This summer I joined an Unforgettable small ship cruise, beginning in Dubrovnik and island-hopping around Croatia. I stayed on the Ave Maria, an impressive 38-passenger deluxe ship. Not only was this my first time travelling on a cruise, but also my first visit to Croatia. The Unforgettable team did a great job of organising a packed full itinerary, with fun activities planned for each day. I knew I would be in for an unforgettable experience!
My Island-Hopping Adventure
Day 1: Dubrovnik
My 10-day adventure began with an early morning flight from Stanstead airport to Dubrovnik. After landing and checking in to my hotel, I spent my first day soaking up the sun and relaxing on Lapad Beach, the largest beach in town. I stayed there until the evening, watching the sunset before heading into town for dinner, where I enjoyed local cuisine at a harbour side restaurant. After a lovely meal, I retreated to bed to rest ahead of a busy week.
Day 2: Dubrovnik
Before I joined the cruise to meet my new companions for the next week, I had a cooking class scheduled with a local Croatian family. I was picked up at my hotel by Vlaho, a member of the Mujo family, who drove me to their home outside of the city centre. I arrived at a beautiful, quaint house where I met more family members, Katerina and Nike. I was offered a shot of homemade quince gin, whilst Katerina and Nike shared their family history. They showed me their family tree hanging on the wall and explained that the Mujo family had been living in the same house since 1536. The cooking class began shortly after, with a lesson on how to bake bread. I was given flour, water and yeast, and followed Nike’s demonstration on how to knead bread before baking it in the oven. Katarina then led me to the garden where I picked fresh vegetables and helped her prepare the main dish, a pork skewer on a laurel stick cooked over an open wood fire, which is a traditional cuisine from the Konavle area. After a fun few hours of cooking, I tucked into a delicious three course meal and tasted the family’s homemade wine.
After lunch, I was driven back to the centre of Dubrovnik where I joined the other cruise passengers on the Dubrovnik Cable Car. The cable car takes you up to Mount Srd, where I admired the impressive views of the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea. Our day of touring Dubrovnik continued as the group and I met our private guide at Pile Gate and we began our walking tour of the Old Town. The tour guide was very informative and had good local knowledge, giving a detailed description of the Dubrovnik bombings in 1991 during the Croatian War of Independence. He also mentioned how the tie was invented in Croatia during the Napoleonic war, explaining how Croatian women would wrap a red scarf around their boyfriends’ neck before they went off to fight, as a symbol of their love.
That evening I spent my first night on the ship. It was a great time to socialise with the other passengers and get to know everyone.
Day 3: Slano & Ston
I woke up early on my first morning on the boat and was eager to start the day, as we were sailing towards our first destination, Slano. There was a delicious breakfast onboard everyday which consisted of fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, sausages and more. We arrived in Slano shortly after and had some free time to explore the small village. Before lunch, I joined the onboard lecture held by our cruise director, Vjecko, who discussed the Croatian War and his experience growing up in Zagreb during that period. It was an interesting talk where I learnt a lot about the Croatian war and the impact it had on people in the local communities.
In the afternoon, we joined our first planned excursion to the village of Ston and Mali (Little) Ston, located on the south of the Peljesac Peninsula. Just as we arrived it began to rain, but luckily the Unforgettable team had come prepared and handed out waterproof ponchos for us all. We hurried on to our first experience, oyster tasting onboard a small boat at Mali Ston Bay. This area is famous for its oyster beds and with many referring to them as ‘the most delicious oysters in the world’. We were also served a common costal Croatian dish called ‘buzara’, which consists of mussels in a white sauce, enjoyed with a glass of white wine. Once the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, we travelled to Ston where we met our private tour guide who took us to the oldest Salt Works still operating in Europe. Salt has been an important part of the history of Ston and has been in production there for over 2,000 years. My favourite part of the tour was hiking up the impressive Walls of Ston, which are the longest defensive walls in Europe and the second longest defensive walls in the world. When I reached the top, I was amazed at the panoramic views overlooking the Salt Works.
