Cruising the Croatian coast on a private yacht - Cruise International

Cruising the Croatian coast on a private yacht

By Julie Peasgood | 22 Dec 2021

It doesn’t get much better than cruising the beautiful Croatian coast, surrounded by glorious sunshine, turquoise seas and a host of tiny tucked-away islands – except, perhaps, if you’re travelling in your own private yacht. Julie Peasgood sails in style along the Dalmatian coast

 

Take one magnificent yacht, with discreet, exemplary staff who anticipate your every need and two chefs producing Michelin-worthy food. Add a stunning, indented coastline peppered with tranquil, secret bays and the clearest sea imaginable.

Mix in your chosen group of family and friends, with some top guides conducting tailor-made excursions in enchanting locations. Season with sunshine, fine wine and plenty of warm, Croatian hospitality. Set sail and enjoy.

When I first laid eyes on Freedom, the 50-metre mini-cruiser moored in the beautiful harbour of Split, I was speechless. I had been excited at the prospect of a private yacht experience, courtesy of Goolets – the main agency for luxury yacht charters in Croatia – but to arrive at night with everything glittering and gleaming was a magical moment.

The pool on private yacht Freedom

The first glimpse of the foodie delights in store was an enormous platter of canapés, each painstakingly decorated with edible pansies. Over the next four days we enjoyed a succession of superb gourmet meals onboard, with a couple of dinners ashore in elite, top-class restaurants. The Gariful in Hvar even sporting an underwater aquarium below its glass-bottomed floor.

I have always loved Croatia, since filming Wish You Were Here in Porec and Rovinj many years ago. Blessed with a glorious climate, it recently ranked as one of the world’s top places to visit and is also renowned as a leading yachting destination – in fact one of the best ways to discover Croatia is by yacht.

We focused on the spectacular central Dalmatian archipelago, studded with Roman ruins, ancient fishing villages and superb Renaissance architecture.

Our itinerary took us from Split to the pretty harbour of Bol on the island of Brac, home to spas and yoga retreats, limestone and lavender. We disembarked to stroll to the Instagram-worthy Golden Horn beach, then after lunch onboard (courgette carpaccio with toasted walnuts, goat’s cheese and truffles, followed by shrimp with rice and wild grass) we arrived in stylish Hvar.

This is the only island in the world with six Unesco World Heritage Sites, attracting a steady stream of A-list celebrities – Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Rod Stewart, Beyonce and Bono are all fans.

The Golden Horn

Other highlights included the medieval walled city of Korcula, Vis with its picturesque stone houses, and Trogir, one of the most outstanding towns on the Adriatic. But my favourite was a trip to the remarkable Blue Cave of Bisevo, where a tiny boat delivers you into a waterlogged sea cave – a luminous grotto where the sea is a breathtaking blue.

I also loved the idyllic island of Stupe, close to Korcula and only accessible by speedboat or dinghy. At the much-praised Moro Beach Bar we feasted on local oysters and sparkling wine with a difference. Stored under the sea for at least a year so the pressure can help with maturation, the barnacled bottles are unique – and the bubbles are pretty special too.

As you might expect, chartering your own private yacht doesn’t come cheap – but no longer is it exclusively the domain of the rich and famous. Superyachts, mega-yachts and mini-cruisers are available for up to 40 guests – provided you have a cool €80,000 to €100,000 for a wedding or the party of a lifetime.

But if you’re celebrating on a smaller scale, moderately sized yachts with four or five cabins can be rented for around €10,000, making it not inconceivable to share the cost between family members or a group of friends.

This new yachting trend has also proved popular during the pandemic, offering safer travelling within your chosen bubble.

Julie Peasgood with private yacht Freedom

Freedom, owned by its Captain, Ivan Rakuljič, is currently undergoing a major refit to become one of only three superyachts in the world that can accommodate more than 12 passengers. She will cater for 23 passengers in 11 cabins (including two master suites) and carry a specially trained crew of 12, with a cinema, video gaming room, gym, sauna, beauty spa and massage room complementing the existing Jacuzzi and onboard pool.

The assigned brokers for Freedom and more than a hundred other luxury vessels in Croatia, Goolets is a family business run by husband-and-wife team Mitja and Alenka Mirtič. Making sure every little detail is right is their number-one priority, and as Mitja explains, the extensive planning for each cruise can start a good two months before a client even steps onboard.

“First we look at the structure of a group that approaches us: it might be a gathering of friends, or families with small children, or seniors, or a mixture of all ages,” he says.

“We also look at what type of holiday is wanted. Is it a case of docking in a new destination every day, or something more laid-back? We can nearly always drop anchor close to the shore, to just relax and have fun with the sea toys.”

An impressive collection of paddleboards, a wakeboard, tube ride, ringo ride, waterskis, a canoe, an exhilarating seabob water scooter and a waterslide are all available to use.

“The right vessel and a bespoke crew are then assigned, and we always appoint a concierge to liaise directly with the client regarding all the important details: everything from the route, food and drink and onboard activities to travel, transfers and excursions onshore.”

Korcula, Croatia. Photo: Milica Spasojevic/Unsplash

Goolets prides itself on offering a diverse range of experiences, so if you’re a history buff and want to know more about Dalmatia’s fascinating heritage, then expert guides are provided for tours, while party animals can dance the night away on deck with a live band of your choice.

The Captain can even conduct marriages or a renewal of vows, so if you fancy getting married within Dubrovnik’s city walls, in a tiny chapel on one of Croatia’s 1,200 islands or even underwater, it’s all possible.

For me, the idea of designing an itinerary that is my own pick of paradise and setting sail on a private yacht with a small gathering of family and friends is hugely appealing. Budget permitting, it would be a true bucket-list, never-to-be-forgotten holiday.

My silver wedding anniversary is in a couple of years – I wonder how my other half would feel about renewing our vows in the Adriatic? It’s certainly the most buoyant sea I’ve ever swum in. I’m not sure whether I could cope with being underwater, but it’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting.

 

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