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Walled cities, sapphire seas & fresh oysters: What to see, do & eat in Croatia & Montenegro

Croatia and Montenegro are home to gorgeous scenery and a wealth of incredible cities steeped in history – here’s what to see, do, eat and drink in these Adriatic hotspots.

Croatia cruises don’t just appeal to Game of Thrones fans, the nation’s ancient walled towns and glistening azure seas issue a siren call to any globetrotter looking to travel beyond the charms of the Mediterranean.

Montenegro, on the Adriatic coast down from Croatia, is another treasure trove of dramatic mountains and wonderful beaches – don’t let its small size fool you!

Tempted? You certainly will be when you hear how cheap it can be to visit these two remarkable countries.

If you take a Croatia cruise in 2023, you can bag Adriatic voyages with Marella Cruises at remarkably low prices – check out the fabulous cruise deals here.

To get you inspired for your bargain break, we’ve taken a look at Croatian and Montenegrin gems you’ll visit on your TUI cruise and what to see, do, eat, drink and buy there.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Rooftop views

See: Admire (and maybe squirm) at the reliquaries in the treasury adjoining Dubrovnik cathedral on your Croatia cruise holiday. In the Middle Ages these relics were deemed so sacred they were encased in gold plating and decorated – and 138 of them can be seen today, including the skull of St Blaise (Dubrovnik’s patron saint) contained in a golden crown. Dee-lightful.

Do: Walk around the city’s Medieval walls. It’s a 2km route (allow at least 90 minutes for a leisurely stroll) and affords breathtaking views over the old town’s terracotta rooftops and the sea beyond. Fun fact: Back in the 13th century, Dubrovnik was essentially locked up at night with the wooden drawbridges at the two gates into the city (Pile Gate and Ploče Gate) raised to prevent intruders from entering. Yes, all very Game of Thrones. Be sure to check out the 15th-century Gothic-Renaissance Rector’s Palace, now the Cultural History Museum, too.

Eat: Tuck into some fabulously fresh oysters while cruising around Croatia. The tasty shellfish from Mali Ston Bay on Pelješac peninsular, formerly part of the Republic of Ragusa, have been enjoyed by Dubrovnik foodies for centuries.

Drink: Join the locals for a morning coffee at the Stradun – a 300m-long white limestone-paved promenade lined with 17th-century Baroque stone buildings linking Pile Gate and Ploče Gate – there are plenty of open-air cafes to choose from.

Buy: Pick up innovative creations from local designers and artisans at Life According to Kawa. Think olive oil, ceramics and craft beer. Perfect for souvenir prezzies.

Save: By sailing with Marella Cruises to Dubrovnik you can save an almighty £265 – the biggest price cut of all the Adriatic cruises in 2023!

Set Sail

Adriatic Explorer

When: August 11, 2023
Duration: 7 nights
Where: Corfu Town, Corfu | Kotor, Montenegro | Dubrovnik, Croatia | Zadar, Croatia |Trieste (for Venice), Italy | Koper, Slovenia | Corfu Town, Corfu
Ship: Marella Explorer
Price: From £1,325 pp

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Split, Croatia

Seafood delights

See: Ogle the wonders of Diocletian’s Palace, a 3rd-century seafront fortress sheltering Split’s old town. The protection of the spot no doubt helped Roman emperor Diocletian (the slayer of many a Christian) become one of the few rulers of his kind to die of natural causes. The Romanesque bell tower is 196ft and well worth climbing.

Do: Head to the south-facing and sheltered beach at Bačvice bay for a relaxing spell during your Croatia cruise. It boasts a Blue Flag for cleanliness and warm water nearly all year round.

Eat: Sample the Dalmatian coast’s delicious seafood. In the past when meat was rare, locals here pretty much lived off grilled sardines. These days you can try octopus, deep-fried whitebait and gregada (a fish casserole from Hvar) to name a few fishy dishes.

Drink: Pelinkovac is the oldest and most famous herbal liqueur in Croatia. The bitter drink’s main flavour is wormwood and it’s said to even have medicinal benefits! If that’s not for you, the region also produces excellent wines.

