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6.30.2015

The perfect getaway for the active traveler – My review of Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage in Turkey and Greece


Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage for review purposes.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

It has been a busy few weeks since we returned home from our adventures in Turkey and Greece, and I have much to write about from our experiences.  We had an amazing time the entire trip, so I will be covering it in several different posts.  Though first and foremost, I will share my review and accounts of our experience on Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage (MDFV), which is the part of our trip that inspired us to visit this part of the world in the first place.
 
I write this on a plane to Boston for a business trip, and though I am gazing out my window at a beautiful sunset, I am daydreaming about being back on the Muhtesam A gulet boat staring at a crystal-clear, turquoise sea.  There was something truly magical about our experience on MDFV that left its mark on me.  All travel leaves its mark on me, and we have been fortunate to have had some amazing travel experiences.  But this was different.  This trip has stuck with me, and may in fact have been the best trip I have ever taken.

You couldn't expect me to take this trip and not have at least one "I'm flying, Jack" moment!
 
Let me rewind a bit.  The hubs and I were brainstorming about where to go on our next big international trip.  As you know, while we travel a lot domestically, we make sure to take one big, international trip each year.  Before we had decided where to go, I got an amazing offer to experience MDFV.  MDFV is a new week-long, all-inclusive vacation offering geared specifically for travelers like me: the traveler who likes to experience good food, history and culture, and remain active, all while in an intimate setting.  This is not a hardcore boot camp retreat, but rather an opportunity to do things at your own pace and maintain a fitness routine.  This is not a giant cruise liner, but more like a small boutique hotel on water. 
 
As we had always heard good things about Turkey, we were definitely intrigued.  When we heard that MDFV was offering Combo Voyages this year that included some Greek islands, we simply could not resist.  A chance to experience two new countries with this cool travel concept was right up our alley. 

A personalized trip itinerary and information book arrived shortly before our trip.

There was so much to this trip that made it special, so I will break it down into sections for the purposes of this review.  For more information about MDFV, the different voyage offerings, and schedules, visit their website here. 

The Boat

 

 
Our home for the week was the Muhtesam A, a traditional Turkish wooden yacht boat (called a gulet).  With only eight staterooms, it is impossible for the experience to be anything more than intimate.  The rooms were large (unlike the shoebox-sized rooms you have on a traditional cruise ship), and each included a few porthole windows, a closet, and a bathroom with a full shower. 

The view from one of our porthole windows one morning.

The crew put a lot of care into the gulet, and kept it spotless.  When they weren’t cooking, they were cleaning.  In addition to the comforts of the room, the gulet had a sundeck on top, a shaded lounge in the back (both areas so comfortable that we were able to sleep outside a few nights – talk about romantic in the calm seas off the coast of Turkey), an al fresco dining area, and another area for sunning or fitness in the front.  The boat also included a platform for diving or slipping into the ocean off the side.

The experience felt truly luxurious.  The cleanliness, amenities, and service on the gulet left nothing to be desired.

The Food

It is hard to beat a dinner this fresh and flavorful.
 
The whole experience was so incredible, that it is hard to say that there was a “best” part.  If I did venture to try, the food would be at towards the top of the list.  Every single meal on the boat - and this is not an exaggeration - seemed better than the meal before.  The captain is also the chef, and created meal after meal of local Turkish and Mediterranean dishes, all with fresh ingredients.  As you will see in the next section, we were incredibly active on the trip, so we needed plentiful, fresh foods to keep us fueled.  The captain did us right! 

Homemade dolma was our lunch entrée on the gulet one day.

Our first night we were treated to a meal that included fresh caught fish grilled up right on board.  There was a guest with a fish allergy, and they were also accommodated without problem.

Other standout meals included the breakfasts with fresh cheeses and honey, a lunch of handmade dolma, and my husband’s favorite, kofte, a Turkish meatball for dinner.  Desserts included fresh fruits and other decadent but guilt-free offerings.  We also enjoyed the daily tea time with biscuits at 4:00 pm, which the high percentage of British guests deemed “proper.”

The Fitness


Picture yourself greeting the morning with sun salutations in this setting!
 
The fitness is one of the things that makes MDFV stand out from other all-inclusive trips, including other Blue and Combo Voyages along the Turkish coast.  It is important to note that all of the fitness offerings (as well as the other land and onboard activities) are optional.  MDFV really seeks to meet guests “where they are at” to make everyone’s trip special.  Case-in-point, I received no pressure when I had to skip a morning yoga session after a particularly late night out in Symi Harbor the night before.


Admiring the stunning view below the ruins of a Roman castle we hiked to in Bozukkale.

A couple who hikes to Roman ruins on vacation together stays together. Isn't that how the saying goes?

Each day began with some energizing, but easy-paced yoga (imagine doing sun salutations on the boat deck while actually greeting the morning sun).  Throughout each day there were also at least two different opportunities to swim or kayak for some added activity.  There were also several days with hikes offered on shore, and when offered, there were usually two options for those that wanted either a shorter/lighter hike or a longer/more intense experience.  These weren’t just purely fitness hikes either – the hikes were to ancient ruins of a Roman castle, a monastery, or just simply to see a panoramic view of a pristine cove.

