Posted on 29-May-2019 by Deesha Jhaveri - avid traveler and cruise-lover
When you think of bucket list of places to visit in Europe, almost everyone wants to travel to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, Rome to see the ruins of the great Roman Empire, to visit the busy streets of Amsterdam, the icy mountains of Switzerland and the canals of Venice. In addition, there is a stunning region called the Dalmatian Coast that has a coastline stretching for 1,777 kilometers that touches the nations of Croatia and parts of Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro. These countries show you a completely different side of Europe, with bright sunlit skies, old-world architecture, medieval fortress walls and cobbled lanes leading to some of the oldest and grandest cathedrals in the world. While some of these ports are covered on conventional eastern Mediterranean cruise trips, the interest of cruise travelers to exclusively cruise the Adriatic and Dalmatian coast has increased tremendously over the last few years. This blog takes you though the major ports worth visiting on these cruises, as well cruise liners - both big and small - that offer these cruises.
Below is a short list of the major ports of call:
Dubrovnik: The Pearl of the Adriatic unquestionably transports you to another era. The Old City in particular has a huge city wall dating back to the 12th century, entirely intact, a cluster of red roofed houses and cobbled intermingling streets all lined by the mesmerizing blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. The world’s eye has been collectively drawn to this city after it became King’s Landing for the hugely popular HBO TV Series, Game of Thornes. You can walk your way through this gem of city (car traffic is prohibited in the old city) over the city walls, the gothic Rector’s Palace, the Renaissance Sponza Palace and have an exclusive Game of Thrones themed tour that takes you through some of the sites where the series has been filmed. If you want to tickle your adventurous bone, you can go for kayaking and snorkeling from Pile port into the deep serene waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Kotor: Another popular port of call in most Adriatic Cruises, including the MSC Opera, is the fortified town of Kotor. Located at the very end of the glorious bay of Kotor, this UNESCO World Heritage Montenegrin city is a novelty that unfolds when explored at leisure. Just like Dubrovnik, Kotor too is a walled, medieval styled city, but this one has a shoreline even more intimate, with the journey up the bay of Kotor giving you the feeling of traversing through the famous Norwegian fjords. The tiny village of Perast, dubbed as Perfect Perast due to its singularly breathtaking views of the bay of Kotor, Our Lady of the Rocks – a legendary roman catholic church on a tiny island, endless walks through the streets of the old town and its medieval squares and churches are some of the things that have made Kotor an absolute favourite.
Corfu: Out of the multiple islands surrounding Greece across the Aegean and Ionian Sea, Corfu is a favourite for those looking for relaxation, leisure and natural beauty to soothe their soul. It has a mixed cultural heritage that is reflected in its diverse architecture, and some of the world’s most picturesque beaches, and dramatic capes and cliffs. The best places to visit whilst in Corfu are the Cape Dastis; the northernmost opening into the vast turquoise Ionian Sea, Kerkyra - the Old Town and the most romantic part of the city, the canal d’Amour. For those who want to explore the Greek cuisine, Corfu will not disappoint with Corfiot dishes like the Stifado, Dolmadaki, the Frappe, a traditional exquisite Greek Coffee and the Sykomaïtha, a fig based delicious cake.
Santorini and Mykonos: From the deck of your cruise ship, Santorini on the whole will look like a giant white palace nestled in rugged brown mountains on the coast of the Aegean Sea. Mykonos, on the other hand, is a cosmopolitan city famous for its beaches, nightlife, shopping and windmills. Little Venice in Mykonos, the chapel of Panagia Paraportiani, the Gyzi Castle and the Maritime and Archeological Museums are the main attractions to see while here. Santorini’s highlights include a 10 kilometer hike from Fira to Oia that gives you the best view of the town and the surrounding sea, the old fortress in the rustic village of Oia, a custom boat trip around the Santorini Islands and a stay in a traditional whitewashed home with vintage wine and Greek food.
Venice: Venice is ideally the starting point for most cruises to the Adriatic and Dalmatian seas, and it is safe to say that no amount of days can be sufficient to unravel and experience entirely the charm of this European city. Built on over a 100 islands on the Adriatic Sea, this city has no roads (and no cars), only a dense network of picturesque canals lined with buildings, palaces and monuments dating back to the Renaissance Era. The central point of the city is the Piazza San Macro lined with exotic Venetian shops, cafes and museums. A stroll on the Rialto Bridge - a massive stone bridge built over the Grand Canal that leads to the old Rialto Market, taking a Gondola ride across the many canals of the city, and taking a tour of the Palazzo Ducale are some of the things most loved by tourists visiting Venice.
Sibenik: Another interesting port on the Adriatic coast is the Croatian city of Sibenik, with a history dating back to the 11th century, fewer tourists and gorgeous cathedrals. Most people arriving at Sibenik visit the Krka National Park, a park that preserves and protects the marine ecosystem in the lower sections of the river Krka. The park is home over 200 different species of birds, along with breathtaking waterfalls, multiple streams flowing along the forest floor and cultural attractions like the Orthodox Krka Monastery. Another wonderful part of Sibenik is the 16th century arrowhead shaped fortress island of St. Nicholas, built initially to defend the port of Sibenik from Turkish invasion. Croatia’s first water park, Aquapark Solaris, is also within driving distance from the Sibenik old town.
