Join captain Mark Hoskin of 49.07m motor yacht La Dea II as he takes us on a journey chartering around Croatia.
Although this prime spot has become extremely popular in recent years it is still possible to get away from it all, it doesn't quite feel like tourism has taken over yet. Don't get me wrong there is plenty of development however the old charm of years gone by still remains visible. This is what helps Croatia retain its appeal.
The country is beginning to place a huge emphasis on its festivals be that food, music, culture or even flower. Match this to its craggy coastline, picture perfect beaches and stunning old villages and you have a superyacht charter bursting with history, romance and adventure.
What destination would you recommend and why?
Probably every second year we take the boat to Croatia, depending on what charters get booked. The owner is a huge fan of the area and we (the crew) have some good inside knowledge I've had engineers who were Croatian, and one of our stewardesses is from there as well. They've given us some good insights into places away from 'the milk run'. Of course the popular spots are great: Dubrovnic, Hvar, Split and so on, but we've also managed to get away from there.
We get a lot of charters with people who like to dive, and luckily I'm a master diver and instructor, so now we've now chalked up quite a lot of diving in Croatia. We know a lot of the diving clubs (not just the shops) so they've been able to take us to some very very special dive sites and wrecks. And there are some archaeological dives that you can go on with someone's who's certified to dive there. The good thing about Croatia is that you have a mix of both. There are some places where you can go by yourself and have some great adventure diving, and then you've got the more controlled diving in specific areas
It would most definitely be possible to spend an entire charter, or charters just in Croatia.
What are your favourite bays or anchorages?
We have one extremely nice one that we go to, on the island of Lastovo. It's really special and has so much to offer. We throw two lines out to shore to secure us in this one little cove. The water is just like a swimming pool it's magic. This is the spot where chef will get on the barbecue, we know some people there who always have the best lobstersAshore it's green and lush it's our signature spot one of those 'only on a yacht' places.
Just off Hvar you've got the Paklenis, and on the centre island there's one restaurant where we always take our guests (everyone else just heads off to Hvar). It's a bit rustic but the seafood is amazing. My ex-engineer is Croatian and he spilled the beans on this secret spot. We've never taken a guest there who hasn't thought it was real gem.
The same with Vis there are areas where most people go to, but there are still small little bays with restaurants serving local food that are very authentic.
Another place that more yachts are going to is ibenic up near Skradin where you can go all the way up the river and then up to a waterfall. It's now getting more popular but I remember when we first went there, we were one of the first big boats and at that time, you could take your own tender up to the waterfall. Now you've got to use the National Park tender but it's still really good you can hire them privately if you want and we pick the best times; we know when all the tourists are going to be there and make sure we get our guests there a bit earlier.
What's the best time of year to go?
July and August are always the best months. Going into September, if the weather holds, is also a great time because a lot of the tourist boats have stopped and you can head back to some of the places that might be a bit too well-trodden in high season. You see places in a different light without too many people there. In July/August, that's when you want to try to get a bit further away, to escape the crowds. But of course, if guests want to be seen in Hvar, that's where we'll goBut if they're boat people, who enjoy yachting and don't just use it as a hotel, then we'll show them some lovely places and usually that's the way most of our guests are inclined.
Find out more about Croatia with our fact file
What advice would you give to someone chartering for the first time?
Don't try to do too much or go too far. I always ask the broker to let me talk to the guests and I'll try to slow the client down all you need is a bit of bad weather and the whole itinerary goes out of the window in any case! And if you miss your port booking, trying to get another one in high season is very difficult and it could spoil the whole experience. It's much better to see a lot more of a smaller area so that you really get a feel of the place. If you do too much it'll be like being on a tour bus where you don't get to really appreciate the culture and what the place is all about. And we as crew have been visiting these coastlines for many years we know about the special places that aren't in the guide books, especially those that you can only get to by boat, so let us take you there.
And if you have kids on board, think about what they'd enjoy. For example, they might not want to learn about culture along the coast of Italy, but would love exploring the bays and National Parks in Corsica.
What should guests bring with them on charter?
As little as possible! We really do have everything that's needed or can get hold of it quickly. Most guests do overpack but I think it once again comes down to communication. If all the communication goes via PAs sometimes it's very hard to get it right the PA doesn't want to get it wrong so they tell the client to bring too much!
Can you tell me about your crew and the atmosphere on board La Dea II?
Before guests even come on board I try to have my chef and my chief stewardess engage with the clients. We always try to get some background information to find out what they really like. We'll do the pre-planning, then I'll have a crew meeting to discuss the clients that are coming so that everybody is a part of what we're doing. This means that when the guests arrive they feel more comfortable more quickly and that's really the aim of what we're trying to do. We like to think that we go out of our way to make this happen. We'll find out what will make the best charter for them. For example, if we know a busy father doesn't get to spend much time with his children and maybe they're not as close as they were, we'll plan loads of activities that they can do together, to help them bond again and have a really memorable time. That's what we're here for.