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An old Roman proverb states, "To know one nation, sit at their table, try their food, and drink their wine, then you will know their customs and what kind of people they are.”
Join us aboard our 2020 Croatia & Culinary Gems of the Adriatic Coast small ship cruise tour and savor the sights, the history, and, most deliciously, the flavors of Croatia — fully immersing yourself in every facet of its culture. Vantage is proud to offer this exclusive culinary-inspired itinerary that unveils both the surf and the turf that’s made Croatia such a dynamic global foodie destination and a favorite of late chef Anthony Bourdain. Your tour along the country's coastline often features fresh, locally-sourced seafood — while sumptuous beef and cheese dishes reign supreme further inland where local farmers raise much of the cattle. You certainly won’t go hungry for choices on this tour!
Specially enhanced for 2020 with better pacing and accommodations, this cruise will tempt you with a smorgasbord of delights, from chef-led market tours to local food samplings to historical excursions and stunning landscapes. Marvel at seaside resort towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hvar's lavender fields, waterfall-laden Krka National Park, and the iconic walled city of Dubrovnik where you’ll experience an exclusive private concert in a centuries-old church, and perhaps live out your Game of Thrones fantasies in the city that often provided a backdrop to the iconic series.
Learn about folk customs thanks to insightful, Vantage-exclusive Culinary Features and Cultural Connections that introduce you to traditional song and dance and humble villages where you’ll meet families and taste their homemade wine and regional specialties. Be pampered aboard the 26-traveler La Perla, an intimate yacht with farm-to-table and fish-to-dish dining, and raise a toast with one of Croatia’s world-class wines to traveling with Vantage in 2020 — reserve your spot today!
Depart the U.S. and fly overnight to Zagreb
Today you’ll take an overnight flight to Europe. If you’d like to begin early, you can add on an enriching pre-trip extension to Lake Bled, Slovenia, where castles perched on cliffs and mountain villages delight visitors in this tranquil resort.
Arrive in Zagreb and relax
If you purchased your airfare from us, you’ll be greeted at the airport by a Vantage representative and transfer to your deluxe hotel. The day is yours to relax and unwind. Perhaps you’ll stroll the park near your hotel — the promenade here leads to a seasonal outdoor café and underground shopping center where you can get your souvenir shopping started early. Or you may wish to take a stroll nearby and admire the Vienna-inspired architecture. Enjoy a Welcome Briefing and Dinner at the hotel this evening and get acquainted with your fellow travelers.
Enjoy the best of Zagreb: monuments and markets
You'll be met by your expert local guide this morning for a tour of Zagreb to view the city’s impressive landmarks. As you explore this stunning city, you'll see the Croatian National Theater and Opera House, Croatian Parliament and Prime Minister's office, St. Mark’s Square, the Old City, the Stone Gate, and Zagreb Cathedral.
Visit the bustling Dolac Market — the largest in the nation! — where locals from the countryside come to sell locally-grown and produced fruits, vegetables, honey, oil, handicrafts and more.
Enjoy a free afternoon. Zagreb has one of the world's most extensive tram systems, so consider using your free time to board the local tram to the outdoor recreational center at Jarun Lake. Here, you can enjoy the walking trails or rent a bike to go for a spin. Your Vantage Cruise Director will be happy to assist with directions or suggestions for other activities in Zagreb.
This evening, if you like, join your Cruise Director and visit some popular pubs and cafés where locals gather.
Head into the country at Kumrovec, village and open-air museum
Today you’ll head into the countryside to visit Kumrovec, a preserved open-air museum because it's the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito — the Yugoslavian communist revolutionary (and later, dictator) who led the resistance to the Nazi and the fascist forces during World War II. Here, you'll enjoy a lecture on Tito and his role in bridging the Eastern and Western Blocs.
Travel overland to Opatija with a Croatian farm experience
Today, you’ll transfer to the seaside city of Opatija through the hills of central Croatia, with amazing views en route.
