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(E) MONET cruise along Croatia's Dalmation coast
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/3/2006 | Tourism | Unrated
(E) MONET cruise along Croatia's Dalmation coast

 

MONET cruise along Croatia's Dalmation coast

A cruise along Croatia's Dalmation coast
By: RALPH COLLIER, Main Line Times12/20/2005

For more information about M/Y MONET, please contact Elegant Cruises and Tours at 1-800-683-6767 or visit www.elegantcruises.com .

The M/Y MONET offers a sweet sampling of the advantages of cruising on a small, intimate ship rather than the usual huge, impersonal vessels. She is dockside in Venice as 50 odd passengers climb aboard. (There are only 30 cabins, total.) Among them, there are the customary first-time sailors. On their anxiety scale, where "1" is "no sweat" and "10" "no fingernails to gnaw," the mix of Brits and Americans give her a comfortable "2" rating.

The M/Y MONET is bound for the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Mention the area to locals here and they'll reference the Komati Islands, which lie just off the coast. The Komatis make up by far the largest archipelago around wild, deserted slivers of windswept rock dotted with salt lakes and sheer cliffs emerging from the limpid Adriatic. The islands are a superb destination for hiking, swimming, and at other times of the year, sunbathing.
Unlike large cruise ships, the M/Y MONET's tariff is all-inclusive; there are no side excursions or other extras. Bottled water in staterooms is gratis, and throughout the day and night, coffee and tea are available with delectable pastries from the MONET mess. There are lectures by university professors, local musical talent and the ship's own pianist. Irving Berlin wrote the song "I Love a Piano," but the musician plays a synthesizer, suggesting to one passenger that Berlin could not have written the same ode to that instrument.
One of the first ports of call is a city named Split in Croatia. As is custom when the MONET approaches her harbor, a local pilot boat comes alongside to place one of her pilots aboard the MONET bridge to guide her safely to the docking facility. They know not just the treacherous tides, but local currents and tiny adjustments needed to dock the ship.
Split, just off the Dalmatian coast, reveals a shimmering shoreline; it is dubbed "the new Riviera" as the bloody wars of the 1990s that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia recede into European history. A number of international luminaries, arriving on their own yachts, have dropped anchor here recently. By day, there are fishing boats galore along with massive yachts, and everywhere, there are the doughty little tugboats that look like a child's toy but do a man's work -- or, more precisely, the work of a stallion.
There is a rich diversity of accessible and relatively affordable attractions ashore. (Local currency is the Kuna, which is more sympathetic to the U.S. dollar than the Euro.) All of this makes for an even more welcoming port.
Winter and spring are excellent times to enjoy the Croatian islands. (The M/Y MONET resumes cruises on March 15, 2006.)
In Croatian towns, the tourist is struck by the simple beauty of it all and wonders how it might just have felt to be here only a decade ago, when the world abandoned this lovely spot on earth and its people bombed, shot and raided one another's meager territory in a ruthless rush for power and control.
Given the size of M/Y MONET, there is but a single seating at breakfast, lunch and dinner. At some tables, at dinner, conversation does not flow with the drink; it drowns in it. Red and white wine are poured by waiters as though the beverages are going out of style, and since it is free as part of the cruise, some passengers tend to imbibe to their heart's content at lunch and dinner. The well-known oil tycoon Nubar Gulbenkian said some winters ago that the best number for a dinner party is two - "myself and a good waiter." He would have been charmed by the waitstaff on this ship, who are attentive and simpatico. After a few days aboard ship, American passengers tend to love them and speak of them as being almost one of the family, rather in the manner that they speak of their pets. The more reserved British aboard show considerably less spontaneity.
Three times daily, passengers are warmly greeted by a uniformed host, a bronzed, handsomely weathered, robust looking gent with a gutteral accent and suave demeanor. The ship's cook is not the ordinary chef-de-cuisine, for the chef goes public at breakfast and at later meals briefly visits the tables in the Nymphea Restaurant to determine how the evening's efforts went over. Both chef and menu get high ratings throughout the two- week voyage. The food aboard the M/Y MONET is always decent, often delicious, at times superb, making this ship's culinary efforts among the best on the high seas.
A ship like the MONET turns out to be the perfect size for calling at small island ports and coastal towns of Dalmatia. She has only outside cabins. In tune with her name, there are countless superb replicas of Monet oil paintings in cabins. The Giverny Lounge also has numerous photos of the painter in his atelier, gardens and in the bosom of his extended family. It is significant that Claude Monet himself was in Venice at this time of the season exactly 93 years ago. He made just one painting trip to the shores of southern Europe, and his experiences at Bordighera, a picturesque resort near the Italian border, marked one of the crucial stages in his long trajectory as an artist.
For more information about M/Y MONET, please contact Elegant Cruises and Tours at 1-800-683-6767 or visit www.elegantcruises.com .
Ralph Collier used the Lonely Planet Guide to Croatia while cruising the Dalmatian coast on the MONET. Log on to www.LonelyPlanet.com , or call 1-800-275-8555.

Ralph Collier is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.

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