WHY IS CHARTERING A CREWED MOTOR YACHT IN CROATIA A GREAT IDEA?
There we were, lying on the deck, the wind in our hair, the hot sun on our back, speeding across the deep blue water studded with emerald islands. It does not get much better.
We were cruising down the Croatian Adriatic on board the foot luxury Sunseeker Manhattan 84. There is something extraordinarily liberating about a holiday spent cruising on the sea. You can wake up every morning in a different place and just take off again – as free as a bird, but travelling in great style and fabulous luxury. I thought I might find the boat confining, but I needn’t have worried. This is like a floating villa.
The master stateroom is wonderfully spacious with an incredibly comfortable bed and furnishings. And, just in case that isn’t enough, it even has its own bar. Above, on the main deck, there is a fantastic saloon, which is a good refuge from the sun’s rays if required and provides an excellent and roomy area in which to dine.
Ah yes, the food. This is superb and prepared by the chef. He will prepare whatever you want. All you have to do is let him know. The local dishes are delicious, and the fish wonderfully fresh.
The boat has a crew of three and they made the holiday a huge success. They work around the boat efficiently and discreetly, but they were also on hand when we needed them and incredibly helpful. Since this was our first time in the Adriatic we relied on them to give us advice about where we might go. Their advice was excellent and they never let us down. We would tell them the type of day we wanted to spend and they would discuss with us the possible options and what it might mean for lunch, swimming and the evening’s entertainment. I would say they treated us like royalty, but that would be doing them a disservice. They made us feel much more comfortable than that.
And so a typical day would begin, perhaps, in the Marina of a small port. We would leave as we ate breakfast and be off to a deserted and remote cove hidden away on a small island. There we could swim, relax on board, or, for those of us of a more energetic disposition, enjoy using the boat’s toys – a jet ski and waterskiing equipment. The boat also has the apparatus for diving.
After a leisurely stay here, we would board again and be off to another nearby island for lunch. Some of the remoter islands have superb little Marinas for boats and the centre of these is often a solitary restaurant whose trade is solely devoted to catering for passing boats. After a long and peaceful lunch, we’d be off again and cruising for, perhaps another hour to visit a place of historical interest of particular natural beauty that our captain had recommended.
The final leg of the trip might be to a bigger port, so that we could enjoy an evening out on the town and visit some of the excellent bars and clubs that can be found in the principal towns of the bigger islands – such as Hvar on the island of Hvar and Bol on the island of Brac. Arriving into port in the early evening, sitting on the deck, soaking up the warm-evening rays of the sun and the admiring glances of people on shore as they turned to admire the sleek and elegant lines of the Manhattan was a wonderful experience.
There is an awful lot to see on the Adriatic and a lot of places to go. You’ll never be able to visit them all and once you’ve been and enjoyed it, you’ll want to come back. But the Croatian coast does seem to have been designed by God for an excellent cruising holiday. The principal towns of the coast and the islands are fantastic places to visit for a day or so, with beautiful streets, and churches, together with good bars, clubs and restaurants. Dubrovnik, of course is the most famous, but there are plenty of others worth a visit. The town of Korcula on the island of Korcula is exquisite, with equally well-preserved fortifications and small steep narrow streets, essentially unchanged since the middle ages.
The large islands of central Dalmatia are the best for lively towns and nightlife. Brac, just off Split, Hvar, Vis and Korcula are the largest islands and have the most to offer in the way of excitement and entertainment in the evening. And the wonderful thing about having a boat like the Sunseeker Manhattan at one’s disposal is that one is easily reached from the other, so you really don’t have to make your mind up too early and, if you really felt like it you could dine in one and then cruise of to another to dance the night away.
To the north of this central clutch of islands is the Kornati archipelago. This is a clutch of tens of almost completely deserted islands. They provide a wonderfully peaceful refuge. The islands of southern Dalmatia are also less busy than those central ones off the Coast, near Split. But for stunning natural beauty, they can’t be matched. The Island of Mljet is the most beautiful and is something of a Russian Doll of an Island. At the centre of the island is a lake and in the middle of the lake is the little isle of St. Mary, with an ancient Benedictine monastery and a church dating from 12th century. The small island is the symbol of the entire island, because of its exceptional aesthetic image and strong cultural and spiritual dimension.
On a sailing yacht it is a good idea to plan one’s route in detail. You would have to pick carefully what you are going to visit, since your options, given the time you have and the speed you can go will be restricted. On a cruising motor yacht, this is far less of a problem. All these areas can be visited. The overall distances are quite large, but those between one island and the next are perfect for a morning’s or an afternoon’s cruise.
We began our trip at Split, and spent our first night on Vis. The following morning we went to visit the extraordinary Blue Cave on the far side of the island Bisevo, before heading north to the Kornati Islands for a couple of days. Here we relaxed, swam water-skied, enjoyed life on board and took time to go inland to explore the amazing Krka waterfalls nearby. We then headed South to Trogir. I was struck with the beauty of this not well-known town and more so than with many others more famous. The following day we were off to Hvar, spending a fantastic evening in the town there, before heading off again, taking in over the next couple of days, Korcula, Mljet and the stunning Dubrovnik – you will never fully appreciate this town until you have arrived here by sea, as you are supposed to. Coming in by road is just not the same thing at all.
This trip covered a lot of ground, but it did not feel remotely pressured. We were at sea just enough, with plenty of time to enjoy ourselves and take in all the sights and scenes at a leisurely place. In the past I’ve tended to shrink away from the sea as a form of entertainment and relaxation. It all seemed too much like hard work. But my trip to Croatia has made me seriously reconsider. Now I’ve cruised along the Adriatic, I’m going to have to go back and do it again. How can I resist, when it’s all just sitting there right on my doorstep?