An unforgettable and affordable cruise around Croatia on board superyacht Freedom
LIKE me you've probably been on a nice-enough holiday abroad, and then wandered down to the harbour to admire the line-up of superyachts and private megaboats glistening in the setting sun, muttering 'how the other half live, eh?' to your partner and dreaming what it would be like to set sail on one of these pinnacles of luxury lifestyle.
Such an experience seems a million miles away for us mere mortals, but now you could realistically be 'the other half' for a week.
We jumped at the chance to board a chartered cruise around some of the beautiful Dalmatian coast islands on the amazing superyacht Freedom, courtesy of Goolets, one of the leading companies for luxury crewed charter yachts in Croatia.
The company started some 17 years ago, fast carving out a niche as providers of luxury wooden motor sailers known as Gulets, but soon recognised the growing trends for deluxe yachting, especially around Croatia, and so rode this fast-developing crest of a wave, tweaking their name to be arguably the foremost luxury yachting company in the region.
So let's look at what customers can expect during a week on board Freedom. This 50m superyacht received a million-euro revamp during lockdown, and saw its 20 cabins reduced to just 11 to incorporate even more for a maximum of 24 customers. As such, it is a one-of-a-kind boat in the world with regard to its size, make-up, build and level of luxury according to Goolets.
As you wander around the yacht's customer-accessible four decks you are assailed with gleaming stainless steel, bespoke deck and interior furniture and high-end fixtures and fittings at every corner. The opulent and spacious en-suite cabins are to die for with every detail considered and stylishly finished off, with air con, flatscreen TV and Bluetooth ceiling speaker system to connect your phone's music to.
There's a cinema/console games room, sauna, gym, massage area, swimming pool and deck spa pool jacuzzi, with built-in blue night lights and the omnipresent Bluetooth speakers to listen to your favourite Spotify tracks as you relax in the bubbles with a cocktail.
But the jewel in the crown is the crew itself. We were placed in the capable hands of Captain Ivan and his deck-hand crew of three, and our every - and I mean every - need was taken care of by our chief hostess Martina, her assistant Dina and cocktail supremo head barman Zoran, all of whose smiles, flawless efficiency and professionalism were present from start to finish. Housekeeping staff and a masseuse were also on board.
Immaculately ornate table settings were completely justified to herald the amazing international dishes using locally-sourced fresh produce prepared by the talented head and assistant chefs, complimented by some robust red, delicious white and fragrant dessert Croatian wines.
So now to the country itself. We enjoyed a smooth, relaxing flight from Manchester to Split courtesy of Jet2.com airways, and the amazing 360-degree vista of the Dalmatian mountains greeting us as we stepped onto the Tarmac was a fitting beginning to what was an unforgettable experience.
Never having been to Croatia before I found this country to be a hidden gem, possibly the cleanest country I have travelled to. The landscape is peppered with verdant greenery only broken up by gorgeous Roman and Venetian architecture and traditional Croatian cream-walled and red-tiled buildings, all bathed in 30 degree temperatures and surrounded by azure skies and turquoise clear waters, making every stop-off a picturesque paradise.
Freedom was moored in Split harbour so we were first able to take in the rich history of this important walled city, the former palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian which is not just still standing but also being lived in, despite its being built at end of the 3rd century. For me the city has one of the prettiest promenades of bars and restaurants by the harbour I have seen, where Croatians and visitors alike join to make this a buzzing place to visit, especially in the evening.
Our trip then saw us cruise to some beautiful spots and islands, including the island of Brac and its beautiful ever-changing beach the Golden Horn, the town of Jelsa on Hvar, famous for its vineyards and wines, and the highlight for me being the capital city of Hvar, a climb to the fortress on the hill affording some amazing views and photo opportunities. We enjoyed stop-offs in secluded and tranquil bays to enjoy the ship's water toys, including jet skis, SeaBobs, paddleboards, electric hydrofoil and a waterslide. Some of these are extras - but more of that later.
To give you an idea of prices, 100 Croatian Kuna at the time of writing was just over £11 (nine Kuna to the pound), and so a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Split would be between 50 and 80 Kuna, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant around 250-300kn, a domestic half-litre (pint) of beer around 18kn and a Coke 15kn in Split bars, but expect to pay a little more on the island stops.
So back to my earlier claim of living like the other half - still not convinced? Well, to charter something similar to Freedom in Italy or France for a week would be in the region of 500 to 600,000 euros (£425k to £510k) which would be too much for many of us, but Goolets can give you the same luxury level on board Freedom around Croatia for a fifth of that price. You heard me right, a FIFTH.
So your group of 24, be it a wedding party, extended family cruise, group of friends, corporate trip, could all chip in for a starting and ballpark charter price (boat, crew, four hours of cruising, linen, wifi) of 100,000 euros (£85k at the time of writing).
So that's roughly £3500 per person, a similar price to going on a regular high-end cruise, for - and let me remind you again - a SUPERYACHT! And this travels to, unlike a regular cruise ship, wherever YOU want, with the people YOU know, and with everything YOU want to do all pre-arranged for you.
This is because also included in the price is a Goolets concierge assistant who will guide you through your bespoke package of food and beverages and every other element of your trip from start to finish so that all you do is turn up, sit back and leave yourself in Goolets' professional hands to enjoy Freedom and Croatia - two unbelievable and unforgettable jewels in the Adriatic.
To see what Goolets can offer you aboard Freedom, and indeed other yacht charters in Croatia and other parts of the world from just 13,500 euros (£11.5k) a week, visit www.goolets.net/yacht-rentals/freedom-croatia
Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares, great flight times, and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Split, Croatia from Manchester Airport. Flights start from £49 one way including taxes. For more information, please visit www.jet2.com or call 0800 408 5599.
Parking and Hotel Stay
With our flight leaving early in the morning we got our holiday off to a great start with a night's stay and parking for the duration at the Clayton Hotel, Manchester Airport, arranged by Holiday Extras, the market leaders in UK airport parking, hotels, lounges, and transfers. Last year customers who pre-booked their parking with Holiday Extras saved an average of £100 each vs the price they'd have paid on the day.
Booking an Airport Hotel with Parking ensures that you can enjoy more holiday without the hassle. Plus, always flexible and easy to amend, with Flextras, if you need to cancel you can - without charge.
One night’s accommodation at the Clayton with seven nights’ secured parking is available from £153. To book, visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 316 5678. Price searched on 19 May 2022 for arrival on 23 August 2022.
Manchester Airport’s Escape Lounge is available in all three terminals and offers passengers to chance to put their feet up, catch up on last-minute business, or simply enjoy some peace and quiet as they enjoy the complimentary food and drink on offer. The lounge caters to passengers of all ages and offers fast unlimited WiFi, flight information boards, bar service for complimentary alcoholic and soft drinks, along with buffet service for seasonal meals and snacks.
An enhanced and rigorous cleaning regime remains in place to ensure the Escape Lounge offers a Covid-safe environment. Prices start from £23 when booked in advance. For more information or to book, visit: www.manchesterairport.co.uk/at-the-airport/escape-lounges