Croatia cruising vacations highlights
If counting sheep doesn’t help you drop off, then look at the map of Croatia’s coastline and start to count the islands. You are unlikely to find them all before slipping into the dreamiest of sleeps. And they are seriously dreamy, all 1,200 of them. Divided into different groups, such as the Northern Islands, including Krk, Croatia’s largest, up near the Istrian Peninsula. Or the Zadar archipelago, home to low lying islands like Olib and Molat. The Central Dalmatian archipelago has Brac with the highest peak of all the islands, and Hvar with the highest disposable income per visitor, as this has long been land of the posh and plenty. And then there is the island of Vis. Which is a microcosm of all the islands. And aptly rhyming with… bliss.
Brac is the largest island in the Dalmatian archipelago with the highest peak in the Adriatic, Mount St. Vid (780m). So hiking here is a treat, through ancient villages some of which date back to Roman times. From here you can get a stunning a view of the island’s biggest attraction – the white limestone pebbled peninsular beach at Zlatni Rat. The small fishing town of Bol is also a treat.
As well as being the longest island in the Adriatic, it also has the largest collection of wallets, having been the sought after vacation island for the uber wealthy for many years now. Go beyond the main town for natural, ‘unworked’ beauty, with tiny fishing towns like Stari Grad or Vrboska. Hire a bike to explore, or enjoy the historic highlights of its Renaissance cathedral and 17th century community theatre.
Part of the Central Dalmatian archipelago, and just off the Pelješac peninsula, Korcula town not only has a fortified centre, ancient tiny streets and traditional houses but also a Gothic-Renaissance cathedral bang in the middle of it. It is said to be the birth place of Marco Polo and, inspired by him, you should explore away from the busy centre out to the pine forests, secret coves and vineyards.
Mljet has been settled by everyone from the Romans and Byzantines to the Austrians over the centuries. It is now almost wholly protected by national park status, thanks to its eco eclectic landscapes, including two seawater lakes in its interior, created by monks who lived on an islet in the lake and built a tunnel out to the sea. Visit this former monastery at Melita – a perfect lunch spot.
The northern islands are ‘litorally’ idyllic. Many of them totally tranquil too, except Krk, Croatia’s largest island, or Rab, famous for having been the skinny dipping shores of Edward and Simpson, and still a naturist haven. The Zadar archipelago boasts very quiet spots such as Molat Island, perfect for hiking through maquis and pine forests, and the mainland ancient town of Zadar is also a must.
Vis was closed to visitors for years as it was an important naval harbour, and therefore maintained its traditions and unspoilt rural landscapes. Vineyards still thrive (local red is Plavac) and ancient ‘villae rusticae’ still thrill. Roman remains such as the thermal palace are worth visiting, but best thing to do here, apart from savouring the swimming bliss on Vis, is to eat. The slow food scene is exemplary.
Croatia cruising vacations travel advice
THE SHIPPING NEWS
Powell Ettinger, Director of our leading Croatia small ship cruising vacations supplier, The Small Cruise Ship Collection, shares his top tips for small ship cruising vacations in Croatia:
“Croatia is a beautiful country that is almost custom made for small ship cruising. Many small islands and ports that are much too small for larger vessels, an almost perfect climate, centuries of visible history and some wonderful food. Many of the small ports and towns restrict the size of vessel that can visit, and so this most beautiful of coastlines is inaccessible to all but the smallest cruise vessels. The big vessels can call in, usually albeit briefly, only at Dubrovnik and Split, missing out on much of the very best that Croatia's Adriatic coast has to offer. The small cruise ships are more like moveable boutique hotels than most people’s perception of a cruise ship, and mean that you can travel around in comfort without unpacking every night!”
“My favourite spots in Croatia include Bol on the island of Brac – the tiny picturesque fishing port that just a few small ships visit where you can sit out on the quay at night end enjoy fresh fish and some local wine. And Split, where the centre is built into the remains of Emperor Diocletian's Palace and is a mixture of ancient monument and thriving, bustling city. The Blue Cave on Bisevo Island where the sea inside the cave is illuminated by an opening in the rock, and also Mali Losinj, built by the Venetians, is a beautiful port surrounded by classical architecture and providing some fantastic ice cream”.
What to pack
“You don't need to bring too much, the cruises are informal and the weather means that lightweight clothing is all that is required. There are plenty of shops and even supermarkets en route, so you can pick up anything you forget or need as you go, often for much less than in the UK.”
Advice for families
“For families, small ship cruises are great because you only unpack once, and yet you still get to explore different places. But of course, these boats aren’t adapted to have things like kids clubs and that kind of thing. The kids clubs are getting off the boat, exploring and seeing what’s out there… There are age restrictions with some boat operators, however, so we always check that.”
Croatia cruising vacations travel advice
TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS
At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Croatia cruising vacations travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation.
“We stayed overnight in Split on the way out which worked well and allowed us to get to our departure point without having to rush. The walking tour in Dubrovnik was excellent.” - Lesley Mason
“On boarding our ship, MV Spalato, we met a fantastic group of guests, all of whom were around our age, late 40's… Check the age of the group when you book. It is not always possible to find out but if you want a relaxing cruise with like minded folk, check that you are not on a 'party boat'. We were advised that the boats are very casual and there is no need to take smart clothes. The evenings ashore merited casual wear too… We all agreed that the environmental impact of sailing in a small ship was far more reduced than that of the huge cruise liners. Silence on board was from midnight so there was no noise impact on the local homes near the docks we moored at.” - Paul Fellows
“Learn some Croatian words, and how to pronounce them. This is much appreciated.” – Eileen Maitland
“Being flexible with changes as the weather can alter what activities you do for the day and where you end up sailing to.” – Nicola Falconer
“Pack light, go with the flow - things will change but always for the better. Bring decent water shoes, the beaches are not sand so the rocks and pebbles can be sharp underfoot.” – Debbie Maitland