How to Book the Perfect Gulet Cruise
Once you've determined your gulet holiday schedule, budget, accommodation requirements and desired itinerary (as outlined in Part 2 of this series), it's time to make the actual arrangements. But who do you speak with?
There are actually 3 (mostly) reliable sources for booking gulet cruises, and one source that leads to variable results. We'll talk about that one first…
Your Waiter / Taxi Driver / Bartender / Hairdresser / Carpet Seller
If you've ever been to Turkey, you know how friendly and helpful Turkish people can be, especially to foreign visitors. And, you quickly realize how everyone you meet has a friend or cousin with a boat. Oftentimes, these informal connections lead to wonderful outcomes for everyone involved. However, when booking informally, keep in mind the following:
- You have no assurance that the boat is licenced for business charter – or is insured or certified for safety and seaworthiness.
- Your Turkish friend is taking a commission on the deal – and sometimes that commission is more than the cost of the actual boat booking.
- You have no legal recourse if things go awry before, during, or after your cruise.
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Travel agencies are a common way for first-time cruisers to book a gulet cruise.
- Because they offer a wide-range of touristic services, travel agencies are a convenient way to book your entire holiday package – flights, transfers, cruises, land-based options, hotels, etc. – in one go.
- Travel agencies typically contract with yachting agencies or yacht owners for gulet services and offer cruises on a limited number of trustworthy and reliable gulets.
- You can't usually pick your boat when booking through a travel agency. The travel agency contracts a boat based on the number of passengers who sign up for the cruise. That means you're not guaranteed to cruise on the same boat you (or your friends) travelled on in the past. You get what you get, and the actual boat is confirmed at the last possible moment.
- Because there are several "layers" between you and the crew who work on your cruise, any special requests (e.g., allergies, food preferences, special celebrations, etc.) may not get passed along appropriately.
- Travel agencies tend to offer Cabin Charters. This means you share the boat with others – every age, every nationality, every social class. Oftentimes, the mix works perfectly, other times, not so much. That's the reality of cabin charters.
- The travel agency is taking a commission. And if they are booking the boat via another party, that agent is also taking a commission. (The number of "middle men" involved in booking a charter, especially from outside of Turkey, can be mind-boggling. Commission upon commission, the price adds up quickly!)
- You have legal recourse via the travel agency if things go awry before, during, or after your cruise.
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Similar to travel agencies, yachting agencies are a common way for people to book gulet cruises.
- Because their expertise is focused on boating vacations, yacht agencies can locate the perfect boat for your cruise holiday. This is terrific if you have specific requirements for your holiday!
- The price of a cruise booked through a yachting agency includes rental of the boat and crew and costs for normal operation of the boat. Food and drinks are generally extra – and you are responsible for their purchase and supply. The agency provides you with a provisioning list – which includes everything from kitchen spices to cleaning supplies, toilet paper to snack foods, plus your favourite food and drinks – to cover the consumable items you (and the crew) will require for the duration of your cruise. (Most agencies will do the shopping on your behalf for a small fee.)
- Yacht agencies tend to offer Private Charters so you have exclusive use of the boat during your cruise. Love them or not, you pick you cruising companions.
- Like travel agencies, yachting agencies build a commission into their prices. The amount varies from boat to boat, and season to season, but 15 to 25% of the boat's actual rental price is common.
- You have legal recourse via the yacht agency if things go awry before, during, or after your cruise.
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More and more options are available for holiday-makers to book cruises directly with the boat owner.
- A quick visit to Trip Advisor's boat listings for your vacation destination provides a great starting point, and on-line tools like Get My Boat and Beds on Board expand your options even farther. You can also research boat options on yachting agency websites, then Google the boat name and contact the boat owner directly to make their reservations.
- Because you eliminate the "middle men", you don't pay commissions and can often get the best prices when booking directly with the owner. (FYI – this can usually result in an automatic discount of 10 to 15% compared to agency prices, and there may be wiggle-room to negotiate for more.)
- As with all human beings, boat owners range from "horrendously-dodgy" to "ultra-professional" – so it's a good idea to rely on trusted recommendations and your gut feel when entering discussions for charter directly with a boat owner. Whenever possible, obtain unbiased reviews from sources like Trip Advisor and other social media channels. And ask for a written contract so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
- A solid contract, good communication with the owner, and recommendations from trusted sources is your best protection if things go awry before, during, or after your cruise.
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So, there you have it. There are pros and cons to each option for booking a gulet – but you are now one step closer to having all the information you need to book your dream vacation.
If you have any questions about this article, or would like more information about gulet cruising in general, we're always happy to help. Feel free to contact us any time for assistance.