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Tis time to sail - the swallow's note is heard,
Who chattering down the soft west wind is come,
The fields are all aflower, the waves are dumb
Which erst the winnowing blast of winter stirred.

The gulet Salmakis under sail off the Turkish coast.

The gulet Salmakis under sail off the Turkish coast.

Maybe it's a little too early in the year for this sentiment? The poem is by a fairly obscure ancient Greek poet known as Leonidas of Tarentum. We know little about him, but apparently he was from the Greek colony of Taras in Southern Italy (modern Taranto), he probably lived in the 3rd century BC, and much of his work is rather dark. "Tis time to sail" is a breath of fresh air within his output: it evokes and celebrates the pleasure of travelling by sea and enjoying the elements in spring and summer.

That's what is on our minds right now: the European winter is at its harsher strength and we are planning for our spring trips in Europe, hoping for blue seas and flower-laden shores. It's an easy hope, as we know it will be fulfilled.

The Deriya Deniz in front of stunning rock formations off the Amalfi Coast.

The Deriya Deniz in front of stunning rock formations off the Amalfi Coast.

There is no more enjoyable way to experience the shores of Italy, Greece, Croatia or Turkey than to do so on a gulet, on a small-sized hand-made wooden boat. Ideally, this should be in the company of like-minded travellers, with a small but attentive crew and with dedicated local guides and tour experts who are eager to show you a region and its history and who excel in sharing their love and enthusiasm for land, people and culture with you.

It's not easy to properly describe the very real pleasure of travelling on a gulet. The experience is usually called a "cruise", but it is a very different proposition to the better-known and more popular cruiseliner trips (and we'll write about that difference in more detail soon). There is not a single factor that makes a gulet cruise so special: small boats are a feature of many travel options, small group tours can be undertaken all over the world, and great archaeological or historical sites are the mainstay of study tours or cultural trips anywhere. What makes a gulet cruise (also known as a "Blue Cruise") so unique is the combination of such features, and - in the ideal case - the feeling of quality and style pervading every detail of the tour.

Gults in the historic harbour of Bodrum.

Gulets in the historic harbour of Bodrum.

Perhaps the best way to describe this experience is the term "hand-crafted". To start with, that word applies to the boat itself (most gulets we use are indeed hand-built in Bodrum, from various fine Turkish and exotic woods), but it also the perfect description for nearly every other factor of our cruises. The solid and stylish feel of a proper gulet is something that really has to be experienced to be believed: the beauty of the materials, the elegance of the vessel and the comfort of travelling with it combine into an unforgettable voyage. The crews' hands-on and friendly service, always willing to react and adapt to our guests' needs and wishes makes for a very profound experience of local hospitality. The food we serve our guests, either freshly-made on board of the gulet, or cooked in very carefully selected local restaurants, tavernas or trattorias, showcasing the region's produce and specialities, is another expression of this quality.

The Aegean Clipper off the island of Tilos in the Dodecanese.

The Aegean Clipper off the island of Tilos in the Dodecanese.

But it goes even further: our itineraries themselves, and the narrative we create to bring a region's history back to fascinating life, are also hand-crafted in many ways. We spend a long time and a lot of effort on preparing all our tours, including multiple preparatory trips, extensive study in academic libraries and a constant conversation between our organisers, guides and experts, to make sure that what we offer is the best possible approach to the area in question. As a case in point, our core staff have been on two pre-tour trips this past December, and another four or five, in three or more countries, are currently being planned.

The gulet Sun World IX at Didim, Turkey.

The gulet Sun World IX at Didim, Turkey.

Thus, what we strive to offer our guests, old and new, is a form of travel that brings an intensity of impression and of enjoyment unmatched by most forms of organised tours. The "secret" to this is very careful preparation, a constant aim to maintain and improve the quality of every aspect of the trip - and our love for what we do!

So, whatever your travel plans are, you should consider one of our cultural gulet cruises. Each of our itineraries, be it in Turkey, Greece or Croatia, is a unique experience of landscape and seascape, culture and history, fine gastronomy and great company, and our ambition for all of them is simply (or maybe not so simply) for them to be the best-prepared itineraries available. Also, if you want to have your own input into the itinerary and route, that is also an option: through our private gulet charters, crafted and implemented with all the same care that goes into the scheduled cruises...

I'll close with the second half of Leonidas's poem:

Loose cable, friend, and bid your anchor rise,
Crowd all your canvas at Priapus' hest,
Who tells you from the harbours--"Now 'twere best,
Sailor, to sail upon your merchandise."

[Translation by Wiliiam M. Hardinge. Read more here!]

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AITO Tour Operator of the Year 2015 Gold Award AITO Tour Operator of the Year 2017 Gold Award AITO Tour Operator of the Year 2018 Silver Award AITO Tour Operator of the Year 2019 Silver Award Best Travel Company for Arts and Culture Holidays Silver British Travel Award 2022 Member of AITO The Specialist Travel Association Member of ABTA the Association of British Travel Agents Member of ASTA The American Society of Travel Advisors Member of ABTOI the Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy

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