5–½ misconceptions about my life on a cruise boat

“Trust me when I tell you, living on a cruise boat isn’t all champagne and rose petals.”

Compilation of images showing luxury gulet Arkadaslik sailing on the Mediterranean

Life on a cruise boat.  It’s not all champagne and rose petals. But, don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty good life!

I own Arkadaslik Yachting, a small business offering custom cruises along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and Greece on the 22-meter luxury gulet, Arkadaslik. I live on the boat with the Captain (my partner) and crew (a sailor and a cook), and we host guests during week-long cruises along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and Greece.

While everyone on the team has specific roles and responsibilities, like most entrepreneurs, the bulk of my job description reads “other duties as required”. In other words, I pitch in whenever and wherever required. Whether it’s scrubbing pots and pans in our tiny galley, cleaning up after a “plumbing emergency”, or comforting a passenger with “sea stomach”, I do whatever it takes to make the business successful.

I’m surprised by how many people think my life is different than their own. Here are common misconceptions people have about my life cruising the Mediterranean.

Boats are expensive (and therefore, I must be rich)

So this first point is only partly true.

Consider that Arkadaslik is basically a floating hotel with 4 guest suites, staff quarters, indoor and outdoor seating areas, a kitchen, a bar, and unlimited access to Mother Nature’s swimming pool (aka the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean). How much would you pay for something like that on land? The purchase price for Arkadaslik was approximately the same as a single-family home in Canada.

However, the maintenance costs for a wooden boat are staggering. Each year, we spend about half of our income on routine maintenance, emergency repairs, and upgrades. Why so much? Well, safety is the primary reason. (It would be terrible for our reputation if the boat sank.)

Compilation of images of Turkish gulet Arkadaslik during Blue Cruise holidays

It would be terrible for our reputation if the boat sank!

But, mention “marine grade” or a harbour address to a vendor or service man, and costs double, or sometimes triple, what we’d pay for the exact same thing on land. It’s crazy!

So, buying a boat – not so expensive. Maintaining a boat – very expensive. And maintenance is required whether we have guests or not. So trust me when I tell you, “I’m not rich”.

Exploring the Mediterranean every day is exciting

Guests napping on Arkadaslik's back deck.

It happens. On every single cruise!

I love exploring every inch of the coastline. The history, the culture, the people, the scenery – all amazing! But – I hate to confess this – there are times during our cruises when I’m bored silly. Usually, it happens on the third or fourth day at sea, after all the passengers have settled into the rhythm of the boat. The sun is warm. There’s a beautiful breeze. We’re cruising from one awesome destination to another. And all the guests fall asleep. It happens. On. Every. Single. Cruise.

Wonderful for our guests. Not so exciting for me. Boring, in fact.

A compilation of images showing guests aboard luxury gulet Arkadaslik

Guests we’ve welcomed aboard Arkadaslik

Sometimes, I use the time to catch up on correspondence or computer work. I might head to the cabin and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Murder She Wrote, or The West Wing on the laptop. Or, if the sea is calm, I’ll shave my legs, floss my teeth or pluck my eyebrows. (Note: You can’t do these last three activities if there’s significant swell.) But usually, I waste time doing nothing until our guests wake up for their next meal…

I feast every day

Everybody knows that you gain weight on a cruise. Let’s face it, cruise food IS fantastic – and our’s is especially good. Three squares a day – with mezes and salads and breads and pastas and main courses and fruit plates. Plus snacks. And afternoon tea. And desserts. And endless drinks. And visits from the ice cream man. And the pancake lady. Honestly, if I ate and drank like our guests, I’d weigh as much as the boat!

Pears and grapes crafted into hedgehogs by Arkadaslik Yachting's private chef.

Healthy eating is possible onboard a gulet.

Yes, I eat the same meals as our passengers – but smaller portions. And, when I have the will-power, I pass on desserts. (Okay, one time, I passed on dessert.) Between cruises, I eat simple meals – usually vegetarian – and no dessert (except ice cream, which I eat almost every day!).

And party every night

Arkadaslik Yachting guests singing karaoke with pool noodles instead of microphones

An unforgettable evening of karaoke with the pool noodles

As the boat’s owner and hostess, I spend a lot of time with our guests. Chatting, schmoozing, answering their questions, and just generally getting to know them. Enjoying after-dinner drinks and pleasant conversations with the group isn’t uncommon. And, if invited, I join their dance parties, karaoke nights, games and other antics. But by midnight, I’m exhausted, and usually head off to bed. After all, …

Life is an endless vacation

Gulet cruises are the epitome of relaxing holidays – sunshine, sea, spectacular scenery, terrific food, bottomless drinks, attentive service – for our guests. The crew and I work hard to make that happen! Yes, I have less structure to my days than I did when working a regular job, but I’m working – hard – at managing a growing business.

Compilation of images showing Arkadaslik Yachting guests.

We work hard so our guests can enjoy the vacation lifestyle!

My days are full. When I’m not helping with guest service or cleaning cabins (I’m picky, and have yet to find a sailor that can clean a bathroom to my exacting standards!), I’m managing the behind-the-scenes business stuff – our website and social media accounts, communicating with potential customers, planning trips, ordering supplies, dealing with the bank, and the insurance agent,…

I’m up by 7AM (earlier when we have an open water crossing) and have never developed the knack for napping. (I’ll tell you about my unsuccessful experiment with 20-minute power naps in a separate post!) So by midnight, I’m dragging. Our guests are welcome to party the night away, but I need a good night’s sleep to function at my best.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the work. But it is definitely work, and not a vacation.

And, finally – It’s romantic living on a boat

Granted, I probably find myself in more romantic locations than most people, but cruise life in the Med isn’t all champagne and rose petals.

Yes, I live on a beautifully appointed, luxury gulet. But my cabin (the” master cabin”) does quadruple duty as bedroom / wine cellar / pantry / dirty laundry storage. It’s cramped – and sometimes it smells funny. And privacy is at a premium because someone on the crew always needs access.

Yes, we sail to some of the most tranquil and private bays and coves along the Turquoise Coast. (I’d like to have more time to REALLY explore, but really, wouldn’t we all?)

Compilation of images showing destinations in Turkey & Greece

We visit some incredible spots along the Turquoise Coast!

Yes, I often spend my evenings sitting with my partner, listening to the waves and gazing at the moonlit sky. But, we’re “on call”, discretely keeping watch over everything to make sure the boat is safe and our guests are having a great time.

Compilation of images of Sue & Captain Oktay

Somehow, Oktay and I manage to combine work and fun on every cruise!

Plus, we rarely have time to ourselves. We’re always surrounded by people! If we’re not with our guests, we’re hanging out with our crew. Not exactly conducive to romance… (Did I mention the privacy issue?)

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Anyways, there are many things to admire about my life. I have a comfortable home, a strong relationship, a job that makes me happy, the opportunity to meet fabulous people and travel to amazing destinations. But none of them are specific to living on a cruise boat in the Mediterranean.

 

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