This past July, I was invited to join SailingHR on a party yachting trip through the islands of Dalmatia, Croatia. Never one to turn down an invitation to a party, especially when there is travel involved, I happily obliged. Party aside, I had been interested in exploring Dalmatia by boat/yacht for years. Ever since I first visited in 2007, I knew I had to get back and see the place the way you are meant to: by sea. So to me this was the ultimate invitation. A week of partying, a week of exploring the Dalmatian islands – it was going to be the most unforgettable and ultimate experience.
Or was it?
Before I get into whether or not I think my week of party yachting was the ultimate yacht week experience, I will say that it was without a doubt an unforgettable one. Regardless of how events pan out, I don’t think there is any way that one could be disappointed with spending time in and around those islands. They are incredible and there were definitely some benefits of seeing them with Sailing HR.
The local connection
Aside from the spectacular location, the highlight of my week out at sea was Captain Rita – our skipper. A Zadar native, her and her twin sister were practically born on the Adriatic and as a result, knew how to navigate those waters and handle our little Frigg like a champion. For how young she was, I was blown away by her professionalism and knowledge of sailing these parts of Croatia – a skill which in my opinion comes naturally and can’t be acquired even after a few years of experience.
Won’t name names, but on the plane ride to Split we met an Australian who was going to be a skipper for another company for a few weeks and let’s just say I wouldn’t even have wished him to be looking after my worst enemy on the open waters. Dude was highly under qualified and way too enthusiastic about all the partying he was going to be doing.
Meeting awesome people
I will speak more about this shortly, but basically, if you are not bringing enough friends with you to fill an entire boat (or any at all), who you end up with is going to be a gamble. In gambling though, there is always the possibility to hit a massive jackpot and thankfully that is exactly what I did.
Could not have asked for a cooler bunch of people to be sharing such close quarters with for an entire week. All different personalities, all awesome, and many of which I have and will remain in touch with. Really makes me feel like busting out that cheesy but oh-so-true quote by Tim Cahill… “A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.”
The out of the way coves
By far my favorite stops were not the bustling towns/marinas, but the quiet coves – particularly this lovely little place on Brač which I forgot the name of and kind of glad I did. It should remain a little secret.
My friends and I decided to escape the flotilla madness for a bit and do a little exploring. Hitched a boat ride to the most local of local restaurants on the other side of the bay and ended up feasting on delicious proscuitto and cheese with an equally delicious rakija cocktail. It was paradise for all of the senses.
The adorable old towns
Sadly Hvar was not as charming as I remember from back in 2007, but what to expect when “Asian” restaurants start replacing favorite, local ones in the main squares and narrow alleyways become clogged with party yachters gone wild…
Luckily there was Vis and Jelsa, the latter being an unplanned stop that turned out to be amazing (and less crowded) – particularly at dusk/sunset.
Speaking of sunsets… UN-REAL. Especially when you are watching them from the water.
Whether or not a party yacht week with Sailing HR is the ultimate party yacht week experience in Croatia, I can’t answer because I have nothing to compare it to. I can say though that a week of party yachting, though totally unforgettable, was not the ultimate experience for me. Here are some reasons – some I wouldn’t have guessed and others I just could have better prepared myself for.
Believe the hype and don’t believe the hype
First thing’s first: if anyone ever tries to convince you that a party yacht week in Croatia is a super glamorous or classy affair, they are straight up lying to your face.
It doesn’t matter what company you sail with, it doesn’t matter how “sophisticated” you and your friends are or what clothes you are wearing, if you’re sailing the circuit during one of these party weeks, the MTV Spring Break/Sydney Shore vibe will be hard to avoid – especially when docked in a marina or tied up with a bunch of other boats. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing – it’s all a matter of opinion depending on what your party/travel/life inclinations are.
One thing you can be sure of though: it will be a huge party.
The shower situation
Again back to it not being a classy affair. If you enjoy proper showers and amenities like hairdryers, you need to be warned that it’s likely you won’t see much of either for the duration of the week. When docked, things are a little better because you have direct water and power supply on the boats as well as some shared shower facilities in the marinas, but you’re still working with very limited space and some pretty ridiculous bathroom queues. Think camping on water or just don’t think at all and embrace it.
