by Bill Edwards
So it’s not unusual to have our clients ask if we know of or have done anything different lately. ….Well, I can say YES! Having just returned in August from a Croatia-intensive cruise on CroisiEurope. Chances are you’ve not heard of CroisiEurope. It is a France-based company which is actually Europe’s largest river cruise operator. (Yes, Viking is larger but we consider them US-based).
If you’re familiar with river-cruising then take that concept, put it on a slightly larger version of a river cruise ship, and cruise along the beautiful ports and islands of the Dalmatian coast. The ship “La Belle de l’Adriatique” sails a regular series of 7-night roundtrip cruises from Dubrovnik going to Mljet, Korcula, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Hvar and Vis (all in Croatia) and ending with one last stop in Kotor, Montenegro before returning to Dubrovnik. I’m sure we have quite a few clients that have taken a Mediterranean cruise that might have included a stop in either Dubrovnik or Split, but this was Dalmatian coast immersion….and I LOVED it. Croatia is a cross between Italy and Greece…. Beautiful water and beaches (though largely pebble beaches; not sand beaches)…medieval history…friendly English-speaking locals….good food and local Croatian wines. Getting to Dubrovnik is really quite easy. There are schedules with one change of planes via Philadelphia (on AA) or via London or Madrid by flying American and British Airways. We added extra time in Dubrovnik and rather than staying right in town, we stayed in a quieter area about 5 miles outside of town at a lovely Sheraton resort on the coast. From the Sheraton there is a local ferry that takes you right back into Old Town Dubrovnik so it was the best of both worlds. I would highly recommend staying at the Sheraton!
So back to CroisiEurope. Is it for everyone? Perhaps not…but it’s probably for a lot more people than it isn’t. The ship, built in 2007 carries a little less than 200 guests, has the feel and design of a river cruise ship (4 decks rather than the usual 3 found on river cruises) with similar attributes to river-cruising:
- Single seating dining
- An included excursion at each port
- Soft drinks, beer, wine AND standard spirits INCLUDED throughout the cruise, not just at mealtime, (the only extra expense would really be gratuities).
There were some differences, though:
The ship has a definite, pervasive French flair. I was told the cruise my wife and I were on was typical of what one could expect on any of these Dalmatian coast cruises….meaning a little more than half the ship was French and the remainder being mostly from other European countries. There was a group of about 35 Norwegians and a smaller group from Spain. We were seated with the other US guests onboard at a table of 6. Yes, a total of 6 Americans. Did we feel out of place? Absolutely not! ….everyone was friendly (staff AND guests alike). Announcements were made in French and English and we were on English-speaking tours (which meant small groups as the Norwegians joined in with some of us other English-speakers on tours).
The other big difference, which I grew to like, was with regards to lunch and dinner. At both of these meals there is a pre-set menu served to everyone….meaning everyone is served the same starter, entrée and dessert. I think not having choices on the menu actually resulted in the galley being able to put their best efforts into quality and presentation…and resulted in streamlined service. Dietary needs are certainly accommodated as well as any particular dislikes. In our cabin by noon each day we had the FOLLOWING day’s lunch and dinner menus so that it was possible to addresses those concerns with the dining room manager in advance for accommodation. We did have lunch buffet twice during the cruise along with an elaborate buffet dinner on deck one evening while in Split. There was a selection of 4 red wines; 4 white wines and 2 rose wines each day…mostly Croatian wines, with some from France, of course. Wines were poured and then bottles were left at the table for self-pouring….so there was no excuse for an empty wine glass! Breakfast was always buffet with eggs/pancakes cooked to order. Some of you have sailed into Kotor and would appreciate this, but the morning we sailed into the bay of Kotor our breakfast was served on the top deck…so we had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular approach to Kotor while enjoying breakfast. This was one of the highlights of the trip.
Entertainment felt similar to what you would find on river cruises. One night some local entertainment was brought onboard. On another night, the Filipino crew put on a show of native dances and song. The cruise director and a trio of Filipinos put on a wonderful concert one night. But, like river cruising it’s an early to rise and early to bed routine for the most part.
These cruises, just like river cruises in general, tend to fill early so if you’re interested in 2020 don’t delay in making plans. Europeans book most of their vacations earlier than Americans, too. Prices for this 7-night cruise start at about $3000 per person for a cabin with portholes (which I had). Cabins with 2 big windows start at about $3400 per person….but again that’s EVERYTHING included except gratuities (and airfare).
Please contact me for more information about cruising the Dalmatian coast on CroisiEurope