Kotor, Split, Rovinj excursions

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#1
135 Posts
Joined Oct 2014
Any tips on land excursions at these ports would be appreciated. I have been looking at Trip Advisor and Viator for ideas, but some of the Windstar excursions at these ports also look worthwhile. Are tours to the surrounding areas outside of these towns worth the effort or are the towns themselves enough for the day. Strenuous is not a problem for us so if there is an tour that is a bit more active, please suggest.
Also considering the kayak tour in Dubrovnik, what do you think?
Thanks
#2
Orleans MA
632 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
We are on the May 17 th cruise Venice/Rome. I love art and food culture I have organized a tour with Tours by Locals to visit Bale an untouched Medieval town about 13 km from Rovinj, a visit to a hidden medieval cathedral, visit to a milk/cheese farm, visit to a medieval mural. Very unusual. I also think there is a market as well. I have used Tours by Locals before with great results. I usually do a lot of research, contact the tour guide and we work out what is interesting to me and this time I am extra thrilled because I did not know of the mural and cathedral. The WS tours looked nice but my interests are more specific. So looking forward to the trip. Happy Sailing
#3
California Central Coast
22 Posts
Joined Nov 2010
We were on the Star Pride in August from Rome to Venice and these were three of the ports. We are often walkers or bicycle riders.

Split was one specific exception. Windstar offered a river rafting excursion and it was the most significant Windstar excursion we took on the whole trip. We river raft whenever given the opportunity, so we took it. I would consider the Cetina river to be a class 2.5-3. While it is a serious and strenuous river trip I think anyone with reasonable fitness could handle it and enjoy it. I am a 65 year old semi-slug and I loved it. Part of the group in our raft were teens who had never been river rafting. They all did fine. The trip ended with lunch at a giant outdoor restaurant, at a pullout on the river. The extended bus ride to the river, well out of split was also interesting, but not special. But we would do it again.

In Kotor we mostly "self explored" on public transit. We took a city bus out to Perast, then took the water taxi out to Our Lady of the Rocks church (on a really big rock/ little "island"). Easy trip, which is also included in a couple of the Windstar excursions, if you prefer.

Do not rent a bicycle in Kotor, even though there are a couple of places you can do that. The roads are narrow and have no shoulder. Most drop off into a small gutter channel. Deadly in my opinion.

Rovinj is a great place to rent a bicycle and easy to do within 100m of the pier. Just out of downtown there is a coast park with good bike trails. Easy with a 1/2 day bike rental; but get a map, if you are not coming back by the same route.

One important point about Kotor: The morning arrival from the open sea is up a beautiful inlet. It is a long "ria" (think "fjord"). Get up early, get some coffee and enjoy the trip in. A beautiful morning!

Whatever you do, I am sure you will have a wonderful time.
#4
Pittsboro, NC
175 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Hi Barrycat:

I can't speak specifically to excursions, because the DW and I like the individualized, self-exploration on foot mode. And I also can't talk about Rovinj or Split -- we've got those as bucket list places for sometime later. I can speak to what you can expect in Kotor and Dubrovnik, having been there in early October when Star Breeze came to town.

First of all, Kotor. The listed excursions did look cool, but I loved just walking around, and especially LOVED the hike up the winding cobblestone paths to the summit at the fort overlooking the bay. You said that you are able to take on strenuous activities, and this will definitely qualify for a butt-kicking, exhilarating experience. And I mean that in the best way possible. Do yourself a favor and plan to hike at least as far as the cute chapel, halfway up the mountain, and then go on the cobblestone trail about 50-100 yards past that for the best panorama views of the Bay of Kotor. All those stupendous photos you see in the guidebooks? You'll get to snap those pictures yourself, right from that vantage point. Most people go all the way to the fortress at the top, if it's a pretty day, but just know that I did it for bragging rights. The photos aren't as great from the summit.

Wandering through the town is a gift in itself, especially on a pretty day. Not nearly as commercial and jammed with tourists as Dubrovnik, and I found the shops were more to my liking. Gorgeous and quaint in an old world way. I bet you could do an excursion, too, depending on how long your ship will be in port, but I'd advise you to first allow 3 hours for the climb up-and-down and shopping afterwards. You won't be sorry.

