Day 1 – Finding our sea legs
A week sailing along the Croatian coast – yep we’re excited. After being met at Dubrovnik airport we head to the port where me take our first view of the Adriatic Pearl, the 41 metre “yacht” which is to be our home for the next week. She’s a stunner, with elegant lines but a traditional profile. Shown to our cabins we are quite pleasantly surprised with the size for some a small vessel – perhaps even larger than on some of the resort style cruise ships we’ve previously experienced. On the lower deck we find ourselves with portholes sitting just above the waterline but with enough of a view to assess our location and the weather outside for daily wardrobe decisions. The upper deck is home to the lounge and dining area and opens onto outside decked area with lounge seating. The top deck has plenty of sun loungers for relaxation while cruising between the islands and we’re immediately struck with the intimate atmosphere. Pleasantries with fellow travellers, who are a diversity of British, Americans and Australians, and introductions to crew, (we’re all taken with the handsome captain and laughter ensues about how we could get him to rescue us from the sea).
A night in port allows us time to acclimatise to the environs of the boat and have our first dinner on-board. Dinner arrives at pace that we become accustomed to, which seems appropriately laid back for a week at sea. The after dinner talk from the on-board cruise host is enough to have us giggling again as he explains how our cabin “maiden will clean our cabins, but not very well”. We’re pleased to note only too quickly how this was more of a translation issue than the reality and the cabin crew leave us spick and span each day.
We retire to bed full of anticipation (and fabulous Croatian wine) ready to set sail at breakfast time tomorrow.
Day 2 – Corking Korcula
Even cloudy skies don’t dampen our excitement at breakfast, as we are soon to set off from Dubrovnik to Korcula. A six hour journey will not be broken up by a a swim stop, as would be expected on the itinerary in the warmer months, but we’re happy to start off on deck for a spot of relaxation after a day of travelling yesterday. We do well and bear the slightly chilly April temperatures for some time before the wind changes and we retreat inside for coffee and cards…
After lunch we arrive in Korcula. Sadly the rain also arrives however this is only a short blip and certainly doesn’t detract from the beautiful surroundings. We then set off to explore the old town which is apparently no larger than a football pitch. The windy streets are enchanting and we picture ourselves sitting at one of many street bars or restaurants on a balmy summers evening but sadly at this point in the season there are few restaurants open and it is too inclement to enjoy. We do however take joy from the local art and jewellery shops and find a sheltered spot to enjoy a glass of local red wine (you’ll note that this becomes a theme), which warms our spirits before heading back to the ship for dinner and a wee bit of camaraderie.
Day 3 – Brac and it’s winding roads …
The day starts with the engines at 7am as we leave Korcula to sail onward to the island of Brac. We arrive through a small channel at Pucisca a beautiful harbour village. The town is home to a stonemason’s college with the island itself renowned for it’s limestone. After lunch on board we wind our way through the hairpins of the beautiful Brac countryside with old olive groves and vineyards interlocked with meadows, to the seaside town of Postira. The town has a sardine factory and we’re sure a land stay would offer opportunities for “fishy” dining on the quayside. While for us there’s no time to explore the harbour side in Pucisca some of our fellow passengers have explored with a visit to the stonemasons college of notable interest. This is however one of the shorter stops and so it’s time to leave already. Omis, on the mainland, is calling but we’re quite sure we’ll be back to Brac one day! We arrive in Omis and enjoy a relaxing evening onboard and watch as the sea turns to a millpond – talks of an early morning swim in the sea begin…..
Day 4 – Don’t miss a shot in Omis …
We wake to blue blue skies and blue blue water only marred by strong winds dancing like white horses on the sea and we think twice about the swim! Time to explore Omis before departing for Split a little later. A seaside town with piracy associations and the place where River Cetina meets the sea you’ll find plenty to do here. With fortresses, a pretty old town and activities such a river rafting and zip wiring in the canyon on offer there’s something for everyone. We pass the morning exploring and watching the world go by with coffee in the pedestrianized old town and on the sandy town beach and with no pre-expectations we find ourselves rather pleased to have ventured here, as a full memory card in the camera indicates!
