Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Busabout Croatia Sail: THE. MOST. FUN. EVER.

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When it came time to take my first vacation in the last two years, I wanted to do something I’ve dreamed of for years — sailing the islands off the coast of Croatia.

Dave and I joined up with my frequent and much-loved partner Busabout on their One-Way Croatia Sail.

And the result?

THIS. TRIP. WAS. AMAZING.

Cruising Croatia with Busabout was the perfect combination of relaxation and exploration, a new and interesting but not difficult destination, with tons of new friends.  And Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!

Each day had a comfy routine.  We would set sail early in the morning, and stop for a swim en route to our destination.  Sometimes it was jumping off the boat into the middle of the Adriatic; sometimes we’d stop at an unfathomably gorgeous beach.

We’d have lunch on the boat, and then we’d pull into our destination for the day: piratey Omiš, low-key Makarska, party-happy Hvar, gorgeous Korčula, otherworldly Mljet, and finally, the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik.

Our guide, Adam, would give us a discreet tour (unlicensed tour guides aren’t permitted in these towns, so Busabout guides have to be on the DL), and we would either join the afternoon activity or go exploring or beach-hopping on our own.  We would all meet up for dinner at a restaurant, then go out for drinks — sometimes just a few, sometimes quite a few.

My highlights of the week:

Sitting in the Sun and Enjoying the Cruise

The best part of the trip was also the simplest — just sitting on the deck, catching rays, and reading.  We spent every morning this way and it was supremely relaxing.

Wine Tasting in Stari Grad

This wine tasting at Marinero’s in Stari Grad, Hvar, was a lot of fun and great value, with four full glasses of wine for 110 kuna ($18).  The red was absolutely sensational and tasted of vanilla and smoke and spices.  But the biggest highlight was the bread — this may be the most delicious, juiciest bread I have EVER tasted!

Nightlife in Hvar

One of our biggest nights out was in Hvar Town, where we went to Kiva Bar to do Tequila Boom Booms.  What are Tequila Boom Booms?  You put on a helmet, they take a glass filled with tequila and I don’t know what else, and then they SLAM IT ON YOUR HEAD TEN TIMES before you drink it.  Weird, dizzying, and not painful.

We went on to dance all night long!

Sunset cocktails in Korčula

There is a bar in Korčula called Massimo — it’s built inside an old tower, you have to climb a ladder to get to the top, and they bring drinks up via dumbwaiter.  And once at the top, you get the absolute best view of the sunset that you can imagine!

Super-Speedy Mljet National Park Visit

Mljet National Park, covered with bright green saltwater lakes, was one of the most spellbindingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  After finding out we wouldn’t be docking overnight in Mljet, we had only 30 minutes to spend there.  Dave and I wrestled with whether we wanted to pay 90 kuna each ($15) for just 30 minutes, but we decided to go for it.

And it was FANTASTIC.  With only 30 minutes to spare, it became a game — a huge group of us raced to the saltwater lake, jumped in super-fast, took pictures super-fast, and laughed our heads off as we ran back to the ferry.  Best quickie activity ever.

PIRATE PARTY!

On our second-to-last night, we put on our pirate gear for a party on the boat!  It was a night of piratey drinking games and good times.

I love the drinking game Kings, but I generally hate when people add rules (you must end every statement with “in my pants,” you have to take the little man off your drink, etc.).  But our resident Kiwi, Brook, made the best rule ever: “You can’t show your teeth.”

Cue our entire boat yelling, “Arrrrgh!  Arrrrgh!  Halt!  Arrgrgh!  Shiver me timbash!  Wawk da pwank!”

That night, I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in years.

It was fantastic — though as you would expect, it wasn’t without its faults.

What You Should Know About The Busabout Croatia Cruise

The Captain has the power to alter your trip, and likely will.

The Captain has the right to divert the ship anywhere he’d like.  As a result, this is NOT someone you want to anger.

We found out while traveling that many Croatian captains hate spending money, and as a result, avoid docking overnight in expensive ports.

