We visit Ephesus, Turkey, one day while on our upcoming cruise. Ephesus is known as the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean and is the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (though the wonder itself, the Temple of Artemis, no longer stands).
We also hope to visit the house said the be the final home of Mary, mother of Jesus, and the Basilica of St. John. To manage all this in one cruise-stop day, and try to get some meaning out of the visit, we are hiring a guide.
We chose Credo tours, recommended by Frommers, because of the following description:
Our guides not only give information about the sites or/and museums. They also talk about the Muslim religion as practiced in Turkey with a secular government; feelings on the Cyprus issue and what progress is taking place for Turkey’s membership in the E.U; the role of the military in government in Turkey; role of women in Turkey; and so on. All of our guides hold advanced degrees and are government licensed, proficient in English and excel in the fields of Turkish History, Art, Archaeology and Culture. All lunches will be taken at local restaurants. We know that our guests aren’t traveling to Turkey to eat American or Italian food, but are more than willing to sample local fare.
When I received the proposed itinerary from the staff I replied to confirm, and to note that we’ll need a vegetable or fish dish at the restaurant they selected. They responded that we will need to select another option, as there are no fish options at their chosen restaurant. OK, fine. But their alternative option rather perplexes me, given their professed desire to make sure their travelers get a chance to meet and get to know the locals.
Here’s one of my choices:
Princess Arsinoe Luncheon
Served with an open face olive caviar sandwich triangles,
Garden Salad with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, roka, carrots, roasted peppers and walnuts
Served with an open face olive caviar sandwich triangles.
Orange Cups filled with Fruit Sorbets (each cup is garnished with chocolate sauce and whipped cream puffs)
Coffee and Bottled Water
Waiters are dressed in Roman costume
Supplement fee: US$15/per person
“Waiters are dressed in Roman costume”
Seriously? I just don’t even know how to address this. I won’t even question the authenticity of Orange Cups filled with Fruit Sorbets garnished with chocolate sauce and whipped cream puffs as Turkish food. If I wanted to go to Disneyland, I’d save myself the 9 hour flight. When they say they want their clients to experience the local culture, where do the costumed waiters fit in? Is it because they know I’m on a cruise that they think this will appeal to me?
This is why I’m an ambivalent cruiser. How can I really experience a place when I’m setting sail every day at 5:00? That’s the compromise though. I get easy hassle-free transportation, but get only bite size bits of, well, Turkey, and our other destinations. And the easier I want my day to be (no fooling with learning local transportation on a hot day in crowded summer in a new country), the more I’m at the mercy of tour guides who think they know what the American traveling public wants.
If a visitor came to my town and wanted to go somewhere local I’d take them to a place not in Louisville guidebooks (hypothetically speaking). Lolita’s Taco maybe, or Vietnam Kitchen or El Wattan. I wouldn’t take them to the Cracker Barrel or Chuckie Cheese. I want to eat at the kind of place the guide would go if he were on a lunch break alone. Far, far away from skirted waiters and tour buses. Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can I go on a cruise and get anything real?
Well, we’ll see. I replied as politely as possible suggesting we just stop at a street vendor for pitas and use the time seeing more of Ephesus. No reply in the last few days. Maybe we’re not their kind of client.