By Karen Quinn-Panzer
I have just returned from a luxury yacht cruise in Croatia. And no, I didn’t win the lottery recently.
With over 1,000 islands and over 2,700 hours of sunshine a year, Croatia is the perfect place to cruise on a small ship. As a trendy tourism market, prices for Croatia are still quite reasonable depending on the ship and the time of year you plan to travel.
Most of these luxury mini cruisers, including ours, only accommodate 36 guests. But you can also charter catamarans and yachts with space for six to twelve or more. The food was wonderful and the rooms quite spacious for a ship of this size. Water sports platforms at the stern of the ship offer jet skis, kayaks, snorkeling and stand-up paddleboards.
We arrived at the new airport in Split a day early, which has a panoramic view of the mountains and the Adriatic Sea. We soon discovered that the old town is a beautiful living monument dating back to 295 BC. It was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian. As one of the first urban complexes, it has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is amazing to see the boutiques, restaurants and charming hotels built into the palace complex with beautiful cobbled streets.
Since it was an agent trip, we condensed what would normally take 12 days into seven days, so we learned a lot. We have toured the islands of Hvar, Korcula, Vis and Brac. We spent some time in Dubrovnik where we were invited to a cocktail party with classical musicians on the city walls. We ate oysters, clams and poÅ¡ip (the local white wine) in Mali Ston, about an hour from Dubrovnik, where the second longest wall in the world is (the first is the Great Wall of China).
Hvar was my favorite of all the islands, with a five-star resort, Palace Elizabeth, founded 150 years ago by Queen Elizabeth I as a winter wellness retreat. We drove over the mountain with amazing views of the Adriatic Sea to the other side of the island and visited a vineyard where we enjoyed a farm-to-table lunch with local wines.
One of the things that surprised us the most on our trip was the variety and quality of the food and wine – fresh seafood, produce and vegetables combined with some Eastern European flavors and spices. Olive oil, truffles and figs come from the region.
The second surprise was the dramatic beauty of these islands and coastal cities. Croatia sometimes reminds me of Greece, Italy and the French Riviera. The water is the emerald green color found in Greece.
The third surprise was the great hospitality and fluent English from everyone we met in Croatia.
You can plan a trip for two or charter a larger ship with family and friends. The best time to visit is spring or autumn, when there are fewer tourists and lower prices.
Karen Quinn-Panzer is the owner and vacation specialist of Dream Vacations Quinn Panzer Travel in Milford.