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

When I read Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines’ exciting itinerary on Bolette, a recent addition to its small-ship fleet, then talking to the shore destination team about the innovative and exciting excursions it offers – I promptly booked.

Three glorious days at sea gave us the opportunity to discover Bolette.

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

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

The first port of call was Spain’s Cartagena, a city with a long history of over 3,000 years.

Our tour started from the beautiful marina through the city’s marbled walkways and grand architecture to the Roman Theatre. This spectacular site, considered one of the most important of its kind, was only discovered in 1988 when existing houses were demolished.

This grand theater held 7,000 Roman spectators and is a must to visit.

The impressive Roman Theater at Cartagena.

We then sailed into Dubrovnik, Croatia, and our ship’s excursion took us through small villages to picturesque 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 for producing olive oil, also learning how they made brandy. Then we were treated to a lunch of cheeses, hams, olives and gherkins served with home-baked bread, washed down with local red wine, whilst being entertained by musicians singing folk songs from a bygone age.

Our tour concluded by exploring inside Dubrovnik’s ancient walled city.

Bolette seemed to glide into the bay of Kotor, Montenegro, and anchored in Boka Bay, surrounded by mountainous landscapes.

Our tour began with a scenic drive, winding towards the top of Lovcen Mountain to the village of Mirac. We were greeted by the Kascelan family offering us various types of brandy produced on their estate. We toured their farm and vineyards, appreciating the way of life for the local people.

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

It was a joyous day which ended with a stroll around Kotor’s imposing medieval walled town.

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 journeyed to Mostar, a quaint city rich in culture, characterized by Turkish influence, where its cobbled streets take you to the iconic Mostar bridge – Stari Most, built in 1566 – however this was badly damaged during the Balkans war, but in 2004 the bridge was restored to its former glory.

From the bridge you admire the surrounding views with the vivid green river flowing underneath.

The view from the Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

We were now half way through our cruise, enjoying all of Bolette’s amenities, inspiring days and wonderful evenings where you look forward to mouth-watering menus, followed by entertaining shows at the elegant Neptune Theatre.

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

We dined for a nominal fee at Bolette’s two specialty restaurants. Vasco, where the menu is inspired by chefs from Goa, and to me Indian cuisine has never tasted better. And also at the Colors and Tastes Restaurant, which features delicious Asian Fusion dishes – a real treat.

Returning to Croatia, arriving in Split, a bustling market awaits you with an abundance of merchandise on display.

We browsed, and after good-natured bargaining, my wife bought a dress which didn’t hurt my wallet too much.

Colorful Split Market in Croatia.

The Roman Dioletian Palace is fascinating; we gazed in awe at its architecture, and meandered through narrow streets to the main square where we watched a re-enactment portraying the glory of Ancient Rome, accompanied by sterling 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 at a shepherd’s cottage, he and his wife invited us to drink their moonshine, eat nuts and sheep’s cheese – what a combination, and not the usual elevenses!

It was so tranquil; the only sounds were of birdsong and the tinkling bells around the goats’ necks.

Our jeep climbed through dramatic landscapes with an array of wild flowers towards the top of the mountain to Himara, a small village; here we enjoyed a delightful Albanian lunch while being entertained by traditional singing and dancing.

I watched an eagle fly on this mountain high – a sight to savor.

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

It was then homeward bound, visiting Cagliari, Sardinia where we saw the sights of both modern and old town, and finally Gibraltar, a haven for Duty Free shopping – which my wife took advantage of.

This Fred.Olsen cruise was perfectly balanced, experiencing the best of both worlds, cities and countrysides, leaving us with indelible memories.

It surpassed all our expectations.

Travel facts
A similar cruise, Bolette’s 26-night T2326 Exploring the Balkans and Adriatic with Venice cruise, departs from Southampton on September 18 2023. Prices start from £4,099 per person
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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