We travel to learn how people lived, and live, so cruising along the Dalmatian Coast offers the ability to gain a perspective of how people have journeyed for centuries. Vistas of the mountains, shorelines and watching passing seafarers all contributed to filling our imaginations. Being topside at the bow of the ship while pulling into a port captured a sense of history.
Small ship cruising is a mode of travel providing an intimacy enabling listening to time.
The time of the year will influence how much you may gain from the trip. Small ship cruises offer daily opportunities to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. However, if you are cruising in April/May or September/October the water temps will range from cool to downright cold and influence your time in the water. We traveled during the first week of October, on the last cruise of the season for our ship, and it took a hardy soul to jump into the sea which we all did at least once in order to say, “been there, swam that”. However, the enjoyment was lacking compared to folks cruising during the summer months when the water temps encouraged frolicking in the sea.
Cruising during the shoulder season does offer the expected advantages of less crowds, cruise discounts and milder temps to enjoy the destinations. Keep in mind some attractions, restaurants/bars, shops may not yet be open or already have closed.
We selected a cruise based upon value, reviews and the itinerary. Most ships have two decks for accommodations; the upper deck offers a vista of the sea and easier access to the main lounge while the lower deck berths have port holes and far fewer people shuffling about outside the room door. The lower deck does bring you closer to the noise of the engine and means climbing an extra set of stairs.
We chose Sail Croatia on a ship with 20 berths and a maximum of 40 passengers. For value we took a cabin on the lower deck and paid about $1,100 per person for a seven-day journey departing from Split with stops in Makarsha, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Mljet, Hvar and Stari Grad before returning to Split. This was the last booking for the season resulting in only having 28 passengers and a fairly worn out all Croatian crew who were highly anticipating the season end. We captured lighting in a bottle with the composition of guests who ranged from early 70’s to mid 20’s and geographically from OZ, Kiwis, Singapore, USA and UK. Serendipitous is meeting two fellow passengers who are epidemiologists and via their social media being kept up to date on COVID.
We suggest you bring card games, inflatables, a towel and hope someone brings a portable Bluetooth speaker. If you are allergic to bee stings than bring the meds needed to counteract as we encountered bees ashore and while at sea.
Small ship cruising has little in common with large cruise ship experiences as you will need to be more self-sufficient. Small ship cruise vessels tend to look alike and are clustered while in port creating a bit of a hubbub upon seeking your ship on day of embarkation. On the day of departure in Split about 30 small cruise ships were all collecting passengers along a long dock making identification a small challenge. Just keep asking folks for guidance to identify the location of your ship and all will be well. Dock side check in is easy, hoist your luggage onto the deck, turn over your passport to the steward and then grab a drink and start introducing yourself to others coming aboard. We suggest you grab some snacks at a local store (package chips, candy and other small savories) to keep in your cabin to allay any cravings during the journey. My favorite is lifesavers to rely upon throughout the day regardless of where we journey.