Along the way, we'll stop at the farm estate of the Kezele family. Enjoy a fascinating tour of the property, including the stables where livestock is kept and the wine cellar, where you'll enjoy a tasting of the family's excellent vintages. Experience the true rural economy combining a beautiful view of vineyards, stables with homemade animals and an ethnographic collection collected by family. You'll also be treated to a tasty lunch of farm-raised delicacies, made in the family’s traditional kotlovina style. Try the meats and cheeses that most villagers make here. Later in your tour, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to savor seafood and compare the diversity of Croatian cuisines.
This afternoon we check in to our deluxe hotel in the seaside resort city of Opatija. Breathe in deeply, listen to the water gently lapping the side of the boats, and you’ll understand why visits here were widely considered therapeutic a century ago. We’re sure you’ll agree today! The afternoon is at your leisure for shopping, admiring pristinely groomed gardens, and much more. Dinner will be on your own tonight because of the hearty lunch. But your Cruise Director can recommend several excellent restaurants; Zagreb has one of the best restaurant scenes in Croatia.
Discover Opatija: Jewel of the Adriatic
After breakfast this morning, you’ll set off on a walking tour to view Opatija’s stately villas, seaside promenade, and lovely gardens. Learn about how and why Opatija was the vacation spot of choice for wealthy Viennese during the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Next, you’ll enjoy a tour of the Opatija Riviera’s villages including Moscenice, one of the oldest settlements in the region, where you'll enjoy amazing views and some locally made spirits with an entertaining local guide! Lunch is on your own, and the afternoon is at your leisure.
Enjoy a walk along the Opatija Promenade. Take in the lovely views and stop for a bite to eat or a drink. How far you go is up to you — a round-trip walk can cover up to 7.5 miles. Alternatively, you may want to try your luck in one of Opatija's casinos.
Back at the hotel this evening, you’ll attend an insightful discussion about "Everyday Life in Croatia" by a local lecturer.
Let us treat you to local welcome dinner with wine at a local restaurant, where you’ll be entertained with a traditional performance of klapa singing — part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
Touring Roman Pula and the Istrian Peninsula
Explore one of the most beautiful regions of western Croatia on a full-day tour of the Istrian Peninsula. During our stop in the ancient town of Pula, explore Europe's most complete Roman amphitheater. During our visit, you'll be able to go beneath the arena floor to see the passageways and rooms where gladiators and their foes, including wild animals, awaited their turn in combat. Our tour also takes us to the picturesque coastal town of Rovinj, which was part of Venice's mercantile empire and has a distinctive Venetian aspect to it.
For the best views of the town and the harbor, make the mile-and-a-quarter trek uphill to St. Eufemia church — it's well worth the effort!
Your tour includes a stop for lunch at a local restaurant. The menu changes seasonally but you may dine on pancetta with Istrian cheese, figs in syrup, or Istrian dumplings with truffle cream. As the late food journalist Anthony Bourdain has talked about in his travels, the Istrian region is famous for its incredible truffles, and it is one of the few places in the world where they are harvested.
Upon your return to Opatija, you'll have the evening at leisure. Perhaps you’ll walk to the nearby village of Volosko, where culinary delights await to be explored.
Explore ancient Zadar and come aboard La Perla for a Welcome Dinner
Following breakfast this morning, you’ll begin to head to Zadar — another coastal gem that was named Europe's top destination in 2015 — with a scenic drive through the city of Rijeka, along the northern Croatian coastline, and through the mountains of central Croatia along the way.
A traditional lunch will be included. Tuna farms surrounding Zadar were a favorite of the late, great Anthony Bourdain who featured the region on his hit show, No Reservations. We invite you to join us for a lunch at a local restaurant in Old Town where you can experience the Tuna steak from the region for yourself.
After lunch, you’ll enjoy a walking tour of this Roman-era city, which boasts a historic blend of Ancient, Renaissance, Romanesque, and medieval architecture.
