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A Houstonian’s Guide: The Yacht Week in Croatia

The-Yacht-Week-Houstonians-Guide

It all started with an Instagram post — well, for me at least. I remember specifically being in Riva’s (celebrating something?) and someone at the table mentioned Yacht Week. I felt dumb. Was this a reality show? Or….what? I am not used to being out of the loop on pop culture.

The first picture was of crystal blue water and stark white boats in a circle. In the middle were all these fun-looking floats. The next picture was a bunch of beautiful people wearing white being super tan. Soon I was months deep on this account and we were talking logistics: When were we going?

So, it’s not a reality show. It’s a travel company. Think of it as a deconstructed cruise but for young people (I described it to my mom like this). You hop from destination to destination and are in a marina at a different location each night — but instead of having your own cabin, you have your own boat.

Our expectations were this: We’d be a group of 7 or 8 and get our own boat with our own skipper and hostess to sail and feed us and we’d relax to the gorgeous backdrop of the Adriatic Sea and the Croatian coast. Sounded perfect.

And it absolutely was.

But add in amazing people (33 other boats, to be exact) and an experience I could never have even imagined being so perfect. I know it sounds like I’m romanticising a simple vacation. But The Yacht Week is no simple vacation. It’s actually nothing like any vacation I’ve ever had — and probably ever will. That is, unless I do it again at one of the ten other destinations. Which I plan to do. See you soon, British Virgin Islands.

The concept is a little insane, and while you can watch all the videos and read all the other blogs out there, here’s what I think you should know about this trip that’s nothing like the real world. Absolutely nothing.

How It Works

I think TYW’s goal is honestly to make things super easy for you (note: making it cheap for you is not a main goal of theirs). Everything is pretty much planned for you on the vacation, and booking is just as easy.

The first thing we did was head to TYW website. We actually had to wait a little for the summer listings to go live. But when we did, we hopped online and browsed. Step one was deciding on a week, which was relatively easy for us since we were working so far in advance. There’s at least 12 weeks of Croatia, and we signed up for the first week (Week 23). The only downside to the beginning of the summer we didn’t realize until later is that it’s still a little “chilly” with highs of 85 and lows of 65. As Houstonians, we were scared. It ended up being PERFECT. Most boats don’t have A/C, so a chilly night is welcomed. Yes, the water was cold, but we got used to it and I ended up LOVING it. I did pack (and use regularly) a sweater. I also brought a cuter jean jacket for nighttime activities, but never used it.

Next: You pick your crew. How many girls, how many guys, would you need a skipper or hostess? (Unless you can sail a boat, you need a skipper.) Hostesses are a little more optional, but such a life changer. 10/10 would recommend one — you’re on vacay, after all!!! Hostesses clean common areas and cook breakfasts, lunches and some dinners.) We picked 8 girls, skipper, and hostess for a boat total of 10. Note: You do have to have your gender ratio approved — the safest thing to do is book half and half. We booked all girls, and it was fine.

Then it was boat picking time. We had four categories: Economy, standard, premium, and premium plus. It basically just has to do with yacht age and equipment. We chose standard and started browsing the available boats. We found one with four bathrooms and unlimited wifi, which swayed us despite no A/C.

Once booked, we had three payment due dates. Not sure how exactly the payments were divided up — it wasn’t even thirds. But we all paid one third of our total individually owed by each deadline, and we were all paid off more than a month before our trip, which really helped us saving wise.

It was honestly pretty affordable. We got the hostess, skipper, boat, alcohol and food packages for about 850 euros per person. When you realize that’s your lodging, most meals, and where you’ll spend a lot of time, it seems pretty reasonable.

When you get to TYW, you do have to shell out some more cash. We each put in 1500 kuna ($1 = 6 kuna) into the “kitty”. Our skipper used this money to pay for gas, port fees, water taxis, etc. Basically anything that had to do with your aquatic transportation. Plus, whatever was left you get back at the end of the week. (We actually added to it and gave it as a tip to our skipper and hostess).

Perks of having a hostess exhibit A and B.

The other big expense was a 2,000 euro deposit for the boat. Which we were told had to be cash. After a not-so-brief panic session, we figured out that, in at least our case, it was ok to put the deposit on a card. Whew. Considering ATMs have a cash maximum and we had already withdrawn so much kuna for the week, we were pretty tapped out on cash.