Now let's talk about Dubrovnik. I'm sure there are great excursions, and kayaking in the harbor sounds fun. But if you've never been to Dubrovnik, the guidebooks tell you the one "must-do" thing is to hike the rampart walls enclosing the old town, probably going in a counterclockwise direction. The views are really cool, and I enjoyed the exercise and seeing all the old-world architecture from above. There are tons of shops to visit when you're done (if that's your kind of thing), but I thought they tended to be a little too kitschy for my taste. To each his own. The real payoff is just absorbing the ambiance of a preserved UNESCO World Heritage site. I'm told the cable car ride up to the mountaintop overlooking Dubrovnik is also a hoot, but we missed doing that.

The wife and I enjoyed Kotor and Dubrovnik immensely -- as much as, or more than, any other port cities we'd ever visited. As for me, I thought that Kotor came in absolutely in first place, and I say that knowing we didn't spend a dollar for an excursion. (Part of that was the weather, which was absolutely perfect.) For me, Venice is my no. 2 favorite port to visit, and Dubrovnik is no. 3.

About the weather.... Not sure when your trip will be, but both of these places are wonderful to see during the shoulder season (May or October) when the temperatures are ideal and you won't be jostled around by sweaty tourists. Hit the rocky trails above Kotor, and the ramparts of Dubrovnik, EARLY in the day, just as soon as you arrive in port. That way you can avoid getting too soaked in perspiration, and you'll beat most of the crowds, too. Try to do some advance planning research and select an itinerary where none of the big boats will be in town.
#5
44 Posts
Joined Dec 2012
If you are OK with long climbs and are not afraid of heights, hiking up the stairway to the fort is well worth it in Kotor. There is a small fee that you pay on your entry to the trail. I'd suggest wearing running shoes as the stones can be slippery in places, though we did see some people doing the climb in flip flops. There is also a significant drop with no barrier in places, hence the comment about "not afraid of heights". Bottled drinks were offered for sale by a few vendors on the trail.

When we visited Kotor, the Executive Chef was offering a market tour. If this is offered on your cruise, it's well worth doing. It's interesting to see how the vendors react to the chef and they are keen to let you taste their produce; it's also nice to get to eat what he purchased back on the ship. BTW, the tour is free. We were in Kotor for the whole day on our cruise, so we had plenty of time to do the market tour, the climb, explore the town and enjoy a local beer (as our reward for the climb )

It's worth getting up early to be on deck for the sail into Kotor; it's a beautiful fjord.

We loved exploring Dubrovnik's walls and alleyways and managed to navigate our way to a bar that overhangs the sea. Your ticket for the walls also gives you access to the fort that is just outside the walls. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will love Dubrovnik as the early seasons were filmed here. If you're interested, there are a lot of vendors offering "Game of Thrones tours" taking you to specific filming locations.
#7
34 Posts
Joined Nov 2016
Thanks everyone for wonderful ideas and research on Kotor, Dubrovnik, Rovinj and Split... so far only signed up for Amalfi/Positano excursion which sounds great ... still researching ! So many options but LTC Dan says - doing your own thing and walking around these places on your own sounds great ! Thanks again ....


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#10
Orleans MA
632 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
I am not LTC Dan but I love Venice.
My opinion Venice is # 1. Going out of Venice last May was magical. The light at dusk, the reflections on the water, truly the best sail away we have ever experienced.
If you want a nice day in a magical city stay away from St. Marks, Academia, ( and I adore art, a passion ) and the Rialto. The crowds with their maddening selfi-sticks makes it horrible however if you must go to the Rialto and/or St. Marks go very early am 6-8 am. Then it is beautiful. At 6:15 we saw an advertisement being done with ballet dancers being filmed dancing amoung the stalls of fish, beautiful. For true Venice go have lunch in Torcello. Take the #2 vaparetto to Font Nuove, transfer to Burano/ Torcello, Torcello is the oldest island in Venice, 20 people live there. You have a beautiful ride through the Laguna, pass the cemetary island. Make a reservation at Locanda Cipriani in the gardens, magical. The oldest church in Venice is there with incredible mosiacs, Atilia the Hun's throne is there, a statuary museum. It is all so beautiful and serene. This tiny hotel has glorious gardens, great food, not cheap but it should not be, a true treat. That is the real Venice. San Basilio, where the ship stops/starts/ends is a very convenient Vaparotto stop in an area that is not so convenient so it makes it easy. One day see the magic, for it is such an incredible place. The art of Venice is in the churches: Titian, Bellini, Tintorello, Georigo, etc, no one goes in these churches, pass a church go in amazing, that is Venice. Get lost walking enchanting. I hope you enjoy a city I adore. Ask me any questions. Happy Sailing.