Our captain avoided docking in expensive Hvar Town, which meant we had to pay 35 kuna ($6) each way for an infrequent, hourlong bus from Stari Grad.  Later, he avoided docking overnight in expensive Mljet, instead opting for a small town called Slano, which meant that we only got 30 minutes to enjoy Mljet National Park, for which we had each paid 90 kuna ($15).

Both times, the captain cited the weather as reason.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on sailing or weather, both of those days, the weather was FINE — no different than the other lovely days, and nowhere near the worst sailing day we had.

You don’t have to do every activity.

There’s some pressure to join in the official activities — both free and paid-for activities during the day, dinner at predetermined restaurants, dinners like the Captain’s Dinner.  It’s not the heavy pressure other tour companies are famous for — it’s a subtle pressure, a peer pressure.

By the end of the week, more people were dropping out of activities.  To be frank, many of us on board thought the Captain refused to dock in Mljet because he was mad that there weren’t enough people to do the second Captain’s Dinner, a moneymaker for the crew.

Ensuite and Shared Bath have a BIG difference.

When you book your trip, you get to choose between a room with an ensuite bathroom and one with a shared bathroom.  We chose to go ensuite.  These are actually on two different boats, so make sure to book the same kind of bathroom as your friends.

After my experience and talking with others, I’ve learned that the two kinds of boats attract two different kinds of travelers and thus have very different atmospheres.  The shared bathroom boats are cheaper and tend to have a younger (mostly early- to mid-twenties), more heavily partying crowd.  Australians dominate and tend to be on gap year trips.

The ensuite boats, by contrast, have an older crowd (mostly mid-twenties to mid-thirties) that parties to a lesser degree.  Australians dominate, once again, but tend to be on holiday for a few weeks; some come from Australia and some are living abroad, often in the UK.

Our group had three Brits (including Dave), one American (me) and one Kiwi — everyone else was Australian.  (Our guide, Adam, was a bit of a geographic mutt — Kiwi-Australian-South African and living in Europe!)

From what we saw and what I’ve heard from others, people on the shared bathroom boats tend to party hard most nights.  On our ensuite boat, we went out for drinks every night, but we only had three big party nights (of which I participated in two).  One was the pirate party.

For more on the difference, see what Christine had to say — she took the same cruise a week after we did, and she was on a boat with shared bath.

The Electricity Isn’t Great.

While we always had lights, the outlets did not work unless we were docked in a port.  This was problematic because I was taking pictures with my iPhone, and iPhone batteries deplete quickly.  In addition to that, when we were docked, I couldn’t get the outlet to work unless I wiggled the plug at the perfect angle.

If you have a device that needs to be charged often, like an iPhone, you should bring a backup power supply — even one of those power-extending iPhone covers would help you out a lot here.

Drinks are EXPENSIVE.

I had hopes of stopping at a grocery store and buying a few bottles of wine for cheap drinks on the boat — but that’s not an option on this trip.  You are prohibited from bringing both food and drinks on board.

Happy hour prices start at about $3 for a beer, up to $15 for a liter cocktail.  Happy Hour is 20% off the regular price.  While the giant cocktails are a lot of fun, they’re not that strong.  Considering that most of the cruises I’ve been on have had either dollar beers or euro beers on board, this is a huge markup.

Expect to tip the crew.

The crew, who work for Katarina Lines and not Busabout, live primarily off their tips from passengers.  Do not scrimp on this.  If you’re not satisfied with the cruise, think about whose fault it is before you stiff them.  As miffed as we were with the Captain’s rerouting our boat, we were very happy with our crew.

Dave and I each tipped 200 kuna (about $34), which is an appropriate tip for this cruise.

Bring pirate gear!

The pirate party was one of the best parts of the trip.  Adam suggested that we to pirate shopping in Makarska, and we did find a few things, but the selection wasn’t that great.  A few piratey things in your bag could help you out a lot!

