Wellness Cruising in the Aegean FeaturedWritten by Adriane Berg
Wellness Cruising in the Aegean
Visit the Dodecanese Islands of Greece
On an Iconic Turkish Gulet
By Adriane Berg
Those of us with a hefty bucket list know the joys of a trip that can do double and even triple duty. If you have ever longed to sail on a private yacht in the Mediterranean, follow in the footsteps of ancient philosophers and mystical Greek gods all while improving your flexibility, circulation and digestion I have the perfect Ageless Traveler vacation for you.
Mediterranean Delights Fitness Voyage (MDFV) has managed to combine the demands of sightseeing with a wellness program that can be as simple or serious as you want to make it.
The star of the show is the boat, a Gulet which has been plying the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea for almost 20 years. It could very well be the yacht of your dreams. It sports 8 cabins which can sleep 16 individuals. Each cabin has its own private bath with shower and porthole window. The sleeping quarters are made of polished wood, as is the entire boat. You'll find plenty of room to prop up a single suitcase or unpack a bevy of nautical evening dresses, depending on how you like to travel.
And that's the whole point with MDFV. It's really up to you how much or how little you want to do and your goals for your vacation. In fact, you might switch goals in mid-voyage.
There are at least 5 different areas of the boat where you can relax communally, chat or have your privacy. Many will entice even Type A personalities as much as any siren that Ulysses may have encountered. The top deck is simply a place to take in the sun. At the boat's front you get shade and also space for yoga, stretching and other guided activities.
Every cruise has a full-time, first rate wellness coach at your service. Ours was the indomitable Melissa Weimer, an artist and athlete who made a real difference in our wellness and was a great support to all of us. There are scheduled classes. But, you can also ask for some private sessions and finally get the correct formation for those lunges and crunches you could never master.
Your biggest problem may be the back of the boat which has a seductive lounge that I tended to frequent. The sybaritic cooling breezes put me to sleep against my will. And I was never far from the dining table. Heaven forbid you should miss a meal.
The staff and crew make sure you rise and shine for pre-yoga coffee, post yoga breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, we all cheated and also tasted calamari, gelato and more in the dozens of Tavernas on shore.
Our captain learned from chefs in five-star restaurants. The crew members went ‘shopping’ for fresh fish in the Mediterranean.
Breakfast was likely to be a Greek array of olives, feta cheese, fresh breads, and interesting egg dishes, honey, tomatoes in oil (my favorite), and strawberry or cherry jam. The latter was so delectable that we all made separate pilgrimages to buy approved jams to bring into the U.S.
Every meal had freshly made vegetables, perfect salads, rice and potatoes and a main dish. Everything was light and right as fitness dictates.
There are no doggie bags at sea. So, the next best thing was learning how to cook the dishes ourselves. We had a fun time shelling peas, learning how to roll phylo dough, stuffing Greek spring rolls and hollowed out peppers.
The Dodecanese Islands offer everything and nothing, depending on how active you want to be. As most Ageless Travelers, I am a culture vulture chewing up every bit of history I can wrangle. The itinerary is extremely well-planned. This is not immediately evident when you read the list of islands. The usual tourist attractions of Santorini, Crete and Mykonos are absent. Instead, you get to a less traveled group of islands, each with its own reason for visiting.
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger islands which are part of at least 150 smaller ones which define the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades, rich in history both ancient and Byzantine.
Most Ageless Travelers are familiar with Rhodes, where MDFV travelers meet at the yacht club. On your first day you familiarize yourself with the Gulet and leave your luggage. Then you take a guided tour of an impressive castle and a wonderfully curated museum. The dining hall is evocative of King Arthur and his nights, although this was surely not their venue. If you are a medievalist you'll enjoy comparing what you think of as iconic Western European history with Byzantine history and the castles it spawned.
There's a lot more to Rhodes and you'll have a day at the end of your trip to visit Socrates Street, do some heavy shopping and enjoy the nightlife. But, for now you're off on your journey.
After evening stretching you sleep in a delicious slumber in your room or up top in the sea breeze, only to wake for your pre-breakfast and morning yoga before departing for Symi.
