Top 10 experiences
to enjoy on a Travelsphere escorted tour
In May 2019, Phil Shipman, a member of the Travelsphere Trade Team, set off on our Croatian Island Hopping holiday. We caught up with him afterwards to find out what he thought.
“Our ship, MV Moonlight, was exclusively chartered for the Travelsphere group – so it felt really special, almost like we were on our very own private yacht! The ship is just three years old, has 18 rooms and carries a maximum of 36 guests. On board, the atmosphere was very sociable. I enjoyed mingling with the other guests and relaxing with a good book. Sometimes we played cards and board games, but best of all I liked to spend time sunbathing on deck, admiring the wonderful views and taking it all in. Sailing is a very relaxing way to travel and because the ship is quite small, we usually had the added benefit of mooring right in the centre of town.
The crew on board looked after us very well. They consisted of the Captain, who also owned the ship, the chef, two deck hands and the wonderful Sonia, who worked tirelessly to make sure our rooms were spotlessly clean and that we had everything we needed for a comfortable holiday. The food we were served was delicious. Lunch and dinner were both three-course set meals, served with a glass of beer or wine. The menu featured fresh, local ingredients and we were presented with some wonderful fish and meat. My favourite dish of the entire holiday was octopus salad, it was divine. I loved the pace of this holiday, it felt wonderfully relaxing, even though we visited five different ports in just eight days. We joined the ship in Split, on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and my first impressions when I stepped on board were that the vessel was bigger and of a much higher standard than I was expecting. The bathrooms were a really good size and I was delighted to find a hairdryer in the drawer under the sink!
On day 2 we arrived in Korcula, the reputed birthplace of Marco Polo. It’s a really lovely place, a little bit like Dubrovnik, but much smaller. I loved listening to the tale of a British World War 2 fighter pilot, who defied orders to bomb the town because he thought it was too beautiful. The local people were forever indebted to him, so when he returned after the war, they changed the law for one day to allow him to buy a property in the town. The following day, the law was changed back again and remains the same to this day – no foreign ownership in the town. The story also claims that the fighter pilot went to school with 007 author Ian Fleming, and it is he who the character of James Bond is based on! Later that evening, I enjoyed what was a definite highlight of the holiday. In the village of Zrnovo, a 17-year-old Local Guide escorted us to the home of his Grandfather. Part of the 700-year-old house has been turned into a quirky museum, with artefacts as diverse as a Turkish cannon ball and an original olive press. We were served hand-made grappa, accompanied by sweet walnuts and candied peel and then sat down to a wonderful meal prepared by the family. We enjoyed roasted meats and the most incredible hand-made ravioli – it was brilliant, I definitely recommend it. Dubrovnik was next, and the cruise along the coast into port was spectacular. Here I enjoyed yet another wonderful experience – kayaking around the city walls at sunset. We began by taking a small boat to a beach and then climbed into our kayaks. You could choose to go it alone or with a partner and I have to say, it was something I wouldn’t have missed for the world – such a different way to admire the beauty of Dubrovnik.
Next day, we explored Dubrovnik in a more conventional way, on a guided walking tour, and later we had the Captain’s Dinner on board. It was a great opportunity to chat to a fascinating man. Mijet was our next port of call, where we enjoyed a walking tour of the National Park. It’s a lovely place, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, so I don’t think we were lucky enough to see it at its best. We continued to Hvar, an upmarket, lively island with great cafés and bars, and then made our way back to Split – where we moored for the final night of our holiday. For me, Split was a wonderful surprise, and dare I say it, somewhere I enjoyed even more than Dubrovnik. Diocletian’s Palace was amazing, an ancient Roman fortress built as a retirement home for the Roman emperor Diocletian. It’s huge, with shops, pavement cafes and bars within its walls, and even underground cellars complete with exhibitions and craft stalls. Slightly quirky and little bit rough around the edges, I loved it! And that was it, our week in Croatia had come to an end, but what a week it had been. This holiday offered the perfect balance between organised activities and free time, and I cannot put into words how friendly and helpful the Croatian people are. I would highly recommend this trip. You do need to be fairly mobile, but if you’re a first-time visitor to Croatia, it’s an ideal way to see some of the highlights. And if you have even the slightest interest in history, trust me, you’ll love it!
Overall, the real beauty of this holiday is that even though you are travelling around, your bedroom goes with you. You only have to unpack once, making for a really easy journey packed full of wonderful experiences. If I had to choose just three words to sum up the holiday, they would be: cultural, unique and amazing.”