WHEN I read Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines exciting itinerary on Bolette, a recent addition to their fleet of small ships, and then spoke to the destination team ashore about the exciting excursions along the coast adriatic, I quickly booked.
Three beautiful days at sea allowed us to discover the Bolette cruise ship. It quickly became apparent that this was a vessel of elegance. The restaurants, bars and lounges all had their own style. The staff welcomed us with enthusiasm and a desire to please.
The first stop was Cartagena in Spain, a city with a long history of over 3,000 years. Our tour started from the beautiful Marina, through the marble walkways and grand architecture of the city to the Roman Theater. This spectacular site, considered one of the most important of its kind, was only discovered in 1988 during the demolition of existing houses. The grand theater once held 7,000 Roman spectators – a must to visit.
We sailed to Dubrovnik, Croatia, our boat’s excursion took us through small villages to the scenic Konavle Valley, where a local family welcomed us into their 15th century home with cognac and dried figs. We were shown a traditional mill used to produce olive oil; also learning how they made brandy. Then we were treated to a lunch of cheeses, hams, olives and pickles served with homemade bread, washed down with local red wine, while being entertained by musicians singing folk songs from a bygone era. Our tour ended with an exploration inside the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik.
Bolette then slid into the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, and anchored in Boka Bay, surrounded by mountainous landscapes.
Our tour started with a scenic drive, winding up the top of Lovcen mountain to the village of Mirac. We were welcomed by the Kascelan family, offering us different types of eau-de-vie produced on their estate. We visited their farm and vineyards, enjoying the way of life of the local people. We then enjoyed a delicious feast of traditional dishes made with organic ingredients grown on the estate. A joyful day that ended with a walk through the imposing medieval walled town of Kotor.
Later, Bolette sailed into the sunset, bound for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Neum is a pretty seaside resort; from there we traveled to Mostar, a picturesque city rich in culture, characterized by Turkish influence, where cobbled streets lead you to Mostar’s iconic bridge – Stari Most – built in 1566. It was badly damaged during the Balkan War, but in 2004 the bridge was restored to its former glory. From the bridge you take in the surrounding views with the bright green river flowing below.
It was a short drive to the Kravice Waterfalls, we boarded a little train descending through a lush valley – it was a sight to see 15 waterfalls, each separated by small overhanging trees, tumbling down waterfall in natural emerald green lake. A sight to behold – nature at its best.
We were now halfway through our cruise, enjoying the amenities of Bolette, inspiring days and wonderful evenings awaiting mouth-watering menus, followed by entertaining shows in the elegant Neptune Theatre.
We dined for a nominal fee at the two specialty restaurants in Bolette; Vasco where the menu is inspired by the chefs of Goa, this Indian cuisine has never been so good, and the restaurant Colors and Tastes which offers delicious Asian fusion dishes, a real treat.
Back in Croatia, arriving in Split, its second largest city, where a bustling market awaited, with an abundance of goods on display. We have traveled and after some good-natured negotiations; my wife bought a dress that didn’t hurt my wallet too much.
The Roman Dioletian Palace is fascinating; we gazed at its architecture in awe and strolled through the narrow streets to the main square where we watched a recreation depicting the glory of ancient Rome accompanied by remarkable marching music.
Arrived in Sarande in 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, in a shepherd’s house, he and his wife invited us to drink their moonshine, eat nuts and sheep’s cheese – not the usual eleven! It was so quiet; the only sounds were the chirping of birds and the tinkling of bells around the necks of goats.
Our jeep climbed through spectacular scenery with an array of wildflowers towards the top of the mountain to Himara, a small village; here we enjoyed a delicious Albanian lunch while being entertained by traditional songs and dances. Watched an eagle soar over this high mountain – a sight to savor.
Once a war-torn region, the beautiful Balkans are now a joy to behold.
We then headed back visiting Cagliari, Sardinia, where we saw the sights of the modern city and the old town, and finally Gibraltar, a paradise for duty-free shopping.
This Fred. The Olsen cruise was perfectly balanced, discovering the best of both worlds, city and countryside, leaving us with indelible memories.
Did the joy of the trip live up to expectations? He passed them.
* A similar cruise – Bolette’s 26-night ‘Exploring the Balkans and Adriatic with Venice’ cruise T2326 – departs Southampton on September 18, 2023. Prices start from £4,099 pp.