The crew gamble
If you don’t fill an entire boat with your own friends (generally eight people), then you could get screwed with someone else’s annoying ones. I chatted with a few different people who were paired up with people they would probably never choose to go on a holiday with and would probably pay to not have to go on holiday with, but suddenly they were.
But it went both ways – either they couldn’t stand them and wanted to be off the boat as much as possible, or they ended up bonding hardcore in the weirdest of ways (or just vodka).
Seasickness is very real
Even if you don’t have a tendency to get seasick, it might happen. Especially when drinking and hangovers are involved. Definitely bring some medication to be safe or else you might end up horizontal for an entire day.
Schedule of events can change quite frequently
The sailing and party schedule was all over the place and only loosely resembling what was listed online, but in the end, this was the fault of the sea and the weather – both of which you cannot argue with. Sadly we missed Komiža and the Blue Grotto on Biševo completely, didn’t get to check out the submarine cave on Vis, barely made it to the Green Cave, and also didn’t make it to Bol. Better to be safe than stuck in a storm though so we made the best of it and ended up in some lesser known places which is always ok by me.
Not always time for sightseeing
The unpredictable schedule made it a bit more difficult to plan any sightseeing and in some cases, impossible. I would have loved to check out the bunkers on Vis and explore Hvar a bit more (heard there was a cool underwater wine cellar there), but there just wasn’t enough time or logistically it wasn’t convenient.
The environmental impact
Lastly, I had a huge problem with what kind of impact these sailing companies are having on the environment. Watching the infamous “champagne shower” was straight up painful as was the general carelessness of many of the guests – so painful that I had to address my concerns to the owner of Sailing HR. His reply was this:
“When we have parties that we organize in some natural bay, after the last yacht leaves the bay, we have small motor boat with special nets and we collect all the garbage that floats on the sea. We also have a diver that collects all garbage that has already sink to the bottom of the sea.”
In addition, he mentioned they try to use wind power, not engines, whenever possible and that in 2015 they are planning a project in which all Sailing HR crew members will receive olive seedlings to plant on some of the islands.
These are all great initiatives which make me feel better if they are indeed true – let’s just hope all of the other companies out there are involved with similar practices. One sea, one love.
So…would I go party yachting again?
Probably not unless there was the option to stray from the fleet a little more at our own pace and I was sailing with a carefully selected crew of people all down for a good time and prepared to be out at sea for seven days. While I had a really great time, it’s just not the scene I’d like to surround myself with for an entire week while visiting some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Which company I was sailing with was irrelevant – at the end of the day, all parties are not created equal and again, this kind of “party” just isn’t for me these days – especially when it feels like it cheapens the travel experience.
Had there been the possibility, I would have much preferred the Smooth Sailing program that SailingHR is supposed to start offering again next season. On these trips there is a maximum of seven yachts and the program is based on visiting the archipelago with organized dinners in small family owned taverns and restaurants with local food and wine. Sounds much sexier to me and if in the right company, can make just as good of a “party”.
And should you go party yachting?
If partying your ass off in a beautiful setting sounds like fun to you, I would absolutely recommend it. It’s a party more than a travel experience which there is absolutely nothing wrong with if that’s what you’re looking for. There is excellent nightlife out on those islands and it’s an awesome way to meet all kinds of people from all over the world in a party setting.
Whether or not you should consider party yachting with Sailing HR really depends on what kind of party yacht week experience you are looking for. I personally loved that with them it was more intimate, but still big enough with only 30 or so boats compared to some of the other companies which can get up to 150. All the skippers I met were great, the team running the show were cool, and most importantly, it’s a product of Croatia. While there were some aspects of the trip that seemed a little unorganized, in general I gathered that some of the same was happening on the trips organized by the other companies based on conversations I had with their guests throughout the week. All have their pros and cons, I can’t say one is better than the others until I’ve tried them all, so basically it’s at your discretion.
In the end, I really have to reiterate that as a whole, I genuinely had an unforgettable trip and appreciated the invitation from Sailing HR to give this party yachting thing a go (disclaimer: this was a sponsored press trip), but ultimately it just wasn’t my cup of tea which comes down to me and my own personal preferences. I wouldn’t advise against this experience to anyone, but hopefully I have advised a little more on what to expect and what you should prepare yourself for if a yacht week trip is something you are thinking about doing.