When we returned to the boat, I began getting ready for the Captains Dinner onboard the ship that night. We were given a complimentary glass of Champagne to enjoy with our four-course meal, as well as being treated to live Croatian music by a local band. After dinner, we headed out on to the deck where we spent the rest of the evening drinking, dancing and chatting with new friends.
Day 4: Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park is one of eight national parks in Croatia and is situated on the island of Mljet. The park is a large area with two saltwater lakes, Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero. When we arrived, I was stunned at how beautiful the park was, the lakes sparkled in the sun and the trees towered over us. We boarded a boat heading to the small isle of St. Mary’s. I walked around the island, visited the church in the Benedictine Monastery and took in the stunning views of the lakes. I spent the rest of my afternoon hiring a bike and cycling around the main island. The views were impressive, the roads were quiet and there were plenty of photo opportunities and places to stop for a swim. It was a great way to explore the whole of the island and I would recommend it to anyone visiting.
Day 5: Korčula
After a morning of sunbathing on the deck and swimming in the sea, we finally docked after lunch at our next island, Korčula. I knew very little about Korčula, but I was blown away by its beauty, with the island’s cobbled streets, charming little alleyways and great views of the seafront. The tour guide who showed us around the island was informative, telling us about the history of the famous explorer Marco Polo and his connection to the small town, whilst also including funny anecdotes and jokes which had the whole group laughing.
That night, I met the cruise director and some of the other guests for an optional dinner together. After a short drive to a quaint restaurant up in the hills, we were led to our table outside on the terrace, which was surrounded by olive trees and overlooked a stunning view of the main town. We were welcomed with a shot of homemade herbal and carob liquors before we were taken to an open fire cooker at the back and explained that we would be tasting a traditional Dalmatian dish called ‘Peka’. This dish is made up of vegetables and meat (typically lamb and veal) drizzled with olive oil and herbs, cooked under a bell-like dome on an open fire. Whilst our main meal was being prepared, we enjoyed a starter consisting of cheese, prosciutto and grilled zucchini and eggplant, with local red and white wine. The meal was delicious, and the setting was amazing, it was the perfect way to end the day on my new favourite island.
Day 6: Hvar
I woke up the next day still feeling stuffed from the dinner the night before and dreaming of the mouthwatering apple strudel dessert. After a relaxing morning swim, we shortly arrived in Hvar. We were first taken to meet our tour guide who showed us Hvar’s medieval old town, the main square and gave us a brief history of the island. We were given free time to explore, with a few suggestions from the tour guide.
Unforgettable Croatia had organised a VW Beatle tour of the island for us with a wine tasting. We met the driver in his car nearby (the bright yellow Beatle car was hard to miss) and then set off for my next adventure. Driving up the winding roads, we saw perfects views overlooking the sea and lavender fields. On our way to the winery, we explored the small town of Jelsa. It was quieter than the main town of Hvar, with a nice beach and plenty of restaurants and cafes along the waterfront.
Once we arrived at the family-run, Tomic Winery, we joined a small group and we were led downstairs to look around the wine cellars where we were given a brief history of the winery, before heading to an Ancient Roman inspired tasting room. We tasted four different Croatian wines, a mix of white, rose and red. Our host, Antonija, was excellent, she gave a detailed description of the different wines and recommended which of the cheeses, meat and olives provided, paired well with each one. The Plavca Mali was delicious and my favourite wine from the tasting.
Day 7: Blue Cave & Vis
The next day we visited the famous Blue Cave, located on the island of Biševo. We arrived early in the morning, but the island was already busy with people queuing up. The wait can be pretty long, so I would recommend bringing your swimsuit to take a dip in the sea or sunbath by the water, it’s a great way to pass the time. I was blown away by my visit to the Blue Cave, the water was crystal clear and the whole cave lit up an illuminating blue which was incredible. The sailors gave us detailed information on the history and structure of the cave, pointing out the crack from where the light was coming from.
