Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage review | Fitness holiday, Greece & Turkey
Yoga & Fitness aboard a Turkish gulet
The Quick Read: Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage offers fitness trips on an elegant, wooden Turkish gulet on a variety of routes around the Greek Islands and the Turkish coast, on set dates, and roughly six times a year. Fitness comes in the form of daily (sometimes twice-daily) yoga on the deck, hiking and swimming – but this is no pious, detoxifying bootcamp. The fitness programme is geared to all levels and is never super-strenuous, while the itinerary allows plenty of opportunities for relaxation. There’s a distinctly Turkish flavour to the activities – Raki, backgammon, belly dancing and a hammam visit are included – and the menu, although healthy, is definitely not for dieters.
Who it’s best for:This is an ideal trip for those who like to maintain their fitness regime whilst on holiday but who still want to relax and see some of the local culture. Anyone very prone to seasickness might struggle a little. The yoga is geared to all levels, so it might not suit super-serious yogis, but if you like outdoor practice you’ll love the sunrise and sunset sessions. Equally, if you want to combine swimming in turquoise waters and hiking with time out sunbathing on deck, it’ll be the perfect fit.
What you can do: Each day begins with yoga on deck. Every trip has a different instructor, so those looking for a yogic experience should aim for one led by a yoga teacher; anyone seeking a more vigorous regime might prefer one led by a personal trainer. Our teacher, Sivananda yoga instructor Keri-Louise Gray, adapted each session to the mood of the group, the level of sea swell and the time of day, mercifully taking it gently on the mornings after late-night cocktail sessions. Hikes – which might take in a monument or historic site – are mostly gentle. The longest we experienced was an hour and a half and even the volcano hill hike – which many opted out of – was not unduly strenuous.
There’s plenty of swimming when the boat anchors offshore. Waterbabies would enjoy diving straight into the sea from the boat. Snorkels, fins, life jackets and even a kayak are provided, and you can have a hotdog or ringo ride (though be warned – it’s not a gentle landing at the end). The belly dancing is billed as a fitness class – and it’s a surprisingly good workout – but it’s fizz-fuelled, fun and not taken too seriously. The Greek Islands voyage – as its name suggests – takes in several Greek Islands (Rhodes, Symi, Kos, Nysiros, Tilos, Chalki, Alimia), but the undisputed sensation of the trip is the stop-off in Turkey where you visit a distinctly un-touristy Turkish hammam in a Datça backstreet. You are laid out on a marble slab and scrubbed and massaged to within an inch of your life by a pair of startlingly hairy, pot-bellied Turkish bath men clad only in sweaty pestemals (cotton towels). Terrifying, hilarious and utterly unmissable.
Where you stay: ‘Home’ is a sleek wooden Turkish gulet, named the ‘Muhtesem A’, which means ‘magnificent’ in Turkish. It is aptly named: lined up in the dock alongside super-yachts and palatial cruise liners, it more than holds its own, with its gleaming, polished wooden décor and smooth lines.
It has a spacious deck in the bow, where the yoga classes are held, and another substantial space in the stern where guests eat together around a long wooden table, lounge on giant cushions and sometimes break into song or dance. Sunbathers and stargazers tend to congregate on the mattress-lined sundeck, although there’s plenty of shade elsewhere for anyone needing shelter from the Mediterranean sun.
The cabins are lined in polished wood, both on the floor and walls, with two portholes so you can always see where you are and a private bathroom. There is a variety of double and twin rooms, with a larger double room at the stern end. The bedrooms are fairly compact, especially if you’re sharing, and in fine weather some prefer to sleep under the stars, although in the week we visited it was too windy most nights for this to be comfortable. If the weather turns there’s a dining room inside, which is also the venue for movie nights.
How was it for us: From the moment tour director Ali greeted us with a broad smile, the trip was exceptionally convivial. Nothing was taken too seriously, yet at the same time we packed in a huge number of activities and experiences. I have a pretty rigorous training regime at home and, whilst I found the fitness programme relatively easy, I still felt well-exercised each day and relished the chance to combine visits off the tourist track with enough exertion to work off the daily feasts. By the end of the week I was definitely bendier and my yoga had moved up a level – my yoga teacher at home noticed the change straight away – and enjoyed experiencing a different style of teaching from my usual classes.
The small size of the group – there were just twelve guests – meant that we forged friendships very quickly and there was a strong communal feel to the trip. This could, I imagine, have gone either way – there was nowhere to hide any tensions – but the atmosphere was more house party than Big Brother. One of the unexpected highlights of the week was sleeping on the top deck. We had anchored off shore so there was no light pollution and the sky was fizzing with stars, with the Milky Way clearly visible. Wrapped in a blanket, the wind ruffling my hair, and gently swaying as I watched the shooting stars, it was a heavenly way to drift off to sleep.
What we took home: Perhaps it was the sheer beauty of the boat, or the communal theatricality of the hammam, or the personalities of Ali and the crew, but it was an intensely joyful week. I spent much of it doubled-up with laughter, and wasn’t the only one to weep hot tears when we left.
Would we go back: In a heartbeat. I’m already looking longingly at the other trips on offer. I’d have to save up for it, but I’d love to do it all again.
People watch: There is no “them and us” on this trip, and that is one of its pleasures. Ali set the tone with warmth, charm and joie de vivre, and the captain and crew followed his lead, joining us for drinks when they could and teaching us to cook, fish and tie knots. Our yoga teacher, Keri, was endlessly kind and encouraging, and ably coped with the range of abilities and experience in the group. She coaxed me into my first plough pose and gently helped us push our boundaries.
Food watch: Aytekin, the captain, is also the main cook, having trained and worked as a chef in five star hotels. The food is all Mediterranean – healthy, beautifully flavoured and generously portioned.
Breakfast is usually an omelette with bread, cheese, honey, the obligatory salad, sublime rose petal jam and highly-addictive tahini mixed with grape molasses. Lunches and dinners are an array of Turkish and Greek dishes – some familiar such as stuffed peppers (dolma) and filo pies; other, like ravioli in yogurt sauce, less so. The freshly-caught, barbecued sea bass was as good as any we’ve had. There are vegetables and salads in abundance, and in line with the emphasis on wellness there is always fruit for pudding – think watermelon, peaches, cherries and bananas. Vegetarians and special diets are well provided for. A cooking lesson learning how to make dolma and pastries is included and you are sent home with a set of tempting recipes.
What’s lowly: The bathrooms are slightly rough around the edges compared with the rest of the boat. Anyone looking for boutique-style luxury might prefer a more traditional, all-mod-cons style of ship – but they would be missing out on the barefoot charm of the boat.
Insider tip: Even if you’re going on the Greek Islands voyage, bring some Turkish lira for the stop-off in Turkey, as most shops don’t accept euros and you could miss out on some bargains.
Price with a companion: The Greek Islands voyage (by far the most expensive of the MDFV voyages) costs $3,200 (approx. £2,040) per person for a seven night trip based on two sharing a cabin. This includes all meals (even those eaten out), unlimited bottled water, all activities and trips including the hammam, massage and watersports. Alcohol and other soft drinks can be bought (on a tab, settled at the end of the week) for a reasonable price. The price does not include flights or transfers to the harbour.
Price going solo: $4,800 (approx. £3,050) Inclusions as above.
Value for Money: Given how much is included and the high staff-to-guest ratio, the price isn’t as steep as it looks and compares favourably with other gulet holidays; the additional cost for single occupancy is because of the small number of rooms and guests.
Reviewed by: Patricia Carswell
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