Croatia Cruise: The Perfect Small Ship Cruise Holiday

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A small ship cruise to Croatia is the perfect way to discover the hidden depths of this incredible country on the Adriatic

It can be a difficult decision deciding where to holiday in the summer. One of the most popular for Brits in terms of cruises is western Mediterranean, encompassing Spain, Italy and France.

And yet, thanks to last year’s World Cup and the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, a spotlight has been shone on Croatia in recent years. While largely forgotten about in the 10 years following the war due to the break-up of Yugoslavia, it is today one of the fastest growing holiday destinations.

The country, located in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe on the Adriatic Sea, is complete with national parks, beautiful beaches (although not sandy, just to warn you), and historic sites.

With its stunning coastline and crystal clear waters, the best way to see Croatia is by boat. And what’s even more ideal is that you will not face quite the same crowds on a cruise to Croatia and in comparison, it is relatively good value for money.

There are several cruise lines that operate in this region, but one of the most celebrated is Unforgettable Croatia. The company may be relatively new in the cruising world, but it has already made significant waves.

What sets the line apart from its competitors is its fleet of small ships, which are fairly unique to the Adriatic waters for having cabins with private balconies, so guests can enjoy the magnificent scenery and beauty of the country in solitude should they so wish.

Sun deck, Unforgettable Croatia

The 38-passenger vessels are only a couple of years old and all feature 19 spacious and modern cabins with balconies. Ships feature a sundeck and Jacuzzi should passengers wish to stay on board rather than partake in shore excursions.

However, it is the shore excursions which are what Unforgettable Croatia, well, unforgettable. It is the aim of the cruise line to fully immerse passengers in the culture and history of the country and this has been reflected in the itineraries it offers. These include wine tasting tours to family vineyards, fresh oyster harvesting, boat trips and city tours, to name a few.

On-board dining incorporates the best local produce

Unlike many small ship cruises which are out on anchor and therefore require a tender to get to and from shore, all of Unforgettable Cruise’s ships are in harbour. This gives guests time to explore Croatia in the evenings, enjoying dinners or an evening aperitif on shore as the sun goes down.

However, if you’d rather stay on board and still sample the flavours of the region, as of next year the cruise line is launching an initiative to make the majority of its on-board supplies regionally and locally sourced, in a bid to support the local community further.

Classic cruise holidays take passengers through the picturesque islands of the Dalmatian Coast. Unforgettable Croatia’s most popular itinerary begins in Split, followed by Sibenik (which includes a day tour to Krka National Park), Vis island (where Mamma Mia! was filmed), Hvar, Korcula, Mljet and Ston, before finishing in the city of Dubrovnik.

The legendary city where Game of Thrones is filmed is undoubtedly the most popular in Croatia with fascinating history and Unesco-listed sites. Walking tours of Dubrovnik take your round the medieval town’s cobbled streets, enclosed within the city’s stone walls completed in the 16th century. (For a Game of Thrones guide to Dubrovnik, read Danielle Fear’s article.)

Avangard, Unforgettable Cruises, in Dubrovnik
MS Avangard, one of Unforgettable Cruises’ luxury small ships, moored in Dubrovnik

Slightly less visited by tourists is the north of the country, comprising Zagreb, Zagorje and Istria. If you’ve already seen Split and Dubrovnik and would prefer to avoid the crowds on your holiday, these are great places to visit and in 2020, Unforgettable Croatia will be operating cruises from Opatija.

What is also appealing about this part of Croatia is that is has remained largely unspoilt, unlike the coastline of Dubrovnik, which has already suffered greatly from the ships sailing there each year.

Unforgettable Croatia prides itself on its social responsibility campaign and it has made it its mission to be the most eco-friendly cruise line in the region. Currently, the company’s emissions and waste are far lower than the big ships operating in Croatia and it has a softer footprint on the local community.

Korcula’s unspoilt coastline and landscape

As part of its plastic initiative, the cruise line is working to remove all bottled water and instead provide clients with reusable aluminium bottles, which they can take home with them at the end of their trip, as well as replacing all plastic toiletry bottles with bio-degradable ones.

Finally, Unforgettable Croatia recently partnered with the Blue World Institute, which is a non-profit dolphin and turtle research and conservation centre in Losinj, Croatia. BWI is currently working on a funding initiative to build a new research centre in Losinj.

7-night cruise along the Dalmatian coast, including cabin with private balcony, half-board, three evening meals, all excursions, return UK flights and private transfers, from £1,895pp,