Cruising is back open in Europe and while most people associate European cruises with the Mediterranean, there's more than one sea south of Europe that makes for a great cruise destination. Today, we're going to be looking at The Adriatic Sea since it is one of the fastest growing areas big ship cruises as well as small ship and even charter yachts as well.
The Adriatic Sea separates most of the Italian Peninsula from the Balkans and is an area rich in history and culture, even if it is something only now starting to appear on the radar for American tourists. It extends from the Strait of Otranto in the south and Venice in the North. For many years, cities like Venice were on cruise itineraries but they were marketed as simply "Italy cruises". Today however, we're starting to see itineraries featuring the other side of the sea as well. In many ways, the Eastern shore of the Adriatic is even more diverse and exotic since it represents countries that many Americans have never visited, and certainly not taken a cruise vacation to. These coastal Adriatic Sea countries include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Croatia. Some of the names you might recognize from cruise ship brochures are Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, and Kotor.
As far as the sea itself it has a lower salinity than the Mediterranean which is mostly due to the fact that it acts as a dilution basin for the entire area. The water temperatures are also very high during summer (30 Degrees Celsius) and as low as 12 Degrees Celsius during the winter.
The sea itself contains over 7,000 species that are native to the Adriatic, some even considered rare or threatened. The total population of these species is also becoming more and more endangered due to overfishing.
If you are on a big ship Adriatic cruise - lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America Line, or Princess - chances are that your visit will be limited to one of several cruise ports including: Venice, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, and Kotor. These destinations offer a chance to explore ancient cities, unique local cuisines, music, and art.
Small ship Adriatic cruises such as Viking and Azamara though can get closer to the islands that sit just off the coast. Ultimately, the smaller the ship size is, the more ability to explore the Adriatic Sea islands. For example, while you wouldn't be able to get a giant cruise ship to let folks off on the island of Hvar - Windstar Cruises is small enough to make this happen. However, for the ultimate experience, we think a yacht charter sounds like a great idea.
While selecting the right itinerary can be complex and a bit confusing with a collection of international cruise brands you have probably already heard of, mixed with smaller regional brands - this is a trip worth doing right. We also always encourage folks to work with a travel agent like Heather at Flow Voyages who can help sort things out for you.
Adriatic Sea Islands
A very important part of the Adriatic Sea is the tourism that it attracts, most of it focused on a few islands that have exploded in popularity in the last 30 years or so. While the total number of islands that the Adriatic has is roughly 1,300, only a few of them are actually inhabited.
Here are some of the more popular ones that you should definitely visit when you have the opportunity:
Island of Hvar
Hvar is the crown jewel of all the Croatian islands. It is the most luxurious by far and offers a multitude of hotels and resorts for every price range. For a yacht charter Croatia is one of the best choices you can make.
You'll enjoy seeing the coastline from the water while taking in its grandiosity and probably taking a few snapshots to show folks at home. You can borrow a boat from any of the boar-hiring businesses you can find on the shore.
It is also famed for the beautiful lavender fields that cover it as well as other aromatic herbs such as rosemary and heather. Locals also like to brag about the fact that it is the sunniest place in the entire country, boasting 2724 sunny hours each and every year.
While the main attraction is its main hub also named Hvar, there are also two other cities named Stari Grad and Jelsa. They are also starting to attract more and more tourists due to their quieter charms.
Island of Cres
A huge island that is mostly unpopulated, Cres is the perfect vacation spot if you enjoy nature that has been left untouched by human exploitation. You can enjoy their beautiful primeval forests, Venetian mansions, and getting a taste of the best lamb that the region has to offer.
This is another retreat for lovers of pristine forests and untouched natural habitats. If you end up visiting, definitely check out the Kornati National Park. These islands also have some very complex cave systems that you can explore with guided tours.
Out of all the Adriatic islands, this one contains the biggest area covered by forests (roughly 72% of the island). The rest of it is full of fields, vineyards, and villages.
There is also a National Park that you can visit alongside the multiple sandy beaches. While there is only one conventional hotel on the entire island, the entire experience is definitely worth it, especially for the food.
Right between the islands of Krk and Pag you can find this exotic beauty named Rab. The southwest part is more densely populated and filled with pine forests, beaches, and coves. In the northeast, you will find fewer settlements as well as high cliffs and a much more barren look.
The interior of the island on the other hand is very fertile since it is protected by mountains from cold winds, enabling the locals to grow olives, grapes, and other vegetables. If you want to visit a place that seems from another time, Rab is probably your best bet.
The Adriatic Sea is one of the more exotic foreign destinations in Europe. Catch a boat on the coast of Hvar, explore nature in Cres, and go sailing, yachting, swimming, and everything in between. You'll have the adventure of a lifetime and most likely put this experience down as one of the best trips ever.