With Sail Croatia being one of the things we were most excited for on the trip, and our expectations set super high, we could have quite easily been disappointed. But disappointed we were not. The week exceeded our expectations on every front!
Our Croatian adventure started in Dubrovnik, where our trio was made a quad with the arrival of our friend Rachel from Paris. After reading reviews online it appeared that there wasn’t an enormous amount of time to explore each destination of the cruise, so we opted to book an Air BnB for a couple of days before boarding the cruise in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is impressive; if you can look past the hordes of tourists it feels like you’ve stepped back in time or into another world (probably why it’s the set for Game of Thrones and Star Wars!). The global publicity has made Dubrovnik a massive tourist destination and prices and crowds reflect that. We explored Old Town before getting on the boat and made sure we ticked off all the must see sights.
The city walls give you an impressive view down over the city and also out to sea. Prices for it have gone up considerably in the last couple of years, but its something you’ve got to do! As with all major attractions, the earlier you can get there the better. Looking up at the walls at midday you can see people shuffling shoulder to shoulder as they walk the 2km perimeter. We were thankful that we got out of bed early and were walking the walls by 9am.
To get the best views of the city though, you need to go to the top of Mt Srd. The most popular way to get up is by cable car. We were too cheap to pay the €17 for the return trip so just opted for the one way ticket and walked back down. If you decide to do the same, make sure you’ve got sensible shoes on as we did it in jandals and wished the whole way we’d just paid the money for a return trip on the cable car!
Topping off Dubrovnik was a stop at Buzza Bar, a bar on the rocks outside the city walls that’s notoriously hard to find! After a swim and a beer there we were asked to move away so that a gentleman could launch his drone to take some photos. We got talking to him and turns out he was on a job for Sail Croatia and had been cruising with them for the last two weeks. When we told him we were boarding the Tuna the next day his response was “The tuna is the best boat, I hope you’re ready to party!”. If we weren’t excited before that, we definitely were after!
Our first night on the boat in Dubrovnik seemed a little weird. We’d checked out of our AirBnB, packed our bags and boarded the boat. Only to stay in Dubrovnik for another night on the Sail Croatia boat!
We took the chance to start making some friends on board the boat and visit the nearby Lapad Beach. The evening was spent on the dancefloor drinking cocktails from buckets, cause what other way is there to make friends!?
Waking up on the way to Mljet we got our first taste of the Dalmatian coast out of Dubrovnik. Man it was impressive! The water and skies are so blue, the seas calm, and the islands almost uninhabited!
Mljet island is a part of one of Croatia’s National Parks. We docked in Pomela which is a small port with nothing more than a few restaurants, hotels, and one bar (which we definitely made use of).
After purchasing park tickets and renting bikes we were off to explore. The biggest attraction of the park are the impressive lakes. We cycled around the larger of the two lake and even visited the monastery built on an island in the middle. Its almost like inception, and island on an island.
If you want to go out and visit the island, the ferry only runs one every hour or so. But if you buy something from the restaurant (the Milka Ice Cream comes highly recommended) they’ll run you too and from the shore whenever you want free of charge.
The lakes are salt water and a few degrees warmer than the ocean. Around every corner is a spot to stop for a swim.
Korcula, home to Marco Polo, is often referred to as a Mini Dubrovnik as its one of the only other places where you can see such intact old town walls.
The town has a lot less tourists than Dubrovnik which allowed us more of an opportunity to appreciate it! When we return we’ll definitely spend some time checking out the Massimo cocktail bar, which is located at the top of a tower of the old walls.
Our night out on Korcula was relatively tame and we headed home at 2am. Stopping on the way at a fast food joint where we ordered “Two of whatever that guy just had”. Upon making conversation with the young guy at the store it came up that we were from Auckland and that his mother lived there. When we asked if he had visited his response was “No, she’s a drug addict and left me when I was 3 months old. I don’t think I’ll visit.” We then stood in awkward silence until we got our food and headed home!
