Dustin Halcon, Windstar’s Director of Vacation Planning, shares his insights on cruising our Classic Italy & Dalmatian Coast voyage.
When you’ve worked for cruise lines all your adult life, a very specific problem begins to develop: we “cruise people” become jaded to many destinations and long for a new place or culture to explore. Not a bad problem to have!
When I joined the Windstar Cruises family in 2011, I poured over our brochures and website looking for a new and unique adventure to enjoy for my first trip aboard our yachts. Before the end of my first week, I knew I wanted a chance to see the glittering Dalmatian coast for myself, after years of hearing about the rich history of these small coastal nations.
We started our voyage in Venice, where we spent one night at the Hotel Bonvecchiati before boarding Wind Surf. Venice is a city that must be seen to be fully appreciated. It hums with activity day and night, a proud city with a long, deep history.
The first port of call, Rovinj, Croatia, was once an island and part of the Venetian Republic. Engineers filled the channel and “attached” Rovinj to the mainland in the 18th century, which left the central town small, extremely walkable, and convenient to ships. Particularly noteworthy for foodies is Rovinj’s reputation for the world’s finest black truffles. The rare fungi were obtained from the local markets by our chef during his market walk, where he was joined by a trail of guests each day. There’s nothing quite like watching a master at work selecting the finest produce, and even more exciting is watching those ingredients pop up in the ship’s menus in the coming days.
Split, the largest coastal city in Croatia, is a bustling and thriving tourist destination for Europeans. Travel books will tell you to visit Diocletian’s Palace without explaining that the Palace is, indeed, the city. A sprawling compound of interconnected buildings with bridges, statuaries and gardens dotted throughout, residents still live in many wings of the former palace, and the underground cisterns have been drained and turned into cool, temperate marketplaces for souvenirs.
In Dubrovnik, the best known city in Croatia, I decided to walk the entirety of the old city wall in the heat of summer, which was quite a workout! The best way to see the city and capture amazing photos of this ancient, fortress town is from the top of the ten foot thick stone walls that encircle it completely.
Montenegro now has the honor of being my new favorite country. A shore excursion called, “Montenegro Highlights” gives you the opportunity to see all of the tiny country in just six hours. The yacht anchors in a pristine fjord-like harbor and a motorcoach takes you up a winding road for some incredible photos. From there, a short drive to an inland village famous for handcrafted black wine and prosciutto culminates in a surprise stop for lunch and a drink.
Sicily was my chance to see Mt. Etna and listen to the history of the volcano and its long relationship with the island and its people. Sicilians refer to it as only, “The Mountain,” similar to how those of us in the Pacific Northwest think of Mt. Rainier.
Capri boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes and photo ops in the Mediterranean, with views from Anacapri giving a postcard-frame of Mt. Vesuvius and Naples. The Blue Grotto is on so many people’s bucket list, and truly must be experienced.
Ending any cruise in Rome is always a delight. No matter how many chances you get in a lifetime to visit Rome, the city on seven hills never fails to impart some of its ancient wisdom and heritage. A perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and take more great photos made our last few days in Rome the perfect end to an enriching and wonderful experience.
I hope you have the opportunity to add these fascinating countries to your adventures!