Travel: Cruising the Adriatic – checking off seven countries along the way

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When I read about Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines exciting itinerary on Bolette, a recent addition to their fleet of small ships, and then spoke to the destination team ashore about the innovative and exciting excursions they offers, I quickly booked.

Three beautiful days at sea allowed us to discover Bolette.

It quickly became apparent that this was a vessel of elegance. The restaurants, bars and lounges all had their own style. The staff greeted us with genuine enthusiasm – and a willingness to please.

The small cruise ship Bolette, in the marina of Cartagena.

The first stop was Cartagena in Spain, a city with a long history of over 3,000 years.

Our tour started from the beautiful Marina through the city’s marble walkways and grand architecture to the Roman Theater. This spectacular site, considered one of the most important of its kind, was only discovered in 1988 during the demolition of existing houses.

This great theater hosted 7,000 Roman spectators and is a must to visit.

The impressive Roman theater in Cartagena.

We then sailed to Dubrovnik, Croatia, and our boat’s excursion took us through small villages to the scenic Konavle Valley, where a local family welcomed us into their 15th century home with brandy. and dried figs.

We were shown a traditional mill used to produce olive oil, also learning how they made brandy. Then we were treated to a lunch of cheeses, hams, olives and pickles served with homemade bread, washed down with local red wine, while being entertained by musicians singing folk songs from a bygone era.

Our tour ended with an exploration inside the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik.

Bolette seemed to be sliding in the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro, and anchoring in the Bay of Boka, surrounded by mountainous landscapes.

Our tour started with a scenic drive, winding up the top of Lovcen mountain to the village of Mirac. We were welcomed by the Kascelan family offering us different types of eau-de-vie produced on their estate. We visited their farm and vineyards, enjoying the way of life of the local people.

We then enjoyed a delicious feast of traditional dishes made with organic ingredients grown on the estate.

It was a joyful day that ended with a walk through the imposing medieval walled town of Kotor.

The beautiful Bay of Kotor, Montenegro.

Bolette then sailed into the sunset, bound for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Neum is a pretty seaside resort; from there we traveled to Mostar, a picturesque city rich in culture, characterized by Turkish influence, where its cobbled streets take you to Mostar’s iconic bridge – Stari Most, built in 1566 – but it was badly damaged during the Balkan War, but in 2004 the bridge was restored to its former glory.

From the bridge you take in the surrounding views with the bright green river flowing below.

The view from the bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was a short drive from the Kravice waterfalls; we boarded a small train descending through a lush valley – it was a sight to see 15 waterfalls, each separated by small overhanging trees, cascading into a natural emerald green lake. A sight to behold and nature at its best.

We were now halfway through our cruise, enjoying all the amenities of Bolette, inspiring days and wonderful evenings where mouth-watering menus await, followed by entertaining shows in the elegant Neptune Theatre.

Nature at its best: Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We dined for a nominal fee at the two specialty restaurants in Bolette. Vasco, where the menu is inspired by chefs from Goa, and for me Indian food has never tasted so good. And also at the Colors and Tastes restaurant, which offers delicious Asian fusion dishes – a real treat.

Back in Croatia, arriving in Split, a bustling market awaits with an abundance of goods on display.

We dug around, and after some good-natured negotiation, my wife bought a dress that didn’t hurt my wallet too much.

Colorful Split market in Croatia.

The Roman Dioletian Palace is fascinating; we gazed at its architecture in awe and strolled through the narrow streets to the main square where we watched a re-enactment depicting the glory of ancient Rome, accompanied by golden marching music.

The Roman reenactment at the Dioletian Palace, Split.

Arriving in Sarande, Albania, our jeep safari took us through authentic Albanian villages. We stopped at Borsh, a coastal village built around a beautiful waterfall where we drank iced coffee, to the sound of flowing water.

Halfway up the mountain, in a shepherd’s house, he and his wife invited us to drink their moonshine, eat nuts and sheep’s cheese – what a combination, and not the usual eleven!

It was so quiet; the only sounds were the chirping of birds and the tinkling of bells around the necks of goats.

Our jeep climbed through spectacular scenery with an array of wildflowers towards the top of the mountain to Himara, a small village; here we enjoyed a delicious Albanian lunch while being entertained by traditional songs and dances.

Watched an eagle soar over this high mountain – a sight to savor.

Once a war-torn region, the beautiful Balkans are now a joy to behold.

He was then on his way home, visiting Cagliari, Sardinia, where we saw the sights of the modern city and the old town, and finally Gibraltar, a paradise for duty-free shopping – which my wife took advantage of.

This Fred.Olsen cruise was perfectly balanced, discovering the best of both worlds, city and countryside, leaving us with indelible memories.

It exceeded all of our expectations.

travel facts
A similar cruise, Bolette’s 26-night Exploring the Balkans and Adriatic with Venice cruise, T2326, departs Southampton on September 18, 2023. Prices start from £4,099 pp.
See www.fredolsencruises.com
or call 0800 035 5130
Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines also has sailings from Rosyth

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[Travel: Cruising the Adriatic – ticking off seven countries along the way]

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