It’s rare I take vacations with friends these days, but the stars aligned and four (very busy and hard to plan) girls from across the US met up for Yacht Week Croatia, sailing from Dubrovnik to Split across the dazzling Adriatic Sea. In short, it was one of the best weeks of my life and a perfect ending to an amazing summer of adventure.
Here’s an Unfiltered Look at the Experience:
First, it’s important to understand I did not say I went on THE Yacht Week, which is the company most people are familiar with. Their branding is incredibly well known and reaches all corners of the globe (who wouldn’t want to bask under the sun with those hotties in the promo video?). The truth is, there are many competitors to Yacht Week Croatia – sailing companies that offer week on a yacht for a set fee so if you’re considering Sail Week vs Yacht Week, make sure you consider all your options and read the reviews. We did our homework and chose to embark with the Sail Week Croatia for a number of reasons – and I’m pleased to report our expectations were far exceeded.
Why We Chose Sail Week Croatia over the Yacht Week: Itinerary and Price
The Itinerary: A lot of the companies we researched (ahem: The Yacht Week Croatia) looked extraordinarily spring breaky, promising young 20-somethings the perfect girl to guy ratio and Europe’s hottest nightclubs. They offer Party Weeks, Ultra Week (to the huge music fest), and basically a week of binge drinking. That would’ve been great 10 years ago, but when you’re in your 30s, you usually want to remember the experience. Sail Week has that kind of trip too, but what caught our eye was Adventure Week. The route was completely different than the party cruise (so we wouldn’t run into them) and each port offered a different activity like hiking, biking, kayaking, and SUPing. Full disclosure, it was a bit more soft adventure than I would’ve liked, but it was still actively exploring instead of wasting the day sleeping off a hangover.
The Price: We spent a week on a yacht (included was 7 nights accommodation, breakfast and lunches) for less than $800. Yes, you read that right. Essentially the same program as The Yacht Week for a fraction of the price. With the Yacht Week Croatia, you can choose how big of a boat you want (there’s a joke there), but you’re still paying for the brand name. They also try to upsell you on their food and drink packages, which start at about $915. Ouch. On Sail Week Croatia, you simply buy your own snacks and alcohol at each marina. Always do your homework if you’re looking to save money on travel.
The Setup: Each boat held eight guests plus the skipper; so half our boat was my friends. The other two were couples on their honeymoon (great humans, but a little weird due to the lack of privacy…we’ll get to that later). There were three other boats in our bevy so about 35 people total. The number of boats varies each week by demand (they operate every week of summer).
- The thought “life is hard” will run through your head often. You will regularly wonder what you did to deserve this terrible life cruising Baller Bay with the beautiful people.
- There’s plenty of downtime (which I sometimes need forced up on me). Actually getting to catch up on reading for fun was a whole new world and a necessary reset.
- You will feel like you have this whole amazing corner of the world to yourself. There are hours of blue expanses where you won’t see another vessel or another human.
- The water is unlike any shade of blue you’ve ever seen (and you’ll take more pictures of it than you ever dreamed possible).
- The skipper made the trip. The glue that ties the group together, Zoran was a fantastic human (and it didn’t hurt that he looked like a cross between Paul Walker and Ryan Gosling).
- We went in early August and had perfect weather. Or at least perfect weather for tanning. There was not a cloud in the sky, and no wind either so not a whole lot of actual sailing happened, It was more motorboat week (bad joke).
- Our skipper was a world class BSer and liked to mess with us so it was hard to know what was true. Much to our surprise, a few of the stops did in fact have floating markets which would deliver breakfast to your boat, or even better, mojitos from the floating bar.
- Can we talk about how solid the WIFI was in the middle of nowhere? We were rarely without Snapchat or Instagram.
- This isn’t the mega yacht you’re picturing having seen Below Deck. There’s no maid or crew. Just one lone (albeit fantastic) skipper who does everything from steering to cleaning and cooking.
- Quarters are tight, but you will get over the fact that there is no possible way you can sleep in a space that small. As soon as you accept you’ll be on top of each other, you’ll learn to stay out of each other’s way. The good news is, aside from sleeping you’ll rarely spend time in your cabin.
- The bathrooms are another story. You will quickly get used to hearing everything. You’ll get extraordinarily close to your bunkmates joking about who’s turn it is to take the toilet paper bag out (no flushing of paper allowed). Let’s just say life on the boat doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
- Showers on the boat are interesting also. You have to ration the water between port stops and not every marina has facilities (you’ll appreciate the ones that do even more).
- You will come home with random bruises all over your body with no idea how you got them. It’s inevitable.
- At some of the ports, we had to dock via anchor away from land, which made coordinating dingy runs to use the potty interesting.
- Omg the bees. They were everywhere!
What Surprised Me:
I wasn’t sure I’d like this type of vacation because I get bored at the beach in about two seconds. After lying out for an hour I’m usually antsy and wondering what we’re going to do next. I typically only spend 2-3 fast-paced days in each country before moving on, which each day packed to the gills with active adventures. This was basically doing the same thing for a week straight – a deep dive into one country.
Thankfully, my worries were completely unfounded. We quickly eased into the routine of 1-3 hours of sailing in the morning, stopping at unique swimming coves, and exploring each new port at night, which broke the day up and kept us on the move. The cities were remarkably different from each other, bustling historic gems like Dubrovnik (do the Game of Thrones tour even if you’ve never seen the show) and Korcula (Marco Polo’s hometown) to happenin’ Split and Hvar and completely remote spots you’d never think to visit (some without a single bar).
Synopsis: What are you waiting for? Go!
I would recommend Sail Week Croatia to anyone in their 20s or 30s looking for a unique vacation (older folks, charter a private boat). It was ridiculously affordable (especially if you use miles for flights) and CNN just said Croatia rules the Rivieras. The country is poised to blow up in the next few years; get there while it’s still under the radar and a hidden gem. I personally can’t wait to get back. We were extremely happy that we did our homework and did not just go with the Yacht Week because it was the first company we saw: we crossed paths with their ships along the route and it looked like we were having an even better experience for a fraction of the cost (while getting our adventure on).
Other Things to Note:
- Sail Week lets you sign-up as a solo traveler without a single supplement. The Yacht Week has a Facebook page to help connect you to people looking to fill open yacht spots, but doesn’t technically let you sign-up solo.
- There are plenty of other providers that offer similar sailing experiences in Croatia so do your homework. You can even charter a yacht and captain it yourself if you’re confident in your skills.
- Spend a day or two before or after your cruise exploring inland Croatia — Plitvice Lakes and Krka are both incredible national parks with waterfalls for days.
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