Why Do People Choose to Return to Croatia and the Same Yacht? (Interviews)
Needless to say, I have fallen in love with Croatia but I was also curious to find out what it is about Croatia that keeps others coming back, even to the same yacht?? So, I interviewed return clients from Gulet Linda to find out.
Having sailed up and down the Dalmatian Coast for five years now, it never ceases to amaze me just how stunning this region is and, though I may be biased – how incredible it is to explore this region by sea. In my humble opinion, a sailing holiday in Croatia is one of the best holidays you can hope to have. Bias aside, I am not the only one who thinks so; you see, when I was a hostess on a luxury yacht, every week our guests would tell us that it was their best holiday ever. These were people coming from all walks of life, all corners of the globe and they all had plenty of travel stamps in their passports to back up their claims.
To have an amazing sailing holiday in Croatia is one thing but some people don’t stop there, many clients return to do it all over again. I believe this is the greatest compliment you can receive in the industry; when people choose to spend their precious time and money coming back to the same country and in a lot of cases – returning to the same boat, this says everything.
Helen Clarke with friends, Toni and crew
One boat I know which has an incredibly high return-clientele rate is Gulet Linda owned by Antonio Ković or Toni as he is known by guests and locals. Linda is a beautiful gulet from Turkey who Toni began working with, in 2006 – before the financial crisis! He has seen the ebbs and flows of tourism in Croatia but through his consistent hard work and above all – passion, he has built a strong brand, excellent working relationships with charter agents, a long list of return-clientele and created many fond memories for hundreds of clients over the years.
I got to know Toni over the last couple of years through the yachting community and instantly loved his genuine nature, passion and philosophy of guest experience, Linda’s slogan is “Where You Belong”, which apparently his many guests agree with because they keep coming back! Toni & Linda have had guests return to sail in Croatia with them for anything from 2 – 7years, which would be impressive for a restaurant, let alone travelling half-way across the world and spending thousands of euro on a sailing holiday.
In talking to Toni, he prides himself on the guest experience; going above and beyond for his clients but Toni also praised the charter agents he cooperates with and credits a lot of his success to their hard work and support.
So, why do people return to Croatia and to the same yacht?
Toni was kind enough to get me in contact with some of his return-clientele so I could ask them a few questions and this is what they had to say:
When did you first come to Croatia and how many times have you returned since?
Our first visit was in 2014 and we were so blown away by its beauty that we returned again this year (2017). – C.Q (Australia)
First came in 2015 and returned in 2017 – H.C (Canada)
We first came in 2009 (Trogir – Split) and have since returned in 2012 (Dubrovnik – Split), 2016 (Split – Dubrovnik) and we are booked for 2018! – J.H (Australia)
We first came to Croatia in 2010 and have returned twice since then (three times in total) – D.K (South Africa)
We first came to Croatia in August 2015 and came back again in August 2017 – L.C (Canada)
First visit was in 2011 and we returned in 2016. – L.A (Texas)
Group photo courtesy of Lu Ann
Why do you choose to return to Croatia?
I came to Croatia because it was highly recommended by a number of my friends who had sailed on Gulet Linda, everyone I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and the country. I chose to return because I absolutely fell in love with Croatia; it has perfect weather, stunning scenery, the people are amazing – friendly, courteous, obliging and passionate about their country, you also feel safe in Croatia as there is little-to-no crime; I could let my teenagers go off on their own without having to worry about safely. There is also so much to do: from hiking and white-water rafting to water sports, historic tours and music events. So many places are still untouched by tourism. – H.C (Canada)
From the first few days in 2009, I just fell in love with Croatia. Particularly exploring it from the beautiful Linda, there’s always something or someplace new to explore and new adventures to be had [and the] people are lovely. – J.H (Aus)
Jennifer Hocking and her crew on Linda
Have you sailed or chartered other destinations before, if so, why does Croatia stand out?
