It was a marvelous five-day adventure through the Croatian islands, starting from the historic port of Split and tracing a roundtrip course that added a bonus stop in the medieval city of Trogir. The Adriatic Sea was beautiful, and the pace was exactly right, with enough time to savor and explore.
Super-yacht Freedom from Goolets chartered yachts has raised the bar when it comes to luxurious crewed cruising. With only eleven cabins, the cruise is a dream of luxury and indulgence. Captain Ivan, group directors Dominik and Ivan, and culinary-service team Tash, Toni, and Tomislav quickly became my new best friends as I embarked on a socially distanced, luxurious trip where the aim was relaxation and exploration.
Service is the watchword on the yacht. I merely mentioned that I wanted to have some crackers in my cabin for late-night snacking, and the next day a package of Pringles (written in Croatian) appeared. Did I want to try a flight of pošip or malvazija instead of a single glass of wine? No problem. Tash, the amazing I-can-do-everything-with-no-hesitation server/host/coordinator, was there to make it happen. Was I looking for an after-dinner cordial? Toni and Tomi had it at the ready: a smooth herbal Travarica rakija that changed the way I thought about brandy forever. And Dominik and Captain Ivan kept the yacht on a steady course as we cruised along the Dalmatian Coast.
Breakfast buffets with fresh fruit, Pag island cheese, waffles and eggs; lunches of risotto (ni rižot), langoustines and pizza-like soparnik; and dinner extravaganzas with truffles, rack of lamb, seafood from any of the neighboring isles, and, of course, Croatian’s famous olive oil and wines were served with panache and simplicity.
The yacht matches service in thoughtfulness and luxe. Each of the spacious eleven cabins has a comfortable bed, oversized windows, a closet with safe, and a well-designed bathroom with a rain head shower or handheld. Toiletries are from Rituals from the Netherlands, and other thoughtful touches include a Goolets after-sun moisturizer, outlets for both plugs and USBs, and a rain poncho. Hot water is plentiful, essential after a day of soaking up the Adriatic sun or swimming in the salty water.
In addition to swimming right off the back of the yacht, the cruise takes you to secluded and impossibly beautiful beaches like Stiniva, where a small tender or swimming yourself is your only means of access, or to the Blue Cave on Biševo island entered through the tiniest of openings. If you’ve seen Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, you might recognize some of the scenery.
Non-sailing scheduling took me to five of Croatia’s more than 1200 islands and islets. Within the circumference of the Split roundtrip, we first visited Brač, a gem of an island known for its gorgeous white-pebble Zlatni Rat beach and the town of Bol with numerous cafes and wine bars. Our second stop at Hvar, one of Croatia’s liveliest yachting destinations, offered a mix of a thirteenth-century fortress, a cathedral, and a beautiful shore lined with bars and cafes.
Finally, the celebrity-frequented Gariful restaurant was a dream for seafood lovers. A starter of octopus and oysters perfectly set the mood for the evening on the patio overlooking the harbor. There’s a reason Bon Jovi, Beyoncé, Demi Moore, and others love this place run by the humble Ivan Gospodnetic.
Next stop, I took a tour led by Lady Franceska, purported mistress of Marco Polo said to have been born and buried on the gorgeous island of Korčula. In Korčula’s Old Town, with its narrow stone-paved streets that lead to a privileged glimpse of the waterfront and a view of beautiful sunsets, I meandered through centuries of history regaled by tales of good and bad behaviors past.
My favorite of the islands was Vis, where scenes from the second Mamma Mia movie were filmed. You might recall Colin Firth crawling out a window in the beginning part of the movie in the coastal town of Komiža. An archeological tour best shows off the multi-faceted nature of this island. With Goran Spilski, I learned about the small-town character of Vis, where everyone knows everyone and where history is preserved with reverence. On this island, an abandoned World War II airfield is a reminder of Croatia’s former Yugoslavian history. It’s also close to a dramatic lookout peak for catching one of Croatia’s sky-filling, red-streaked sunsets.
Onboard, we celebrated our final gala evening, plotting out the remaining islands and towns still to visit, like Dubrovnik and nearby Mljet Island, and planning for a return cruise. Goolets owners Mitja and Alenka Mirtič were there to chime in. On this magical last night of yacht cruising, impromptu karaoke gave way to serious dancing under disco lights, a fitting precursor to the next day’s yoga and meditation sessions on the upper deck in preparation for our return to reality.
For more information on Goolets variety of crewed yacht charters available for cruises, visit: goolets.net