You’ll embark the La Perla this afternoon and settle into your cabin before joining your fellow travelers for a Welcome Briefing and delicious Welcome Dinner. Croatia features a rustic, Mediterranean cuisine with influences from nearby Italy and Turkey. Dine on fresh, locally sourced foods purchased daily from local markets and from well-trusted vendors, some of which you may visit, too. To ensure the freshest seafood and best cuts of meat, we work with local fisherman and butchers and we’ve even brought onboard the best commercial coffee from Italy, Illy, as well as La Perla’s own homegrown blend of olive oil label. No detail has been spared to bring you the most delicious options. Aboard La Perla, you'll soon see that “a fish swims three times: the first time in the sea, the second time in oil, and the third time in wine.”
During the course of your cruise, opportunities abound for enjoying the clear, clean waters of the Adriatic. You may swim, snorkel, or fish from the ship or from the private tender, or take an active walk during shore excursions.
As you can imagine, most all sailing on this cruise will be scenic — but be on the lookout as you pass close to the mainland and between islands today. You’ll want to step onto the deck and have your camera ready.
Natural beauty and rural traditions: Krka National Park and Sibenik
Keep your camera handy today as you explore some of the Adriatic's most stunning landscapes. Your first stop is Krka National Park, where waterfalls tumble through dramatic gorges. Your visit includes walks on the trails around the falls and a boat ride from magnificent Krka Falls to Skradin (weather permitting).
You’ll also visit Jurlinovi Dvori, a Dalmatian estate with an ethnographic gallery that you'll explore. Be our guest and enjoy a lovely lunch, prepared with centuries-old local traditions from home-made products, including the “Babic” wine, derived from Primosten vineyards, strong and dry and representing the harsh land it grew on.
Upon returning to Sibenik, you’ll set off on a walking tour with a local guide among the ancient streets, where you’ll see the Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Soak up views of St. Anthony's Channel and UNESCO-designated St. Nicholas Fortress as you sail towards Split.
Revisit the Roman era at Diocletian’s Palace in Split
This morning, you’ll explore Split, one of the oldest cities in this historic region. In this exciting port, explore ancient Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which the emperor chose as his retirement home because of the spectacular beauty of the destination. Your special tour with a local guide also takes you into the mysterious passages in the lower levels of the massive structure, where you’ll learn about life thousands of years ago. Game of Thrones fans may recognize this site as well, as several scenes were also filmed here.
Perhaps your stroll will bring you past klapa singers, male a cappella groups performing folk songs in beautiful harmonies.
You'll have the balance of the day free to explore this fascinating city on your own. Enjoy lunch back on board La Perla, or stay out and watch passersby at any number of outdoor cafés — don’t pass up an opportunity for gelato here!
If you're up for more exercise, you can walk to Marjan Park, where limestone cliffs enclose a lovely cove and enjoy a night out in Split.
After dinner, you will enjoy local entertainment on board.
Exploring Hvar and its UNESCO treasures
Croatia has more than 1,200 islands, but few of them are as lovely as Hvar, a popular destination for celebrities and yacht owners drawn to this idyllic Mediterranean port’s fruit orchards, ancient olive trees, and fields of lavender. The scent of this purple blossom will follow you around the island, wafting from souvenir stands and from the fields (when in season).
This morning, set off on a guided sightseeing tour. You'll learn about the town's history, hear about some local legends, and visit the lace museum inside of the Benedictine Monastery. Your local guide will tell you about what it’s like living on an island and explain the charming ancient architecture, along with contemporary trends like local artisanal bakers using family recipes.
Following your trek around the city, discover even more of what Hvar has to offer on an island tour, including a visit to Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll also enjoy time this afternoon to explore Hvar at your leisure.
During your free time, enjoy swimming, snorkeling, or fishing (weather permitting). Later, walk to Hvar Fortress, with entrance included so you can go to the top for the magnificent views.