Before we boarded, a couple of us went to grocery shop with our hostess. Which was a whooooole thing. A. Bc grocery shopping in a foreign country when you don’t know the language is hard. B. We just wanted to be on the boat and it took sooooo long. Groceries ended up being another $63 per person we weren’t expecting — but would have been way more had we not had the food and alcohol packages. But again, not a huge expense when you think about it for a whole week of foods. And it turned out our food package didn’t include a lot of things: produce, meat, cheese. It was basically just dry goods.

A note on the alcohol package we got: We didn’t know what it was, but it ended up being a set list of liquor, water and mixers. We got fanta, cokes, sprite, juice, plus: 2 bottles of jager (ew, why?!), 1 rum, 4 vodkas, 1 whiskey, 12ish champagnes/proseccos, 48 beers and a smattering of other things I can’t even remember. Oh and a shitton of waters. It kinda sucked not having a say over what we had and we way overpaid, but it was nice to have that taken care of. As it was, we had two FULL grocery carts of food. (TYW shuttle took us and our full carts to the marina, lol).

At check in, you sign your waiver and get your wristbands, which get you on your boat and into all the parties. There are 1-2 parties a day/night (I KNOW, sounds excessive). All of them are TYW only, so everywhere we went basically was as a group. The only Croatian people I met on this trip were people who worked on TYW. Definitely not a cultural immersion program, just FYI.

We’d get to land between 3-4 pm each day, and we’d hang out on the boat, get ready for dinner and head for shore — which sometimes meant climbing over boats to get to land, sometimes hopping into water taxis, occasionally walking a short, unstable board to dock, and one time it meant pulling the dingy by a rope and climbing rocks up to land. Not kidding.

When you’re on land, you’re responsible for feeding your hostess and skipper. It’s not a huge expense since you’re splitting it among all your crew, but you do have to do some math at the end of dinner — which caused bickering on more than just our own boat. Math is hard, y’all. And you never have exact change.

After dinner, we usually had some time to kill before the parties, which started at 11 or so each night, but there were two day parties that started at 5, then dinner followed. Then, after killing some time, there was yet another party. #CantStopWontStop on #TheYachtWeek.

I’m done talking generally. Let’s talk about land!

The Towns/Islands

Every week on TYW is different. We didn’t have our set schedule until two weeks before our trip — they don’t set it until last minute so they can see the weather forecast. Also, there’s an app called “The Week” that you download and get a password to log into your specific week (“Week 23 Croatia 2017”). On the app, you can see the itinerary, other boats and crews, and everything you need to know.

Here’s where we went on our week.

Trogir

Not a bad view heading toward Trogir at sunset.

We flew into Split, Croatia, then actually stayed in a hostel the night before we headed to our marina — there are multiple starting marinas. Ours was called Marina Kastela, and was apparently the best because it had a grocery store really close and was only 20 minutes outside of Split. We Ubered to the marina and, after checking in/grocery shopping/our safety talk from our skipper, we sailed into the sunset headed for Trogir.

Since we were the opening week, we had special programming: a free dinner with all you can drink wine. Dangerous start to the week. Dinner was in a castle. Casual. We could see Il Castello del Camerlengo on our way in as the sun disappeared behind it.

Opening party in a castle. Casual.

We docked, dressed and headed to land, by way of climbing over boats. Dinner was three courses and average. The wine was amazing and we plowed through so many bottles — hey, there were 9 of us!

Eventually people left the tables and headed for the dance floor, where we spent the next few hours.

Komiza

Trogir to Komiza was long, but we stopped to float. Then I steered us there. (No, not really.)

We left Trogir at around 9 a.m. or so. Our hostess, Robyn, was up and preparing the most gorgeous spread of food and we, various degrees of hungover, came out, made plates and headed up to eat on deck (it was pretty hot down in the galley anytime the sun was up.

Trogir to Komiza was a long trip and we stopped somewhere in between to swim with some of the other boats. It was glorious. Floats were floating. Mimosas were mimosaing.

Dinner and walking around Komiza.

