The New Dalmatian Cruising Adventure12.10.17 | Kirsty
Words by Emma Wilson
Sally practically threw herself at me as she rushed on deck. “Crikey – just made it – both on board and booking this cruise” she blurted. In the next few days, we bonded over coffee on the gorgeous upper deck of the Agape Rose. She told me that she had only just managed to book the last cabin six months ago and warned that she was always late!
It’s easy to see why this cruise is a hit. It starts in Trogir on a Saturday, thereby avoiding the packed port of Split. Trogir is a beautiful walled city under UNESCO protection and is just a short cruise from Split. Soon after departure, Matija, our charming cruise manager explained the choice of excursions. The island of Vis had long been a mystery for me so I immediately signed up for that.
The Agape Rose is the newest vessel cruising the Dalmatian coast and islands. It launched in late May and is small enough to be able to dock in hidden, tiny coves. Elegant yet unfussy with 18 air conditioned spacious cabins, proper en suite bathrooms and with a maximum of 38 guests, comfort was assured. Lunch was usually a fresh Mediterranean affair served buffet style.
As Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and islands are now one of the most popular holiday spots in Europe, a casual cruise like mine (preferably experienced in May, June, September or October) is the best way to see more destination and fewer crowds.
Our first stop was the Krka National Park. A boardwalk led us through woods and past glittering waterfalls where we swam under the sparkling cascades. That evening we docked at Sibenik and I noticed anxious expressions among my fellow travellers as the less attractive side of Communist architecture glided into view. Parts of the waterfront have not received the makeover as other places have, but to me, these glimpses of the past are part of “the difference”. The old town of Sibenik is exquisite with narrow streets, stone churches and the UNESCO listed 10th Century Cathedral of St James with its 71 sculptures.
Next day Split beckoned and since it wasn’t Saturday, we docked right opposite the entrance to Diocletian’s Palace. I’m sure it is no accident that the Roman Emperor chose this beautiful spot for his retirement home. Both the old town and the palace are also now under UNESCO protection.
On the island of Hvar, we wandered across the honey coloured square, home to Europe’s oldest public theatre (1612) and then past St Stephen’s cathedral. On Brac we stopped at Pusisca to visit one of the few remaining stonemasonry schools in Europe. The island of Korcula and her herring bone pattern streets came next and on Mljet we heard tales of the nymph Calypso who captured Odysseus and held him there for seven years.
Vis was the highlight for me. An island and town of the same name, which due to its strategic military zone status was off limits to visitors from the end of World War Two until 1989. My tour took in tunnels, gun emplacements, rocket launch sites, barracks for 5,000 soldiers and the old grass runway airfield (built by the RAF and where returning British veterans still play cricket). The former tiny airport building is now a wine bar and the sign says, “wine bar – aerodrom”. Wow.
On our last day, we headed for the forever famous, albeit a little overcrowded, Dubrovnik. She is still lovely though despite the crowds and I still managed to walk the mighty two-kilometre-long ramparts.
As we passed the Elafiti islands I reflected on our time at sea; including our wonderful swimming stops and dolphin sightings! I had coffee with our captain who shared some secrets about this coast. Now, where’s my 2018 diary? My new friend Sally might want to come and do it all over again.
- Return flights from London (ask about others)
- Return airport / port transfers
- 7 nights on the Agape Rose
- Welcome drink and snack
- Half Board (breakfast daily, 4 lunches & 3 dinners)
- Complimentary daily tea & coffee
- Complimentary daily fresh fruit
- Complimentary afternoon snack
- Cruise Manager
- Free Wi/Fi on board
Call us on 01543 258631 to book.