In May 2014, I spent a week aboard the Motor Yacht Romantica to experience on my own two wheels one of the most popular Croatian boat & bike tours. The good news was I enjoyed it just as much as you do - in fact, it was one of my best holidays ever! Here's why I loved the South Dalmatia tour.
...was incredibly cheap and easy. An early flight to Split and a local bus stop practically outside the airport terminal meant we were in Trogir in under half an hour - for just a couple of pounds - and having a late breakfast at 11am. At midday we met the crew in front of the boats, checked in and left our luggage so we could go off and explore easily before being shown to our cabin at 2.30pm.
I chose the premium Romantica, which I just loved. With three decks there was plenty of space for everyone so you could be as sociable (or as unsociable!) as you wanted to. The top deck had oversized, low-slung sunbeds perfect for a little sunbathing or snoozing when sailing; the middle deck had comfy deckchairs perfect for reading or watching the beautiful scenery as we sailed past it, or for watching the captain and crew effortlessly mooring up as we went in to harbour.
There was a large communal wooden table and chairs at the stern where people would congregate for pre-dinner nibbles and drinks before the bell was rung for dinner. Six tables (mostly seating six) in the dining room meant lively conversation at dinner and a variety of dinner companions each night.
Around the boat was a clothesline with pegs, perfect for drying any hand washing you may have or beach towels – just don’t leave it up to dry when sailing if you want to wear it again!
...was timed to perfection; the perfect amount of time for cycling, sailing and exploring. Sailing schedules are set to meet the harbours' needs or to get the best spot on the quay. While initially that sounded quite regimented the guides ensured the days just flowed beautifully and in fact nothing was ever hurried. Even the cycling!
Those who wanted to pedal faster were told where we should reconvene and whoever re-joined the group last always had plenty of time to catch their breath, admire the view and take photos. Plus there was no waiting to embark or disembark ferries which hop from island to island. We just literally jumped off and went exploring. And such beautiful places; Brac with its white marble, Hvar with its cosmopolitan bars and restaurants, Solta with its wonderful bee-keeper and Korcula with its ancient history and cocktail bar in a turret of the old city wall.
...were impressive and light-weight with 21 gears, essential for the hills. We were provided with a Ortlieb pannier each at the beginning of the week so had plenty of space for lots of water (included in the local €40 payment). For any regular cyclists who are used to SPD's I would certainly suggest taking them with you as I missed mine. The guides will help you fit them. Be sure to bring a helmet too.
Every morning whilst we tucked into a generous breakfast, the strong guides and crew would lift all the bikes from the top deck to the bottom deck and then onto the dock. They would all be lined up neatly with their name tags waiting for us. Post cycling we were able to leave the bikes, hop onto the boat and head for the shower or take a refreshing swim in the sea whilst they were all carefully lifted back on board.
Some guests opted for e-bikes which came with two batteries meaning there was no worry about not getting back to the boat! E-bikes are certainly heavier and mean descents are slower but if you want to keep up with a fitter partner on the ups or are used to more leisurely, flatter tours and want to try something hillier, then it is the perfect choice. I often had an Italian lady whizzing past me on the climbs waving ciao, ciao!
Of course, when you start at sea level, there really is only one way to go, and that's up! There were certainly a number of hills on this tour but never more than 400m in one climb. However for every climb we were rewarded with magnificent views of the coastline and a sparkling sea, followed by some wonderful undulating terrain (or what the guide called 'Croatian flat'!) through quiet villages before wonderful descents back to the comfort of our boat. If you love the sound of this style of holiday but would prefer to avoid the hills, do look at our Istrian Coast and National Parks of Dalmatia tours which are graded easy to moderate.
Marco and Nina were fantastic. Passionate about biking and their country and wonderfully organised. A quick nightly post dinner briefing gave us a flavour of what the next day held, whilst a breakfast brief gave us more detail and included the all-important gradients and where we’d stop for morning coffee. They entertained us with stories, taught us some useful Croatian and talked to us about their countries’ interesting and often turbulent history.
Don’t book this holiday intending to lose weight! Breakfast consisted of bread, meats, cheese, eggs in some form, yogurt, cereal, juice, nutella, honey, jam and fruit. Dinner was three courses with fresh salad, a fish or meat main with vegetables and dessert. Bottles of beer were £2 whilst wine ranged from £17 to £22 a bottle. The waiter keeps track of your bar bill and you settle it at the end of the week.
...were international with a wonderful mix of Canadians, French Canadians, Italians, Germans, British and Kiwis which made for interesting story telling at the communal tables over breakfast and dinner. Plus it was nice to interchange with people during the day as you caught people up on the ride or they caught up with you. There was always plenty of laughter.
From Coast to City
A week never seems long enough and after leaving the Romantica in Trogir we took the early morning local bus to Dubrovnik. Five hours on a bus seemed a little alien after spending so much time outside and being so active but following the spectacular coastline was beautiful and relaxing – plus we got to spend ten minutes in Bosnia! A couple of days exploring Dubrovnik’s ancient streets and enjoying the pavement café society and wonderful ice-cream was the perfect end to one of our best holidays ever. I would highly recommend adding on a few days to relax and explore further.