The Overall Takeaway

Though there were both high points and low points to the cruise, I had such an amazing time.  I’d gladly go back to lie in the sun as the boat sails along the mountainous coast to the next unbelievably gorgeous Croatian island.  It’s a trip I’ll never forget.Sailing the coast of Croatia with Busabout Sail

Many thanks to Busabout for the complimentary Croatia One-Way Sail trip.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

Comments

37 Responses to “Busabout Croatia Sail: THE. MOST. FUN. EVER.”
  1. So glad you enjoyed it! I seriously want to do it again now. I’m glad you experienced tequila boom boom and I’m glad they added some activities like wine tasting. We docked in Mljet and there was literally nothing to do once the park closed, except for have some quiet drinks at a hotel watching the World Cup. But all fair points.

  2. Georgie says:

    How did I miss out on the Tequila Boom Booms???!!! Guess I’ll just have to go back…

  3. EurotripTips says:

    Very good to know. I’m thinking about working with Busabout in 2013, and after reading both yours and Christine’s comments, I’m definitely looking forward to it now!

  4. Amanda says:

    Despite the few drawbacks, this still sounds like an amazing trip, and a perfect way to enjoy Croatia’s islands!

  5. Holly Mathews-Medeiros says:

    Wow! That trip sounds amazing 🙂

    my husband and I could use one of those, love the pirate party idea as well. I am so glad you and your boyfriend had a wonderful time on your vacation! Hope all is well with you, I miss you lots!

    holly

  6. Lindsey says:

    It’s interesting to know the difference between the two different types of boat and the crowds they attract. I love the idea of a pirate party though!

  7. Katie says:

    Croatia sounds AMAZING Kate! I’m definitely putting it my on travel-must’s list!! When do you think would be the best time to visit Croatia? I’ve heard it’s usually better to go places during off-season but that some countries just aren’t worth it during off season. Let me know 🙂

    • Katie, I thought that late May/first week in June was just PERFECT. The only drawback is that the water is cold then — you might do well to hit the shoulder season in late September.

      • Katie says:

        As long as it’s not FREEZING cold I wouldn’t mind, but thanks for letting me know. Croatia seems amazing! And recently I feel like a lot of other people have been posting about it. Have you seen C’est Christine’s pics from Croatia? They’re just as stunning. Between the both of you there’s no way I can’t add it to my list!

  8. Chantae says:

    This looks like so much fun! Something I’d want to do when I visit Croatia. It’s interesting how the two different boat types attract different crowds, I definitely know which boat I’m going for now!

  9. Joanna says:

    Sounds a lot like our captain on our cheap Ha Long Bay tour! They confiscated our alcohol despite watching us buy it from a little floating boat, the cocktails were all insane prices, the Captain was the one who decided when we stopped to swim and because he was angry at us he wouldn’t let us. It’s a shame the tour companies don’t have more power to keep the Captains in line a bit.

    But it sounds amazing and if I’m ever in Croatia I’ll definitely consider cruising with these guys!

    • Yeah, the no outside liquor rule is common on cruises, I’ve found. I went on the Hanoi Backpackers Halong Bay cruise and it cost twice as much as the cheapies, but it was AMAZING. And there was an abundance of dollar beers on board!

  10. Croatia, sun, sand, sail? SOLD.

  11. Interesting pics Kate.. it is clear that you are enjoying your new job. I am impressed by your write-up. And I personally also like exploring new places.. but my 9-5 sitting job hinders that all fun. But I so inspired that I think I should take a break and enjoy for few weeks too. 🙂

  12. Kristine says:

    Haha so I had just read Nomadic Matt’s article on Sail Croatia then came to your site and saw yours, too. It was interesting to read about it from different perspectives. I did Sail Turkey and had the same problem with the outlets. We never had an issue with the captain docking the boat far away, though–but for some reason the Busabout boats tended to drop anchor far away from each other and we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize with the other boats.

  13. Anamarija says:

    “To be frank, many of us on board thought the Captain refused to dock in Mljet because he was mad that there weren’t enough people to do the second Captain’s Dinner, a moneymaker for the crew.”

    This sounds about right, if they aren’t making enough money, they will just do it their way! Not all are like that, but most are.

    About drink prices…where was this happy hour – beer 3 dollars? This is normal price for a 0,5 l of beer in a cafe. In stores(shops) you can get beer for about 1 dollar. But if this was happy hour, a person would think that they would lower the prices a bit.

