Just spent 5 days on a luxury super yacht – What I liked and my only regret
Imagine this: a bespoke vacation experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world, where you, your family and friends can literally choose your own adventure. From cooking and cocktails to sightseeing and adventures, you set the rules. A full crew will be at your service at all times, and no request is too big or too small.
This is the dream experience I recently had on the beautiful Adriatic Sea. I was invited to spend 5 days aboard the Ohana, a $3 million Croatia-based superyacht available for private charter. The exclusive experience is no longer reserved for the jet set; turns out that this type of vacation is actually more accessible than ever. Here are my top takeaways on the luxury travel option, and why it just might be the perfect way to celebrate your next big special event!
Destination: Dalmatian coast
Croatia is a stunner. With over a thousand kilometers of coastline, the pristine Dinaric Alps, hundreds of islands and sparkling clear water, its natural beauty is immediately evident. Add in a temperate climate, lots of culture and history nestled in picture-perfect towns, and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met on my travels, and it’s not hard to see what makes this nation of the Balkans so special.
Croatia is no longer the hidden gem destination it was a dozen years ago. The jet set and celebrities regularly charter mega-yachts on the stunning Dalmatian coast, and locals have described to me how summers often turn the otherwise idyllic islands into a frenetic free-for-all.
I was lucky enough to visit in low season. The hustle and bustle of the summer crowds had dissipated, the atmosphere was relaxed and the weather was still warm. A superyacht cruise was the perfect way to explore the beautiful country.
The Little Ship Experience
Although I have sailed before, it was on much bigger ships; setting sail on a yacht that can only accommodate 35 guests was a new experience. I was invited on board Ohana by Goolets, a charter company based in neighboring Slovenia. The staff at Goolets (the name is a nod to the schooner, a traditional wooden sailboat) works with each client individually to assess their interests and preferences. They then recommend a yacht from their favorite fleet and take care of everything else. From creating the menu and bar to arranging activities, itineraries and transfers, it all contributes to a personalized and perfect vacation.
“The attention to detail is what makes the difference,” explained Goolets founder Mitja Mirtič.
“When requests are made, they are expected to be met in an ‘exaggerated’ way. There is no room for error. »
As soon as I boarded, I immediately felt at ease. The small but attentive crew greeted me warmly with cocktails while my luggage was taken to my cabin. I met our stewards, sailors, captain and chiefs; explored the 160ft yacht; and settled into what was to be my home for the next 5 days.
While I had a general idea of the itinerary, I had never visited Croatia before, so my approach was simple: embrace it all!
From culture vulture to aquatic baby
We left the beautiful port city of Split and headed to three islands: first Brač and Hvar, then Korčula. Each was quite different; all were beautiful and historic. During my stay in Brač, I was able to walk to the famous horn-shaped Zlatni Rat and sunbathe on the pristine pebble beach. I walked around the town of Bol and tasted beautiful Croatian wines at Stina Winery. In Hvar, I walked to its historic fort and marveled at centuries-old churches and squares.
The walled town of Korčula was an absolute gem, with its cobbled streets, chapels, town museum and bell tower with an extraordinary view. As we headed back north, Makarska and Omiš were also worthy stops to explore. With Venetian, Ottoman and Habsburg influences still felt in Croatia, there was plenty to discover at every stopover.
We also had time to enjoy the Adriatic, with swimming stops every day. There were water toys – from inflatables and paddle boards to kayaks and even a wave runner. When I was ready to warm up, the upper deck hot tub did the trick. And of course the crew had guests covered with extra snacks, drinks and towels.
The private charter experience allowed me to have the best of both worlds: I was able to learn about the history and culture of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast while relaxing and enjoying the sun and some water. It was perfect, thanks to the careful planning of the staff and crew.
Warm and family atmosphere
When I told friends about my next adventure in Croatia, many jokingly asked if I would sail a disgraced oligarch’s superyacht.
In a word, no. As it turns out, Ohana is a family affair.
The Croatian sailing tradition has been strong for generations. And with the destination teeming with tourists, these traditions are more important than ever. Example : OhanaCaptain Josip Šerka also owns the superyacht. The pride he took in it – and the performance of his crew – was evident. The level of service I experienced on board was neither fussy nor overly formal. On the contrary, it was complete and comfortable.
“These ships are not only big and super spacious with perfect services,” Mirtič told me. “They also have a soul, and you can almost feel the energy and effort that goes into them.”
This soul was evident after dinner one evening. Captain Josip presented one of the youngest members of our sailing party with a cake, blazing with birthday candles. It was a sweet way to go further.
Not exactly Under the bridge – And this is a good thing !
Many of us know reality TV Under the bridge. The hit television series Bravo takes viewers through all the behind-the-scenes angst of a yacht charter from the crew’s perspective. I watched a few episodes, with dread, before my trip. The last thing I wanted was drama of any kind.
Fortunately, there were none.
Captain Josip admitted there had been a few frowning requests from Ohanaof crew on past cruises, but he explained that each one had been handled quietly, efficiently and to the satisfaction of guests. I’m glad our sailing group was more interested in relaxing than partying or being obnoxious.
A little too spoiled
During our 5 days at sea, I ate every meal on board, with local seafood, artisan pasta, and beautiful Croatian wine accompanying each course. Everything was delicious, but quite filling. I wanted to work on some of that and brought some materials to do it.
However, Ohana didn’t have a gym on board which meant there was no running. First world problem? Absolutely, but I missed my miles!
This situation will soon be corrected. Although charming and only 3 years old, Ohana is already shining. This off-season, it is undergoing Goolets-recommended renovations. The lower deck cabins will be converted to add a theater and children’s playroom. An outdoor gym space is also planned, as is a refresh of the outdoor dining space. These tweaks will further enhance an already great experience.
My only regret
Ohana from Split and booked two extra nights there before boarding the yacht so I could explore the city. The islands we visited were also beautiful. The only thing missing? Dubrovnik, the jewel widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities on the Dalmatian coast.
In a typical charter experience this would not have been a problem. This could have been mentioned to the crew and a stopover would have been scheduled. However, I still blame myself for not taking more time to visit on my own. It was bad planning on my part; certainly not the fault of my gracious hosts.
On the bright side, it gives me the perfect reason to return to Croatia!
You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to go on vacation like this
Chartering of Ohana starts at around $100,000. This includes a mandatory pre-supply allowance covering food, beverages and port taxes.
Crunch the numbers and this exclusive travel experience is now at your fingertips. After its restoration, Ohana will sleep 30 people. That’s on par, per person, with a week’s cruise on major lines…one where you don’t choose your own adventure with your family or closest friends.
The ships in Goolet’s fleet are not billionaire ships. You won’t find helipads, beach clubs or huge onboard pools. But their superyachts are a charming and affordable option absolutely worth considering for a big birthday, anniversary, or other special event (especially if you want to celebrate in one of the most gorgeous corners of the planet) .
The new approach – balancing traveling on a superyacht and considering the budget – has proven popular. Mirtic says Ohana is almost fully booked for next season and he expects interest to remain high.
“Do the ships have the same ‘shine’ as the mega-yachts that charter for [around $819,000] one week? Of course not,” he said. “Are people willing to pay [around $102,400] charter a 50m, 10+ cabin vessel with superyacht services? Damn yes!”
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