Chartering a Boat in Croatia

So, you’re taking the leap, you want to find out what all the fuss is about and you are planning a sailing holiday in Croatia for the first time. Congratulations. You won’t be disappointed. But, there are a few things you should keep in mind when chartering a yacht in Croatia for the first time.

Before finding an agent and booking a yacht, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

“I’m On a Boat…” But what Kind of Boat?

There is so much romanticism attached to being on a boat and it isn’t half-wrong. But before you get here and sail away into the sunset, it is worth asking – what kind of boat experience do you want? Do you even know? With more than 3,000 boats in the charter market in Croatia, there is no shortage of options. Are you a skipper, do you want a bareboat yacht? Are you after more comfort and luxury rather than feeling the wind in your face? Are you a mad sailor and want to get the sails up vs motoring no matter what? Maybe a gulet is what you are after or a catamaran, some of these elements even overlap in a Luxury Sailing Yacht… Every boat has its advantages (and disadvantages), your agent will be able to guide you through all of this, but it’s worth giving it some due thought.

Photo Credit: Mario Jelavić Photography; Yacht Alba
Is the Yacht Legal?

This is very important – we recently wrote an article about Illegal Yacht Charter when a British family was denied access to Croatia aboard a Turkish Gulet (read more here). Croatia has recently changed their laws to make it more difficult for the ‘black charter market’, so it is worth checking that your agent and yacht have the correct licences – especially if the yacht is operating under a foreign flag.

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The Crew, Just as Important as the Boat

When deciding what kind of boat you want to be on, I need to mention this – if you are choosing a crewed charter, you should know that the crew are just as important as the boat itself. Just like in a restaurant – it can have the best food, setting, décor, but if the service is s***, chances are you won’t come back. Well, think about this – you are on this boat for a week (or more) and, for better or worse, these people will become a part of your holiday memories. Read the crew profiles and reviews.

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Photo Credit: Tash Pericic

What is Your Vibe?

Your vibe attracts your tribe, right? Well, same kinda goes for chartering and choosing your yacht. What is your sailing in Croatia experience about? Is it a family trip, a holiday with friends, do you want to get the sails up, are you interested in exploring the beautiful destinations, or would you prefer to be enjoying nature and quiet secluded bays, is cuisine and gastronomy super-important to you? Knowing this will help your agent create the perfect itinerary and suggest the right boat and crew to match your ‘vibe’.

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Photo Credit: Gulet Linda; Guests enjoying anchoring in Stiniva Bay

Croatia, the Land of a Thousand Islands, but Where to Start?

With more than 1,000 islands sprinkled along the Croatian Coast, it might seem a tad overwhelming to know where to start, but actually it’s not so difficult. It goes without saying that Central Dalmatia, is by far the most popular chartering destination in Croatia. Starting a tour from Split heading towards Dubrovnik, you will see the key attractions in a one-week sailing itinerary: Split, Hvar, Vis, Brač, Mljet, Korčula, Dubrovnik. I hate to be cliche, but this is where most start and for good reason. We will be largely focusing on sailing in Dalmatia this season, because it is impossible to cover the entire coast and, as this article is for ‘first-time charterers in Croatia’, we recommend starting in Dalmatia. However, if you are not the run-of-the-mill charterer or prefer nature and adventure over tourist hot-spots, then starting further North is for you.

Copyright: Romulić and Stojčić

Knowing the answers to all of these questions will make your experience with an agent that much simpler. It is hard to recommend anything to someone, when they have no idea what they want. It will draw the process out – as in, there will be a hundred more emails back and forth than there needs to be. If an agent knows the basics of these questions, then their recommendations will truly match your expectations and desires.

Now that you have a better understanding of what you want out of your sailing holiday in Croatia, it is time to find an agent, but, there are still a few things you should consider:

Who to Trust

Booking a yacht is no small feat, especially if you know nothing about boats (like I did before coming to Croatia) and at some stage you will be handing over a lot of moolah as a deposit to confirm your booking. So, finding a trusted agent is a crucial element to your chartering experience. Again, where to start?

Word of Mouth

We all know that the best recommendations generally come from firsthand experience, source out if any of your friends or family have chartered in Croatia before and ask their experience. You will feel safe and secure knowing that your friends had a great experience and if you aren’t satisfied, at least you will have someone else to point the finger at…

Your Local Agent

Some people feel more comfortable booking an agent from their own area or country. I am not going to tell you that you should only choose local Croatian Agents (though of course I am partial to this), I get it, we all like to know who we are dealing with. So, if you feel more comfortable with your own local agent, great! However, there are two key questions you should consider asking before you sign on the dotted line:

  • Has this agent ever been to Croatia?
  • Have they seen or visited the boat and crew?

I say this as someone who has worked on yachts; we dealt with a lot of international agents, who were fabulous. Why? Because they had been to Croatia, visited the boat and some had even had first-hand experience on a tour with the crew. This means they understand the entire package, they will make recommendations based on genuine experience and understanding your needs. We also had clients come to the boat from agents who had never been to Croatia – a lot of these clients were misinformed and expectations not set, from as simple as being told the drive from Dubrovnik takes 2 hours, when in fact it takes closer to 4 hours during the season… This all makes a difference to the overall experience – not to mention it made our job (as crew) harder when people arrive already pissed off.

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Photo Credit: Tash Pericic; International Agents enjoying a tour of Saint Hills Winery

Our Local Agent

Choosing a local (Croatian) agent, may seem like a big leap of faith to some. Somehow, Croatia is still very ‘unknown’ to many and I am not kidding when I say I have had people ask about it (still) being in Yugoslavia… But here’s the deal, Croatia is like any other European destination, it is safe and you can trust our business practices. I have never heard of anyone getting royally screwed over here when it comes to booking a yacht – and if it happens I will be the first to write about it! The benefits of working with a local agent should speak for themselves, but just in case they don’t:

  • They have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the region and destinations
  • They typically know all the boats and crew first-hand
  • All agents speak English, plus 3 – 4 other languages in most cases (impressive I know)
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Photo Credit: Tash Pericic; Local Agents from Acantho Agency, touring Hvar Island

Expertise

Another factor in choosing an agent, is their specific area of expertise. Some agencies focus largely on bareboat charter, catamarans, gulets, luxury yachts… So, if you have a preference of boat, it pays to look for an agent to match.

Dirty Tactics

We will go into this in detail at a later date, but just be aware that some agents have their own motives (we won’t name names), I have seen and heard some incredibly dirty tactics in this industry. So, if you find a yacht you like, the photos look great, reviews are fantastic, the crew are experienced and your agent is very insistently steering you in another direction, think twice or consider finding a second opinion – and, more often than not, the yacht’s own Facebook page tells a story about the boat and the kind of experience you will have.

Sifting through the information

Still, when you type in “Sailing in Croatia” or “Charter Agents Croatia”, you will get inundated with information, how do you sift through it all? Well, it’s not easy, and I don’t want to brag, but this is exactly why we are launching Total Croatia Sailing – to help you in the process. You can look forward to us recommending local and international trusted agents, as well as yachts and their crew throughout the season.

Until then, consider all these points, do your research and you are bound to have an unforgettable sailing experience in Croatia.