And then it’s off to Split we go – a short 2 hour sail and the large metropolis of 200,000 residents advances. The busy port with ferry services to nearby islands is located close to the old town so there is easy access to the key attractions including the Riva, a vibrant waters front full of bars and activity. In the streets of Split café culture is in full throws on a sunny spring afternoon and it’s easy to find a historic square to lap up the atmosphere. The old town is living museum built around the palace built by Roman emperor Diocletian and we’re pleased for a guide to explain the fascinating and rich history and certainly the buildings and cathedral do not disappoint.
The busy day and sea air plays its toll and we retreat back to the ship for dinner and early retirement ahead of an early sailing to the port of Hvar tomorrow.
Day 5 – Hvar and Harbour side fun
Hvar welcomes us with open arms and blue skies. We’ve all heard of the charms of the island and especially it’s port. Once we’re harbour side we’re eager to explore and rush down the gangplank to cobbled streets oozing with all the charm to meet our expectations. Quaint shops, spectacular views around every corner and blue, blue waters which feed our spirits and our pre lunch drink seems almost celebratory!
The afternoon is made up of leisurely coffees, walks up to the fortress to drink in the views and meandering around the traffic free marble streets. But it’s the yachting lifestyle that attracts us here and with little time to explore the other attractions of the island we assume a St Tropez approach to life and sit decadently on deck of the lovely Adriatic Pearl.
Tonight we decide to eat in one of the many local restaurants. A fabulous choice of local foods and wine on offer we defy the cooler springtime temperatures and sit with fleecy blankets and patio heaters to sample Hvar at night. The reputation of Hvar as a party town is not one we experience in the early season and we’re pleased to have enjoyed a more tranquil approach to our visit rather, than the busier summer months. It is without doubt though an island very deserving of its superstar status ….
Day 6 – Lakes, Monastries and Sea bass in Magical Mljet
The opportunity of a bit of deck time as we leave from Hvar for the 6 hours to Mjlet – a little windy but spectacular views of the islands and we get a taste of what would be the summer experience! We’re told that when the weather and sea temperatures improve the whole experience changes with swim stops and deck time – it’s not hard to envisage the change that a few degrees and weeks would make, although this off season experience is of course allowing us to meander in quieter ports of call and have prime parking in the harbours. In the high season the boats are moored several deep and inter-ship gangways and laid providing a pathway to land.
Life at sea is relaxed and there is a mixture of chess/card playing, book reading and gazing out to see and by this point in the week plenty of banter between all on-board. The delightful barman, Marin and his apprentice, Ivor, look after our catering and beverage requirements and all is good!!
All of the ports of call have had some uniqueness and we’re wondering what Mljet will hold. The tranquillity washes over us as we arrive quayside next to what is the only hotel on the island.
The next few hours of exploring reveal the oldest national park in the Adriatic, perfect for walkers, cyclists and kayakers alike. It’s the two deep bays known as Great Lake and Small Lake, which are the biggest surprise. Surpassing other “Croatian Blues”, as we now call them, the lakes are a joy to see and there is plenty of camera action. Sat majestically in the Larger Lake is an island, home to an old Benedictine Monastery which now offers café and restaurant hospitality for the visitors who arrive by small pleasure boat.
The island although only small is certainly having an impact on us and with a few good beaches including a good sandy option this is certainly going on or list of one to return to. Our delicious fish supper on board rounds off what has been a truly wonderful day.
Day 7 – Dubrovnik bound
The mood changes today as we depart the little island to head back to Dubrovnik. This has certainly been a rich experience and we’re all busy planning return trips to Croatia! Friendships have been made and Croatia has presented herself and her islands to us with certain impact.
On arrival back into Dubrovnik there is the chance to spend the final afternoon in the old town, certainly one of the more recognisable sites in Croatia recall for most. There is less of the “real life” experienced in the historic centre of Split and, despite an abundance of tourists who have flocked for tours but we’re certainly in awe and delighted to be here. We’re treated to a wedding parade and we feel, like many I’m sure, that our Croatia experience would have been incomplete without a chance to wander the cobbled streets of this national treasure and we’re thankful that it has been spared from the countries troubles in recent history.
One last night on board and we celebrate new found friendships and our new bond with Croatia after a simply wonderful voyage of discovery.