Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions we are asked about our cultural tours, gulet cruises, and historical holidays in Turkey, Greece, and Italy together with some answers. Do take a moment to read through these FAQ’s if you have any queries about our trips. If you can’t find a satisfactory answer to any questions you have, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll be only too pleased to respond in person.
What sort of people go on your trips?
Our archaeological tours in Turkey, Greece, and Italy are very much self selecting. The people who come on our trips are usually well travelled, enthusiastic, and curious about exploring new countries and cultures. They come from an incredibly wide range of professional backgrounds. Some have never been on an archaeological tour before, others have explored ancient sites all over the world. On average about a quarter of the people on our trips are single travellers. About 40% of our guests come from the UK, 40% from the US, with the remaining 20% split between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and beyond. Many of the people who travel with us first find out about Peter Sommer Travels through personal recommendations. Many clients travel with us again and again.
Age of travellers:
How old are the people that travel with you?
Our trips tend to appeal to quite a wide age range. Generally speaking, most are in the 40-70 age bracket. Our family tours have attracted parents with children aged between 6-17. We have mums and dads bringing their grown up children along in their 20’s or 30’s, and we are finding more and more people in their 30’s and 40’s coming on our trips - those who are no longer interested in basic beach holidays, but are wanting to explore and learn at the same time as having a relaxing time in a beautiful place with marvellous food. Our oldest client so far celebrated his 83rd birthday on board our gulet, and as is often the way, he was invariably the first to the top of the ancient sites we visited. When he left us he was flying off to explore the Galapagos islands.
I am concerned about the possibility of feeling sea sick on a gulet trip. Does it get rough, how often do your passengers get sick, and what do you recommend to avoid mal de mer?
In terms of sea sickness, water conditions around the Turkish, Greek, and Italian/Sicilian coast, as opposed to the large oceans, are generally quite calm. The Mediterranean, being non-tidal, is a very different proposition to the great seas and oceans, but of course the weather can blow up at times. In the 13 years that Peter has been leading gulet trips he has seen only 7 people who have been sea sick, and then only once during their trip. The gulets we use are all broad and beamy and of a decent length so they offer a very comfortable ride. We watch the weather very closely and try to avoid rough seas. Invariably there are plenty of places around the coast of Turkey, Greece, and Italy to take shelter and hide from the elements if the wind does start to blow up. For the large part we cruise close to the coast and a wealth of coves and hidden bays.
In terms of prevention, we know some people who swear by travel sickness pills, others who swear by wrist bands that apply pressure on acupuncture points, some who recommend specialist patches applied to the skin, and we’ve had a number of ladies who insist that brandy helps! Most people tell us that being on deck in the sunny fresh air gazing at the ever changing horizon is more than enough to ward off any feelings of mal de mer. We hope this goes some way to relieving your anxiety and settling your stomach!
How do people get to the gulet, or the first hotel, at the start of a trip?
We meet guests at the local airport closest to the starting point of a tour, and then escort them to the local airport closest to the ending point of a holiday. These airport transfers are included in our tour prices.
How do we know when to arrive and depart and what flights to take to join your trips in Turkey and Greece? Are flights included in the price of a tour? How do book our flights?
After a customer makes a booking we recommend times to arrive for the start of a tour, and what times fit best for departure at the end of a trip. Normally this involves domestic flights on Turkish Airlines within Turkey, or on Aegean or Olympic Airways within Greece, and so we suggest the specific internal scheduled flights that work best for the tour and for the customer’s personal schedule. International and domestic flights are not included in the price of a tour, and we don’t sell flights ourselves. We do work with flight specialists both in the UK, in the US, and in Turkey. We are more than happy to put customers in touch with our flight specialists if they so desire.
Travellers need to pay for their flight tickets themselves which they can do via our flight specialists, or through the internet - Turkish Airlines, Aegean Air, Olympic Airlines - or via an agent you already know. Occasionally there are charter flights that fit our tour schedule, but most charter flights operate at unsociable hours, so we recommend customers use scheduled flights.
Turkish Airlines flights all go via Istanbul, so many of our guests make a virtue of this by spending a few days in the city either before or after one of our tours. Turkish Airlines is the main flag carrier in Turkey, but there are a number of low cost airlines that now operate in Turkey such as Onur Air, Atlas Jet, Sun Express and Pegasus Airlines.
We’d like to stay in Istanbul for a few days either before or after our gulet cruise. Can you recommend any hotels and help us book rooms?
Many people make a virtue of changing flights in Istanbul by spending a few days in this marvellous city either before or after a trip. We are more than happy to recommend a small number of characterful hotels that we have personally visited, and to make bookings on behalf of our guests. You can book hotels yourself via the internet or over the phone, but we often get significantly cheaper rates by booking through our local agency in Turkey.
As a single traveller, do I need to pay a single supplement, if I am willing to share a cabin or hotel room?
The majority of the time our single customers choose to splash out and book a cabin on a gulet, or a hotel room for themselves, but if you have a single travelling companion you are willing to share with, or there is another single traveller booked on a trip who is willing to share a twin bedded cabin or hotel room, we will be more than happy to waive the single supplements.
How often do your gulets sail?
We often get asked about sailing, so we thought we’d include an extra note so you’ll have a clearer idea of what you can expect. We usually cruise for about three to four hours a day, generally by motor to keep to schedule, so we can visit sites in the itinerary at the right time of day and with plenty of time to explore them thoroughly. The gulets we use on our scheduled tours all have sails, and are capable of sailing, but gulets are large and heavy (making them very stable), weighing in at over 100 tonnes. Unlike light fibreglass boats, they require a fair amount of wind to get them sailing, and we don’t sail in strong winds, as this would be uncomfortable for guests and would require a much larger crew. Weather and time permitting we hope you’ll have the opportunity to sail at least once in a one week trip.
