On 25th August 2016, Lloyd and I flew on the Thomson Dreamliner to Dubrovnik, Croatia to catch the Thomson Celebration cruise ‘Croatian Classics’. We checked into cabin 444 which was an inside cabin located on deck 3.
Firstly, the ship. The Thomson Celebration is one of the smaller ships in Thomson’s fleet and was refurbished in 2012. It has 10 decks, 632 cabins, 5 resturants, 6 bars and 2 pools. I personally love the Thomson cruises because all the tips are included, everyone onboard is from the UK, everyone onboard is friendly and it’s a relaxed atmosphere. That being said, I have only ever cruised with Thomson and Cruise and Maritime so I cannot compare this cruise operator to some of the larger cruise operators.
We had an early flight so we had landed and embarked on the ship by 11am. We freshened up and decided to go and make the most of Dubrovnik! Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea. It’s known for its distinctive Old Town, encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. We caught the local bus from just outside the port into the city centre and went to find the cable car which transports you 778 meters to a plateau offering Old City views in just 4 minutes!
After spending some time at the top, we took the cable car back down to the bottom. You can opt to walk down Mount Srd if you’re feeling energetic enough but we felt that we would’ve struggled in the August heat.
We then proceeded to the Old Town where we walked the famous city walls for a fee. The city walls surround the Old Town are are 1,940 metres long. It was great to see the fortresses and kayakers. I recommend you buy a bottle or water, or two, before you start the walk!
We then had to make it back to the ship for our muster drill so we got the bus back to the port.
Day two was our day at sea. We spent the majority of the day on deck 9 at The Sun Lounge sunbathing on a double sunbed! I really love looking out and seeing nothing but blue skies and blue sea.
In the evening it was formal night. You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to but sometimes it’s nice getting all dressed up! Especially as it took place on our day at sea, we didn’t have to rush back from anywhere to get ready. If you don’t want to participate in the formal evening, you can eat at a different resturant.
On day three we woke up in Trieste, Italy. Trieste is the capital city of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy. A port city, it occupies a thin strip of land between the Adriatic coast and Slovenia’s border on the limestone-dominated Karst Plateau. We was going to book an excursion through Thomson to take us to the Slovenian caves but I had read online that you can take a tram to Opicina. We found the place where you pick the tram up from but it wasn’t in service due to an accident that had happened 10 days earlier! Typical! So we was left walking around aimlessly regretting the fact we should’ve booked an excursion to make the most of the day. I probably should’ve researched Trieste a little more than I did before I went so we found a tourist information centre to get a map with points of interest highlighted on there. We spent the morning walking around the city before making our way back to the ship for a late lunch and a dip in the hot tub on deck 8!
In the evening we watched a lovely sunset! It’s true when they say the best things in life are free; a good sunset is one of those things!
On day four we woke up in Venice. Venice is the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark;s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs. We woke up early to experience the sailing into Venice which I had heard was really good. Although it was good, most of the people on the ship had also decided to do this so it was quite cramped, and cold! I was grateful to have booked the VIP sail away for the evening.
We booked the ‘Gondola & St Marks Full Day’ excursion through Thomson. This included a privately chartered launch to the heart of the city, a 30 minute gondola ride and a return back to the ship. I had read online before I went that the queues for the gondola rides can get busy and as we only had a few hours in Venice, I wanted to gurantee a gondola ride.
Venice was hot, and busy! But none of the less, a very picturesque city! We spent the rest of the day exploring, eating pizza and cooling down with some gelato!
We paid extra for a VIP sail away party from Venice and in my opinion it was worth it as we didn’t have an all inclusive drinks package. We was given prosecco, canapés and our own little private section on top deck with amazing views of Venice.
On day five we woke up in Rovinj. Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. The old town stands on a headland, with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront. A tangle of cobbled streets leads to the hilltop church of St. Euphemia, whose towering steeple dominates the skyline. At this port, we was required to tender to shore which means you get a smaller boat to take you ashore rather than walking off on a gangway.
We booked the ‘Rovinj Bike Tour’ excursion through Thomson. The bike ride lasted 4-5 hours and we cycled 15 miles! I was unsure if my fitness would allow me to keep up with the tour but I’m pleased to advise that the bike ride wasn’t too strenuous but instead a nice gentle ride. The day started with a ride through the town centre discovering its labyrinthine cobbled streets, café-lined squares, and pastel-painted buildings left over from the days of Venetian rule. The route takes you under Balbi’s Arch, the last remains of the old town walls, and the past 17th-century clock tower in the main piazza. We then left the historical town behind and made our way into the Croatian countryside. Quiet roads lead us through olive groves and pine forests, before we re-appeared by the seaside. Here we had free time to swim in the sea and sit by café with a refreshing cold drink (just make sure to take your Euros back out and replace them with Croatian Kuna!).
After we completed the bike tour, we decided to stay in the old town to explore further. We paid 20 KN each to climb the 61 metre bell-tower at the Basilica of St. Euphemia for spectacular views across Rovinj. This three-nave church was built in 1736 and the bell-tower resembles the tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
We then walked through a local food market before taking the tender back to the ship.
Our next stop, on day six, we arrived in Hvar. Hvar is a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. Highlights of the port town Hvar include its 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress and a main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. The island also features beaches like Dubovica and inland lavender fields. Boat excursions serve the nearby Pakleni Islands, which have secluded beaches and coves. This port also requires you to tender to shore.
We decided to explore Hvar by ourselves rather than participate in a Thomson excursion. We started the day off walking to the top of Fortress Fortica Španjola which gave panoramic views of the city of Hvar, its surroundings and the Pakleni islands. This fortress was built in the 16th-century and added to by the Austrians in the 19th-century.
After our tiring, but worth-it, walk to the top of the fortress, we made it back down to the bottom in search of a beach. We walked a couple of miles and ended up on a little beach. I was amazed by how crystal clear the water was! The beach was full of pebbles so I recommend you taking some waterproof sandals. We spent a couple of hours here, I wanted to stay longer!
On the way back to main square we stopped in a restaurant next to the sea for some lunch. I was dying to try some local food so I opted for the Dalmatian style risotto which was very tasty!
We then walked around the main square before making our way back to the ship.
Our last port of call before heading back to Dubrovnik was Bar in Montenegro. Bar is a coastal town and seaport in southern Montenegro. It is the capital of the Bar Municipality and a centre for tourism.
I was debating between two excursions with Thomson for this stop; the Skadar Lake Cruise and the Budva & Sv. Stefan Riviera Cruise. We opted for the latter one. We picked up a boat from the port and set sail along the Montenegrin coastline past the stunning Sveti Stefan, a small islet and 5-star hotel resort, before stopping in the old town of Budva. The settlement, which is one of the oldest in the Balkans, sits on a rocky peninsula, and is surrounded by defensive walls built in the 15th century.
When we arrived in Budva, we explored the old town and surrounding beaches. We came across a lovely little art gallery located in the Church of Santa Maria in Punta! It is one of the oldest pre-Romanic churches in the coastal region and is currently used for art exhibitons and concerts of classical music.
We walked the cobbled streets before stopping off at a restaurant near the Church of St John for a drink to cool us down.
We only had an hour or so to explore Budva before we met up with the rest of the tour for a coach journey back to the ship, stopping for a photo of Sveti Stefan.
We spent the rest of the afternoon back onboard making the most of sunshine before returning to England the next day.
Thank you Thomson Cruises for another fabulous holiday!