Croatia has always been a very popular yachting destination and I wanted to experience it for myself. I went on a four-day trip with several other brokers to see why this is such a perennial favourite.
We went in mid-May, before the season had really started, so the weather was something of a mixed bag but I saw more than enough to appreciate the variety of experiences the Croatian coast offers.
Born in the South of France to a French father and German mother, Aline was raised in two cultures and languages. She graduated from Lyon 3 University and Kingston University London with a Masters in International Business and Foreign Languages (English and Spanish). Fluent in French, German, English and Spanish and with a passion for travel, Aline started working in hospitality in Provence and later in a grand resort in the Canary Islands. She entered the yachting industry when joining boutique brokerage house MYSEA in 2012 to help launch their London office before joining Burgess as a London-based charter broker in September 2017. Today, Aline thoroughly enjoys being involved in our industry as a MYBA member and as a founding member of YPY London (Young Professionals in Yachting). She likes keeping fit and active both in the gym and outdoors and is a real foodie and an enthusiastic cook.
DOLCE VITA is a very well-presented 34m (111.5ft) gulet yacht that has been owned and run by the same team for around five years. Outside she has two square dining tables shaded by a full bimini, and some great sun pads aft but the weather was cold, wet and windy for two of the four days we had on board. We did finally manage to use that area on the last day, but all the watertoys stayed dry.
Inside she is very comfortable and looks even better than she does in photos - warm, welcoming and in good condition throughout. As a wooden yacht you get the odd creaking floorboard but that's to be expected and some may say adds to the character.
I was staying in the master suite, which is full beam and very spacious. She has another VIP/master in the stern that I preferred, with big windows aft looking out to sea, plus two guest double cabins and a twin cabin. The crew cabins are off the guest cabin corridor - not unusual on gulet but worth mentioning to clients.
The AC/heating system (we used the latter…) was of a certain vintage and quite noisy - which, again, was not unexpected.
Overall DOLCE VITA is a great gulet and very well-priced for her size and accommodation.
The crew was excellent, all Croatian, very charming and eager to please. Captain Niko is a very calm, friendly and genuine character, a very experienced captain who has been on board for around four years, the same time as Chef Marko, who impressed us all.
Chef Marko was my highlight. The yacht is mid-range but there was nothing average about his cuisine. prepared the freshest and tastiest dishes with lots of local fresh fish and veg. It was very simple, emphasising on the product in a no-fuss style. He made a few Italian and French dishes which were excellent. Fish ‘en papilotte’, a rich mousse au chocolat, and his pasta was superb. We had lobster spaghetti and penne with pomodoro sauce, all perfectly al dente and exquisite.
Day 1 Split > Stari Grad (Hvar)
We boarded the yacht in Split ACI marina in the rain. They did not do a safety briefing, which I pointed out to them after the trip, but they gave a lovely introduction to the crew.
On the way to Stari Grad, passing between Solta and Brac, we saw dolphins! They played with the bow waves for a good 10 minutes.
Just outside Stari Grad bay there is a beautiful anchorage to the left, great for swimming but we took a dock berth for the night at the entrance of Stari Grad port and went ashore for a little tour then had dinner at La Gitana - authentic Croatian food served in a lively ambiance with a great owner who played music towards the end of the evening and we all started dancing.
Dolphins off Brac
Wandering in Stari Grad
Day 2 Stari Grad > Hvar anchorage (off Hula Hula Beach Club)
We went ashore to visit Stari Grad and the beautiful summer house of local poet Petar Hektorović. For a couple of euros we explored the lush garden, the old house and ruins and a beautiful pond.
Strolling up the hill we went to the town's fort that is home to an incredible museum with lots of local arts and artefacts. Then we walked back into town to check out the little boutiques, tavernas and souvenir shopping. The promenade is very cute with its cafes and restaurants, very quiet but beautiful and should be visited - it was my favourite spot of the whole trip.
After lunch on board, we left for Hvar island and anchored in a bay not far from Hvar town, off the Hula Hula Beach Club, but far enough not to be disturbed by the buzz of the town. We anchored Med-style, stern to the rocks with lines ashore.
Owners of the nearby Grgić Vina vineyard came on board the neighbouring yacht SAN LIMI and gave a presentation and an informal tasting. The Plavac Mali red was excellent!
Afterwards three of us decided to go ashore to stretch our legs and hike up the hill to see the view. We were dropped by tender in a beautiful creek with a cute little taverna Mareta before dinner back on board and an early night.
Day 3 Hvar > Vis > Bisevo > Komiza > Vis > Hvar town
We left for Vis at 08:00 and anchored stern to the rocks of Ravnik island, just east of Vis. Despite cold, wet weather, we set off by tender to visit the blue cave on Biševo stopping en route at secluded Stiniva bay, a beautiful little boutique beach nestled in the rocks.
The blue cave is impressive and the light is very special. On a sunny day it must be amazing. Local tenders lead group tours and it takes about 15 minutes.
Back on our tender we made a 30-minute crossing to visit Komiža on Vis island, a tiny fishing village, quiet and authentic, with great seafood restaurants and cafes on the promenade. After a stroll we took a taxi to Vis, a town in two parts: Luka on one side with the big jetty, and Kut (meaning corner) to the east with its pretty little streets and cafes.
Vis has an attractive, well-protected bay with lots of buoys for smaller yachts. The most upscale restaurants are Vila Kaliope and Pojoda, and Tezok restaurant is where they shot Mamma Mia 2. We were picked up by our tender in the late afternoon and stopped by the green cave, smaller and less dramatic than its blue cousin.
Back on board we cruised back to anchor off Hvar for the night to experience the buzz of Hvar town, famed as the Saint-Tropez of Croatia.
We were there in mid-May and it was already very busy with lots of young groups, weekenders and party people. We had drinks at the Central Park Club, which was a great place with live music and a more grown-up vibe.
For clubbers, Kiva is a good place. Pasarola has an upscale open-air restaurant in the town and a club in the basement, and Carpe Diem Beach Club has a bar in town and shuttles running from the port to the club outside town.
Day 4 Hvar town > Split anchorage
In the morning we went into Hvar town again to see the abundant cafes and shops, jewellers, souvenir shops, clothes etc. It is a really picturesque, lively town.
After a wander in town we went on a tender tour to the beautiful archipelago off Hvar town including Palmizana bay which has beautifully clear water and a nice pontoon to disembark. Ashore, the Lagnini restaurant is very smart. Neighbour Zoru is also nice and overlooks the bay and Totos is less fancy. A five-minute walk up the bay is Menegeilo restaurant, a quirky and arty place owned by a charismatic lady.
Back on the yacht we cruised towards Split to get a really nice anchorage to the west of the big port called Uvala Kasjuni. It's only a 10-minute tender ride from Split but you wouldn’t think you were close to a major port.
We had dinner on board for the last night and in the morning disembarked at Split ACI marina.
FACTS & FIGURES
Length: 34m (111.7ft)
Guests: 10 in 5 cabins
Cruising area: Croatia
Standard rate: EUR 34,000 per week in high season plus expenses (incl. VAT)