Croatia, particularly Dalmatia, is at its best when explored from the sea but many of us just think of modern yacht charters as the means of discovery. Croatia is however a nation of seafarers which values, and remains in tune with, its nautical heritage. Enterprising locals, who choose to provide floating accommodation that makes the most of this heritage, deserve a wider audience.
Captain Ivica Benić is one such entrepreneur and has lovingly restored a classic gullet, Dolin, for tailor made cruises for parties of up to 10 people. Known to his English friends as Johnny, Ivica was born and raised in Australia, but eventually answered the call of his Croatian roots.
Dolin was originally built in 1946 and spent her first two years transporting wine from the Dalmatian islands before going into service for the Croatian ferry company Jadrolinija, as one of its first passenger ships. She spent the next forty plus years as a cargo ship transporting goods to the islands of Cres and Lošinj, and later sand from the island of Krk. In 1977, Ivica’s family became the proud owners using Dolin as a cargo and excursion boat until, in 2008, she underwent a complete refit for her new role as a luxury classic cruiser.
Though Dolin was refitted from the deck up, the hull is the original and has lost none of its former glory. Made from oak that was “seasoned” in mud and sea water for a couple of years, the hull was designed and crafted from the finest wood in an age when boats were built to outlive their owners. Dolin, however, makes many concessions to modern living elsewhere – air conditioning, 5 comfortable en-suite cabins and spacious, well fitted common areas.
Ivica decided to focus on comfort rather than cramming as many cabins in as possible, and for that reason also, Dolin is geared to groups rather than just trying to fill individual cabins. The desire to blend classic style with contemporary needs means Ivica also provides a well stocked kitchen, and a chef with international experience as well as the expected expertise in the preparation of local traditional Dalmatian dishes.
Dolin’s base is Zadar though, by arrangement, you can start and/or finish elsewhere. Itineraries are flexible too and a number of activities are also available by arrangement – diving, fishing, rafting, etc.
A one week basic charter costs range from €5,400 to €9,100 depending on the time of year, for up to 10 people in double cabins. You will pay an extra fixed fee of €1,000 for cleaning, mooring in town ports, tourist taxes, fuel, etc, but if your group specifically wants to berth overnight in a marina, the marina fees will be extra – see Croatia Cruising Companion - Town Ports And Harbours In Croatia for the pros and cons of marinas and town ports.
For half board add €230 per person per week and for full board add €320. You can also take advantage of an inclusive “domestic drinks” package which includes Croatian wines, beers and spirits; soft drinks, mineral water, coffee, tea and juices for an extra €170 per person per week or an equivalent but non alcoholic package at €90 per person per week. Otherwise you will pay for drinks at the bar prices unless you choose, as a group, to provide all your own drinks for a corkage fee of €600 for the week.
By my calculations, that means a group of ten, can cruise in classic style for a week, in early May or late December, for €680 per person; or with food and drink all in, €1,170, which compares pretty well with equivalent hotel costs.
For a full price list, boat layout and design, and more information, contact details are as follows:
Captain Ivica Benic
Mate Balote 84
Phone + 385 (o) 23 331 340
Fax + 385 (o) 23 337 157 (capt.) Panjol
Mob. + 385 0) 95 901 7455
We haven’t tried it yet but it’s now on the list and we’re always happy to give a resourceful entrepreneur, with something quite special to offer, a little helping hand.