Busabout’s Sailing Croatia, Dubrovnik to Split (2013)

This is a bit of a practical guide of my experience on Busabout’s Sailing Croatia, Dubrovnik to Split, one way in July 2013.

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Before you read

Before I left I had lots of questions, and a lot I couldn’t find answers to online. In particular how much money could I estimate on spending?!?

Everyone is right, it depends on who you are (us=25 year old nanna who only dances in the privacy of her home and loves having a chance to read), what your interests are (seeing the sights, eating) and how much you drink (I enjoy a few drinks, but I don’t get piss drunk for the fun of it). So keep this in mind when reading. If you love to drink, quadriple your bill. But I took a notepad and pen along with me and made notes as I went, so you can be the judge of how much you’ll spend.

Everything you ‘buy’ on the boat, BBQ dinner, drinks, as well as port taxes (AUD$30 , gets added to your bill that you pay at the end.

Fast figure: Between Madi and I, our boat bill came to 909 kuna, approx AUD$180 at the time, for 8 days. But keep in mind there’s also lots of things you pay for separately as you go- activities, drinks and eating out in each town.

Note: Each year prices usually inflate, so these prices are  what we paid effective July 2013.

At the time we went, Croatia was starting to accept the euro. Some people are noted that as the euro becomes more widely accepted, it’ll cause Croatia to be much more expensive.

The cabins

There’s different cabins and they all have pros and cons.

Ensuite above deck cabin

If you’re claustrophobic (I just watched Titanic too many times as a kid) and/or have a not-so-stable stomach (both Madi and I are in this category), do yourself a favour and go with the ensuite above deck cabin. It’s better to be comfortable for a week onboard a boat, because anxiety will wreck it for you. There’s a downside to this cabin though. Nighttimes in July are Croatia are stifling hot so sleeping with your cabin door open is the only option (yeah, it’s safe). Unfortunately at nighttime, you’re docked/ tied up to the other Busabout boats which means if you’re being a nanna like me and wanting to go to bed at 9, the other boat is having a good time complete with strobe lights, loud music and conversations where you can hear eve.ry.thing.

Cabins below deck & cabins with shared bathrooms

They also have cabins below deck, and cabins with shared bathrooms, but there’s three boats that sail at the same time, so each one varies (one boat has 13 cabins, another 15). If you’re below deck, they say to close your porthole while sailing (water spray). Be warned, when you’ve docked, are sleeping on the top bunk and the waves are a little rough, you may find yourself being rudely woken up when a wave flings itself through your window drenching you, your blankets and your mattress (as one of the girls we made friends with found out). And just as you sit up and get over the shock of it happening, another one with come and dose you in the face.

And as they say, if you’re travelling with friends, make sure you all book the same level of cabin, otherwise you may find yourselves travelling on different boats.

Cabin layout

The rooms are made up of a bunkbed, just enough floor space for your luggage.

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There’s electrical plugins, but remember these only work when you’re docked. (On a side note since we’re taking electronics, I bought the Busabout Global Premium sim card. Not only was the pricing obviously better than roaming, when you send texts, it tracks your travels in an online journal for you, which is great to go back over. I’ve also used the sim card on a trip a year later to the US).

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The ensuite bathroom really is the shower with a toilet, and where the shower hose comes out of the sink. A hilarious experience to say the least!

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Onboard prices

Here’s some basic prices that are handy to know.

20 euro for a week of water ~3 x 600ml bottles a day

18kn vodka mix

20kn malibu mix

15 kn for a small beer

20 kn for a large beer

 

Things To Know

Stealing. I read this on a forum before I left so was freaked out. Turns out, we had an awesome friendly crew (the forum blamed them?) and had no problems. I still hid my important belongings, and your passport is held onto by the crew and returned on the last day.

Alcohol. There’s no alcohol because the boat is licensed to serve alcohol. It’s like walking into a bar with a bottle of your own vodka. o_O

Snacks. There didn’t seem to be any problem bringing snacks and water on board. I’m a muncher between meals so bought food at a grocery store in Dubrovnik that I kept in my suitcase.

Medicine. Prone to motion sickness? Buy motion sickness tablets before you leave home, and take them each morning on the boat. They only work to prevent you getting woozy and sick! I had one morning where I forgot to take it, and I was a pretty shade of grey and in no shape to do anything.