When we finally got to Komiza, the sun was setting but we all took deck showers: Bathing suit stays on and you use the hose at the end of the boat to rinse off. Once dressed, we went on land via water taxi to grab dinner at a so obviously overpriced restaurant (we had a special menu I am willing to bet was 10-20 kunas higher in price than the regular menu). It was yum, math was hard and then we started wandering around Komiza. The water taxis stopped at 10 pm and didn’t start again until 1 am at the party — which was a 15 minute walk away from where we came in.

So, even though not everyone was down for a party, we all had to go to catch our ride at the very least. This party in Komiza is really chill and right on the beach. There’s a DJ and a dance floor, but there’s also quieter tables and couches literally on the beach, which you’re a monster if you can’t enjoy. There’s no real theme for the party, but they recommended a sort of glow theme — face paint, glow sticks, etc. We later realized that this was apropo for any TYW party.

Enjoy we did and we abandoned the party sometime after one to go hang out on our boat.

Vis

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At some point during the first two days, we told our skipper, Ante, that we really wanted to see the Green and Blue Caves and Stivina Bay, a spot he really wanted us to see. We all decided: We gotta do those three things.

Watch your head entering the Blue Cave — but once you’re in, it’s gorgeous.

Since Komiza and Vis were really close, our day heading to Vis was to be the day we explore the caves. So, at 8 am on day 3, we were headed to the Blue Cave. And…. at 8:30 a.m., we were awoken to be alerted that we were there. I remember being SO tired and just… hot. I jumped into the water immediately, with no regret, then we got in a small boat and a tour guide took us into the cave. It was breathtakingly blue (duh) and apparently you aren’t allowed to take pictures (oops, broke that rule) or swim (ugh, wanted to break that rule). The tour was super short and we were at the bay by, like, 10 am.

Just some of the MANY shots from the perfectly picturesque Stiniva Bay.

Stiniva Bay was bay far the best part of the day (pun intended). It’s got a narrow opening so only small boats can fit through. We had to swim or take the dingy in. Once there, the beach is rocky but incredibly picturesque. We had a lil photoshoot.

After exploring the bay, we headed back to the boat because we assumed it was time to go to the Green Cave. Instead we found a sleeping skipper and floated near the boat instead.

The Green Cave was similar to the bay — we had to hop into the water to swim or take the dingy in. It was a little anticlimactic — both the Blue Cave and the bay were way prettier. Plus, by this time, we had all decided we wanted to explore Vis a little more than the last places we’ve been at.

Some shots from our “Out of Vis World” tour.

Ante arranged a military tour of Vis that ended with wine and cheese. We got to Vis at 4, pulled our dingy to land by a rope (seriously), the hopped in a van with a man named Marco from Out of Vis World — a tour company that has my love for its name alone. We learned all about Vis and how it was Croatia’s military island due to its tricky port — it’s very rocky and steep so the enemy navy men are unable to easily get on land. (We learn of Vis’ unfriendly shore the next day).

The tour takes us to the top of the island and we get to see out to the most breathtaking view! That alone was worth the 250/300 kuna we paid. However, the wine and cheese at Roki’s was pretty dang good too.

Post wine, we headed back to our boat where Robyn made dinner. We ate. We drank. Then we headed to the night’s party: Tropical retro themed and in a fortress — of course. We learned during our tour that Vis has narrow roads and steep ledges — not for the faint of heart. TYW recommends renting scooters or cars to DIY your tour. Here to strongly recommend that you don’t do either. Book a tour, sleep in the van and have someone tell you what you’re looking at.

Anyways, we taxi-ed to land then started the trek up the hills in a huge charter bus with other TYW people, which was a little scary, but we lived.

The Fort George party is known for it’s huge bottles of liquor you order at your bottle-service-only table. We, instead, hung out at a cocktail table and took tequila shots chased with corona like any decent Texan would. I think this was my favorite party. The night started with a live band — not a DJ! But even when the DJ was on, he played better music than the previous nights’ parties. I danced in a champagne shower. Side note: You will never ever be completely clean on TYW.

