Let me start by saying that spending a week cruising around the Mediterranean on a yacht with a group of friends is a pretty epic way to kick start summer and it absolutely lives up to the hype.
Yacht Week Croatia has quickly become a popular destination for young adults thanks to its successful advertising campaign. There are packages by several companies designed to appeal to different groups of travelers with some providing a more relaxed trip with cultural port calls, while others center around parties at each stop or adventure activities. Also the name is a bit misleading because there are yacht weeks offered throughout summer, but my group of friends opted to do one ending with Ultra Europe which is a massive three day concert held in Split, Croatia. Several months in advance we booked the boat and the countdown began. By the time that July rolled around, we were stoked to finally pack up our bags and head out to Croatia.
We all met up in Split and after completing the registration at the port and getting assigned to a yacht, our crew made its way to the boat to meet our skipper. We dropped packs and started mixing drinks as we pulled out of port for our first day at sea. Starting the trip out strong, after a few hours of sailing all of the boats tied up together so all the boats could meet each other. The next few hours were spent on giant floaties paddling around to meet the guests from the other nearly 50 boats sailing that week. Since we had been excitedly planning the trip for months, we brought several giant floaties including a massive blow up bull for riding, which took its maiden voyage around as we began introducing ourselves. Surprisingly we were some of the only Americans as our trip was primarily filled by Aussies. After a college style afternoon of floating around and drinking with loud electronic music as the soundtrack, we eventually untied all of the boats and continued on to our first port. Arriving just before sunset, we tied up and headed off to grab a dinner before the first scheduled activity at a nightclub on the beach.
Makarska- the next day after a short morning of sailing which mostly consisting of us napping on the deck trying to recover from the first night, we arrived at Makarska. At the entrance to the port was a popular spot for cliff diving where we joined the locals and other adventure seekers that were climbing over the railing to leap off the edge. After our initial jump, two of the guys offered to take us to a higher one that some locals had shown them, which we quickly agreed to and followed them up the trail. The first of them jumped and landed poorly on his side yet still tried to convince the rest of us to jump. I was the only other one at the top dumb enough to make the higher jump, also landing badly cutting my mouth resulting in quite the bloody smile. So we called it a day and headed back to explore more of the port. My injury quickly paled in comparison to a misstep by one of my buddies who stopped the floor with his face and ended up with a broken nose. Thanks to YouTube's advice on how to fix a broken nose, it got reset almost properly and he was a trooper using the only thing we had to ice on the boat which happened to be a chilled bottle of vodka. Thankfully that was the extent of the injuries incurred on the trip and the night only improved after eventually heading to a cave rave, which was quite literally a party held at a bar in a cave called Deep at the edge of the water.
Hvar- the next morning after a big breakfast and some ribbing Gavin about his swollen nose, we were headed back out to sea. We finally put the sails up and got some time cruising into the stunning blue horizon. We dropped the anchor in a small enclave and did some snorkeling around before continuing on to the next port and rejoining the other boats. Hvar was a slightly less popular destination, but after the water taxi dropped us off at the center of town, we quickly found the rest of the group in several small ally's that were lined by bars and filled with the yacht week crew. Since our boat was mostly comprised of Marines, we were of course excited to find a ledge to do pull-ups on. Immediately we started racking them out which to the ally of drunk party-goers was quite a feat and loudly cheered on even resulting in free drinks from the bar. Eventually we all caught the water taxis back to our boat and slept under the stars on top of the deck.
Vis- in the morning, Skipper quietly started up the boat and headed out with all of us lazily waking up. He gave us the chance to take the helm and gave us a few basic pointers. It seems like legit sailing, but I suppose that since we were in the middle of the water, it would have been difficult for us to mess it up too badly... We continued on to an early stop at the next port where we signed up for a "military tour" to see Fort George and some of the military strong points built into the island. Vis was absolutely beautiful and we spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and getting pulled behind the boat on our floaties. If it sounds like we basically got to be kids again for the week, well that pretty accurately sums it up. The afternoon finished with a wine tasting from a local shop before we made a big family dinner on the boat. Everyone loaded back up on water taxis and returned to Fort George for the evening party which was hosted by a DJ in the center courtyard of the beautiful old fort.
