Captivating Croatia with Penny Smith

AN ISLAND-HOPPING CROATIAN ADVENTURE

Penny Smith, Croatian Island Explorer

Travel ambassador, broadcaster and presenter Penny Smith, travelled with us to Croatia for the trip of a lifetime. She sailed the beautiful Adriatic Coastline on a ship chartered exclusively for Travelsphere.

I have kayaked round the old walls of Dubrovnik, swum off secluded coves, bobbed around in an inflatable strawberry and discovered ancient methods of air-conditioning in the tiny alleyways of Hvar, all accompanied by the sound of laughter and jolly chatter.

To start at the beginning, we were picked up in a smart Mercedes and delivered to Gatwick airport where I essentially park my brain and go into Travelsphere-holiday mode. Everything has been taken care of... where’s my passport?

Life on board

At Split, our Tour Guide, Ivana, gives us a quick overview as we head to the port and our home for the week, the MV Katarina, a luxurious ship chartered exclusively for our Travelsphere group. We are introduced to the crew - all of whom are lovely - and learn a very important word, possibly the only one we need ‘zivjeli’, or ‘cheers’ in Croatian. In the evening, we have a quick trot round the old town, devour three bowls of the best broccoli soup ever on board (plus the rest of dinner), then fall into a deep sleep on the supremely comfy bed.

Next morning we’re woken by the murmur of the engines as we depart for the island of Brac. And this becomes our new norm. Breakfast as we sail, then a swim stop where the inflatables are thrown out and those of us who fancy a dip get on with it. You can swim ashore, swim in a pink flamingo, sit in the cool jacuzzi on the top deck or read - with or without your eyelids up!

Incredible experiences

Every day there are excursions, most days there is lunch or dinner on board and every night, someone ends up being the last one asking Jakov to add a little nightcap (or two!) to their bar bill.

One of the highlights for me is the four-hour kayak in Dubrovnik. Our guide explains how it’s all going to work in our two-person kayaks. “Brawn in the back, brains in the front,” he says. The sea is delightful. Deep blue and clear. Gulls wheel overhead as the sun sets.

Another highlight is the Captain’s dinner, when we have a special meal while a duo with a mandolin and a guitar regale us with traditional songs. Then someone starts dancing and before you know it, one couple is doing the jive and proclaiming that it’s the first time they’ve done it in years.

Beyond the guidebook

At each town or city, Ivana takes us on a fascinating walk where she feeds us with nuggets of information - how in ancient times, a pole would be put across a window to hang a wet sheet on, to flap in any breeze and cool the room (early air-conditioning), how you have to rub the toe of a statue known as Dumbledore to locals in Split and then make a sensible wish, how the Bosnian war affected everyone, and how Hvar became the centre of lavender production.

Our final day is spent bewailing the fact that we have to go home. But we’ll be back. You can’t spend a whole week learning how to say ‘zivjeli’ and not book a return trip!

Penny Smith, Croatian Island Explorer

Penny Smith travelled with Travelsphere on the 8-day Croatian Island Hopping tour, July 2019