All of a sudden there is a lot to do. You can swim, snorkel, and play backgammon. But, you increasingly find yourself just as happy to have your breakfast, yoga and relax on board. Symi is a beautiful island with all the archaeology you would wish.
By the third day, having already visited the islands of Hayitbuku and Kindos, you find a soul satisfying mellowness that you thought was long-lost. By now, you have bonded with your fellow travelers. In my case, they were among the most interesting and diverse group I could expect. I can only wish you as much luck as I had in my companions. These were very accomplished people, super world travelers, caring and helpful. They were plucked from the world of non-complainers and we ended up sharing much affection.
The Gulet is also perfect for family reunions, women's or girlfriend tours, and affinity groups of all types. With a maximum of 16 you get very close with each other and deep in your relationships.
By the time we reached Kos, one of the historically most interesting islands, some like me were ready for action. Others were ready for Greek coffee and relaxation. For me it was all about the Baptistery,
and Casa Romana, a patrician's home, and finding that perfect sandal shop with craftsmanship passed down through the generations.
It was in Kos that we had our Hammam experience; yet, another layer of fitness with no pain and much gain. You haven't lived until you've been dumped in hot water, bathed by a towel wearing Titan, lathered in spicy smelling suds and washed off as if you’d been through a car wash. Try it. You’ll like it.
If you're looking for Paradise though, you need a whiff of Nysiros, a volcanic island that also has castle ruins.
That night we were off to Chalki Island with its traditional homes and then a crazy belly dancing afternoon on board.
On our final day, back in Rhodes, we swam first at Amilia Island, one of the uninhabited ghost islands, before heading to what we now felt was a metropolis. Rhodes by night sports a perfect place to eat, shop and a wonderful opportunity to visit castles, mosques and synagogues of old.
It is comforting to know that healthcare is good and available. One of our passengers was bitten by a insect and had an extreme reaction. There is a great deal of medicine on board the ship and our tour guide Ali Yalcin owner of the Gulet Adventure Company , has months of medical training that covers much of what might occur on a boat such as ours.
Nevertheless, there are clinics and hospitals in or near every island. In this case, I was impressed at the helpful and may I add free services that were offered. Within an hour a doctor had diagnosed the bite, pronounced the hives a reaction and mixed a cortisone shot by hand to save the day. The passenger did not miss one portion of the trip, even that very day.
I was concerned over seasickness. I'm pretty cranky when it comes to that and very susceptible. In fact, I envisioned seven days of sweats and nausea and arranged to be let off at an island if I couldn't stand the experience. Yes, I was that worried. And no, I did not have one moment of seasickness from beginning to end. I did take certain precautions and will do so from now on. They include:
- Wearing acupressure wristbands.
- Taking two sessions of acupuncture specifically for seasickness with the needle in the foot and at the wrist.
That's it. I never needed a Dramamine, ear patch or any medicine to make me drowsy whatsoever. In fact I never felt as well as I did on the boat.
And that's the whole point. Your wellness adventure does not succeed because of a strict exercise regime, a special diet (although food preferences are accommodated), or any other type of pain/gain process. Rather it is a matter of learning to relax. Eat your vegetables, get your sleep, walk, practice flexibility and love your fellow man as yourself.
I found that with an additional 3 or 4 days in Athens and one or two seeing famous sites like Delphi, Hydra, Mycenae, Epidaurus, you get the perfect view of Greece without the touristic crowds and costs. I look forward to more MDFV itineraries planned for 2016 – 2017.
Ageless Traveler Ratings:
- Safety-Very High
- Medical Care: Good onboard and on shore; but severe issues like heart attack or stroke which requires emergency aid is difficult at sea
- Mobility level: Must be mobile-Need to get off boat by a ramp too narrow for wheels chairs; also need to get on and off a skiff. That having been said, one of the voyages had a cane and had no trouble.
- Cuisine Issues: Very flexible-will accommodate
- Bucket List: Great Bragging Rights
- Health Component: Good, get flexible, learn Yoga
- Price Range: Mid Level with great value for money
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