Making up just one destination within the cruising grounds of the Eastern Mediterranean, with endless coastlines of stunning scenery, azure blue waters and a rich cultural heritage, Turkey is seeing an unfortunate decline in yacht charter interest in its waters due to neighbouring civil unrest, but is the reaction warranted?
"A cruise in the Aegean or Mediterranean is undoubtedly one of the safest places to be on the planet - especially when you are far from crowds and public areas on board your own private yacht."
Dave Stanely and Dina Street, co-owners of Southern Cross Blue Cruising.
In light of the current situation, Yachting Pages caught up with Dave Stanley and Dina Street, owners of Southern Cross Blue Cruising - a company specialising in traditional gulet charters in Turkey and Greece, about the charter market in the Eastern Mediterranean, asking if it is business as usual for yachting.
Following the recent reporting around civil unrest in Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean, would you say it is safe to cruise the area during the 2016 charter season?
Exploring the world has changed permanently in the last two decades, and we are never more actively involved with these changes than when travelling. However, more people than ever are seeking new destinations, and statistically, air and cruise travel is still safer than driving a car.
A cruise in the Aegean or Mediterranean is undoubtedly one of the safest places to be on the planet - especially when you are far from crowds and public areas on board your own private yacht.
Most governments have issued travel warnings to many countries in the past, including France and the UK, in addition to Greece and Turkey. In our opinion, these are a bureaucratic necessity and not necessarily a reflection of imminent danger in that country.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not highlighted any increased danger for those travelling in Turkey, and it’s business as usual in popular coastal resorts and beyond. Despite common misunderstandings, it would be extremely unlikely for any tourist or charter guest to encounter any refugees during a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean.
With this in mind, are there any particular precautions or preparations that people should take ahead of a charter considering the current situation?
Other than normal vigilance, there are no additional precautions or preparations to take for an Eastern Mediterranean charter. On land, it is simply recommended that, for the meantime, non-essential travel be avoided to provinces near to the Syrian border.
Tell us about your charter fleet. What is Southern Cross Blue Cruising able to offer its charter guests for a great trip?
We take pride in being a small, hands-on company. We love what we do, and running a small fleet of just three Turkish gulets, we have no need to outsource any of our services. Provisioning, special requests, pre and post-cruise details are all handled by us, the owners. When you book with us, we’re the persons you communicate with, and the faces you meet.
What, in your opinion, is the best cruising itinerary for those exploring Turkey aboard a gulet? Are there any ‘must-see’ places or traditions to enlist during travel?
We are advocates of undiscovered islands and adventures. It might be a journey to the overlooked Greek island with 2000 goats and 20 residents, or perhaps the secret fjord which only an experienced captain can maneuverer. An often-missed highlight is the active volcano of Nysiros, with scenery to rival that of the Greek island of Santorini, but without the crowds. If the young ones want a party, we will arrange their outing while the folks relax on the back deck.
This year, we are seeing Eastern Mediterranean charter hotspots in the Dodecanese Islands of Patmos and Leros, which are well known for their religious history, architecture, beautiful beaches and natural, secluded beauty.
Are there any new or exciting developments underway at the business that you can share with us? How are you set for the 2016 season so far?
2016 has been a bit slower than past years due to general global travel warnings, but we have a fantastic loyal client base that book regardless of the headlines. While it is shaping up to be a relatively quiet season, we enjoy planning each charter with our hands-on approach. Many understand that there is nowhere safer than sailing the Mediterranean aboard a private yacht, and will not be dictated to about where they can and cannot visit.
Are there any anecdotes or tales you can share with us that sum up your work in the charter industry?
I once was engaged in a safety briefing with a group of southern USA belles, only to discover that the yacht had left the harbour and was well on its way while I was still yapping about life vests and fire extinguishers! All of our gulet charters are private, but we are always amused when our guests are appalled at the fact that we are not accompanying them on their cruise.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in the charter sector at the moment?
Our charter clients have an overwhelming array of information when researching gulet charter companies, and there isn’t really a valid forum in which to share cruise reviews, akin to TripAdvisor. Our clients are therefore faced with a multitude of offers without solid information and feedback on yachts and companies. A valid online forum with feedback from clients would assist clients with deciding upon their gulet, agency and itinerary choices.
There are of course reviews on websites like Yachtingpages.com, and many clients have also left us reviews at Southern Cross Blue Cruising, which you can read.