Sunday 22 September 2019

Microcruising the Adriatic with G Adventures

#expeditioncruising .

From on board: S/Y Baltra

The grandeur of historic Kotor Bay rivals Cape Town (in my opinion) [RE]

If expedition cruising is a sub-set of cruising (I know, that is a whole other discussion) then it follows that 'microcruising' must be a subset of expedition cruising.

Take a 52-foot French-built monohull sailing yacht, add eight adventurous souls looking to explore  the glorious Dalmatian Coast in the pleasant, shoulder season of September.

Our start and end point is the ancient UNESCO World Heritage-listed port city of Dubrovnik, still smoldering from the cataclysmic final episode of Game of Thrones, is like walking the set of the famous HBO series. As I wander through the plaza, the bells peel an ominous tone and I have to stop myself from yelling “surrender the city!” I had forgotten that Dubrovnik also features in a scene from Star Wars, Episode VIII (The Last Jedi) when the cobbled streets and rough-hewen walls become Canto Bight, the notorious casino planet.

Street facades in Dubrovnik being prepared for their role in Star Wars Ep VIII  [Croatia Week]

But sailing Croatia is a well-known jaunt for yachties the world over. The big surprise, for me at least, is Montenegro the former Soviet bloc state and once bosom buddy of Serbia. So much has changed along this stretch of the Adriatic in my lifetime alone, not the least being the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Croatian war of independence in 1991 when cities like Dubrovnik came under intense Serbian shelling.

Day 1: The Croatian island if Šipan, famed for its fish restaurants. [RE]

Montenegro has since parted ways with Russian-aligned Serbia but still attracts plenty of Rubles from developers who are tearing into the landscape like there is no tomorrow with sprawling condominiums and high-rise apartments. Fortunately the Montenegrins still value their ancient heritage and the old towns of Budva, Kotor and Herceg Novi still retain their historic value despite Russian encroachment – and earthquakes!

Herceg Novi has an excellent, modern marina where we indulge in welcome showers. The dining scene is also very good with the restaurants a pleasant promenade stroll from the marina. Unlike Croatia where the emphasis seems to be on whole fish, squid and crustaceans, Montenegro is more meat-focused and their prosciutto is famous.

Dining out at local eateries is an adventure in itself [RE]

Next is Budva with its reputation as a party town. We dine adjacent the marina and some of the others are keen to launch into the rowdy bar and club scene. Unfortunately they return with reports of women being hassled by groups of men, so the advice would be for women to stay in groups, preferably with one or two men in the mix. Yes, I know! My discovery was the local brand of Moritz ice cream. Yum!

The highlight would have to be the spectacular Kotor Bay with its eponymous old town perched on the sliver of flat land at the foot of two-kilometre high mountains. In fact, the whole bay is like a giant punchbowl rivalling the grandeur of Cape Town or Hallstatt. A big call, I know, but you tell me!

Inside glorious Kotor Bay [RE]

Our stay in Kotor also included an excursions to the summit of Mount Lovćen, including a white-knuckle ride up the 25-hairpin so-called Serpentine Road with Igor Schumacher as our driver. Still, the view was nothing short of spectacular, even if our stomachs were protesting.

At the peak of Lovćen (1750m) is a mausoleum dedicated to Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, the famous poet and philosopher and hero of the Montenegrins. Again, the view is panoramic with the clear air allowing us to see as far as Albania to the south and Bosnia to the north. Our visit to these dizzying heights includes a whistle stop at Mr Božo's smokehouse where his famous prosciutto is cured. It's divine. His homemade plavac mali (closest relative zinfandel) wine, however, takes a bit of getting used to.

A week later and we're back at Dubrovnik with our skipper, Ivan, treating us to an up-close sail-past of the famous walls where tourists file along the perimeter like the now-toasted Gold Cloaks of the City Watch.

In summary, if you don't mind a bit of close quarters with your travelling companions and won't turn your nose up at a bit of 'mucking in', microcruising in this style may well be your ticket.


* You're best to try outside of peak periods (Jun-Jul-Aug) when weather is hot and crowds are thickest. Our September temperature was mid-20s and sunny
* Water is good to drink from the tap in Croatia and Montenegro. Go plastic free.
* Get a group of friends together and take the whole boat. Sleeps 8. (2x dbl 2x twin)
* To fully enjoy the experience, you'll need to form a bit of a crew. Cabin and common area cleanliness, onboard cooking and provisions are guest responsibilities.
* All shore excursions and meals ashore are at extra cost.


8 days, Dubrovnik to Dubrovnik
AUD $1699 per person twin share (look out for off-peak discounts)
Trip Code: ECVM

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