Croatia is another one of those places I’ve been trying to reach for years, but has always been pushed aside for some reason or another: international airfare was too expensive, the season wasn’t right, a better (and cheaper) trip came up in its place. So I was perhaps more excited about Croatia than all the other destinations we’d be visiting on our 11-night cruise.
A bonus is that we had not one, not two, but three stops in Croatia, each for a full day.
Up first was Dubrovnik, the city I knew the most about, primarily through friends’ past trips and other bloggers’ Instagram feeds. Even though it would be the most touristy of the Croatian cities we’d visit, it was undoubtedly the most charming.
Let’s just say that a place is popular for a reason. It may be cliche to love Dubrovnik, but I did; I really, really did. I can’t wait till I get an opportunity to return for a longer stretch of time.
In our brief 10 hours there, we found a slice paradise, Sveti Jakov, just on the outskirts of town thanks to my Nashville friend Christina. There, we were able to rent chairs on the rocky beach and order as many beers as we could put away. (And put away beers we did; my family is particularly adept at that skill.)
In Hvar, we talked a boat owner at the dock into taking nine of us out on his boat for two hours for the bargain price of $200 (or roughly $22 a person). Hvar is a gorgeous spit of land just off the Dalmatian Coast; this is the place, if anywhere, you want to take your catamaran cruise and sail in and out of the inlets surrounding the islands.
It turns out that it’s also a haven for celebrities. On the way back into town, everyone was all atwitter because Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi had just sauntered by. Turns out their yacht was parked right next to our ship! I never actually spotted either of them—though that would have made my trip—but several others from our small ship saw them palling around in town.
Rovinj was the third and final stop and nothing to write home about. I think the entry and the view from the ship was the high point. While cute and quaint—I’m sure it’s a great place to live—there simply wasn’t a whole lot for a visitor to do.
Croatia is a lot of things, but what it most definitely is not is cheap. One dinner in Dubrovnik for the six of us? $300. A five-minute cab ride from the center of town to the beach? $25. A local beer? $4. Granted we didn’t venture far from the tourist area, but still.
As my mom said: “Croatia is the cleanest tourist place I’ve ever been!” Beautiful, clean, tasty—those adjectives all sum up Croatia. But cheap it is not. I’m sure there was a time a decade ago, before the throngs of Americans arrive, that it was considered an affordable vacation. Not any longer, folks.
Want a budget European destination? Go to Montenegro or Slovenia instead.
Want a spot with great tourist infrastructure, plenty of dining and lodging options, and an incomparable coastline? Croatia may just be the place for you.