Marie-Clare Dixon, Head of Digital at Riviera Travel, has recently returned from Croatia on a Split, Rab and Undiscovered Islands of the North Yacht Cruise. Here she shares her experience.
Discovering the wonders of Croatia on a yacht cruise
“I’ve had the most amazing holiday on the MS Il Mare, and the places we visited in Croatia were diverse. The country’s second city, Split, is stunning with plenty of historical things to see, medieval Trogir has a maze of winding streets, Rab is relaxed, and Sali felt truly authentic. It’s a traditional fishing village with only a couple of bars and a shop, and that’s its beauty. The cruise itinerary had something for everyone.
One of the highlights for me was Kornati National Park. I think it’s one of the most idyllic places I’ve ever visited. You enter the waters around the Kornati archipelago, and despite being a national park, it feels so private. You have the chance to go ashore and take a gentle 10-minute stroll to a salt lake. The whole area is very lush and green. I came upon some beautiful butterflies, one that was a pastel pink and rich green colour, and another was bright yellow. It was wonderful being so close to nature. It felt so tranquil.
Aboard the classically elegant MS Il Mare
The whole eight-day yacht cruise was a glorious experience. The MS Il Mare caters for up to 40 passengers, and I think everyone on board described the yacht as having this classical elegance. Understandably, it’s the pride and joy of Captain Teo, who not only owns the ship but designed it too. He’s been a captain for 22 years and comes from a shipping family. His grandfather started the business and owned a sailboat back in 1944, which was used for transporting goods. In 1962, his father bought his first boat, the Santa Maria, after spending around ten years in navigation. Teo himself started sailing in 1971 when he was just seven, and became a boat owner in 1990. At the time, the country was still known as Yugoslavia, but he sailed the Sagena with a Croatian flag, which meant a lot to him. His two brothers both operate ships as well – one, the MV Corona, is a Riviera Travel yacht cruiser – and his 17-year-old son is at marine school, so sailing is in the family.
The design of the MS Il Mare, which was built in 2017, is based on a British yacht, but Captain Teo adapted elements to make the 48-metre ship a bespoke vessel. The interior is immaculate. Varnished wood gleams, chrome sparkles and the decks are all pristine. The crew do an excellent job. It’s a very small team, but they all work so hard. Staff looked very smart too, and I honestly felt as proud as punch every time we arrived at a new destination.
Life aboard a luxury sailing ship
It was a genuine privilege to be on such a fine ship. I think of it as a luxurious experience – the MS Il Mare was my ship. The atmosphere on board was so relaxed, so intimate, but yet it felt spacious too. The top deck has sunbeds and comfortable sofas where people could take it easy perhaps read a book or have a little snooze. Then there was a sociable lounging area on the middle deck at the rear, where you were able to have a coffee or drink. The bottom deck was where you’d find the swimming platform – that was also a place you could retreat to for some quiet time, and unwind next to the sea.
Cabins are surprisingly roomy. I stayed in a Category B cabin, which had a large king-size bed and plenty of storage. It felt very modern and well designed. I could easily store my suitcase under the bed, and my private bathroom had a large shower, a nice big sink and a mirror. Cabin lighting was stylish and there was a sleek, practical desk. You could walk around the end of the bed no problem, and two portholes added character.
Savouring the delights of Croatian cuisine
Meals on board were superb, with a buffet-style breakfast and a three-course lunch. The food our chef cooked was delicious, and she catered for all dietary requirements. Lunches were so nice as it was family-style eating; we’d all joke about who was going to be mum and serve up. It made for convivial dining, and I found everyone so well-mannered and polite. Every evening, apart from the night we enjoyed the Captain’s Dinner, we went ashore to eat. Some couples found Michelin-star restaurants, others who would socialise together went to pizzerias or bistros. One night I found a fantastic beach bar and had a cocktail and tomato salad while watching the sunset. I was a solo traveller, the only one on the cruise, but I was often invited to join others for a meal or coffee. I never, however, felt obliged to accept every kind invitation. You don’t need to feel lonely, but you can be on your own. The friendly tour manager, who has worked for Riviera Travel for many years, is also always there to offer advice and help anyone who needs assistance.
I was equally impressed with our excellent English-speaking guides, who would meet us when we arrived at a new destination. On some days we would join walking tours, or you’d be given a map and a bit of direction so you could explore independently. I must admit, though, that being on board the MS Il Mare was what I enjoyed the most. On three occasions I saw pods of dolphins swimming alongside the ship. They would come up close in a playful mood then disappear. That was special.
The lure of the sparkling Adriatic Sea
The swimming stops were a highlight too, and definitely a reason why people book this type of holiday. The sea lures you, and a lot of my fellow travellers had sailed themselves in the past or taken sailing breaks with their family. Being able to swim every day, jumping into the water from a platform at the back of the ship is a big attraction. People also love the relaxing, intimate nature of a yacht cruise. It’s the solitude, the quietude that is a luxury. I felt being on that ship was almost mystical. It was so peaceful sailing alongside a stunning coastline; it takes you back to nature. I’d describe it as being mindful. You get a real appreciation for living, and that you’re breathing and seeing such a captivating part of the world. I can’t wait to return!”
Be inspired by a Riviera Travel yacht cruise
Follow in the footsteps of Marie-Clare and explore the delightful charms, beautiful landscapes and absorbing cities of Croatia on one of our incredible yacht cruises along the Croatian coast. With options ranging from Split, Rab and the Undiscovered Islands of the North for solo travellers on the MS Il Mare to the Split, Dubrovnik and the Splendours of Dalmatia on the MS Adriatic Sun, we have a range of yacht cruises and escorted tours in Croatia to suit everyone.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.