This is the first trip I have planned using a third party travel company. Every aspect of our trip to Croatia exceeded our expectations. Let me begin with the planning process. Zicasso connected me to three travel companies in Croatia and each arranged an interview with me that lasted 30 min to over 1 hour. The firms used this interview to determine our interests and budget. Then each submitted a trip proposal. The discussions helped me think about what we wanted to do on our trip even though it was approximately 1 year away. I selected one travel company and over the next 10 months built a relationship with them that will last a lifetime. My agent made this process personal. She worked hard to get to know my wife and me. This trip was to celebrate our 60th birthdays and my wife is 1/2 Croatian. No one in my wife's family had returned to visit Croatia since her Grandmother and Grandfather immigrated to America in 1912. We wanted this trip to be special. Instead of the typical 60th birthday party that many of our friends had hosted, we thought a trip with our friends would be more memorable. This travel company worked with all of us to plan the best trip all of us have experienced in our collective lives. The trip included two other couples and my wife's sister. All of us have traveled extensively to Europe in the past, our friends have traveled the world - so when I say this was a trip of a lifetime please know we all have stayed in fabulous hotels, dined in the best restaurants and are accustomed to spectacular vacations. So what made Croatia so special?
Our trip was in July 2017 and the travel company coordinated every driver, hotel, yacht, villa, winery tour, guided tour and helped us plan every aspect of the trip. Every special request we asked for....from hair dryers and curling irons, to lamb feasts under the iron dome, to Croatian singers, to special coffee......was completed with the goal of our group's complete satisfaction. Most of the details of the trip came from the owner as she learned the interests of our group and then she orchestrated days that would blow our minds with beauty, wine, food and people. She understood the interests of each traveler and because each party arrived on different days she had to coordinate more cars and hotels. All of this was done in a way that was so friendly and personal. I knew this agency wanted everyone to love this Croatian vacation. The involvement and attention to detail did not end after we landed....I spoke to our agent almost every day! Planning small details about meals or activities or getting her opinion on options we were considering for that day as a group. She was never pushy or invasive....she acted as our personal concierge throughout the trip. On several occasions we met with her personally as she welcomed us when we boarded our Yacht and introduced us to the captain. Or when we met the staff at our villa. Or when we said goodbye in Dubrovnik. They even gave us gifts and provided a beautiful selection of Croatian wines in our villa. This was personal - white glove service - done by a true professional. This agency knows Croatia - they love what Croatia has to offer travelers - but they will tailor the trip to your interests.
Croatia is absolutely magnificent....filled with tremendous history, mountains that seem to leap from the Adriatic Sea (which we equated to Ice Blue Gatorade), charming islands (over 1,040), fantastic cuisine, surprisingly excellent vineyards/wine, this is one of the cleanest places you will ever visit....every city or island was immaculate and most importantly people that were so kind, friendly, warm and remarkable.
Given all of the beauty of Croatia (and it is the most amazing coast line any of us have ever seen) - we would say the most enjoyable aspect of Croatia are the people. People of Croatia are masters of many languages. Most speak four or five....English is taught from an early age. Everyone we encountered was fluent in English....but it is more than the ability to speak your language - they were so friendly we felt like family. From our hotel in Zagreb where the staff welcomed us - to Korcula where we learned the amazing history of the island from a waiter - to Split where a young girl helped us master the phrase "Welcome to Croatia" in Croatian!! Or our first driver who had three degrees and was expecting his first child....he is also a professional Croatian dancer and has traveled the world. Our first mate is a father of two young boys - we got to FaceTime with the boys and his wife. He was so much more than a first mate....he is a trained chef and he prepared meals for us in the villa and on the yacht - words can not do justice to how fantastic these meals were. We literally wanted to bring him back to America with us. Our tour guide in Split was a historian who teaches at the college....that tour could have lasted for 8 hours and I would not have been bored....he was amazing. Our housekeeper (Sparky as we liked to call her) pampered us in every way - we got to meet her daughter as well when visiting their village of Selsa, or the property manager who found some special coffee for us and may be one of the happiest people I have every met - we also met her mother and daughter in Selsa. I could go on and on with examples not just of nice people - but people who were genuinely kind and welcoming. How many places have you gone were you met people's children, husbands, wives, mothers, etc??? I really must say that while most people will tell you about the magestic beauty of the Adriatic Coast....I will always remember the beauty of the people of Croatia.
One thing I would not change is the decision to use this travel company. Without their expertise our trip would not have been as special. An important point I want to mention - I had not done any research on the captain or first mate beyond taking our agent's advice...we spent the better part of 10 days with them and it wasn't until after the trip I realized how important that chemistry was to making the entire trip a success. The captain and first mate are fabulous. They made us feel safe, they were friendly but never made us feel crowded or intruded into our space. The captain is Croatian born but raised in America. He is a man of many talents who loves the sea and also happens to be a photographer....so we have some extra special photos thanks to our fantastic captain.
The only thing I would change is to order less champagne, wine and vodka for the villa.....we didn't want to run out and despite our best efforts we didn't come close to consuming it all.
To help other travelers who may be reading this - next trip we would go in May, June, September or October.....not that July wasn't perfect (we had 18 straight days of perfect weather.....I repeat perfect weather).
Next time we want to stay a month and have more couples fly in a various points of the trip to join us on the yacht or villa.
Next time we might get a larger Yacht....this time we had a 2015 Prestige 500....and we talked about going to 65' - but that would only be if we had more people. On this trip we didn't sleep on the yacht, we stayed in the villa or hotel and then used the yacht each day for trips to the various islands. Next time we want to anchor in a quiet cove and sleep on the yacht a few nights with the captain and first mate .....that would be amazing.
Zagreb is a fantastic city and we only spent one night there....that is a place worthy of at least two days but it is not on the coast so we were anxious to get to the water.
Next time we would want to bring our two daughters so they can experience the beauty of Croatia and better understand the country their mother's family called home.
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