We have also done a gulet trip in Turkey but [Croatia stands out because] many of the Croatian islands still feel untouched by tourism madness and Toni takes us to the more isolated, understated yet, beautiful locations. – C.Q (Aus)
We have chartered in Italy and Turkey but Croatia stands out because of its natural beauty and nothing can beat Toni and Gulet Linda. – L.A (Texas)
I have sailed and chartered boats both in the Western Caribbean and the Mediterranean on larger cruise ships and private sailboats in the British Virgin Islands. Of all these, my favourite will always be Gulet Linda in Croatia. After taking Gulet Linda I don’t think I would ever go back to the larger Cruise companies because they aren’t nearly as personal or special and Croatia is truly unique with its adventure, beauty, history, amazing people and its sense of home and safety. – H.C (Canada)
Photo Credit: Jennifer Hocking
What are your highlights from sailing in Croatia?
The natural beauty, the history and the small intimate ports. – L.A (Texas)
As for highlights of sailing in Croatia, there are so so many. The stunning countryside, the beautiful weather, the colour of the water, the truly untouched little villages we were so fortunate to have visited and the beautiful people. H.C (Canada)
The beautiful clear water, the food, history and culture. Just coming upon so many quaint little islands, bars, bays… It is so colourful and every day is full of new surprises. Just everything really! J.H (Aus)
Every day there were new highlights, we loved swimming in a beautiful cove then sailing to another island every day, each [island] has something different to offer, see and appreciate. The entire week was one big highlight! – L.C (Canada)
Do you have a preferred sailing route?
We have done the Dubrovnik – Split route and vice versa, next time (yes, it’s in the planning) we would like to experience heading north of Split. – C.Q (Aus)
Cathy.Q and friends
No, but we plan to return and head North out of Split because we haven’t done this yet. – L.A (Texas)
I didn’t have a preferred route because I left it to Toni. He would advise and consult personally every evening to help us decide on our route for the next day and we trusted him. Vis, Korcula, Stari Grad are not to be missed! – H.C (Canda)
Yes, our preferred route is Split – Dubrovnik. – D.K (South Africa)
Photo courtesy of Dee King
Gastronomy, history, adventure, relaxation, what interests you more and does Croatia offer it?
Yes, the beauty of the islands, the clarity of its waters, the past and recent history are very interesting to try absorb. The food on Gulet Linda this year was exceptional and the Dalmatian food was very enjoyable. We loved that we could ride bikes around islands, white water raft, paddle board to beach bars, swim in crystal turquoise waters and wander amongst the beauty of the islands and see how the locals live. It is so idyllic and different to the lives we live at home in the city. – C.Q (Aus)
I really believe that Croatia has it all. It has a uniqueness that cannot be matched. Honestly, not one aspect interests us more, just the blend of all that Croatia has to offer. – L.A (Texas)
Croatia has it all. The food is stunning, so much beautiful food choices, the seafood is divine and great to experience the traditional cuisine as well. The chef on board Gulet Linda surprised us every day with amazing delicacies from his small kitchen. By night we explored various restaurants on the different islands, we were never disappointed. Coming from a relatively new country like Australia, the history in Croatia is overwhelming. If you are the adventurous type, there is always something to do; we went white-water rafting and there are plenty of other activities like scuba diving, fishing, biking… and I personally loved learning to SUP on my last trip. – J.H (Aus)
Views above Dubrovik town, photo courtesy of Jennifer Hocking
Is Croatia (and sailing) a good family holiday?
Definitely yes, for all of the reasons I stated above. – C.Q (Aus)
It is certainly a wonderful family vacation. My children are well travelled and when asked their favourite vacation of all time they quickly answer “on Gulet Linda with Toni in Croatia”. They have been to Caribbean resorts and on cruises as well as the Mediterranean and trips to Disney Orlando to California, New York and Las Vegas and their favourite is still Croatia. – H.C (Canada)
What makes Toni and his crew stand out, why return to Linda?