Hvar/Palmizana

We were among the last to leave Vis, and we were going to sail to Hvar since the wind was strong. Our sailing lesson took place a little bit away from the few boats still remaining at port. A short while in, those remaining boats called out for our help. A couple boats were “crashing” (not really sure what was happening, I think their anchors were caught). Ante needed to pull one boat off the other, but after we missed catching the rope three times from one skipper, the strong wind had almost blown us into the island. (There’s Vis’ unfriendly shore/bitter wind for you). Ante tried to turn the engine on to get us out of there, but the throttle didn’t work.

With no engine to get us out nor our anchor down holding us at sea, we were drifting closer and closer to land. We had a skipper in a dingy using the dingy engine to try to push us away or at least hold us where we were. Another skipper boarded our boat to try to help. Meanwhile, us girls were holding fenders to prevent crashing into another yacht. 

The throttle kicked on in what was possibly the last second before we ran aground. Which would have been basically the end of our vacation (and 2,000 euros). Later, Ante dived down to access any yacht damage, and we had none. Relieving, since I could literally see the rocks beneath our boat at one point.

Sailing was fun, but sitting in rain to do it was not. A few hours later, we had made it to Palmizana — across from Hvar — where we would be docking. We were among the last boats to arrive, but somehow we scored a parking spot super close to land. This was the first on-land shower/restrooms we had access to, so we all pretty much immediately headed for those.

We hung out on our boats a little, but we had our first darty (day party) at Hula Hula beach bar at 5 pm. We water taxied to Hvar and walked the shore of what is quite possibly the cutest little beach town in all of Eastern Europe.

The thing to do at Hula Hula is order carafes of drinks and split it amongst your friends. We got punches and mojitos and, despite wanting them so badly, no french fries.

Kiva Kiva Bar, I love you, your alley-turned-bar and your helmet shots — no matter how painful it was.

After watching the sun set, we got pizza then headed to a TYW favorite: Kiva Bar. Beloved for its mosh pit of a dancefloor and its tequila boom shots (OJ and tequila mixed by banging it on your helmeted head), Kiva is a must-visit at least one of your two nights in Hvar. You’ll be hot and sweaty, but you’ll have fun.

The-Yacht-Week-Houstonians-Guide

Laganini Seafood Restaurant

After Hvar, we took yet another water taxi to Carpe Diem: A club on its own island. (Castle? Check. Fort? Check. Club on its own private island? Check.) I kind of hated it — just being honest. It just wasn’t anything special, overpriced and kind of empty that first night.

Day 2 of Hvar/Palmizana was nice. There was yoga in a little forest facing the beach, but we skipped it. Oops. We walked to the beach (a sand beach for once!) and hung out before treating ourselves to a fancy lunch at Laganini Seafood Restaurant. Kinda regretted it because we didn’t need to spend money, but the view was amazing. And the seafood was fresh and the pasta was, well, also fresh.

After lunch we started getting ready for The White Party — a TYW staple where everyone dresses in all white (this year had a French Riviera theme). The second darty, again at 5. We took an earlier taxi and shopped a little before: Lavender and turquoise are must-gets. The White Party was so fun and I got free face glitter that upped my already skyrocketing basic level to 1000. I stuck to white wine, since I didn’t want to spill and stain, but still got spilled on somehow — thank god it was only redbull.

White Party/Riviera Party at Carpe Diem Hvar.

Post party 1, we went to dinner at a restaurant that was not very yum — I barely touched my gnocchi (maybe I’m a gnocchi snob). Then, instead of Kiva Bar, we went to another Hvar favorite: Seven, where TYW peeps got free drinks. Too bad they were not very tasty and BRIGHT blue. Who thought, “Oh, white party night. What drinks should we serve? I know! Blue Curacao and Sprite!” (IDK if this was what it actually was, but it tasted like it.) We all skipped the second night at Carpe Diem and opted for gelato then drinks on the boat. Note: I did hear that Carpe Diem was less disappointing the second night, so maybe skip the first night instead.

Stari Grad

The-Yacht-Week-Houstonians-GuideThis was the quintessential Yacht Week day where all the boats make a big circle: Raft Day. We left Palmizana and headed for a bay somewhere where the most complicated boat maneuvering happened. Almost a complete circle, we had to abandon our efforts since the wind was so strong it was blowing the boats until land. NOT running aground again!

We went instead to another bay where we would stay for the night. We rafted differently this time: Two straight lines. Everyone brought out the floats and jumped in between the two lines. A boat had a DJ, and the day’s party was a float party.

