Sunshine, sea and sand. Relaxing, exploring and partying. Culture, sunsets and starry skies. There's no better way to experience all of these than by taking a cruise along the Croatian coast for a week.
By far, one of my all-time favorite trips has been the week I spent sailing the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia with my family and friends. Not only is Croatia an incredibly gorgeous country, but the whole experience of sailing from town to town in a ship filled with some of my best friends made the trip unforgettable. Here are a few reasons why I think you should consider booking a cruise down the coast of Croatia as your next European adventure:
1. This is not a standard cruise...
Let me just start off by saying: this is not a normal cruise. When you think of a cruise, one of the first things that probably flashes to your mind is a huge luxury cruise liner with a movie theatre, multiple restaurants and a swimming pool with slides. Yes, cruises like that can be fun, but this is a totally different experience. Whilst it does depend on the company you book with, many charter companies offer cruises on converted sailboats with enough cabins to fit between 18-40 people. The laidback atmosphere on-board is complemented by the fact that there's no dress code; walking around barefoot and in your bathing suit is perfectly acceptable. With no cinema, no live entertainment and no shopping malls on-board; you'll be forced to do things like: get to know your fellow travellers, read a book, or just appreciate the stunning views of the Croatian coastline. My point is, even though this is not a standard cruise, it's going to be one of the best cruises of your life.
2. Sail during the day, party at night
When looking for a Croatian cruise, try to find a company that sails during the day and allows you the luxury of exploring your destinations during the afternoons, evenings and nights. This will mean that you get breakfast and lunch on-board, but have each evening in a new location, giving you plenty of time to explore the city, have a laid-back dinner and then dance the night away at the awesome Croatian clubs and bars. Just make sure you're back on the boat in time for departure in the morning!
3. You get to explore multiple destinations
One of the best thing about these cruises is that you can discover the essence of multiple cities within a short period of time without the stress of being on a normal cruise ship or having to drive between locations--your hotel room sails with you! To begin with, because you'll be on a small ship, you typically moor up to the pier which is often right in the middle of town, giving you the chance to return to your ship whenever you please as opposed to having to catch a tender boat back and forth between the shore and a cruise liner. The small size of the ship also means that you can go to smaller towns which the big cruise liners can't visit. Additionally, as the only time restriction you have is to get back on the boat before it departs in the morning, you've got plenty of time in each destination to explore the city centre, visit museums and absorb the sunshine whilst learning about the culture and history of the Croatian town you are visiting.
4. Swim stops in the middle of nowhere are just perfect
Sailing during the day is great! Not only will you be awake to see the gorgeous views of the Croatian coast, but most of the smaller Croatian cruise operators include daily swim breaks where the boat drops anchor for an hour or two in the sky-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Gather your courage and jump from the railing of the ship into the sea or grab your snorkel and swim with the fish closer to the shore.
5. Meet like-minded people on-board your ship
If you go on one of the cruises catering to younger people (under 35s), you're bound to meet like-minded students on-board your ship. There will be people from different countries who speak different languages, but everyone will be bound together by the same love for travel, adventure and fun. Another option is to organize the trip with a group of friends - both big and small groups can work well on these ships! The afternoons on deck are a perfect time to learn about your new and old friends and their home cultures, swap stories about your travels and connect on Instagram or Facebook to keep in contact once the trip is over (some cruise operators offer WiFi, although you might find your dream Croatian cruise is the perfect place to disconnect for a while).
6. Ice cream is a staple food (and the other foods are just as wonderful)
When you travel to hot countries, ice cream pretty much becomes a staple food, and it's perfectly okay to eat it at least once (if not more times) a day. In addition to the many wonderful ice cream parlours scattered around every city, there's a huge abundance of restaurants where you can grab dinner on shore. In most cruise packages, breakfast and lunch on-board the ship are included in the overall price, but what you eat for dinner is completely up to you! If you like seafood, Croatia is the place for you; the grilled calamari is particularly delicious.
7. There are so many epic activities to try
Once you've pulled into port in the afternoon, there are so many activities you can try. If you're into adventure, consider trying canyon walking, jet skiing, cliff jumping, white-water rafting, sea kayaking, cycling, or scuba diving. If you prefer culture and history, make sure you walk the city walls of Dubrovnik and climb to the top of the bell tower in Split. Whilst almost all of these excursions will cost extra, it's definitely worth trying at least a few of them. Look into what special packages the cruise company offers; you may be surprised at what fun activities they provide special deals for! If you do decide to plan an adventurous excursion, make sure you talk to your cruise organiser and plan a few days in advance, as often there are logistics that would be impossible to arrange the day you arrive.
Make sure you bring your camera to Croatia; not only are the blue seas of the Adriatic perfect for photographing, but you're bound to see some stunning sunsets during your week of traveling the coast.
9. The nights are unforgettable
If you enjoy going out to dance the night away, Croatia has a varied nightlife which will definitely make for some experiences to remember. Each night you'll be in a new destination and have the opportunity to try out a different nightclub, and as long as you make it back onto the boat in time for departure in the morning, there's nothing stopping you from having a wild night surrounded by the friends you made on the ship. If you stop for a night at Makarska, make sure you visit the Deep Nightclub where you can party in a cave just a few metres from where the sand and the sea meet. Another unique club is the Carpe Diem Beach, situated on an island accessible only by taxi boat, where you can watch the sun set over the city of Hvar before partying under the palm trees and a sky full of stars. If you're not into clubbing or you're at a destination without a nightclub, consider going for a night stroll along a beach, watching the stars from the top deck of your boat or maybe even going to a concert or performance in town.
10. It's not actually that expensive
Unlike the luxury cruise liners, which are usually too expensive for a student budget, if you book with the right company, sailing down the coast of Croatia doesn't actually have to be that expensive. It's almost like staying in a floating hostel; you're not paying much, so don't expect much from the sleeping arrangements. You'll most probably be sharing a cabin with at least one other person, and will definitely be sharing bathrooms and showers. But it's not like sleeping arrangements matter too much because, let's be honest, how much time are you actually going to spend sleeping?
Prices vary depending on which company you sail with, which dates you go and which type of room you're looking at getting, but often it's possible to get tickets for under €550 ($600) for 7-nights including breakfast and lunch every day whilst cruising. Obviously things begin to get a little more expensive when you start adding on all of the fun extras, so make sure you look into what packages your cruise company offers with regards to adventures during the day and parties at night.
So, yes, maybe this won't be the luxury cruise you've always been imagined going on, but the laid back nature of a small-ship Croatian cruise, the places you go and the people you'll meet will all make your vacation down the coast of Croatia one that you'll never forget.
Some Croatian cruises to look into:
- Navigator Cruises with Sail Croatia
- Young Fun Cruise with Katarina Line
- Pirate Cruise Croatia with Stoke Travel
- Cruise to the Beat (sailing and music festivals) with Busabout