Diets. They can cater to your dietary needs (within reason) but you need to let them know when you get on board, not at dinner! One girl was gluten intolerant and Madi’s vegetarian. Quite frankly, the vegetarian meals were amazing and I found myself picking off her plate.

Welcome to Croatia!

Day 1: Dubrovnik to Šipan

Grabbed a bus from old town Dubrovnik (a nice safe place to stay), and checked in to the boat at 10:30. You’re looking for the boats with white Busabout flags and usually with a Katrina Lines flag as well.

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Dropped our bags on board and sauntered off to find something light to eat nearby (pizza for 30-35 kuna/ AUD$6). We were back on the boat for 12 and got ourselves settled in.

Our sailing began, and we began heading to Šipan, with a stop in a bay to swim. Your entire week will be filled with stops along the way to go jump in and cool down. This was our favourite part each day, cruising along, lounging out with a book.

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Croatia smells of salt and pine, as the scent of the forests reach you even out on the water.

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We docked in Šipan, what seemed like a small fishing village. Because it’s small, it didn’t take long to saunter around.

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Šipan-busabout-colour Šipan-busbout Šipan

Everyone opted in for the BBQ dinner (I think there was one place to eat/drink in Šipan?), which included some wine and worked out to be 10 euro (AUD$15) each.

This was followed by most playing a game on deck, but playing ‘spin the wooden dick and kiss who it lands on’ isn’t my cup of tea (and if you’re wondering, the average age was 25 on this boat. wtf.), so Madi and I grabbed drinks and chilled out at the front of the boat to finish off our day.croatia-sunset-busabout

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Day 2: Šipan to Korčula

Pay attention to who rocks up at breakfast each morning. It’s hilarious. First morning, breakfast bell rings, everyone’s there. But after they have a hard night out? We came into breakfast one morning and saw maybe 3-4 people.

If you think you’ll be missing a few breakfasts? Grocery store. Snack bars. You’ll be hungry by lunchtime otherwise. Breakfast was toast, cereals, orange juice and tea.

Mljet National Park

Pronounced Ml-yet, it’s on the schedule, but it’s apparently hit and miss if you get to make it there. There were lots of ‘yes, we’re going, no we’re not, yes, no’. The ‘final’ answer was no, but minutes later we found the boat heading in the park’s direction, so I guess the captain decided to give it a shot. Some forums said they thought the captain wouldn’t dock so they could keep the docking fees, but if you get a chance to see the breeze turn nasty, it’s not a surprise they don’t.

It’s 100kn (AUD$20) to get in, and when they recommend that you buy a bottle of water at the store across from the ticket booth, do it. A wander through takes you to crystal blue waters and a boat that’s part of your park ticket, which takes you elsewhere for a gorgeous swim. The way I see it, if you’re here, you should take the chance to see it. You never know if or when you’ll be back.

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Back on the boat, lunch was fish fillets, zucchini and potatoes.

We carried on towards Korčula with a stop along the way for a swim. We also stopped to refuel, when the skies went from blue to stormy in minutes. A thunder and lightening storm swept through, sending deck chairs skidding and inflatables were flicked overboard.

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But just like that, it was over and we made our way into Korčula, an island with 16,000 people, known as a mini Dubrovnik, and apparently the birth place of Marco Polo. My only disappointment this trip was having missed seeing the Marco Polo museum here since we arrived later in the day (I think Madi was the only other one who was bummed too).

We all went to Massimo a cocktail bar, which is up a 15th century tower, for drinks and views of the sunset. The way up? A flight of stairs and a ladder. The way down? Ladder then stairs. Leave the heels, if you want to drink more, do it on the ground. Cocktails ranged from 55-65 kuna (AUD$11-13).

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We all followed this up was a pizza and drink combo at another place in Korčula for 55kn (AUD$11). Did I mention I don’t drink much, one main reason being I’m a light weight? And when I drink, I get sleepy, so hello bed.

Meanwhile if you love nightclubs and drinking you can do what the others did, and go to Boogie Jungle (love the name!), a nightclub in the middle of a forest. It opens at 1am and goes till 5am, is 50kn for entry and drink, and costs 40kn for a taxi one way. As you can tell by their facebook photo albums, https://www.facebook.com/boogiejunglekorcula/photos_albums, they’re there for the Contiki, Busabout and Sail Croatia people. Whatevs.

