Enjoy, Indulge, Relax. These are the keywords while cruising along the stunning Dalmatian coastline of Croatia. Get ready to sail away from your hectic everyday life and enjoy Freedom – in every sense of the word.
Luxury yacht M/Y FREEDOM, moored in Split.
Recently in the month of October 2021, I was invited to join a group of 35 international travel journalists, mostly from the USA and Britain, who were coming to Croatia for the very first time. Naturally, I was elated to be part of this promotional venture and looked forward to meeting many interesting and well-travelled writers, and was even more interested in the final result of their observations and taste buds after a five-day journey from Split on the Central Coast, sailing to islands Brač, Hvar, Korčula, Vis and returning to Trogir on the mainland a little north of Split. All of this on a stunning yacht called FREEDOM, featuring very comfortable cabins, sensational cuisine that had us all talking and buzzing, wines that delighted and surprised our visitors, and a captain and crew that took great care of all the guests on board.
The October weather was absolutely perfect! Cloudless blue skies, the sea temperature being the same as the air temperature, at an enjoyable 20 C. We departed from Split early morning on a sea that appeared to be more like a lake, so tranquil, so blue, so inviting.
Pristine beaches, a tree-lined walkway by the sea, and a platter of delicious taste treats on board.
Arriving into the small town of Bol, on Island Brač, our first-time guests were in awe of the pristine beaches, streets, and walkways by the sea and by the perfumes of rosemary, immortelle, sage, and lavender as we walked to the famous beach called ‘Golden Horn’. The pebbles are so smooth, the water an indescribable dazzling azure blue, and where the morning or afternoon sun always shines. The Island of Brač is world-famous for it’s white limestone, a stone that is found in many of the prominent buildings around the Adriatic including Venice and also as far away as in the Parliament House of Budapest and as part of the White House in Washington DC. (Just in case you didn’t know!)
In the little town of Bol on the Island of Brač, exquisite in every sense!
On the harbour one can immediately find the First Dalmatian Winemaking Consortium of 1903, now the home of Stina Wines, and beautifully restored. Some of the guests enjoyed a wine tasting, voting the Stina Pošip and Stina Mali Plavac (Little Blue) as their favourites. Both of these wines are indigenous to Dalmatia and are high on the list of visitors and locals alike. Lunch on board was so delicious, particularly if you are a lover of rack of lamb! Island Brač is well known for its high-quality lamb. The animals forage on the salty grasses and herbs of this stony island, roaming naturally, producing a fine flavoured meat that is highly valued and appreciated. Our menu today was simple yet so appealing. Handmade gnocchi and pesto Genovese with fresh basil, a rack of the most succulent lamb with creamed peas and mint, roasted young potatoes, plus a Ricola salad, ending with the most delicious apple crumble and vanilla sauce that I have ever tasted!!
Burreta, roasted cherry tomatoes, olive oil and herbs, a divinely roasted pumpkin soup, file beef mignon and mushroom sauce, glazed baby carrots on potato mash. Superb!!
Sailing on to nearby Island Hvar, we moored in the picturesque harbour of Hvar Town, known to so many sailors from the Venetian Empire 500 years ago to the very present. I was looking forward to hearing the comments of our international guests, and I wasn’t disappointed! Walking through the narrow cobbled stone streets they loved the ambiance, and one of the younger American members of the group vowed to have her wedding in Hvar Town! It is so impressive, and arriving late afternoon in the golden glow of the setting sun on terracotta tiled stone houses and the lavender of Hvar wafting in the air, it’s enough to fill anyone’s senses, transporting one into a world of heavenly Hvar raptures. The winged lion of Venice is still today in a very prominent spot for all to see, and one can certainly visualise the nobility that once graced this idyllic seaside town and the present luxury yachts that moor in her harbour attest to the continual popularity of this very upmarket seaside resort.
Some of the special moments and people that made the cruise so special..
On the third day, we sailed down to Marko Polo land, the island of Korčula. (Yes! Marko was born here during the years when Korčula and most of Dalmatia were part of the Venetian Republic.) Before mooring in Korčula, we were taken in small boats to the offshore tiny island of Stupa, to the Moro Beach Bar. We were treated to platters of the freshest oysters from the little town of Mali Ston on the Peljasac Peninsula. So tantalisingly fresh with only a squeeze of lemon, still salty from the sea, and fresh home-baked bread served with a very interesting chilled to perfection Ostreum sparkling wine stored 3 years under the sea! This wine is specially produced and intended to be served with fresh oysters and other seafood.
What a great experience on the little island of Stupa, between Korčula and the Peljasac Peninsula across the channel.
Our wonderful story-telling guide, Sunčana, in Korcula Town, transported us back to the days of Marko Polo, posing as his mistress, Lady Francesca. A walk through this precious old town of the Renaissance is always so appreciated, and our guests were once again amazed at the pristine streets, the architecture, history, culture, and delicious cuisine enjoyed at restaurant De Canavellis later in the evening.
Our wonderful tour guide in Korčula, Sunčana (Sunny) really brought it all to life!
On the 4th day, we sailed from Korčula back to Island Vis, stopping at Stiniva Beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches worldwide. While it’s not a large beach it’s particularly interesting and a place visited by many during the summer months. On this day in October, the crowds had gone and we almost had this famous and idyllic place to ourselves.
Swimming in the murky waters..
After lunch we were taken by local guides to visit the Blue Cave of Island Biševo off the coast of Island Vis..a stunning experience …a natural phenomenon! Loved this day!
Our guide, Cuci Božinović was so wonderful! A man with a passion for his natural environment and the Blue Cave on his island of Biševo..
Mid-afternoon we met Goran and his team, our amazing guides in Komiža. We were taken on a safari-style tour of the Island. The interesting thing about Island Vis is the fact that it was occupied by Tito and the Yugoslav military from 1945 as a secret military base, controlling the traffic on the Adriatic. Until 1989, nobody was allowed on the island unless they were an original landowner, and so the island remained void of any changes or modernisation during those years. Today, it’s a joy visiting an island that remains as it always was, where stories and recipes, winemaking, olive oil production, and myths remain constant and intriguing.
Goran, our illustrious guide in Komiža had everyone’s undivided attention!
Tonight on board, M/Y FREEDOM, we were treated by Captain Ivan Rakuljić to a Gala Dinner, music, merriment, and dancing! Once again the menu caused a stir, and much ‘oohing and ahhing’ among the guests. Freshest shrimps, marinated anchovies, seafood pasta in a delicious fish velute sauce, lentils, creamed pumpkin, and potato, ending with a luscious peach tiramisu.
Some of the men behind the success of the M/Y Freedom Cruise, From Captain to Deckhands,Marketing guru and Goolets CEO, all part of this team of excellence.
On Day 5, our last day, we arrived and moored in Trogir, founded in the 3rd century BC by the ancient Greeks. Later rulers were Rome, Byzantium, Venice, and Austria, but the deepest cultural impact has been left by the Croats. The spectacular Cathedral of St. Lawrence is a must-see, especially the decoratively sculpted doors by Master Radovan in 1240 AD in the Romanesque /Gothic Style are beautifully preserved.
A walk-through of old Trogir with the guests on the final day was very pleasant, with many of them promising to return again with their families and friends.
They had come with open minds, travel journalists from some of the most well-known newspapers and magazines, and now they have discovered this country of Croatia, woven through history as a colourful tapestry. A country that welcomes all visitors, and where English is the second language. They were all made very welcome, arriving as strangers and leaving as friends. – Robyn Vulinovich, My Hidden Croatia.