The ladies had a lot of fun with our belly dancing fitness lesson... I am sure the champagne had nothing to do with it...

There was also an evening fitness offering each day.  These varied from yoga, circuit training, and even belly dancing!  All in all, it seemed that we averaged about four different opportunities for physical activity each day (again, all optional).  We personally took advantage of nearly all of them, because it felt so great to maintain our fitness routine while also doing fun things like exploring ancient castles or swimming.

The Activities – On Boat

Lion's milk!  It is traditional to drink raki with water, which turns it into a cloudy color (hence the nickname "lion's milk").


The snorkeling was amazing!  The tour director, Ali was quick to scout the snorkeling opportunities at each stop to let us know if we needed to jump in or not.
 
Our guide and organizers had plenty of other activities available to us whether we were at sea or anchored in a cove.  In the water: In addition to swimming and kayaking as mentioned above, we could snorkel, water ski, ride on tubes from the speedboat, or dive.  The water was so calm and mild (in addition to being crystal clear), so we spent a lot of time in it.  The snorkeling was also especially amazing.

The hubs had fun fishing right off the boat.  Not much effort was needed since the water was so clear, you could see the fish swim up to your hook.

The water was so calm and mild, even on this misty morning off the coast of Turkey.

Even with all of the physical activity options, there was more than enough time for lounging in the sun!

On the boat: Sunning yourself and/or lounging was an option any time of day, but we also learned how to play backgammon (which my husband and his new British friend, Twenty First Century Gent played quite a bit), played bingo, danced, and generally relaxed.  There were books and movies to borrow too.  Raki and Ouzo tasting was also a fun experience on the gulet one evening.

The Activities – Off Boat

Panormitis Monastery in Symi, Greece

Symi, Greece
 
In the ports, our guide had planned a wide range of options for us.  We appreciated the chance to learn about local history and culture with visits to ruins, monasteries, museums, and even walking tours.  There were also two fun nights out in city harbors (Symi and Rodos in Greece) where our group got to visit the local bars and have a good time.  We even had a meal and hamam experience off the boat on one of our last days. 

My favorite experience of the trip was getting to eat a home-cooked meal prepared by this woman in Bozburun.

Dolma made in pumpkin flowers instead of the traditional grape leaves.

With all the awesomeness of the trip in general, I would have to say that my favorite experience during MDFV was in Bozburun, Turkey when we had a lunch prepared for us in the home of a Turkish woman.  She demonstrated how she made the special dolma wrapped in pumpkin flowers (instead of the traditional grape leaves), then served us a feast of delicious, homemade food, along with Turkish coffee during dessert.  The food was so delicious, and she so proudly served it to us on her Mediterranean tree-lined porch, that the experience was one I will never forget.  I am truly grateful for that moment in time.

The People

We miss our tour director, Ali!

 
I couldn’t properly review MDFV without mentioning the people.  Cindy, the founder and organizer, clearly created the trip concept and overall plan as a labor of love.  She is a fellow traveler who decided to create something that would be the dream trip for other travelers like herself (and like us).  Ali, our tour director was a key ingredient to this trip being as awesome as it was.  He was knowledgeable about our destinations, was always looking for great opportunities for us (great snorkeling spots, even finding an island cave for us to swim into), and as a person was a lot of fun to be around!  The crew also added to the experience by treating guests with impeccable customer service.

My new friend Katie (view her blog Kolanchoe here) kayaked into this ocean cave.  We swam behind her.


The other guests add to the experience as well.  The size of the gulet makes every voyage intimate.  There are just enough other guest to have a good time with but not feel crowded.  We also genuinely enjoyed our time with everyone on our voyage.  I asked Cindy if it was just our voyage, or if guests seem to gel as well on all voyages.  She replied that all MDFV voyages tend to have great guest synergy, and that it seems to happen organically. She felt that guests who self-select this type of a trip, as different as they may be in day-to-day life, all have something in common at the core.  I have to agree.

The Destinations

Symi Harbor just before sunset



The stunning Kayadibi Beach on Symi island

From the highest point of our hike in Bozukkale
 
The choices of ports and nightly destination were well-thought-out.  I enjoyed the mix of being in our own cove one night and a quaint local port city (like Symi Harbor) the next.  I loved getting to spend some days in secluded paradise (like Kayadibi Beach), and others exploring Roman ruins (in Bozukkale) or having lunch with a Turkish family (in Bozburun).  Seeing museums in Panormitis Monastery and Rodos were wonderful.  Rodos was a great spot to end the voyage with a more urban experience to bring us back to the real world after spending a week in luxurious paradise.

Rodos

In sum, Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage was a fantastic experience.  The memories from this voyage will last a lifetime.  I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who likes a trip that blends relaxation with an active lifestyle, good food, cultural experiences, and great customer service.  This trip had it all, and I doubt this was the last time I will be on MDFV.  Click here to learn more about the 2015 and 2016 voyage options, and let me know if you have any questions!