scout locations for cliff jumping, and a few of us jumped. Later on, a group left on a long swim to find a hidden beach described to us by the captain. After some genuine exercise, we were ready for lunch. In the afternoon we had a short cruise to the next spot, Agios Giorgios, which (can it be possible?) was even more striking than the last. Towering cliffs flanked a beach populated only by goats and a few intruding campers. A tiny church was the only building. And so we spent the remainder of the day swimming and dining with possibly the most spectacular backdrop of the entire trip.
Day 4: Symi's Port
In the morning we cruised out of Agios Giorgios and headed to a spot closer to the main port of Symi. Once again the water was exquisite so we spent a good part of the day jumping into it, over and over. The other part we spent floating in it. Then we climbed some craggy rocks and jumped some more.
After lunch we headed into Symi's port, which is just downright enchanting. I'm not even going to bother trying to describe it, just - here:
We had to wait a bit for the guy to come gather our passports and fix up our customs paperwork, but then we were off to explore the town. It's a small place, but there's another charming boutique, gallery or cafe on every corner. After some delicious, but small-island-priced ($$) cocktails by the marina, we went back to our boat for another excellent dinner. But still we weren't finished. Symi is not like Rhodes - at the end of the gangplank there's no port security or city walls between you and the town, you're already there. So we walked a few minutes to a square overflowing with people and music, and we danced..
Day 5: The Bozburun Peninsula
Sleeping in Symi's port was not loud like Rhodes, or maybe we were worn out from dancing... but we slept well! At dawn we headed back to the Turkish coast. For breakfast we stopped at Tavṣan Bükü, with a direct view back to Symi on the horizon and the sea shimmering in infinite shades of blue. After spending the morning reviving ourselves in the water, we cruised into Bozburun's port to officially enter Turkey through the border office. While they were handling our paperwork, we wandered around town, unwittingly walked through a film set, and did some shopping.
Back on the boat we set off for Çöpçalık Koyu, a magical place heretofore unknown to us. This cove had everything: dazzling water, total privacy, sandy shallows that allowed for lounging in the water with glasses of wine, little islands to climb over, miniature caves to explore, goats that appreciated sunsets, craggy cliffs to jump off from, and ancient pottery scraps to collect, or lick, if that's your bag. We held it to a vote and decided, on our own authority, that it was the best cove ever.
There was another seafood feast, a beautiful sunset, and it was good.
Day 6: We Don't Want to Leave
The water in Çöpçalık Koyu was so clear in the morning it looked about 6 inches deep. It was our last day, and the crew offered us the option to stay or to leave Çöpçalık and explore other coves. No, we said unequivocally, we want to live in this cove for the rest of our lives.
In the afternoon, those who were not napping off lunchtime wine took the dinghy out for a cliff jumping excursion. But mostly the day was spent relishing every moment we had left in this, the cove to end all coves.
The last evening was the most beautiful. There was another delicious meal and a captivating sunset, yes, but it was special also because we knew we had reached the end. Our group, which started as a motley assortment of near-strangers, were now friends celebrating a successful joint adventure, the shared memories that will last a lifetime, and making plans to meet again.
For those friends of ours who want to join us next year, we are thinking of doing a similar route, but perhaps including another small island instead of Rhodes. Having been to Rhodes multiple times, we prefer to stay in quieter ports (or even better, silent coves) on our personal cruises. So far, though, this was the best route we've done yet!
If you're interested in organizing your own Blue Cruise, don't hesitate to contact us. This trip cost €770 per person for 6 nights, all meals, unlimited drinks, and all port and customs fees.