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My Week on a Gulet

Example Charter Blog by Archie

I’ve been on a yacht holiday before with my family, and loved it. Travelling round beautiful islands, swimming off the boat in different lagoons, stopping at cute little towns for drinks…my idea of perfection! 

But this year, having spoken to the team at R.W. Wakeley, I decided to do something different and take a gulet around Croatia with 10 of my best friends - a mixture of couples and singles… 

Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING! 

For those of you, like me, who haven’t even heard of a Gulet before, a description may be helpful: they are crewed boats taking 8-14 people (depending on the size of the boat); they are all unique and different (some have upper decks with sun chairs on them, others have seated areas at the front of the boat, others have outdoor dining areas); in Croatia they are pretty much all family-owned, with a special family feel to the crew. My cabin was spacious, with a full en-suite bathroom and a dreamy mattress. 

The overall experience was really fantastic: 3-course lunches served to us on our large outdoor dining room table, an array of local wines to taste, G&Ts brought to you as you sunbathe on the top deck, breakfast menus tailored to our tastes each day, and waking up to the smell of fresh bread being made was lovely! And the crew were delightful: so friendly and smiley (including putting up with our music as we sailed down the coast each day!) -  the whole experience so much fun for us. For the same price as my Italian villa in Tuscany the previous summer, this was a different level of luxury! 

And so, to the week itself. Having landed in Split on a warm June Saturday evening, tired from a long week at work and with the last work email having barely been sent, we arrived at our gulet. We were greeted by a smiling crew of four with a tray of champagne glasses for us all. An hour after landing, I was on the top deck, with a glass of bubbly and a view of the sun setting over Split – nothing says “I’m really on holiday” like that.

 

Split was a beautiful old Roman town right on the water. It’s got the old dungeons, incredible old buildings and cobbled streets and a square with guitarists playing late into the night while locals lounge on the old Roman steps with a beer in hand. After a glorious seafood dinner on the balcony of an old palace, we stumbled back into bed. 

The next morning, after a lovely stroll through empty old streets, we set sail for our first destination. (By “we set sail”, I really mean our fantastic crew…for I was perched at the front of the boat with a book and cappuccino firmly in hand).  After a peaceful sail, we arrived at Stari Grad; a small quaint fishing town, with very few people and several delightful squares to sit in with a beer. All of us decided we wanted to try some local Croatian wines, and so the crew organised an amazing afternoon of wine (and olive oil) tasting at a local vineyard inland. 

The next day took us to the island of Vis, where they have just filmed the latest Mamma Mia movie. This amazing island was only opened up to the Croatians and public very recently - and has so much charm.  Evening drinks were at an old fort built by the British with stunning views. This was followed by dinner in the most charming restaurant setting, in what can only be described as the gardens of an old Roman villa. 

Another day, another wonderful town – a pattern was beginning to emerge now…! This time it was Hvar; world-famous and for good reason. An incredible place, with super culture, bars and food. 

Onwards to Korcula, a walled town on a hill, with rising towers and chiming bells. This really was an absolute highlight of the trip. Getting lost in the cobbled alleys with their many little restaurants was fun, but our particular favourite spot was a cocktail bar on top of a tower - viewing sunset over the water; although it did involve some very steep wooden steps and a trap door…! 

The following day, we sailed to Mljet National Park, which boasts one of the most amazing arrivals you can imagine - passing through the cliffs into a forested island. It was like entering Greek mythology, just with a drink in hand and swimming shorts on! After lunch on the boat, we went ashore, where we could instantly smell the pine forest and hear the crickets making their distinctive noise. The ten of us hired bikes for the afternoon, cycling through the forests and around the lake in the middle of the island -  where we also visited an historic monastery. The place is certainly magical, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me that was suddenly considering becoming a monk..!

Dinner that night was very special: an absolute extravaganza from our chef, as we dined on the boat overlooking a truly magical place. No restaurant can give you those views, and dancing on the deck under the stars was pretty unbeatable too. For ten friends that don’t see each other that often, what a way to catch up and spend some quality time together.

Our final stop on the trip was Dubrovnik. As a Game of Thrones fan, this was pretty awesome. We sailed the boat right up to the city walls, having approached it from afar (almost like the attacks in the movies!), and had lunch on deck overlooking the city. Dubrovnik in June is certainly a bustling hive of activity, but wow, what a city! It oozes history through every street; its little side alleys up the hills are packed with local restaurants and bars; its famous centre has Game of Thrones fans in awe; its huge walls incredible to walk around. As the trip came to a close, the ten of us headed to Buza bar, an outdoor bar built into the side of a cliff with incredible sunset views. 

An amazing way to end the trip. We raised a glass to our week together and the memories we’d made together, but also to our gulet and crew – they were such an important part of the trip and really had made it something so different and special. 

My brief description of the places we visited does not do justice to the beauty of Croatia; a country of incredible, historic towns, superb food and lovely locals. R.W. Wakeley put together the whole route for us and I would not change a single bit. The superb crew took away all the usual holiday hassle of having to decide where to go – a proper treat for us all! 

In a word, I just cannot recommend this more highly. If you are someone who likes the sound of what I’ve tried to describe, just give it a go. And for that true experience, go with the best! I’ve already booked next year’s boat! 

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