The Adriatic is having a moment. In recent years, Croatia and lesser-known Montenegro have blossomed into “must go now” destinations in Europe, thanks to their stunning beauty, glimmering beaches, and old world charm. Pair those elements with the value, flexibility and many conveniences of a cruise vacation. It’s no wonder Windstar yacht guests love sailing the sun-kissed Dalmatian Coast and Italy’s legendary Amalfi on board a chic small ship – blissfully free from crowds but in the heart of the action in quaint Old World towns, off the charted course.
Our Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast itinerary brings guests to the best of Croatia: walk the ancient walls surrounding the center of Dubrovnik, stroll the polished marble streets of Split, and imbibe the freshest seafood and a dizzying array of Croatian wines in Rovinj. Next door, neighboring Kotor, Montenegro shows off the glory bestowed only upon UNESCO World Heritage sites, filled with medieval architecture, historic monuments, you’ll delight in photo opportunities at every turn.
It’s the Mediterranean’s most charming and historic destinations, all in one incomparable voyage… not to mention also spending precious time in absolutely classic Italian ports of call including Capri, Sicily, Rome, and Venice.
So how do you spend your days in this fantastically diverse conglomeration of ports? Here are a few of our favorite highlights for a rich, varied, and, yes, Classic experience.
Where do you even begin in Rome? The Vatican? The Pantheon? There’s so much history to soak up in this vibrant city, and even if you’ve seen it all before, there are many reasons to return in 2016. The Colosseum was recently cleaned and given a $35 million “face lift”; the Trevi Fountain has also had a clean-up; and the Circus Maximus, along with other historic Roman sites, will glitter on the big screen in the remake of Ben Hur, opening in theaters this summer.
This little island off the coast of Italy is one of those places you feel sexy just thinking about. Cool cafes, Hollywood lore, and rugged seascapes… it’s all here. Our favorite shore excursion A Taste of Capri and Blue Grotto gives you a little of everything, including seeing the sunlight passing through an underwater cave at the aptly named Blue Grotto. Mix in some other panoramic views (including Mount Vesuvius in the distance), local wine and cheese, and strolls through the narrow streets or the Augustus Gardens, and you have the perfect Capri day.
Giardini Naxos, Italy
By now you may have heard of our Private Event program (or we hope you have! Each Windstar cruise includes a complimentary one). On the Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast sailing, it’s the Tastes of Sicily experience in Giardini Naxos. The Private Event begins with a trip to a family-run winery, where guests get a tastes-on education in what to expect from world-class Sicilian wines, enjoying delicate extra-virgin olive oil made in the region as well. After the tour, lunch is served with a selection of traditional Sicilian food and, of course, more wine.
If getting there is half the fun, the experience of sailing into Kotor is three quarters the fun. It’s just that breathtaking. Sailing through the winding Bay of Kotor, called Europe’s southernmost fjord, on a small ship is a magical moment. Guests on board get their fill of blues and greens as the sea gives way to perhaps the most beautiful waterside settlement in the world. When the bright red rooftops of the medieval town of Kotor come into view, you’ve only just begun. Kotor is why we love cruising.
“I do so love the Dalmatian coast — the Croatian coast line and ports are beautiful, you must experience the run up to Kotor in Montenegro.”
~ Captain Belinda Bennett, MSY Wind Star Master
Not to be outdone by Kotor, one of our OTHER favorite moments on this sailing is getting to dock in the heart of Old Town Dubrovnik. It’s what makes sailing on Windstar and small ships so special since the larger ships have to dock in a port farther away and bus their guests into the walled city. Because you’re closer to the destination, you get to make the most of your day at a more leisurely pace. We like to cozy up on the terrace at Proto, an old-fashioned restaurant specializing in the freshest Dalmatian seafood, and enjoy a glass of wine with a platter of oysters. If being active is more your style, we love the option of kayaking around the historic city walls on our Kayaking the City Walls & Lokrum Island half-day excursion.
Yes, Split is known for its beaches and the impressive Diocletian’s Palace, but we like to hit the road to the Krka River Waterfalls in Krka National Park. The falls cascade over 17 natural barriers, and the park is teeming with wildlife and nearly 1,000 varieties of plants. But if the beaches are calling your name, Bacvice is one of the most popular swimming spots in Split. Don’t miss the street food from local vendors, like Croatian jelly doughnuts, yum!
You might want to work off the Croatian donuts, so in Rovinj, we like to stretch our legs on the Parenzana Biking Trail. Previously a narrow-gauge railway line, it follows a meandering course across the Istrian countryside. This super scenic adventure of course includes refreshments. And if refreshments as an activity itself sounds more fitting, Windstar offers a shore excursion to the seaside resort of Prorec with wine tasting… cheers to that.
Windstar visits more ports in Italy than any other country. Venice is arguably the Queen of the Adriatic, so of course we visit this mesmerizing floating city on several cruise itineraries. Serenades on a gondola ride, shopping for Venetian glassware, lingering over an espresso in Piazza San Marco, or digging into a plate of Baccala’ Mantecata (salted codfish with polenta)… Venice NEVER disappoints. Never.
Considering putting your own spin on this sailing experience? Don’t miss Windstar’s “Pick Your Perk” in Europe promotion, which is available on 14 Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast sailings and on dozens of other itineraries including iconic Greek Isles. The promotion includes the choice between The Yacht VIP Package, an all-inclusive onboard savings package of up to $1,700 per stateroom including free wi-fi, complimentary gratuities and beverage package, or two free hotel nights, pre or post cruise.
Have you ever visited these ports in Italy and the Dalmatian Coast? What was your favorite highlight? Tell us in the comments below!