After a delicious lunch and afternoon swim, we sailed towards our next island, Vis. I knew very little about the island of Vis, except that Mamma Mia 2 was filmed there. On the island, I joined a Military tour booked by the Unforgettable team. Vis has a long military history and up to the 1990s, it was a major military base for the Yugoslav army. I was driven around in a jeep by a tour guide who knew so much about the island and its history. During the tour, I visited a submarine tunnel, old military bunkers and Hum peak, the highest point on the island of Vis. At the top, I had a perfect view of the sea and watched a beautiful sunset. The military tour was fun, informative and a great way to explore the island, I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Vis.
Day 8: Split
We were coming to the end of our cruise and today we had our final swim stop at the famous Zlatni Rat beach on the island of Brač. This is one of the most well-known beaches in Croatia because of its unique, triangular shape. I spent the morning there swimming, sunbathing and relaxing.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed our final lunch together onboard the boat, chatting to other passengers and our cruise director announced the winners of the Unforgettable Photo Competition. Once we arrived in Split, we met our private tour guide who showed us the impressive Diocletian’s Palace and the Old Town, explaining the history behind the city and strolling around the streets of Split. We even passed the brand-new Game of Thrones Museum which just opened this year, the perfect place to visit for any GoT fans.
Day 9: Split
After a great week of cruising the Croatian islands with my new friends, it was time for it to come to an end. I enjoyed a final breakfast before I said goodbye to my fellow passengers and the amazing crew working onboard. With more time to spend in Split, I was looking forward to exploring the city. I met my lovely guide, Vicenija, in the centre of Split and began a pre-booked Food Tour. We walked around the Old Town and the Palace where she gave an informative talk about the food and history of Split before heading to the Green Market for the food tasting. I was taken from stall to stall, trying local cheeses, fresh prosciutto and breads, nuts and dried fruit, learning about the local food in Split. There was so much food to try that Vicenija packed up a bag of food to take with me. The tour continued with a sit-down lunch in a beautiful courtyard at a fantastic restaurant. They served fresh bread with fish pâte and anchovies, followed by two different types of homemade pasta; seafood and cuttlefish, paired with a refreshing glass of white and red wine for me to try. For dessert, I had gelato ice cream at one of the oldest sweet shops in Split, which was the perfect way to cool down in the hot weather.
Day 10: Daytrip to Trogir, Sibenik & Krka National Park
On was my last day in Croatia, I was determined to soak up the rest of the sights. I had an excursion planned to visit Trogir, Šibenik and Krka National Park. Trogir is a small island connected to the mainland by bridges. It became a World Heritage site in 1997 for its Roman-esque and Renaissance buildings. My tour guide, Ante, was excellent, his family are originally from Croatia, so he is very knowledgeable about Croatian history and culture. In Trogir I saw the famous Cathedral of St Lawrence, Kamerlengo Castle and the Clock Tower. The tour continued in Šibenik, where we walked around the cobbled streets and visited Saint Jacob’s Cathedral, which was added to the UNESCO list for its impressive Gothic-Renaissance architecture. The final stop was the Krka National Park, which I was most looking forward to visiting. The main attraction of the park is the seven magnificent waterfalls there. It was incredible seeing the waterfalls and Ante knew exactly where to stand to take the perfect photo. This was one of my favourite days from the trip, I loved strolling around Trogir and Šibenik and taking in the spectacular views in the national park. It was the perfect way to end my amazing trip to Croatia!
I joined the 7 Night Deluxe Dubrovnik to Split Cruise onboard the Ave Maria, with added excursions booked through Unforgettable Croatia. Visit our website to find alternative cruises or call our travel experts on +44 203 004 2345 to start planning your dream holiday with us!
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