Back on board the luxurious La Perla, you’ll attend an informative lecture about the Mediterranean diet and local products.
The best of Dalmatia: Korcula, Slano, oysters, and wine
Farther along the Dalmatian Coast lies the island of Korcula, one of the greenest in the Adriatic. You’ll disembark your yacht this morning for a tour that includes the Korcula City Museum, the island’s ties to explorer Marco Polo, as well as free time to explore on your own. Take a few snapshots near the impressive cannons and check out the quaint shops and views of the waves from seaside coffee shops and bistros.
During your free time, you may also choose to take the La Perla tender to one of the nearby recreational islands or famous beaches.
Later, depart Korcula to head towards Slano, where cruising along the Pelješac peninsula and past Mljet Island National Park is a pure delight. The waters here are crystal-clear. Since Slano is a shallower bay, you will be able to see shells and sea life from the deck. As you sail, you’ll enjoy a lecture about the ancient Dubrovnik Republic.
You'll be treated to some incredible regional flavors when a local fisherman comes aboard La Perla with his family-owned wine as well as oysters for you to sample. During the sampling, you'll learn about how they are farmed and the culture surrounding this popular shellfish and appreciate the wines, as varietals from the Peljesac peninsula are among the very best in Croatia.
During your free time this afternoon, go swimming, snorkeling, or fishing in the clear bay waters (weather permitting). Slano is situated on a small bay that's perfect for swimming.
Exploring Dubrovnik’s Old City, a classical concert, and home-hosted dinner in Gromaca
You’ll arrive today in ancient and beautiful Dubrovnik, what is sure to be a highlight of your journey. On an included tour of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll see the iconic fortified city walls. Your guide will tell you about Dubrovnik’s ancient multicultural traditions as a land for many different races and religions and detail the metropolis’ popularity among sailors, which made it a commercial hub centuries ago.
Following the tour, you’ll relax in a centuries-old church for a Vantage-exclusive private classical concert by the Sorkocevic Quartet, who are members of the Croatian National Philharmonic Orchestra.
You'll return to your ship for lunch, then enjoy the afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you’ll head back toward land on the La Perla’s private tender and stroll Stradun, the main thoroughfare with its cafés and shops; or take the tender to visit nearby islands and beaches.
The Cruise Director will also distribute a Dubrovnik 1-Day card for you to use at your leisure throughout the day, which includes entrance to several museums and galleries, public transport bus rides, and more.
Head to nearby Gromaca for a home-hosted dinner with a Croatian family to learn about local customs and life in the region. Diners will be split into a few different groups to keep dinners intimate and give everyone the chance to speak with the local families. You may even be tempted to ask for a recipe or two!
Explore bucolic Cavtat
After the hustle and bustle of exploring Dubrovnik yesterday, revel in the laid-back atmosphere of Cavtat, a beautiful resort town just a short drive away that makes it easy to see why the birthplace of artist Vlaho Bukovac was also his muse. Known most for large compositions and portraits, his fascinating story is surely just part of what you’ll hear about during an included walking tour. You’ll have free time to walk after, or take part in something a bit more active — a walk to the hilltop Racic Mausoleum. Imagined by famed Croatian sculptor, writer, and architect Ivan Mestrovic, the building is made with famously white marble from the island of Brac.
Then, head to the village of Ljuta in Konavle for a lunch with local specialties, like ham, traditionally baked bread, cheese, and home-made wine.
You’ll also visit an old water-powered working mill, and learn about how they were a community gathering place and helped fuel the local economy for centuries.
Later this afternoon, enjoy free time in Dubrovnik to make more independent discoveries before your last night onboard the La Perla.
Tonight, toast your tour with a special Farewell Dinner.
Fly home from Dubrovnik or stay on for your Budva, Montenegro post-trip extension
You’ll disembark the La Perla after breakfast and head to the airport for your flight home, or begin your extension in Budva, Montenegro.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Cruise Director or regional expert.