Bol- after another quick morning of sailing we arrived at Bol and went to one of Croatia's most famous beaches, Zlatni Rat which is an icon for their tourism industry. The extensive white pebble beach was filled with sun bathers and the adjacent pine grove had several trendy bars perfect for day drinking. However, we gave our livers a break and continued on further up the coast until we came across a vespa rental. We rented several of the scooters and headed up the hills to some fantastic overviews of the expansive coastline below. One of the most exciting parts of the port though was that we finally found an ice machine! Although that sounds like a very first-world problem, you quickly realize what a luxury ice is when no one can find any. After a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, we headed by open trolley with the yacht group to Club 585. This was one of my personal favorites because the DJ was super chill and shared his headphones and turntables. If you can't tell by the photos, I had a terrible time.
Raft Party- day five-ish of the trip and we were still going strong. We started the morning out like college kids with a round of mini beer pong using tiny red solo shot glasses and pong balls. This sounds like it would be fairly standard, but the combination of doing it on a moving boat and landing the shots in the miniature cups was extremely challenging. By about the time we were giving up, the other boats started arriving and tying up. Shortly all of the boats were tied to each other to form a massive circle. The Canadian boat was filled with massive speakers and again, everyone spent the day paddling around on floaties and jumping from boat to boat. Meanwhile Omar was busy taking the most epic selfie of the trip after being hoisted to the top of our sail. Perhaps since this was the last full day of the trip or because everyone finally knew each other pretty well, this afternoon was probably the highlight of the trip.
Split- we returned to town and checked out of the boat so that the boats could be cleaned and prepped for the following week of sailing. We checked into our Air Bnb and took a long nap before starting to prepare for Ultra. Since we had a few days left in town we had the chance to explore Split and see the Cathedral of Saint Domnius where visitors can climb to the top of the bell tower for an unparalleled view of the sprawling city below. Split is the second largest city in Croatia, a gorgeous coastal town with an old district that is restricted to pedestrians. At the heart of the Old Town is the Diocletian Palace which was built in the fourth century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also very recognizable because it is where Daenerys’ kept her dragons and visited them on Game of Thrones Season Five. Also inside the Old City are several museums, numerous art vendors, and of course Game of Thrones souvenir shops. Just outside the Palace/Fortress walls is a long boardwalk facing the port with several open air ice-cream shops and patio restaurants lining the edge of the historic district.
Ultra Europe- As I mentioned earlier, we booked the trip to conclude with the big three day festival that was headlined by some of EDM's biggest names including Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Tiesto, and a string of others. After some low-crawling and thinking on our feet, Steve and I managed to find ourselves in the VIP section backstage hanging out with DJ Snake, Alexander and Ingrossio, and Tiesto. Despite being completely exhausted by the time we finally boarded the plane to head home, Ultra was definitely the icing on the cake for a long and epic yacht week.
-No reason to pack heavy because everything necessary is for sale at the port.
-finding ice will be one of the biggest challenges of the week. Check the local bars who tended to be he only ones with small ice machines. Also in Bol and Split there are full ice machines but stock up early because it is a competition with everyone else sailing. Ice was literally a hotter commodity than alcohol!
-make your own food. Supplies for breakfast and lunch are provided through the company but each boat can decide if they want to hire a cook/cleaner for the week. We opted out and it was easy to take turns on chef duties.
-bring a first aid kit. This was the first time I think that each of the few medical supplies I usually take with me was actually required.
-get lots of sunscreen before leaving. The prices at the pharmacy in Split was substantially cheaper than the touristy ports that we stopped at along the way so it is better to load up early!