Buy: Coo over jewellery and one-off items of clothing at the Art Market where local artists and craftspeople ply their wares.

Save: You can save yourself a whopping £207 with Marella Cruises on 2023 cruises to Croatia thanks to the TUI line’s discounts.

Set Sail

Adriatic Affair

When: May 4, 2023
Duration: 7 nights
Where: Dubrovnik, Croatia | Kotor, Montenegro | Ravenna (for Bologna), Italy | Trieste (for Venice), Italy | Koper, Slovenia | Split, Croatia | Dubrovnik, Croatia
Ship: Marella Explorer 2
Price: From £1,113 pp

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Kotor, Montenegro

Feline fine

See: Don’t miss St Tryphon’s Cathedral, the most impressive building in Kotor, dating back to 1166. Inside are splendid Romanesque architecture and the remains of Byzantine-style frescoes (OK and some relics). The most valuable treasure of all to keep an eye out for is the gilded-silver bas-relief altar screen.

Do: If you’ve got the puff, climb the fortress of San Giovanni for dazzling views of the Old Town and The Boka bay; you’ll also pass a 15th-century church and ruins of a military building en route. Beware, though, there are 1,355 steps to the top! To stay on the flat, simply enjoy a stroll around the city’s romantic and narrow streets.

Eat: For brave foodies, try Gavice, a traditional Montenegrin snack. These are small fish that have been floured and fried – you eat everything, bones, scales and all, but thankfully their heads have already been lopped off so you don’t need to look them in the eye.

Drink: Rakija is the national drink of Montenegro. It’s a powerful brandy served neat, with the plum-flavoured šljivovica the most popular. Rakija is commonly used as a base for cocktails too if you don’t fancy it straight up.

Buy: Get your paws on some fabulous feline souvenirs at Cats of Kotor during your Montenegro cruise. Kotor is very proud of its many cats (descended from the moggies that came to Montenegro on ships over the years) and even has a museum dedicated to them. At Cats of Kotor, you can buy everything from cat earrings (made by local women) to cat treats. Yes, really.

Save: Save £198 on Marella Cruises to Montenegro, visiting Italy and Croatia on the same Adriatic itinerary.

Set Sail

Adriatic Delights

When: May 18, 2023
Duration: 7 nights
Where: Dubrovnik, Croatia | Kotor, Montenegro | Zadar, Croatia | Trieste (for Venice), Italy | Ancona, Italy | Split, Croatia | Dubrovnik, Croatia
Ship: Marella Explorer 2
Price: From £1,132 pp

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Bar, Montenegro

Wine o'clock

See: Be amazed by one of the world’s oldest trees, Stara Maslina. Found just a short drive from the city centre, this olive tree is over two thousand years old!

Do: Experience a taste of royalty at King Nikola’s Palace, the main cultural attraction in Bar. The palace was built in 1885 for King Nikola’s daughter and is now a museum filled with folk costumes and other historical gems.

Eat: Bajadera is one of the most famous sweets in the Balkans. It’s a layered treat sandwiched in chocolate and filled with a type of nougat made from crushed nuts and shortbread biscuits – perfect as an afternoon snack or as a post-dinner dessert.

Drink: Montenegro wine-making dates back to pre-Roman times, with vineyards spread across the valley of Skadar Lake. Impressively, grapes can be cultivated here throughout the year thanks to favourable geographical conditions. Vranac, a black-skinned grape native to mountainous Montenegro, is behind many of the local wines.

Buy: Head to the city’s covered Green Market for lovely fresh local products from Mediterranean fruits and veggies to fish, dairy and meat products. It operates every day, all year round.

Save: You’ll be saving £165 on this Adriatic cruise to Montenegro – and remember, as with all Marella cruises, it’s an all-inclusive holiday so you really are getting plenty of bang for your buck!

Set Sail

Sail Three Seas

When: May 11, 2023
Duration: 7 nights
Where: Dubrovnik, Croatia | Valletta, Malta | Messina (for Mount Etna), Sicily | Taranto, Italy | Corfu Town, Corfu | Bar, Montenegro | Dubrovnik, Croatia
Ship: Marella Explorer 2
Price: From £1,205 pp

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Published 25.08.22