 

Day 3: Korcula to Hvar

You know that breakfast thing I was saying? This was that morning when we were the only ones up at breakfast bright and perky, although some straggled in later. It’s amusing to hear the stories of what happened during the night. When it gets rough the waves make huge gaps between the boats (since they’re roped together and you have to step across).

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That night (or morning really), having maybe been a bit unstable of their feet *ehem*, one person went to step across the boats and dropped straight down. Fortunately he got out. You can imagine if the boats had been pushed by the waves back together… And as brilliant as you think you might be when you’ve been drinking, purposely go swimming in the dock is idiotic. A man had drowned a few weeks previously. Punch ups between locals and tourists at bars and clubs are common, locals try to find the drunkest girl from a boat and often a guy from the boat will step in and a fight ensues. Yada ya.

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We sailed from Korcula and anchored outside of Hvar since we couldn’t dock before 5. Some swam, then had lunch of roast beef, rice, peas and lamingtons, before they took some of us on a small dingy to Hvar.

Madi and I moseyed over to a grocery store for ice cream (3 kn/ AUD$0.60), and a litre of iced tea (10 kuna/ AUD$2) before meeting a few others to walk up to Fortica Spanjola/ Spanjola Fortress (entry was 25 kn/AUD$5 each). Really, you go in for the panoramic views.

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We walked back down, grabbed some bread, cheese and meat for a early dinner picnic near the water (~50 kuna/ AUD$10 for the two of us).

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Around one of the sides of the town there’s an area to swim, but be warned, you dive off a cement area into deeper water so you avoid the huge amount of sea urchins. Because it’s not just about where you go in, it’s about how you get out, and here there was a metal ladder you could use. All the rocks around are covered in urchins, and it’s not something you want to have rammed in your foot (poisonous, can cause muscle spasms, faintness, death. You get the picture). I know they aren’t going to gang up and all leap on you, but it can be hard to judge how deep water is, which made a few of us extra cautious (me= the idiot who attempted to swim in flipflops. I looked awesome).

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By then the boat was docked, so we went back to freshen up. Happy hour was 8:30 and at 10:30 we all headed out to Kiva Bar for ‘Tequila Boom Booms’. You put on an army helmet, and a glass of (not very strong) tequila is smashed against your head, on the top and both sides a few times, before you shoot it down. It’s amusing and you do it to say you’ve done it. (25 kn/AUD$5)

It was around midnight and we were pretty much done after that. It’s hot, crammed, and unless having men gyrate against you is your idea of fun, we were outta there. There’s nightclubs but they also note Hvar is overpriced, charging 80kn just to get in. Of course for the ones who are travelling to dance in every town, I guess this is what you just do.

 

Day 4: Hvar to Stari Grad

Stari Grad is the quaint little town that captured my heart. We did the usual sail, swim, sail in the morning from Hvar, before arriving. There’s little stalls where we bought little leather bracelets for 20 kn/AUD$4.

Being on a pretty tight budget, Madi and I were originally going to pass on the dinner and wine tasting since it was 200kuna/AUD$40 each, assuming we could grab good food and wine at a restuarant. But some of the girls we were with talked us into it, and it has got to be the highlight of that sailing trip. If you have any interest in food? Do. This. It’s only through a tour that you get a chance to visit.

They take you by van to a winery, all of the area and most of the land surrounding is Unesco protected land, that was owned by the Greeks since 4th century BC and has been cultivated for winemaking for the last 4,000 to 5,000 years.

Stari Grad

We sampled 4 different types of wine, and had dinner where all the food came from their land or near by (eg the anchovies, salted and smoked). We began with homemade cheeses, olives and anchovies before moving onto the main, called Peka Imotski. Peka is a meat and vegetable dish, in this case made of  lamb, chicken, veal, potatoes, veggies, carrots and peppers, that’s cooked/ slow roasted in a large pot with a bell shaped lid called cripnja , in the embers of a specially made fireplace (at least this is the traditional way). I’m assuming the Imotski is the name of the location that they took it from? Either way, it was heavenly and I’m planning on making it one of these nights (although I’ll have to made due with my oven) to go with the two bottles of wine I bought from the winery (and somehow lugged back through another three countries before returning home). You’ll find that even the cheap wine you buy in the grocery store is incredible.

To finish off, when we arrived back at the boat, there was a stall nearby selling fresh hot crepes with nutella for 12 kuna/AUD$2.

