The MV Emanuel is proof that good things come in small packages.
Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline is peppered with ancient towns and towering mountain ranges and the best way to explore both the coast and some of the surrounding 1,200 islands is by ship.
Large cruise ships berth in the deep waters near the modern part of the Croatian capital Dubrovnik but the MV Emanuel, which draws only 2.2m and can berth right in the heart of the old town. Beginning in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Dubrovnik, a seven-night cruise will take visitors to Split, Slano and Makarska on the mainland and the islands of Brac, Mljet, Korcula and Hvar.
Small is beautiful
At only 37.6m long MV Emanuel looks more like a luxury yacht than a cruise ship. Until 2006, she was a passenger ship called Karlovac, sailing around the central Dalmatian coast. Now converted into an intimate cruising vessel, the triple-decked ship has a crew of seven and can hold up to 35 passengers in her 18 cabins. Saga only permits 30 passengers on this trip to create more space.
In Croatia, bigger isn’t necessarily better, since most cruise ships are unable to access harbours in the hearts of cities. However, the MV Emanuel has a shallow enough draft to enable her to berth right next to old towns and enter island bays.
The look of the vintage-style ship is simple and understated. The air-conditioned top-deck restaurant has a cosy red and white colour scheme and can seat up to 40 guests, meaning there’s plenty of space for the maximum 30 passengers on board. A bar serves complementary drinks from 11am to 10pm while breakfast, lunch and dinner are also included in the cruise price. With six people to each table, it’s a sociable arrangement. There’s also a small lounge area with comfortable chairs and a selection of board games. On special musical nights, the chairs are moved to make way for local singers and musicians.
Food served in the Emanuel’s restaurant is mainly Croatian – a fusion of Italian and Hungarian ingredients – and is often accompanied by local wine. You can expect dishes such as fresh fish from the Adriatic and Pašticada (a popular local dish of beef stewed with rosemary and prosciutto) that’s often accompanied by Italian-style gnocchi. Local dishes also include sheep’s cheese from the island of Pag and filled and rolled pancakes known as Palacinke. Breakfast is a continental or cooked option and lunch is every bit as filling as dinner. Luckily there are plenty of opportunities to walk it off during the daily tours.
On the outside deck, sofa-style seating offers superb views from the ship’s stern. Wooden stairs, which could prove troublesome for those with mobility problems, connect the cabins on the top and main decks. Running the length of the top of the ship, across 180m2, is a bright white sun deck with loungers and shades. Saga runs the cruise off-season to avoid crowds and hotter temperatures, but even in spring and autumn the climate is warm enough to swim in the sea and enjoy the sun deck.
The MV Emanuel’s 18 cabins range in size from 8.50m2 to 10.50m2 in size and there are four twin and 14 double options, with a £50 single supplement for solo travellers who want a room to themselves. The cabins run along both sides of the deck with portholes giving views out to sea. Inside, the cabins are small and basic, but comfortable. Not much time is spent at sea, so these are mostly used as a base. The beds have luggage compartments beneath that will fit a medium-sized suitcase and each cabin has a cupboard for clothing. The atmosphere is so relaxed and informal that you will only need casual clothes for sightseeing and dinner. Each cabin also has a small shower and toilet unit, a safety deposit box and air conditioning. Flat-screen TVs are due to be installed by April. Although the company that owns MV Emanuel have given their vessel a five-star rating, Saga rates it as three stars. It’s more of a comfortable base from which to explore, rather than a luxury retreat.
Saga caters for the over-50s, but there’s no such thing as a typical passenger. Solo travellers in their 80s mix with younger couples in their 50s, but all share the same adventurous spirit. Walking tours are a major part of the cruise itinerary and include gentle strolls through the quiet bay of Slano on the mainland, explorations of Korcula’s Venetian architecture and Hvar’s old town, and guided visits to the forested national park at Mljet. However, the highlights of the cruise are the special unscheduled moments when the captain spots a deserted bay on one of the islands with golden sand and lush green forests as a backdrop, and anchors up so that you can enjoy a dip in the aquamarine sea.
MV Emanuel – Fact File
Over 50s; solo travellers and couples.
Runs in april, may, June, september and october 2010
The currency is kuna; one kuna can be divided into 100 lipa. prices are on a par with most european countries.
Twin and double cabins, all outside-facing and ranging from 8.5 to 10m2. single occupancy available for a £50 supplement.
local singers come on board to perform.
one sitting per meal in the small restaurant. Food consists of local croatian favourites and international cuisine.
From £799 and includes return flights and transfers, airport taxes, fees and charges; travel insurance; full board and a free bar; all gratuities; excursions and a saga tour manager.
Included Cruise: return flights and transfers, airport taxes, fees and charges; travel insurance; full board; wines, beers and soft drinks with meals; free bar; gratuities.
What makes her different ? Most big cruise ships are only able to berth outside Dubrovnik; Saga is the only British company chartering a small ship that can sail and moor around the Croatian islands.
Day 1 Dubrovnik
Board MV Emanuel. In the afternoon, the cruise sails north along the Dubrovnik Riviera to the peaceful bay of Slano for a walking tour and overnight stop.
Day 2 Korcula
Leave in the morning, passing the vineyards along the Peljesac Peninsula on the way to the island of Korcula for a walking tour of the main town and an overnight berth.
Day 3 Hvar
The cruise continues along the Peljesac Channel and past the tip of the Peljesac Peninsula, towards the lush island of Hvar for a tour of the old town.
Day 4 Split
Continue north, crossing the Hvar Channel through the narrow passage that separates the islands of
Brac and Solta, on the way to the old town of Split, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 5 Brac
Head back south today to Pucisca on the island of Brac for a walking tour before sailing south along the Adriatic Coast to the small town of Makarska.
Day 6 Mljet
Following the coast south enjoy a visit to, and an overnight stop at, the forested island of Mljet and its national park.
Day 7 Dubrovnik
It’s back to the second UNESCO World Heritage Site at Dubrovnik to enjoy a tour of the old town and your last night in Croatia.
Day 8 Dubrovnik
Disembark MV Emanuel and travel to the airport for your flight back to the UK .
Published: November 5, 2010 By Cruise International