Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..
Destination: Croatian Island Hopping
(Hotel names/Ship name): MV Katarina
Duration: 7 days
After a very early departure at 6.20am, we were looked after well. No meals were offered but there was an opportunity to purchase in-flight snacks. The staff were friendly and helpful, coming round to check on everyone after some bad turbulence. The aircraft was modern with lots of legroom. It was a very comfortable and a very quick flight from Gatwick to Split.
The MV Katarina is brand new for 2019 and exclusively charted by Travelsphere. As soon as we arrived at the Port, we were helped with our luggage and welcomed by the staff on board.
Katarina is family-owned; the mother and father own the boat, the eldest son is the captain, the second son is on food and beverages with their daughter, who is also the girlfriend of the barman, so it’s a very close-knit group of staff. I really liked the fact that it was run by one family; they worked together so efficiently and the feeling on board is relaxed and comfortable because they know how each other works. The service is seamless.
My cabin was the lowest grade and situated towards the front of the ship over the engines. The cabin itself was lovely, modern and decorated in grey and silver with all the mod cons. It was a tight area, so I would advise not to over pack as there is not much storage but, as it is very informal on board, there should be no need to take a huge amount of luggage. The engines start early in the morning so, if you’re a light sleeper, I would advise requesting a cabin towards the back or pay to go on the middle deck. Katarina always sails during the daytime, so there were no noisy nights, thank goodness.
Overall, I was really impressed with the ship. It was extremely modern and clean and there was enough space in the public areas that no one felt on top of each other. The staff could not do enough to help and do a fantastic job with the space that they have, especially in the kitchen. It is quite unbelievable to see the quantity and quality of the food produced by the three kitchen staff.
The trip is based on half board. You are in port every day, so there’s the opportunity to eat lunch in port most days. This allows for a lot of exploring, either independently or with the group on an optional excursion. The food on board was good. Everyone was catered for; we had quite a few people with allergies and intolerances on our trip and all were catered for without a fuss. There were always three courses served and a cheese course to help yourself to afterwards.
In Dubrovnik, we explored on our own using transport. Everywhere else, we could easily walk to from the ship. There were some walking tours included with a guide, which were useful to orientate yourselves.
One of the optional excursions that is worth doing is the evening in Zrnovo, Korcula. You are taken to a house full of artefacts restored by an older man. The grandson shows you around his grandfather’s exhibition, which is really interesting, and you then go to the family restaurant to learn how to make a local pasta dish, before eating a full meal. I think this is an experience that you will never be able to do any other way; it’s just not something that is advertised. I would take full advantage of the opportunity.
One afternoon on board, there was an olive oil and wine tasting. Everyone got involved and it made for great fun whilst sailing. There was never a moment when you could be bored; there was plenty of time to sit and read a book in a quiet area or get involved in the activities offered.
I absolutely loved Dubrovnik; it is a beautiful city. It has a romantic atmosphere with so many gorgeous restaurants overlooking the harbour; you can easily while away a few hours drinking wine and watching the boats coming in and out. Walking the City walls was great. Looking over the entire city with lots of great photo opportunities would be especially interesting for the Game of Thrones fans, as there were lots of areas to spot that have been used in filming.
Also, Mljet was a real highlight. The ship docks a good 10-minute walk from the National Park. There are some steps to contend with – so make sure you have good walking shoes – but it is so worth the walk; it is just stunning. The forest and lakes reminded me of Canada. Here you can swim in the lakes, hire a bike, hire a kayak, jog around, walk or just catch the small ferry over to the restaurant (a former monastery) on a small island in the middle of the lake. I could have spent days here just out in the woods exploring. It is a huge site and, although we walked a lot of it, I would love to go back and spend some more time here.
By the time all the guests had spent a week together, we ended up being like one big happy family. Everyone moved at mealtimes to mix up who they sat with, so we all got to know each other really well.
I would absolutely recommend this trip. If, like me, you have never visited Croatia, this is a fantastic way to experience it and get a real flavour for the country. I had never realised quite how beautiful the Dalmatian Coast is. I had some real 'pinch me' moments when I looked around at where I was. Arriving into ports on a luxurious yacht was also a real treat.
I would happily do this trip again – maybe earlier in the season next time to really enjoy the weather.
On some days, when there was a long sailing, we would stop for 'swim stops'. These were so much fun; there are inflatables on the ship that guests can use but there is also a speedboat that staff take clients out on. Not everyone used these facilities, but it did add another element to the trip and the younger clientele especially enjoyed it. To be swimming in crystal clear waters, surrounded by so much natural beauty, is just amazing.
Also, it is worth mentioning the history of the country. Along with its natural beauty, Croatia is offers lots of activities for those wishing to learn more about the Greek, Roman, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, as well as the history from the days of Yugoslavia through to today.
Must see? All of it, Croatia is beautiful
Must do? Mljet National Park
Must try? Some of the local dishes on board
If you would like to try an island-hopping cruise like Kerrie, you can speak to the team at your nearest branch for more details. We have travel agents in Christchurch, Lymington, Westbourne, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Hythe and across East Anglia.