QUOTE
#11
Pittsboro, NC
175 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Originally posted by theadventuregal
LTC Dan:

What are the key things to see/do in Venice that make it your #2 port?
Hi, theadventuregal. Strenz is such a good travel guide and frequent contributor -- really hope to encounter this Cruise Critic personality one day. I completely agree with last night's comments, and can't really add much more.

The big thing to remember is that Venice can be an overcrowded nightmare at times, and that is especially true in the summer when most families take vacations, countless jet-setting travelers fly in from all over the globe, and several massive mega-cruise ships offload thousands of people at once. But it can be an utterly magical place, and in my opinion these fleeting moments happen at dawn or late in the evening. The alleyways are practically deserted then, and even Saint Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge can be quiet.

I've been there at least four times, maybe five (starting to lose count). On my last trip, I arrived at the famous footbridge spanning the canal, Ponte dell'Accademia, as the sun came up. It was the only time I've ever been there when it wasn't crawling with tourists. A thick fog rolled in shortly afterwards, and the sunny plazas and bright alleyways took on a mysterious, but deeply romantic quality.

This is the Venice you should seek out.
#12
Pittsboro, NC
175 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Originally posted by theadventuregal
LTC Dan:

What are the key things to see/do in Venice that make it your #2 port?
Ah, one more thing I'd like to mention to theadventuregal.

I might get teased for saying this, but I've been an avid collector of art-quality masks much of my adult life. Most people realize that Venice is well-known for its kitschy souvenirs and overpriced trinkets. And at the top of that list, many people find the masks of Venice to be extremely expensive, repetitious, and not worth the cost/trouble to have them shipped home. And most of what I've seen in Venice is exactly that.

If masks are your kind of thing (or even if they aren't, but you like the idea of having one fantastic piece of wall decoration for a keepsake), I have one shop I'd recommend. Ca' Macana (Calle Botteghe, Dorsoduro 1) is a wonderful place where artisans make masks on the spot, and you can sign up for a class where you can paint and decorate the shell of a mask yourself.

I find this gem of a place to be an authentic representation of all kinds of mask styles. I prefer highly unique, collector-quality pieces, and this may be the one place in Venice with enough variety to satisfy most people.

I can't even begin to describe how to find the shop -- I accidentally walked right by it on my way back to the ship. But look it up on Trip Advisor if this appeals to you. It ranks no. 3 out of 302 shopping venues they rated in Venice.
#13
Orleans MA
632 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Thank you LtC Dan for your kind comments. I also bought, years ago, a mask from that shop. I hate shopping p, always have and never do it but this was different and I have had years of looking at it and remembering Venice. The Dosodoro is not so hard to find. The Venetians are so nice that if you get to the Dosoduro1 and ask any shop owner, they will know. It would be fun to meet on a WS. 1/6 b2b Caribbean vacation, going with my oldest friends we celebrate our decade birthday together in the year, I hope my next sail in Europe is the Rome- Sicily-Malta, there is some important art to see in Malta, can never get enough of Sicily. Another great thing to do in Venice we did it for the first time, we hired a private motor boat for the six of us for an 1.5 hours to ride in the small canals around 10 at night, beaitiful. The hotel recommended it to us 40 E each, it was great. Happy Sailing to all.
#14
Pittsboro, NC
175 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Oh it was my pleasure, Strenz. Yes, it would be fun to meet on WS. I think next up on our bucket list will be something taking in Dublin. We want to see Ireland. The only thing I insist upon is that we want to try one of the sailing ships next. I'm sure a Wind Surf sailing would suit me just fine, and their are a few options that work. Later on, maybe a return to the Mediterranean. The Sicilian Splendors (10 nights) would be so interesting. I guess that's the one you want to do, right, since it includes Malta?

