Why did we go to Croatia, of all places?
- Jean had heard good things about it.
- He’d found a small-ship cruise that fit into one of the few periods this spring where we could fit in a 10-day vacation.
And that’s about it, really. Jean did all the booking of this trip: the cruise, the flights (not that easy to arrange), the hotel in Dubrovnik, where we stayed before and after getting on the ship. I bought a couple Croatia travel guides and flipped through them, but overall, this was one of the trips I’d prepped for the least.
Reading the cruise itinerary, we both had similar thoughts: Wow, that sounds really relaxing.
We weren’t entirely sure this was a good thing.
Normally we keep pretty busy on vacation, packing in museums and hikes up mountains and the constant hunt for the best restaurant within budget.
But generally, the cruise schedule was as follows:
- Breakfast somewhere between 7–9, during which the boat departs.
- Travel on the boat til the next stop. Sometimes we had a stop around 11:00, then another in the afternoon. Sometimes it was just the one afternoon stop.
- Lunch on boat around 1:00.
- Visit the new place we’d arrived at starting around 2:00 or 3:00. Sometimes we had a city tour. We would have supper in the town in in island, and sleep on the boat. (It never traveled overnight.)
You might notice that’s a lot of time just “being on the boat” each day. We frankly had some concerns we’d get bored.
Fortunately, after a short adjustment period, we managed to get into the rhythm of being leisurely. Ultimately, I found this one of the most relaxing, stress-free vacations I’ve ever been on. A few factors, some of which were just luck, helped contribute to that.
The weather couldn’t have been better
Except for one brief thunderstorm on our last day, we encountered no rain. It was just a mix of partly sunny and fully sunny, every day. The highs were comfortable: maybe a max of 26? And the lows were quite manageable—throw on a sweater and you’re all good.
That, of course, made visiting each town very pleasant.
The boat also had lovely sundeck.
Croatia is very safe
The rate of theft in Croatia is very low. One tour guide mentioned that people don’t bother to lock their doors. We saw no homeless people, no beggars. That all really reduced the usual paranoia one has, while traveling, about keeping wallets and purses safe.
The Dalmatian towns are beautiful
New day, new charming location. It’s hard not to feel good when surrounded by sea and sand (well, pebbles really, but…), lovely ancient buildings, mountains, greenery, boats…
We did a lot of walking
Not while on the boat, obviously, but we did have the daily stops. Jean has a little GPS gizmo he uses with his camera that allows you to geo-tag where each photo is taken. It also happens to tell you how much you’ve traveled each day. Early on Jean started remarking on how much we’d actually walked that day (15 K in Dubrovnik!), and then it became a game to try attain at least 10 K every day.
As an added challenge, we also tried to gain some elevation daily by availing ourselves of whatever viewpoints were on offer.
You might be thinking, that doesn’t sound that relaxing, but walking is really good for you. It helped us sleep well. And it was leisurely walking—we often had no particular goal or destination or deadline. We just wanted to see and get immersed in the place we were in. (For at least 10 K.)
Our rooms were well-designed
Both at our hotel and, to our surprise, on the boat, we had rooms with comfortable beds, good lighting, adequate storage, lots of plugins (for our many e-devices), and enough mirrors. Though not that large, the space was used very well. It’s surprising how often that isn’t the case.
What can I say. 🙂 The boat had a wifi room whose signal was much better than we were expecting. (Our hotel’s wifi signal was also excellent.) And, I bought a Croatian SIM card for my phone that granted me 3 GB of data for $10! That could serve as a wifi hotspot.
We had our usual absurd number of devices—tablets, phones, e-readers, laptop—so if boredom ever did threaten, it was pretty easy to entertain ourselves.
It wasn’t all Facebook and Twitter, though. Jean also did a lot of his photo processing and posting while enroute (which is good, as he hasn’t had much time since he got back), and I got a lot of reading done (not all on devices; I did bring some dead tree editions as well) and kept up with the travel diary.
Tourism is very important to this area, and we generally found we got great service. For example, when we mentioned an early checkout at our hotel, they offered us a bag breakfast (no charge). A lot of the waiters were very friendly and enthusiastic about the restaurant’s food offerings. And yes, the food was quite good! And it was almost always patio dining.
Our cruise director was a little lacklustre, but otherwise the ship staff were good. Our shipmates (only 27 of us onboard) were an international bunch—Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, UK, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland… We were the only North Americans. Obviously you hit it off more with some than others, but generally it was a good group—though Jean correctly pointed out that we weren’t the best at mingling. (The wifi might have contributed to that…)