In 2019, BikeTours.com travel ambassador Jackie Nourse took her cycle touring experience to a whole new level, by boarding a yacht in Croatia and exploring the islands of Dalmatia by bike!
Breakfast was buffet style and would start around 8 am. During breakfast, we would have a briefing presented by our guides about our ride for the day, which would generally start around 9 am and last until around noon or 1 pm, depending on the island to be explored.
We stuck together throughout our rides, with one guide in front and one guide in back. Sometimes we would stop in a small town for a gelato or coffee in the middle of our ride, and there were always plenty of photo stops. Croatia is too beautiful – we couldn’t put our cameras away!
After our morning rides, we would meet back at the boat. Once everyone was accounted for and bikes were loaded back into the bike garage on the boat, we would set off for our next destination or island, and that’s when we would come together for lunch on board.
After lunch, we had free time until landing at our new destination, where in some cases we would have educational walking tours to orient ourselves in the new town, and sometimes we just had more free time until dinner. We filled this time with naps, lounging, paddle boarding, swimming, reading, exploring, or whatever we wanted.
Dinners were mostly on board together, and afterwards we could choose to go out in whatever village we were docked in, or hang out on the boat, or go to bed and get ready to do it all over again the next day!
Our rides varied in length from about 8 miles to up to around 30 miles a day, sometimes hilly, sometimes not so hilly, depending on the island. ALL of the rides were beautiful, and in early October we had sunshine and perfect temps for riding.
Cycling is a fabulous way to see the islands of Dalmatia because the roads are small, the villages remote, and the landscapes in between are often full of orchards or vineyards with plenty to see and smell.
One day we stopped to visit a beekeeper, so we got to learn about bees, purchase some of his honey products, and continue on our way. More than once I stopped to eat fresh figs off the trees, I LOVE fresh figs.
My favorite riding moments from the week were:
• Winding down a long serpentine road after an equally long climb with an incredible view, ending up down in a tiny marina village on Vis where we had a coffee in the sunshine.
• Riding along a flat, beautiful, and a narrow winding path lined with trees on Hvar, right next to crystal clear green waters, until we reached a village with canals that reminded me of a tiny Venice.
• Group camaraderie as we huffed up hills together, always cheering each other on, and reaping the rewards of incredible views together.
Every boat has its own crew, which includes a chef and kitchen staff. I was completely impressed by the quality of the food on our boat, I looked forward to every meal!
Since lunches and dinners on the Melody were plated, we got to choose each main dish ahead of time from a set menu of options, which usually included a meat, a fish, or a vegetarian dish. We also had a salad bar and an appetizer to share.
The breakfast buffet included some version of egg (each day they were prepared differently), bread, pastries, fruit, yogurt, and granola.
There is a required flat fee for water for each person on board, and with this, we always got big bottles of still and sparkling water to share at meals. There was also a big water jug available to refill bottles.
Tea and coffee were included for breakfast, and all other beverages could be purchased at the bar on board. These drinks were tallied by room number, and we each paid our final tabs at the end of the week.
We had about 30 guests on the boat, plus a crew of about 7 people, and 2 cycling guides. All of the crew and guides were local Croatians and so much fun to get to know throughout the week.
I didn’t know a single person on my boat before I showed up for this tour. But as with any group adventure (in my experience), it is the PEOPLE who make the trip. It takes a certain person to sign up for a physically challenging “vacation” like this in the first place, which automatically puts you in a group of like-minded people.
Learning about all these people and where they come from and what they’re doing on this trip is half the fun, and the memories made with these beautiful humans by your side in such a beautiful corner of this planet are the ones that will last a lifetime. While we all came from different walks of life and parts of the country (or world), bike tour people are my people!
One of the things I love about the size of the boat is that even though 40 people may sound like a lot, it didn’t feel crowded at all. There was plenty of space for all of us – in our rooms, in lounge spaces, in the dining salon; the only time we were all in the same space was during meals, and that felt like family time. The rest of the time (aside from bike rides), everyone was dispersed, doing their own things.