  14. Bee says:

    Do you keep all your luggage in your cabin?

  15. I agree I did the busabout Croatia trip as well in 2011. Was lots of fun. Good cheap boat. But nothing beats swimming in the sea every day. or jumping off the top of the boat with your beer in your hand.
    Probably would be my last type of trip with the 18 to 35 crowd though,but met some amazing people.

    Check out some amazing Travels at

    http://www.excitingworldtravels.com

    leave a kind comment as well

  16. Special Kay says:

    Hey Kate,

    I can definitely empathise with your group’s feelings towards the Captains having been a guide on the very trips you’re talking about.

    Honestly, most of the Captain’s are an absolute treasure and relish having young, interesting traveller’s on their boats. They will make an extra effort to chat with the passengers, tell funny stories and do extra swim stops etc. However there is a lot of pressure on both the Captains and the crew to make sufficient earnings during the summer with tourism in Croatia being totally seasonal. The Captain’s who own the boats (usually been passed down through generations), rather than just being employed on them can get a wee bit grumpy if passengers are less than willing to part with their cash. Saying that, the only time we ever had to stay at an alternative port was genuinely because of pretty turbulent weather. Don’t think I’d be a happy chappy if I suspected a sneaky diversion! Passengers are usually unaffected by the Captain’s moods, us diplomatic guides are the ones who take the brunt of it!

    Glad you had an awesome time, on freezing days like this in Edinburgh I really miss my time sailing the Adriatic!

    Hope you’re well 🙂

  17. Richard says:

    OMG! That looks amazing. I’m a wine fanatic to say the least. If you don’t mind me asking, how is the wine in Croatia?

    • John Quest says:

      The wine in Croatia can be very good, but it’ll also cost a pretty penny.
      The cellarman’s trade has really taken a hit in the beginning of the 90’s due to the war. But it’s really picking up.
      If you happen to travel to that part of Europe, and want an oenological experience, you should also visit Slovenia.
      Just Google about the wine culture in those countries and see for yourself.
      Cheers!

  18. Tom says:

    I did this trip a few years back, had a great time, but yeah I went with the shared bathroom boat and mistakenly also chose the below-deck rooms – BAD IDEA. It stinks like oil and petrol and it gets mighty hot in there. Plus I had to put up with everyone yelling and screaming on deck till 3 in the morning.

    Agree with Kate, make sure you go with the ensuite rooms and specially make sure you go with above-deck!! Highly recommend this trip though, Croatia is amazing.

  19. John Quest says:

    Hi!

    I agree sailing the Adriatic on a boat is definitely an epic experience. Being a goolet freak myself, I usually go cruising with goolets. Their not too big, so there’s not too many people on board, yet large enough not to feel cramped up.
    As for the captains, most of them are OK, with the exception of some grumpy old men, who shouldn’t work in tourism in the first place.
    But that stays true for any line of work. 🙂

  20. Carrie says:

    Hey- I just returned from a Fanatics Croatia Sailing tour and WOULD NOT recommend the company. Looks like Busabout is a better experience. Our boat was in bad shape (i.e. plumbing issues, showers leaking onto the floor below, sewage coming from floor drains…). I had to sleep in the dining hall one night due to this and the company has not even acknowledged my complaint. The other thing I must warn about for these types of tours is that partying is the #1 priority… don’t expect much culture and if you’re not into partying constantly and trying to hook up with other travelers you probably won’t fit in. I wish I had known this beforehand and would have saved myself the cash and done my own tour.

    • Carrie, I’m sorry you had this experience on your cruise, but I’ve found that the cruise I went on was NOT all about the partying. You shouldn’t paint every Croatia cruise with the same brush.

  21. Stacey says:

    Hi Kate,

    I’m doing the Busabout Croatia Island Hopper in June and I just breathed a huge sigh of relief reading this post!

    I’ve never travelled solo before but I’m more confident now that this will be awesome. Plus, I booked a room with ensuite – phew!

    Thanks so much for sharing this! 🙂

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