Split: Out of all the ports across the coast of Croatia, Split is without a doubt the one most resembling a metropolitan city. For once, it is a bustling busy city, with cars, traffic and public transport. Other than having your fill of shopping, Split also has beautiful beaches, restaurants and Roman ruins. While here, you might want to split your time visiting the famous monuments like the Palace of Diocletian, the Fruit Square, Ivan Mestrovic Gallery, Bacvice Beach and explore the nature up at Marjan Hill with panoramic views of the entire city before your eyes.
If you want to visit the Dalmatian and Adriatic coast this summer, you have several options to choose from. Some of the world’s leading cruise liners, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruises and Celebrity Cruises have sailing itineraries of varying durations in this region. On the other hand, there are a number of small, independent cruise liners with cruises exclusively to Croatia and Croatian ports.
Below is a short list of all major cruise lines that offer cruises in this region:
MSC Cruises: One of the world’s most stylish cruise liners, MSC Cruises, has deployed three of its grandest ships for Croatian cruises starting this summer; the MSC Lirica, MSC Opera and MSC Musica. MSC Lirica offers a five day cruise starting from Venice that goes on to explore the ports of Bari and Zadar in Croatia. The same ship also has an extended nine day cruise to the Dubrovnik in Croatia, Kotor in Montenegro, Koper in Slovenia and Ravenna and Venice in Italy starting. MSC Opera, on the other hand, has five day cruises taking you to Zadar, Kotor, Ravenna and Venice. MSC Musica’s cruise to the Adriatic Sea also takes a slight detour to take you through the charming Greek isles of Corfu and Naples in Italy in addition to Kotor and Dubrovnik in Montenegro and Croatia respectively.
Royal Caribbean: Explore the ancient amphitheaters and preserved palaces of Croatia aboard ships from the world’s largest single ship cruise brand - the Royal Caribbean. Its ships the Rhapsody of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and the Jewel of the Seas bring you the best of comfort and panache while cruising through the most serene and exotic parts of Europe. Cruise packages offered by Royal Caribbean range from short six day excursions to a leisurely voyage on the Adriatic coast that stretches to over twelve days. The cruises begin from either Barcelona or Venice and cover the ports of Split, Athens, Katakolon, Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Santorini, Provence and Zadar. Another added lure of choosing this cruise line is the culinary extravagance that it offers, with Mediterranean cuisine aided by fine wine and charming company in the best restaurants on sea.
Celebrity Cruises: With a crew to passenger ratio of 1:2 across all its ships, Celebrity Cruises truly offers you the opportunity of spending your coveted vacation like a celebrity. Both the Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Infinity offer luxurious cruises ranging from seven to ten night cruises across the Dalmatian Coast, Italy, Croatia and Spain. Some of the major ports of call include Koper, Zadar, Rijeka and Dubrovnik in Croatia, Kotor in Montenegro, and Catania, Valletta and Naples in Italy.
While there is no doubt that huge ships offer grandeur and scale, another kind of experience in cruising is sailing on smaller, more intimate ships. They provide travelers with a different sort of anchor, where the attention is more on nature and companionship than artificial delights, with fewer passengers and smaller vessels that can go to ports that larger ships cannot. The Adriatic and Dalmatian Coasts have seen a number of small cruises launching their sailings over the last few years.
My Croatia Cruise offers premium cruises to almost all major ports in Croatia, usually starting from Dubrovnik. Its ships Markan, Agape Rose, Infinity, Black Swan and Avangard offer year round cruises in and around Croatia covering the ports of Split, Bol (Brac Island),Vis, Korcula, Slano, Hvar, Krka Waterfalls and of course, the grand Dubrovnik. The duration of these cruises varies from weeklong cruises to cruises lasting nearly a ten days.
The Katarina line is another cruise line offering premier cruises with weekly departures for short cruises across Croatia. Their exclusive offerings include cruises to the Kvarner Bay of Islands, mini cruises from Dubrovnik and Split, and the Southern Explorer – a cruise to the Dalmatian islands and coastline.
Other premier cruises of note are the Windstar Cruises that offer cruises from Rome to Venice while voyaging through the Adriatic Sea, and the Princess Eleganza, a small, beautiful ship that takes you from Dubrovnik to Zagreb across eight fun filled, adventurous days.
While summer is undoubtedly the best time for a cruise in the Adriatic and Dalmatian coasts, these countries have generally good weather throughout the year. Most locals understand English, though learning a few catchphrases in the local languages will always be helpful. Also, the local currency in Croatia is the Kuna, so it’s best to have enough Kuna with you to use at local ports.
These parts of Europe are blessed by the best scenic beauty, countless little islands, sapphire blue oceans and historical relics stunning enough to transport someone thoroughly back in time. There are beaches and bays and local cuisines exquisite enough to make you fall in love over and over again. Add all of this with a fantastic cruise, and this will easily become the best holiday of your life. So book yourself and your loved ones on a Eastern Mediterranean cruise this summer, and explore the Dalmatian countryside for something other than the lovely spotted dog!