Hvar is the playground of the rich and famous. The harbour is home to a myriad of superyachts as well as a small island with a French restaurant where a starter will set you back a cool €530.
As it was coming to the end of the season for Sail Croatia we didn’t have to share our guide with other boats. This meant that he took us on a walking tour around central Hvar and up to the fortress. The hill to get up there is a killer (especially when the most strenuous thing you’ve done for the last 4 days is wake up). The views from the top however are definitely worth the hike!
You’re spoilt for choice on where to party in Hvar. The two bars suggested to us were Pink Champagne and Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem is located on an Island just off Hvar and you need to take a water taxi to get there, while Pink Champagne is an underground club in central Hvar. I opted for Pink Champagne on this trip as I’d heard that Carpe Diem is best when it’s peak season (Mark wasn’t drinking and chose to head home just after 1am as this was the beginning of the end for him).
Stari Grad literally translates to old town. It is still on the Island of Hvar, but has a much different vibe! The streets are narrow and winding, there is very little nightlife and its much much smaller.
This was the night of the cruise where everybody decided that our bodies couldn’t handle another night of drinking and went to bed well before midnight. Lucky we did, because the next day was the biggest night of the cruise!
Makarska was our favourite stop of the trip, we had a great day AND a great night. We knew that we were onto a winner when we pulled up to the most impressive swim stop yet with crystal clear waters backed by enormous mountains.
After our obligatory swim stop and lunch, we were bussed up into the mountains to go zip lining. We’ve been zip lining before in Cambodia and thought that that was good. This was next level! We had a total of 8 lines on the mountain ranging from 200m to 700m in length. The views up in the mountains were incredible and the guides we had were great value too.
Makarska was also host to the infamous Sail Croatia Pirate Party so after dinner, and a stop off at the pirate shop, we were good to go. True to form, Mark went as something a little more extreme than the standard striped shirt and sailors hat. I on the other hand couldn’t even find a hat to fit my head, so settled on a singlet and a couple of eyeliner tattoos.
The venue for the party was Club Deep, an old cave used for weapons storage in WWII that’s now been converted into a club . It’s an incredible venue, with great music and opening straight out onto the beach. We made the questionable decision to skinny dip off the beach with some of our new friends. In hindsight, it was far too light, too close to the bar and we had probably drunk far too much!
Waking up at our swim stop on the way to split was painful after the pirate party. I didn’t manage to emerge from the room until 11am, only to be told I had to be ready in 2 hours to go rafting on a nearby river! Cursing myself, I headed back downstairs to let Mark know. It was only when re-entering the dark cabin that I realised how crook Mark actually was. There was no way he was coming with us.
After a swim and a pep talk to myself, 8 of us boarded the boats dinghy and headed off to meet our transfer to go rafting. The van ride there was very subdued, with the majority of us wondering if we could keep lunch down in the bus, without even thinking about rafting!
Surprisingly we got a second wind for the rafting and managed to take only 3 hours for a 2.5 hour paddle. I blame terrible currents, but it was probably the fact that we couldn’t get more than 3 people at a time to commit to paddling. Although what we lacked in paddling ability we definitely made up for in great conversations.
After rafting we met the boat back in Split where we had to find the final damage we’d done with the bar tabs, quickly shower then headed out for a final dinner and cocktails to say goodbye to our Sail Croatia family.
Unfortunately that didn’t leave us any time to explore Split, but also just gives us another reason to come back to Croatia!
We had so much fun this week that we didn’t take as many photos or videos as we should have. Marks pulled together some footage that we do have to make this video of life on board the Tuna. Looks like we’ve been living the lifestyle of the rich and famous right? Wrong. Sail Croatia is surprisingly affordable! We’ve written a whole post about how much Sail Croatia actually cost!
Coming into this week with enormous expectations, we’d set ourselves up for disappointment. Thankfully, the Sail Croatia crew and other passengers aboard the boat were the best we could have asked for and the week surpassed even our high expectations!
After we recover from this week we’re off to the Plitvice National Park!