Toni and his crew take care of the beautifully appointed Linda so their guests only need to focus on being on holiday. They are friendly, accommodating, there when you need them and otherwise invisible. They have an uncanny knack to know what you need and where you need to go before you do! – C.Q (Aus)
I returned to Gulet Linda because of the amazing hospitality of Toni and his fabulous crew. I don’t think I would want to go to Croatia without making a cruise on Gulet Linda. Toni made us feel like family. He tended to our every need. He personally took care of every detail of the trip from arranging airport transfers to cab rides to dinner reservations as well as excursions. We felt totally safe in his hands; he offered great advice and suggestions regarding restaurants, activities and itineraries. Both Toni and his crew were true professionals yet warm, friendly and welcoming. They made Linda fell like home. The service by the crew was exceptional. The food was phenomenal unsurpassed by any 5-star restaurant and I have eaten at a few Michelin star restaurants in both Spain and France. – H.C (Canada)
Photo courtesy of Helen Clarke “Our bunch”
A good crew is key, you can have a beautiful boat but if you can’t give the service it’s pointless. Toni and his crew are amazing, out of 5 stars I would give them 7. They go above and beyond to make sure everything is perfect; they will make reservations for you, give you the best advice and are truly genuine. The chef was also 7-stars, his food was unbelievably delicious and presented to perfection. – L.C (Canada)
Dish by Chef Jaksa aboard Linda
What have you seen improve in regards to tourism in Croatia?
In the five years span between our two trips, there was a tremendous amount of growth, many more restaurants and shops in Split and Dubrovnik. – H.C (Canada)
In 2009 Croatia was still becoming a ‘go to’ destination; things like the airports seemed to struggle with the crowds, punctuality, etc. This last time I really noticed that everything, where crowds were involved, ran a lot smoother. The food has also greatly improved overall!
This is a difficult question because I can’t think of anything much to say. It was beautiful there the first time, which is one of the reasons we came back. The only issue some of us had was smoking in restaurants and public areas, we found this annoying when sitting at a table and trying to enjoy good food. – L.C (Canada)
Croatia has become overly popular since our first visit in 2010 and in some ways, it’s very sad (for us) to see just how popular it has become. Little secluded bays (Stiniva for example) and beaches that Toni used to take us to are now very crowded and busy. Good for Croatia, sad for us… – D.K (South Africa)
What would you like to see improved?
I noticed this year the huge influx of people that the massive cruise ships dropped onto Dubrovnik & Split. The popularity of some of the islands has changed the authentic vibe of these islands and I now wouldn’t enjoy returning to places such as the walled city of Dubrovnik because of this. We believe that if the cruise ship numbers aren’t managed it will have a devastating impact on enjoyable tourism. – C.Q (Aus)
Nothing in particular, Croatia is very tourist-friendly, maybe just more direct flights from European cities. – L.A (Texas)
I honestly don’t see how Croatia could be improved, I only hope it remains as unspoiled as it is. – H.C (Canada)
To Sum Up
Service is Everything
I don’t think I need to say that it is very clear that Toni and Gulet Linda have some adoring and loyal fans; however, what stands out to me (because it is something I know to be true), is that travellers choose to come back for the experience and customer service. Something that many, throughout all parts of tourism, still don’t understand. Some providers operate like a conveyor-belt, not caring about the experience because they believe that more tourists will simply flow through anyway. Whereas, Toni has built his business and reputation on the experience which keeps his guests coming back and the rest of Croatia would be wise to follow suit.
Croatia has it all
Croatia really does have it all: nature, adventure, gastronomy, tradition, history… As with the above, I only hope Croatia takes measures to protect it all for generations to come.
Sailing in Croatia IS one of the best holidays
The proof is in the pudding, hundreds, if not thousands of people return every year to come sailing in Croatia, quite simply because, there is NO better holiday – and now you heard it from the mouths of others.
So, have you booked your summer sailing holiday for 2018 yet??
Many thanks to those who took the time to answer my questions.Unless otherwise stated, all other photos are courtesy of Toni Ković or the Linda Facebook.