A BELLA CRUISE EXPLORING THE DALMATIAN ISLANDS
Veloso Tours Commercial Manager Hugh Clayson and his wife travelled on the M/S Bella in Mid-September 2019; below is his report on his experience.
The M/S Bella is aptly named, as she sails through some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine in the sheltered waters of Dalmatia. There is nothing so pleasurable than relaxing on a sun bed as your small, luxury ship passes discreet coves, uninhabited islands, ancient villages and shorelines in all shades of green.
We began our adventure in Split, where the ship moors close to the historical old town, with narrow cobbled streets, old Roman ruins and the (albeit quite touristy) stunning Diocletian Palace.
The next day we were off, sailing to the island of Hvar, via a swim stop at the sandy beach at Bol. It took me until day 4 to take a dip in the sea - I wish I had gone in earlier as the water was warm and so refreshing, particularly as the weather for mid-September was so glorious, about 27 c every day.
In Hvar, we moored next to the ancient old town - the joy of a small ship cruise in the Dalmatian Islands is the ships dock in the centre of the village or town - you really do feel as if you are on your own private yacht. After a brief walking tour, we found a wonderful family run bistro to enjoy dinner. This is also another wonderful benefit of a Dalmatian Islands cruise - enjoying fresh cuisine at local restaurants on terra firma. Fish is popular, with tuna, prawns, swordfish and other varieties all delicious. Our bistro in Hvar was so friendly, a German chap, Marcus, had married a local lady and together they run their small eatery on a hill above the old town. We ate al fresco drinking wine from Marcus’s own grapes watching the sun go down.
The next day we sailed to Korcula, another island with a stunning old town, known for its cathedral, 13th century walls, churches and narrow streets. The ship moored right next to the ancient centre.
Each day, after breakfast, the tour guide gives a briefing to all the passengers on the day ahead and the dishes the ship serves up in the included lunches are inspired by the local cuisine. The briefings were excellent, with the ship having a big screen to explain the places we will visit.
On day 4 we arrived in Dubrovnik, where we moored outside the old town and Kompas arranged a coach to transfer us in. We had been to Dubrovnik before, so we took a local boat to the nearest island of Lokrum where Game of Thones was filmed. Lokrum is a quiet and protected nature reserve with an old monastery; we enjoyed strolling through the forest of Aleppo pine trees admiring views of Dubrovnik in the distance.
Our next stop was the island of Mljet, and the beautiful port of Pomena. From here, our tour guide escorted us on a short walk to two stunning inland lakes and a boat ride to St Mary’s Monastery. The weather was quite hot today, so we were relieved the monastery had a cafe where we could enjoy an ice cold beer. It was a nice change to explore the nature of Dalmatia - as well as the historic ports. Dinner in Pomena was a delight; I will never forget my grilled prawns overlooking a harbour.
On day 6 the weather changed, with the wind getting up. We sailed on a choppy sea (although the ship was very stable) to Pucisca on Brac, where we visited a school of limestone carving, using the local limestone that is quarried on the island. This proved a great place to buy authentic presents for people back home. As the wind was likely to get worse, the captain made the decision to sail that evening back to Split.
The last 2 nights we spent in Split. The farewell dinner was a lovely evening and a chance for us to thank our dedicated crew. On the last night we found a good, local Italian restaurant to say goodbye to Croatia.
The food on board was served by a brilliant team who worked so hard ensuring all 36 passengers had a great holiday. Although full, the ship had so many different decks to relax you could easily find a quiet space to read or doze on a sun bed. This is definitely an advantage - the luxury of space - of a Supreme Class ship like the Bella. Modern - built in 2019 - and spacious. The same can be said about the cabins. We had a lower deck cabin with two small portholes; it was spacious, particularly the bathroom with a wonderful ceiling shower.
We got to know a couple who had booked the top deck cabin. They showed us their state-of-the-art space with windows that open and close using the Amazon voice recognition system Alexa. It becomes quite a joke every day asking how Alexa was enjoying the cruise!
The food on board included 6 served lunches and 2 dinners (Welcome & Captain’s Dinner), all freshly cooked on board, with local dishes such as octopus and truffle for us to try. The meals are 4 course, with soup served with each meal. I had to be careful not to eat too much!
Our fellow passengers were from around the world: Norway, Sweden, UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. We all got on well, eating together at mealtimes. The spacious nature of the ship meant we could have a good chat with a fellow passenger and then find a quiet space for ourselves.
None of the ships have lifts and there are stairs to each deck, so it would be quite challenging if you have reduced mobility.
As the ships moor up against each other in the ports, I did look over some of the other types of vessels. The slightly cheaper ships are older than the Bella, have less public space and smaller cabins.
We had a wonderful time - I have travelled a lot in my time and I would say Dalmatia on a small ship is one of the most relaxing, stimulating and scenic trips in the world. I would heartily recommend it.
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