Thank you to Goolets for hosting us on megayacht Cristal so we could provide this detailed review of our experience.
I learned later in life that I was conceived on Long Island sound, which may have influenced my longtime love for the ocean. My sailor parents were probably the happiest aboard their sailboats Ketch Me I and Ketch Me II. They washed me in a bucket as a baby on the dock and shoved me between sail bags on their weekend regatta jaunts off Connecticut. In the 80s, vacations for us consisted of chartering a sailboat but often one that had me peeing off the side of the boat or using a bucket, as the toilet onboard never seemed to work. But as long as I can remember, I’ve felt happiest near the ocean – the smell, the peace, the sunsets.
So when I was invited to Croatia on a megayacht, I was giddy with anticipation. Undoubtedly, the best way to experience Dalmatia’s craggy coastline – with its rocky beaches and thousands of islands – is by boat, which I first experienced in 2017 with my husband on the yacht Karizma. Initially, I had grand delusions of Beyonce cruising by on a jet ski or Leonardo DiCaprio pulling up alongside to invite us onboard – all part of the yachting “club.” Friends quickly let me know that it sounded like I was about to board a version of the show Below Deck.
After a long 11-hour flight from LA to Munich and a short hop on a tiny plane, I landed with a hard bang on the runway in Split, Croatia. Situated on a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, this UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history dating back to Roman times is one of the major hubs to catch a boat. From the airport, a young brunette girl whisked me into the town of Split in a comfy new Mercedes as I began my experience with Goolets, a luxury yacht company with a fleet of well-appointed vessels.
Split’s adorable seaport town is not only a major hub for transportation to many of the other islands and coastal towns, but is one of the best regions in the world for olive oil. My driver explained that high winds cause stressors for the trees and the adaptation creates a high percentage of polyphenols or healthy properties in the olives. In my jet-lagged state, I learned more Croatian tidbits like how Split is the original birthplace of Zinfandel and how it took years to prove but their vines have identical genes as the ones in California, with a similar climate and limestone soil. However, she mused, “We don’t export wine. Did you know the stone used to make Diocletian’s Palace in 205 AD was the same stone used in parts of the White House in America?”
“Don’t miss Gelato Emiliana,” was one of the best local tips she offered. Little did she know my passion for gelato, as I ended up at this small gelateria five times in two days before boarding our yacht. I devoured scoops of chocolate and pistachio in their homemade waffle cones on repeat – for just a few euros – at breakfast and post-dinner for good measure. She was right, it was the best gelato in all of the Croatian towns I visited.
In the distance, our mega yacht Cristal awaited, parked in the center of town. I couldn’t contain my smile as this 160-foot stunning shiny white super-yacht with 15 cabins was going to be our home for four nights. Happily greeted by a full staff with bubbly placed in hand, the gorgeous friendly Croatian crew, I soon realized, was on board to satiate all our whims and desires. A bevy of food options awaited us in the luxe white lounge with local specialties fit for a billionaire, as two table spreads enticed us with the freshest of bites, such as calamari, fried shrimp, local cheeses, cured meats, zucchini and tomato, and Soparnik, a thin double crusted spinach pizza-like item with onion and olive oil.
We spent the day getting to know our fellow passengers and later dined on a three-course menu miraculously prepared by two chefs in a small galley. The meals were top-notch, with fanciful white napkins arranged in fun shapes complimented by a printed menu. The first night consisted of tuna tartare, roasted sea bass with veggies and lavender panna cotta. This was not the grab-and-go tuna fish sandwich or cantaloupe breakfast of my sailing childhood. I could only imagine how much my dad would have appreciated this fine dining service as he sailed around South America on a 50-foot sailboat and prepared his own meals, trying not to get killed by 30-foot rogue waves rounding the Horn.
Even though it was almost mid-October, the deep royal blue waters with shimmering turquoise shallow shores were still warm and refreshing. Unlike the murky Pacific in Malibu, I could see all the way to the bottom. The Adriatic quickly became my all-time favorite ocean as each day we cruised into a bay where the water toys were put out on the back of the boat so we could choose our own adventure.
A floatable sturdy dock with seats partially in the water made it easy to get in the water safely. From the top deck, the fun colored toys contrasted with the aquamarine sea reminding me of a Gray Malin art piece. Soon the red Seabob became my favorite ocean ride as you could hang off of the device and control the speed with a button. I cruised around the yacht and along the coast holding on to the Seabob as my forearms rested in the machine. The electrically powered Seabob could shoot deep underwater and with goggles on, it was like being a dolphin as I could admire the ocean floor. I couldn’t help but wonder why all snorkeling companies didn’t offer these exciting toys or why they weren’t more common in L.A., but maybe because you would seem like prey to a shark, whale, or sea otter. This was another reason I felt incredibly comfortable in the Adriatic and could easily spend hours in the delicious calm waters because there was no need to fear giant or deadly creatures circling you as a food source.
