8 of the best small ship cruises to Croatia and the Adriatic

Cruise Advice

The beautifully sheltered Adriatic Sea, running between the east coast of Italy and the coast of the former Yugoslavia and Greece, is a cultural gem, the coastline dotted with ancient city states, trading posts and bishoprics.

En route to Venice, Phoenicians, Greeks and all the maritime traders of the ancient world plied these waters, bringing wealth and culture to settlements all along the coast. Palaces, towers, churches and mighty walls bear testament to a memorable past, whilst the myriad lavender scented islands, pretty bays and secluded beaches make this the perfect cruising destination. Here is our guide to the best small ships visiting Croatia and the Adriatic:

1. SeaDream Yacht Club

The intimate SeaDream I, with just 114 fortunate guests on board, offers a laid back, al fresco and inclusive yacht experience in September 2019, but watch out, as space is limited. You might need to hold fire until 2020.

SeaDream II in Hvar, Croatia

2. Windstar Cruises

Windstar's magnificent five-masted flagship Wind Surf, with a complement of 310 guests, explores the Adriatic on her Classic Italy and Dalmatian Coast itinerary: relaxed and unpretentious, this is the perfect choice for easy-going exploration.

Wind Surf in Kotor, Montenegro

3. Ponant

Ponant's chic and elegant little Le Lyrial, with just 244 guests, brings a touch of ooh la la to the Dalmatian Coast. Various itineraries are on offer, and we particularly like the Venice round-trip with its port-intensive itinerary including gems such as Piran and Korcula.

Ponant - Le Lyrial in Venice

4. Crystal Cruises

The tiny 62-guest Crystal Esprit offers the finest yacht experience, with outstanding food, stylish décor, outstanding service and fares that include everything: drinks, gratuities and even shore excursions are taken care of. If you're lucky you can enjoy watersports from the marina too (depending on the weather).

Crystal Esprit in Dubrovnik, Croatia

5. Silversea

Silversea's newest ship, Silver Moon, will join the fleet in 2020. The perfect opportunity to test her out will be a 10-day round-trip from Venice in early October, an intriguing itinerary with lots of opportunity to explore ashore, and to get the measure of this lovely new 600-guest vessel.

Silver Wind in Venice, Italy

6. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

In 2020, Ritz-Carlton makes its very first foray into cruising, bringing the same Ritz-Carlton land-based style to holidays at sea. Accommodating just 298 guests in spacious sea view suites, the intimate Azora will be in the Adriatic by May, the perfect combination of new ship and great itinerary.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection - Azora artist's impression

7. Seabourn

Seabourn's sublime 450-guest Seabourn Odyssey sails between Athens and Venice on appealing seven-day itineraries. The company's close ties with UNESCO will make visits to the UNESCO sites along the way all the more exciting, and the ship itself is elegant, comfortable and relaxed.

Seabourn Odyssey in Venice

8. Star Clippers

Romance abounds as you slide gracefully under full sail on the lovely 170-guest, four-masted Star Flyer on a 7-day Croatia and Montenegro itinerary in September 2019. Heads will turn as you sail into the sunset as liberated as ever, with the salty sea breeze rushing through your hair.

Star Flyer at sea
Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

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