That b2b in January in the Caribbean will be loads of fun. Enjoy your trip!

The neat thing about Cruise Critic is realizing how similar we all seem to be, and nodding with approval when someone mentions something fun we've all experienced. I also like seeing so many frequent contributors pop up with regularity. In addition to you, I'd have to mention 6rugrats, milepig, Pudgesmom, ducklite, sb44, dandee 2, Ski Mom 2, SMNYCruise, and one person we've actually met, flygirl12. That was a fluke. My dw and I were taking our place at dinner the first night, and out of the blue the lady to my left asked me if I was a contributor on Cruise Cruise. What a pleasant surprise!!! We all became friends, and shared Facebook addresses to keep in touch socially.

The Roll Call method is one way to discover someone else that will be on an upcoming cruise and exchange specific tips. But it's not very efficient. In posting a new thread, you might or might not encourage other couples to join you on excursions or whatever. Alas, on that cruise last fall I'm sure there were many Cruise Critic participants on board, but no way to know. [Short of standing on the dining room table, banging a spoon on my glass, clearing my throat really loud, and bellowing, "Raise your hands please if you use Cruise Critic! I want to meet you!"]

I wish there was a more convenience way to facilitate meeting some new Cruise Critic friends.
#15
Orleans MA
632 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
LTC Dan, I live in Mass. the NE cold! I have sailed my entire life in the N.Atlantic. I need heat! We love the Surf best. While we totally enjoyed Breeze it is the sails that we love. I love someone else sailing, no coming about, no galley cooking, no responsibilities..... been there done that. Over! Let me just enjoy the sail. I have met sb44 we have met on two cruisex and we have become great email pen pals. I also met 2lovetocruise, they have a summer house on Cape Cod where live. I find CC fun. I do learn a lot. I love the Caribbean for vacations I relax the very best and sleep the best, I love Europe cruises for my soul and trips. I am deeply interested in art, history, food culture and opera. My 12% DNA Italian is my dominant culture. It is who I am. Happy Sailing, let us not stop. Happy Sailing.
#16
Pittsboro, NC
175 Posts
Joined Apr 2015
Originally posted by Strenz
LTC Dan, I live in Mass. the NE cold! I have sailed my entire life in the N.Atlantic. I need heat! We love the Surf best. While we totally enjoyed Breeze it is the sails that we love. I love someone else sailing, no coming about, no galley cooking, no responsibilities..... been there done that. Over! Let me just enjoy the sail. I have met sb44 we have met on two cruisex and we have become great email pen pals. I also met 2lovetocruise, they have a summer house on Cape Cod where live. I find CC fun. I do learn a lot. I love the Caribbean for vacations I relax the very best and sleep the best, I love Europe cruises for my soul and trips. I am deeply interested in art, history, food culture and opera. My 12% DNA Italian is my dominant culture. It is who I am. Happy Sailing, let us not stop. Happy Sailing.
Good for you, Strenz! We will stay in touch, and hopefully our network of friends will expand over time. I'm a landscape architect in NC (sole proprietor), and you can always reach me at my home office by typing arclanddesigns and then type @gmail.com. Also, the wife is also a less frequent Cruise Critic contributor, but if you feel the need to contact us in general, our joint address is less lengthy -- type curlydano2005, and then type @aol.com.

Bummer about Sint Maarten/Saint Martin and St. Barts. I wonder if Windstar will be forced to make adjustments on upcoming 2017-18 Caribbean itineraries. The entire trips don't need to be scrapped (especially Wind Star's November circuits in the lower Lesser Antilles), but I think Wind Surf's routing is problematic. Yachtman's Caribbean, especially, since it spends so much time on the northern islands. I think the Classic Caribbean is almost okay as-is, but perhaps they could originate from Barbados instead?

On second thought, all the logistics and customer dealings would be turned upside down, not to mention the ship's port call reservations, etc. What a nightmare for the company, and the customers would scream at the air transportation issues.

One way or another, the leadership at Windstar is going to have to reassure booking customers that; a) flights going and coming can reliably continue as before, and b) the ship can berth at a decent docking facility to take on passengers and supplies. And if local hotels are devastated, a lot of Windstar customers will ask to cancel or re-book later if they had planned to stay a few days in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. What a mess!