Stephanie Holmes sails on the Royal Eleganza with Peregrine Adventures.
Marko Polo Nautica.
How big: 40m.
How old: Purpose built in 2012 for cruising the Adriatic.
How many passengers: A maximum of 32. We had 28 on our voyage, the majority Australians, with one Kiwi couple (Hi Loretta and Bill from Blenheim!), and one British couple, who seemed quite surprised to be among a bunch of rowdy Antipodeans.
Destinations: For seven weeks every summer, the Royal Eleganza will be used for Peregrine Adventures Croatia Coastal Cruising itineraries, sailing from Sibenik to Dubrovnik, or vice versa. Ports of call include Split, Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik, as well Opuzen, a small town on the Neretva River that can only be reached by small ship. This is Peregrine's point of difference from the big ships that are now regulars in Croatia's beautiful waters.
Cruise length: Seven nights/eight days. An ideal amount of time for feeling truly relaxed.
Check-in: Easy and personal. We dropped off our bags on board then went to explore Sibenik until official check-in time of 5pm.
Cabins: Twin or double, 12sq m. My twin cabin on the main deck was spacious and comfortable, with excellent built-in storage options. The two single beds were incredibly comfortable, with memory foam mattresses and pillows. There was also a desk and chair, flat-screen TV, and air conditioning, with two large windows for gazing out to sea.
Windows are well-tinted, so you don't need to worry about people being able to see in during the day, which is good as my cabin was on a main walkway, and close to the ship's embarkation/disembarkation point. There are black-out blinds to use at night. The en-suite bathroom was spacious too, with sink, mirror, wall-mounted cupboard, and walk-in shower. Water pressure and temperature were good.
Food: Peregrine's itinerary provides two meals on board per day, usually breakfast and lunch as we were docked every evening, giving passengers the opportunity to visit local restaurants for dinner. There were three dinners on board — the first night's welcome dinner, a top-deck barbecue, and a captain's gala dinner on our final night. The standard of the food was high — breakfast buffets had cold and hot options, and lunches were generally at least three courses, with a focus on seafood and local cuisine.
Entertainment: Complimentary Wi-Fi in the dining room, aft and top decks; Scrabble, books and magazines available in the dining room. The highlight was the daily swim stops — the captain would find secluded bays and drop anchor so we could spend hours swimming off the back of the boat. In Croatia's crystal-clear, warm waters, this is absolute bliss.
Facilities: As well as the above, sun loungers, comfortable armchairs, and snorkelling equipment for swim stops. Other than that, the ship is pretty basic, but there was plenty of time off the boat to explore the ports where we docked. This is another of Peregrine's aims — to encourage time on land so passengers can get to know each destination and help to support local economies
Service: Excellent. The 10-strong Croatian crew were pleasant and friendly, and great at their respective jobs. Milan and Dinko, our tour leaders were knowledgeable and charismatic, really helping passengers to understand the history and quirks of each destination we were visiting. They were only on their fourth week of this new itinerary when I was on the ship, but things were already running very smoothly.
Shore tours: Walking tours of each port, visits to a winery and lavender farm, a boat trip along the Neretva river for lunch at a riverside hotel and restaurant, a morning coach trip across the Bosnia-Herzegovina border to visit Mostar and its famous bridge. Each port had a decent amount of free time to do our own thing and explore.
What's great: Being on a small ship with fewer than 50 passengers felt intimate and manageable — by the end of the trip everyone had had the opportunity to talk to everyone else. Swimming off the boat in the beautiful Adriatic Sea really can't be beaten.
What's not: In certain ports, the jetties get so busy, small ships have to dock alongside each other, so you can end up sandwiched between three or four other boats. At night, this can be noisy until about midnight when everyone turns off their music and people head to their cabins.
Ideal for: A relaxed, fun exploration of Croatia's coast, with the right balance of time on and off the ship.