Robyn made us dinner and we played card games and hung out with new friends. I loved this day — so simple and chill.

Regatta day and Split

Packing for The Yacht Week

TYW’s regatta day means group costumes. We went fruity, by way of DIY.

The last day of TYW is a race back to your original marina. Each boat has a costume theme (we were fruit — other boat costumes included: ’80s, risky business, baywatch, Canadian I think?), so in addition to your sailing skills, you’re showing those off. We weren’t really about the competition. Instead, we took our time savoring our last day on the boat. All too soon we were back in Marina Kastela and ordering pizza for dinner on the boat so that we could drink more of our remaining alcohol (we had a LOT left). After dinner, we headed to the last party at one of the fancier venues: Vanilla club. 

Vanilla ended up being my favorite party. Maybe it was because it was the last night and I was super sad. Maybe it was because all my crew was there — rare since there was always 1-2 people not up for a party. Maybe it was because the music was a little more mainstream and more our taste. Whatever it was, I had a freaking blast. Didn’t want it to end.

But end it did and we had to be packed up and off the boat by 9 am the next day, which we managed to do somehow. Bye perfect paradise. A few hugs with Ante and Robyn, we left the marina and found our hostel before spending the rest of the day in Old Town Split.

What I Wish I’d Known

The-Yacht-Week-Houstonians-Guide

If you didn’t watch the sun rise at least once, did you even go to TYW?

  • TYW has photographers that float around during the week taking pictures of everyone doing fabulous things. You gotta be fab to get in these photos. I’m in quite a few, but only one is really good of me. They post (probably what is only a fraction of the shots) on Facebook a week after your week.
  • That you don’t have to go to every single party, but you will regret not going. At least I did. What’s more important to remember, is that you don’t have to drink at every single party. If you have FOMO like me and want to make all the events, then just pace yourself. I did do this, but I could have done it better some nights.

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  • You contribute to helping sail the boat — but you really got to step up. Tasks include: Pulling up or putting down the anchor, fastening the fenders on the sides of the boats, holding the helm straight, tossing or catching ropes, etc. When sailing, you have to: Find the right ropes and wench to raise or lower the sails, give slack to help the person wenching, bumper and unbumper the ropes. Does this sound like sailing/boat things? I’m still not sure. I was queen of anchoring, fendering and wenching.

The-Yacht-Week-Houstonians-Guide

  • How to pronounce the places we were going. Here’s a lesson:
    • Trogir: Tro-Gear (roll the “r”, hard “g”)
    • Komiza: Co-mi-sha (the “z” sound is v weird in Croatia)
    • Hvar: Far (with not a lot of emphasis on “f”)
    • Palmizana: Pal-me-shana (like parmesan + a)
  • Strategically pick a day to stay up until sunrise. We didn’t do this, but we got lucky. The first night in Hvar was perfect since we didn’t have to wake up to sail the next day.
  • Basic Croatian phrases.
    • Hvala: Kwalla (not a lot of emphasis on the “k”). Means thank you (I remembered this as being like koala.
    • Živjeli: Juvilee (like jubilee!). It means cheers, and you circle your drink around your head after clinking.
    • Oprostite: Oh-pro-sti-te. Pardon me, like when moving through a crowd.
    • On plaća: Ohn plasha. He is paying. Pick a random dude, gesture to him and tell the bartender, “On plaća”
  • You do need to plan to get to Split a little earlier than need be (we had a hostel the night before) because flights get delayed or canceled and you don’t want to miss a second.

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  • You don’t, however, really need to stay another night after TYW is over. We booked another hostel for another night after we were off the boat. Yes, it was nice to shower and sleep on land, but it ended up being super depressing to be staying five minutes away from where you just disembarked from the best vacation ever. I wasn’t ready to go home really, but it was just torture being there where another TYW had just begun and I’m over here sad in a hostel about to fly back home to the real world.

What to Pack

Packing for The Yacht Week

Mission: One week on a yacht in Croatia, all packed in one carry on. (Mission accomplished)

Flags, flat shoes, themed clothes, GoPros, floats and more. Read our complete packing guide here.

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8 thoughts on “A Houstonian’s Guide: The Yacht Week in Croatia

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