From Split to Dubrovnik, JODIE JEYNES sets sail to combine relaxation, sightseeing and a spot of snorkling on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
With its long Adriatic coastline, running parallel to the north east coast of Italy and with more than 1185 islands, Croatia is an ideal destination to explore by boat.
We’re not talking humongous floating hotels, but vintage sailing ships – an entirely more traditional and visceral cruising experience.
Katarina Line offer a huge range of itineraries and ships, but all are casual affairs.
From the A+ newly-built vessels with spacious, semi-air-conditioned cabins, to B Category boats – popular with backpackers – that have communal showers and toilets, there is value for all budgets.
In all cases, cabins are fairly basic but have everything you need. And there is plenty of communal space.
Though the cheaper rooms below deck have the noise and smell of the engine room, it only adds to the real sense of travelling and of life on the waves.
The Dalmatian coast offers some of the finest sailing in the whole of the Mediterranean. Gliding through tranquil seas past deserted shores, misty mountain-ranges and wildlife, cruisers get a glimpse of a Croatia that’s hidden from the average holidaymaker.
On board are plenty of sunny and shady areas to unwind and take in the spectacular coastline. And, as well as the planned stop-overs, there are impromptu anchor drops for snorkelling and swimming.
Meals on board include a Captain’s Dinner, which is a night of traditional folk music, alcohol, joining in and dancing late into the night.
The ship is moored each evening at a different destination and there’s plenty of variety in Croatia’s islands – from Hvar, with its jet-set harbour of waterfront bars and mega-yachts, to the history-steeped Korcula, birthplace of Marco Polo.
On the mainland, Dubrovnik is a medieval walled city where you’ll find, among many other things, a cable car to a magnificent viewpoint, a bar (Buza) built in to the rocks where you can swim and watch the sunset, and evidence of the war with Serbia and Montenegro 20 years ago (68 per cent of the city’s buildings were damaged by shelling).
Split also has a medieval walled centre and is a shoe shopper’s paradise. You’ll also find lavender products from the area’s abundant fields.
Cruisers can tack-on a dry land stay and Split is a popular option as the place most itineraries start and end.
For an opportunity to see the trendy side of Croatia, book a room at Hotel Luxe, a new boutique hotel for which the operative word is ‘bling’.
It offers an ideal antidote to the ship’s bygone charm, bringing passengers bang-up to date before their return home.
Croatia Airlines flies from London Gatwick to Split from £179 per person return (including taxes). Call 0208 563 0022, or visit croatiaairlines.com.
Katarina Line offers a seven night half board cruise from around £300 per person, based on two sharing. The itinerary departs on Saturdays from Split and takes in Makarska, Mljet, Dubrovnik, Trestenik, Korcula and Hvar, returning to Split. Call 00385 51 603 400, or visit katarina-line.com.
Hotel Luxe in Split offers rooms on a bed and breakfast basis from around £60 per night. Call 00385 21 314 444, or visit hotelluxesplit.com.
For more information contact the Croatian National Tourist Office on 020 8563 7979, or see croatia.hr.