Being aboard Cristal felt like a truly endless summer as each day we spent most of our afternoon at sea in a cove – jet skiing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, trying out a life foil, or soaking up the perfect sunny weather, with no humidity, bugs, or huge waves. Ivan, our yacht deckhand, would take a few of us on the yacht’s tender to a new private cove or beach where we jumped off to float, swim, and snorkel an afternoon away – admiring little colored bright blue fish or chunky black sea cucumbers on the bottom but mostly thanking the heavens for the opportunity to absorb the sun and sea in such a private way. Ivan would maneuver us on this smaller craft through the ocean, around various islands where we saw lighthouses, quaint homes, and caves where once artillery was hidden to surprise an enemy.
We mixed up the fun with the ship’s enormous blow-up slide, attached to the boat where we could fly into the ocean. Other eager couples started their mornings with a kettlebell workout in the exercise area as the ocean glided by. When we tired of ocean toys, we relaxed on the sundeck on a lounger with an Aperol Spritz or gin and tonic doused with flowers, as an ever-flowing fully-stocked bar satiated guests thanks to two friendly bartenders who were forever at our service. Our full days of swimming adventures ended with a sunset soak in the top deck jacuzzi where “What is this life?!” became a frequent thought.
While some guests had ocean views from their upper deck beds, I awoke from mine below deck with two portholes (one I kept open) to scurry to the top deck for a freshly brewed latte made for me with a heart. Since I didn’t want to miss anything, I awoke early to feel the salty mist and gaze at the early morning light gleaming across the ocean as we cruised into a new destination. Past more islands, the second evening we slid into the island of Hvar before dusk where our Croatian yacht captain and owner expertly reversed the Cristal in the small port, parking vertically against the wharf and perpendicular to a line of smaller yachts attached together. Known as the party island during summer, Hvar is a way better version of the Amalfi coast, with a medieval castle perched atop the hill perfect for a hike to admire the sun setting over the town, the Adriatic, and the Pakleni Islands.
Each evening another extraordinary gastronomy affair with outstanding Croatian wines awaited onboard, while shots of raicilla became a nightly ritual amongst many guests. The town of Hvar shimmered like a jewel onboard the Cristal and it was impossible not to be grateful to sleep here as the port hugged us under the starry sky.
The full days started to melt into one another. On our third day, we approached sleepier Vis Island, where part of the ancient city walls still remain and creamy-colored homes with balconies, washing lines, and tiny jetties emerged. I eagerly shuffled off the boat to explore the charming cobblestone town where I zigzagged along the water by art galleries, open-air cafes, bohemian clothing stores, and lavender and olive oil shops. Happy cats slinked around and it was impossible not to devour another gelato here. Once used as a naval base, Vis was closed off to foreigners until 1989. I walked to the small peninsula to St. Jerome’s Church and Monastery, built over an ancient Roman theater, gorgeously glowing at night.
On our final evening, we anchored off the coast of Brac, known for its white pebble beach Golden Cape and white limestone quarry. We created our own electric party in the middle of the liquid black night with a DJ, as one was flown in for the occasion – proving nothing is impossible when you are marooned on a super yacht, as Goolets makes sure every vessel is truly your oyster.
Guests danced the night away – twenty or so deliriously happy travelers from all over the world clinking cocktails into the night sky like one giant toast to humanity or just the opportunity to be part of this trip of a lifetime…while a drone hovered above us recording the epic moment.
Make your own memories of a lifetime in Croatia by booking a megayacht or sailing vacation. Goolets can tailor the trip with ports you want to discover and meals prepared on the ship, in case you want to dine in some of the port towns or take a day at the vineyards, wine tasting.
Perfect for any getaway, choose from over 300 boats that can be chartered (from Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Spain, and the Maldives) and over 10 luxury super yachts in Croatia that include everything at a much more competitive price. Weekly fees generally start around $4,000 per person all-inclusive (food, wine, entertainment, port charges, sea toys, and tips). Many yachts book out a year in advance (Freedom, Cristal, and family-friendly Ohana are the most popular). The most affordable times to go are May, the first week of June, and the first two weeks of October.
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