What ‘toys’ are provided on the gulet? Is there anywhere to snorkel?
The gulet comes equipped with a windsurfer, a kayak, and a small selection of flippers, masks, and snorkels. The snorkelling equipment comes in a range of sizes from child’s to adult’s. If you do have your own flippers and snorkelling equipment we do recommend bringing them so that you know that they fit and also that you don’t have to wait for someone else to finish using a set. There are many wonderful coves and bays along the Turkish and Greek coast which are perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and windsurfing.
Bed linen & towels:
Are towels and bed linen provided on board?
All bed linen is provided on the gulet. Depending on the temperature and individual preference there is a choice of blankets and duvets to keep you warm at night. Each guest has two towels - one for the bathroom and one for swimming. All bed linen and towels are laundered once a week.
How well does air conditioning work on gulets?
All the gulets we use for our scheduled tours are equipped with air conditioning. However, because of noise restrictions (the air conditioning requires power from the onboard generator) gulets are not permitted to run air conditioning in harbour, not are they permitted to run it throughout the night when moored out of harbour. In hot temperatures when moored out of a harbour, the Captain usually runs the air con in the evening to cool cabins before guests retire. Many guests make a virtue of the heat to sleep out on deck under the stars.
Electricity on gulet:
Are there electrical outlets on the gulet, and what adaptors do we need?
Electricity aboard is 220V and requires two pin (round) plugs. There is a plug in each cabin, in the bathroom, so people can use hair driers/shavers etc. and of course you can charge up phones/camera batteries there. When docked in a designated harbour the gulet receives electricity directly by cable from shore mains power. While the gulet is cruising or anchored out in a bay its electricity is provided by the generator so there will be periods during the day and night when the electricity is not on.
Can it be noisy at night during a gulet cruise? Should I bring earplugs?
On our gulet cruises, we often spend nights anchored in remote coves and bays, either as the only boat present or along with few others. During those nights, the only prevalent noises are the lapping of the waves, the hypnotic but unobtrusive creaking of the wooden hull, and now and then the blowing of the wind. As well as the peace and quiet and proximity to nature, nights out in bays have the advantage of allowing guests more swimming opportunities, both in the evening and early the following morning.
Other nights are spent moored in small ports or marinas. The frequency of such nights depends on the itinerary in question (some have more harbour nights than others) as well as the weather. Our Greek island cruises typically include more harbour stays than the itineraries along the Turkish coast - but the lovely island port towns and villages are most definitely a highlight on those trips. Nights in harbour can be a little warmer, because towns are generally warmer and there is less opportunity for a through breeze. They can also be noisier than nights in bays with a range of potential noise sources, ranging from chatting on neighbouring boats to shore traffic and music etc. from local restaurants and bars, even occasional concerts. Harbour nights offer many advantages: the opportunity to stretch one’s legs and go ashore for a stroll or for shopping, or to enjoy a coffee or glass of local wine before or after dinner, the chance to observe town or village life, and to admire the often highly picturesque port scenery (e.g. in the Greek islands). We try where possible to offer a mix of nights in harbour and out in bays so our guests get a full and rounded experience. If you are concerned about noise, are a very light sleeper or habitually use earplugs, we recommend you bring ear plugs with you for your own comfort.
Is wi-fi available on your gulets? Will there be good cellphone/mobile reception during the trip?
All gulets on scheduled tours carry a wi-fi router. It provides web access to a limited number of internet-enabled devices at the same time. We ask that guests use the wi-fi responsibly and avoid large down/uploads and be mindful of other guests, logging your device off when not in use. Internet access relies on land-based 3G networks; signal quality can vary, occasionally there is none.
Mobile/cellphone signal depends on our location. There is coverage along most of the coast but at times it may be weak or SOS-only level. If you plan to your own mobile/cellphone, please ask your provider about roaming rates and activation procedures.
Is Turkey safe?
It is very hard to consider anywhere in the world completely safe. One only has to look at the terrible terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, London, Madrid, never mind Bali and Thailand in recent years etc. but of course these are isolated incidents and the chance of being involved in one is extremely slim. Any disturbances in Turkey have been tiny in comparison with these atrocities. When such incidents have occurred in Turkey, such as an explosive device detonated in Marmaris in recent years, they have been targeted at very busy locations. When there have been explosives placed on vehicles they have been targeted at public vehicles - i.e. town minibuses packed with people, whereas any transfers we arrange are on privately hired chauffeured minibuses.
On a gulet trip, we invariably steer clear of extremely busy places, and of course most of our time is spent on a boat at sea out of harms way. The vast majority of places we go and visit are small, rather remote, and unpopulated. The actual chance of being directly involved in any time of terrorist act, anywhere in the world, is tiny, far less than being knocked down by a car in your own street. Exploring the Turkish countryside, especially by boat is a very good and safe bet in our opinion.
In terms of general crime, levels are much lower in Turkey than in North America and the UK.
Are your boats safe?
The gulets we use are carefully maintained throughout the year. In the winter the boats spend several months in dry dock, being cared for. The boats have to be fully certified every year to meet with Turkish maritime safety standards and to have their insurance renewed. Needless to say the captains and crews on board are all highly experienced.