 

Day 5:Hvar to Bol to Makarska

Next morning, I forgot to take my usual motion sickness pill so felt like hell. I swam to the beach from the boat and back on our swim stop, which triggered even more nausea, so slept until 3, willing it all to stop. Docking in Makarska, we went for a wander and cooled off with a small slushie (5 kuna/ AUD$1). They had outdoor water sports, parasailing and an inflatable course which I think some did (Madi and I had just done a water based fun run with an inflatable course earlier in the year so this wasn’t a priority for us).

We caught up with some of the other girls and dinner at a restaurant along the water. I was fixated on trying seafood while I was here, so opted for a grilled squid (70kuna/AUD$14). A cave club called Deep had just opened, and entry was free for Busabout with our plastic wristbands until 1 am. It was within walking distance to the boat so we popped in for a drink and a dance (Heiniken’s were 20kn/ AUD$4). I guess when I heard ‘club in a cave’, I thought cool! Expecting, I dunno, a deeper cave. Not a km below ground or anything, but, more tucked away. It was pretty open, which I can understand, it’s hot, you don’t need people passing out, and people are there to drink and dance, but yeah, was a bit underwhelmed. Others had a great time, staying out till 6am.

 

Day 6: Makarska to Pucsica to Omis

Who was at breakfast? Nada. We carried on to Pucsica and Omis, stopping for a swim along the way. A storm came through in Omis as we ventured to find a restaurant. Having just a bit of time left in Croatia, I needed more seafood so we went for dinner in town while the rest of the boat did the captain’s dinner (150kuna/AUD$30).  I happily dug into a platter containing grilled squid, fried squid and squid risotto with a side of silverbeets and potato, known as blitva (99kn/AUD$20) . This was the night for the pirate party, and being a huuuuge fan of pirates, I was so looking forward to it ( I had read other people’s posts. So excited!) only to find because of the big night before at Deep, they just called the captain’s dinner the party and called it a night.  Wha?

 

Day 7: Omis to Split

By today I’m starting to get sick, a cold that Madi will get the day after, and follow us painfully through Greece and France. And to top it off we did the hike in Omis to the top of the mountain. It feels like rockclimbing, so bring running shoes, lots of water and sunscreen. It’s beautiful at the top (it’s 10kn/AUD$2 to go into the fortress which is what you’re climbing to), but it’s hell to get there.

Later we arrive in Split. Madi and I grabbed ice cream, some food at a restaurant and toured Diocletian’s Palace before heading back to pack our bags.

 

Day 8: Split

You’ll be up, fast breakfast, bags down, bills paid (the tips can go discreetly into a jar, so you choose what you feel comfortable with. Some people tipped 50, 100, 200kn. It’s up to you and your budget.), passport collected and out by 9am.

There’s the bus and train station right across from the port and there’s some great places nearby if you intend to stay longer (our flight was the next day). We rented a small apartment with a cute kitchenette in advance (highly recommended especially in summer and when they can concerts on, like when we arrived. Split was apparently completely booked out). The rest of our day consisted of visiting a pharmacy for medicine and spent the rest of the day beginning our fight with our flus.

Thoughts

Before I went on this trip, I heard people rave about Croatia being the most beautiful place on earth. Honestly? Sailing the Whitsundays and being in Banff tops my ‘most beautiful, most amazing experiences’ list. In saying that, being in Stari Grad is on my list of favourites and staying in an apartment in old town Dubrovnik before our tour, cooking our own food, drinking Croatian wine was such an amazing experience.

Most of the people on the boat are there to party, but if you’re like Madi and I, you’ll probably find a handful of others who like a good time but aren’t so gung-ho about being out till 6am. Madi had spent 4 months travelling with Busabout the year before, including doing the Greek Island hopper, but Croatia sailing she says, was mental. To compare, in Ios, Greece you partied, but every other place you just went out fora quiet dinner, while in Croatia, people were out every single night.

You can find yourself extremely tired at times, and being on a boat with small quarters, especially if you’re travelling with a friend, girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s going to test you. Most couples ended up in a fight at some point.

At the end of the day, Busabout’s Sailing Croatia is what you make of it. If you love to go out at night and dance and drink until 5 am, it’ll be right up your alley. But if you prefer trying food from different cultures, taking it easy on deck reading a book, and exploring towns, it’s all that too.

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