Along the Adriatic Coast with Noble Caledonia
Walled cities and wet cuddles
As we were boarding Princess Eleganza in Kotor I can't
honestly say that I was blown away by its graceful lines. As with many things
though, the beauty was within and over the next 11 days we couldn't help but
develop a fondness for the vessel that would carry us along the coastline of
Montenegro and Croatia.
Our cabin on the Upper Deck was surprisingly spacious for a
small ship carrying just 36 passengers and was pleasantly decorated in neutral
colours and fabrics of quality. Well equipped with a safe, air con, hair dryer,
TV and ensuite facilities, it was a pleasant oasis to rest our heads at night
(there's so much beautiful scenery to admire on this cruise we spent little
time in our cabin). Apart from a little stormy blip, we were blessed with
glorious weather and the majority of our meals were taken alfresco on the
promenade deck. There was quite an interesting dining schedule, which included
eating on shore (cost not included) roughly every other night. This gave us the
opportunity to dine on local dishes in vast squares and watch the world go by,
or secluded corners and be crooned by the local saxophonist. We also really
enjoyed seeing these places beautifully lit at night and mercifully free from
the crowds brought by the now departed cruise ships.
It has to be said though that there was a little part of us
that resented being parted from the food provided by the truly amazing on board
chef, who seemed to able to do such mouthwatering things with simple
ingredients, whilst retaining that home cooked feel (sadly she declined all offers
to come home with us). She was supported by the waitress with the winning
smile, who would top up my wine glass at lunch or dinner with the merest
lifting of my eyebrows (wine/beer is included with on board lunch and dinner).
To be fair all the staff were excellent and contributed significantly to a
relaxed atmosphere and an enormously enjoyable cruise. The cruise director was
also a standout individual whose knowledge of the itinerary, places to eat,
attention to detail and concern for the welfare of his passages was impressive.
Often I would notice him discreetly covering a sharp edge with one hand whilst
helping you on or off a boat with the other, a really caring approach without
making you feel like a geriatric.
Being on a small vessel had some distinct advantages. It's
easy to get to know your fellow passengers and the crew to get to know you. At
some ports there was not enough dock space, so the biggest ships needed to moor
offshore and tender people ashore. This took a significant amount of time,
whereas we were often docked in a neat corner of the port and could come go as
we pleased without delay. Perhaps the key advantage was that we parted company
with the cruise ships along the way and visited the quieter less crowded
destinations, plus we could find a quiet bay to go for a swim off the back of ‘the
Princess’. The Adriatic is so beautiful
to swim in, clear blue, incredibly clean and not a fish in sight. It has to be said that a couple of our dips
were a little bracing, so after a particularly enjoyable swim I was shocked
that all on board refused my offer of a cold wet cuddle (hard to believe eh!).
All excursions were included on this cruise, impressively
well organised and utilised by knowledgeable local guides. This whole coastline
is a kaleidoscope of change, influences of the Ottomans, Venetians, Austrians,
Hungarians, the forming and break-up of Yugoslavia (and so much more) mean that
history buffs will be in seventh heaven.
Walking tours are supplemented by boat rides through amazing scenery,
like Lake Skadar and Cernojevica river. We were enthralled by medieval
architecture, walled cities, forts and narrow, sometimes quite claustrophobic,
streets particularly in Dubrovnik and Split. The big sometimes crowded cities
were completely contrasted by the wide open spaces of Krka National Park and
the spellbinding waterfalls there (take good shoes though, to see it at its
best there are about 200 steps to navigate). The excursion to Zrmanja Canyon
also offers grand vistas with the entrance to the gorge being quite dramatic.
Whilst all this sightseeing might leave some breathless,
fear not, there was plenty of time to relax on the Sun Deck, grab a cold one
and watch this awesome coastline go by. Of the many outstanding views to be on
deck for, the sail into (or out of depending on which way you do the cruise)
the Gulf of Kotor and the fjord like approach to the medieval and UNESCO listed
Kotor, is one you absolutely must not miss. On top of that there were local
wines to taste, monasteries to visit, cable cars to ride, Game of Thrones
locations to take selfies in, sunsets to be holding hands in, sunshine to tan
in and lavender ice cream to taste.
Sounds exhausting doesn't it, but it was all done at a
relaxed pace with plenty of free time to catch your breath. We’re so glad we
chose this cruise to explore the Adriatic coast.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Noble Caledonia
Video by Cathy Bartrop