My Cruise "Blue Adriatic" on DALMACIJA from 24 - 31 July 2004

 

„The Blue Adriatic” Cruise Review on DALMACJIA from 24 to 31 July 2004-08-04

 The first thing was, the DALMACIJA was berthed not at the main cruise terminal in Venice but at the San Basilio terminal near the old Adriatica headquarters and where the old passenger terminal for the Levante service of the liners once was.  Behind her was the new KARADENIZ of Turkish Maritime Lines, in front some Croatian day excursion ship from Rijeka. There seems to be a booming day-trip traffic from Croatia, now that the country is in economical upswing.

We (that is my brother and me) were greeted by Branko(!), who took our luggage even before we entered the flat terminal building. 5 minutes later at the check-in desk our passports were all they wanted to see and we could embark without any delay. No lines whatsoever. They did not hand out our boarding cards until next day. So once aboard you had to stay aboard. No problem as it started raining, which meant that we saw the passage of St Mark’s square in rain.

DALMACIJA in front of Stazione Marittima San Basilio, once terminus of  most of the Levante liner services. 

When we were showed our cabin (No 217, cheapest category, with bunk beds but portholes as booked) only my brother and me actually entered the room as there was no space for the waiter. Sadly the walls did not have this tapestry-like cover of the standard cabins, that gives such a cosy old-world atmosphere. It was a kind of plastic with marble texture. The toilet looked like the first generation of a private facility module, the walls of grey plastic and the lighting provided by a basement light, which gave an over-all impression of a toilet on a construction site. But what could you expect when booking a 7-night cruise for 540 Euros (Brochure rate!). In our category there was no radio, no TV, only a public address system. But there was a rod that could be hooked into the cabin door (even lockable with you key) when it stands 20 cm open, to let fresh air into your cabin without allowing someone to sneak in. Must be an original fitting! Not all was under par with our expectations: We had even two of the traditional portholes, and the bunk beds turned out to be arranged in L-shape so that the upper one was accessible without ladder (at least for younger passengers).
Next thing was the Welcome Cocktail at the Lido Bar (which was the only two-storey room aboard this 117-metre liner). There you were helped to a complimentary drink and some caviar morsels. This gave us a foretaste of the cuisine aboard, which exceeded our expectations by far. There was one Dalmatian dinner and one Gala dinner (with caviar again!). It is my consistent experience that you find on the oldest ships a most pleasant cuisine! There was a single sitting in the pleasant dining room, always with live piano tunes.  

 

 

A first inspection of the public rooms revealed that the ship has a quite traditional interior.  There is plenty of wood furniture and fittings, but no wooden bulkhead panelling. The decks are all covered with teak wood. There are also two classic promenades! This is really a liner en miniature. There also is a photo exhibition on the ship and her shipyard (Uljanik shipyard built this small liner in 1965, the bell on the foredeck shows even an engraved “1964”). The interior photos in this exhibition show that the original interiros were rather cold and stylish with limited amount of wood, like on the 50s Italian liners. There are many light fixtures that date from building and many of the cabins have their original furniture (and possibly tapestry?). The most important original work of art are copper panels with elaborate engravings of marine life, that decorate the main show lounge. The main staircase directly behind the show lounge has a really big abstract “painting”, consisting of about 60  sheet-metal panels with enamel-like coloration. The type suggests that it is from the sixties or seventies.  

The pool was behind the Lido bar, separated by a wood-framed glass front. The pool itself doubles as indoor and semi-outdoor pool, as it is separated by sliding doors from the elements.  

60s Copperplate decoration in Main Lounge =>

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First we sailed for Pula, which we reached still on the same day at 11 pm. Next morning there was no breakfast on deck as the pool is in the way for an open air buffet. The coffee in the restaurant turned out to be too dark and strong but tea was fine. Someone even saw a waiter going around with a tray of different sorts of tea. The quality and variety of the breakfast was good and some fellow passengers said the fruits were better than on COSTA MARINA. But when our friends wanted to take the seats of our table mates after those had left, they were told by the waiter, broad-shouldered Branko, that they were supposed to sit at their own table not only at dinner, but also at lunch and at breakfast! We secretly nicknamed him Branko Brachialovic. By the way the crew seemed to be entirely Croatian, even in the laundry, where you almost on every ship find Chinese.  

To me it was very satisfying to see Croatia on a Croatian built ship with a Croatian crew, even if they have to learn their last bit of politeness.  There were only 118 passengers aboard, so open sitting would have been viable, at least at breakfast.  

By the way, the passengers were a mix of Italians, Americans (yes, she is marketed as “basic ship” in the US!), English, German, Swiss, Austrian and Croatians. No French, an the reason why lay plain before us at the opposite berth in Pula. There was the IASON, with the Byzantine cross of Epirotiki at the funnel (not to be confused with the ROC logo!), and a blue hull. Marketed to the French only by “Rivages” (part of “Croisirussie”). At her stern now hung the flag of Panama. Of cause my wish to visit the ship was turned down immediately.

Pula itself was very pleasant, with it’s gorgeous Roman legacy, not only the amphitheatre, but also the Augustus temple and several aches. From the Austro-Hungarian fortress (Pula was their prime navy harbour during WW1) you have a good view over the harbour. We could also see the Uljanik shipyard at the peninsular Uljanik, where our cruise ship was built. It is only half an hours walk to the centre. So we did not depend on the complimentary shuttle bus, which left quite early from the city centre.  

IASON approaching Korcula

Around 1600 hours we left port just in time for the lifeboat drill to be held within the first 24 hours of a cruise. At 2000 hours we reached Mali Losinj, while dining. I had to hurry up on deck to shoot some pictures of the dowager MARINA (1936), before we entered the harbour. Mali Losinj, which we only saw in darkness, seems to be a little Palma de Majorca of Croatia, quite prestigious as the harbour promenade was.

Telascica Cliffs

Next call was the bight of Telascica, where the ship anchored in the roads. Telascica is a nature reserve, with a steep and awe-inspiring cliff to the open sea and a salt lake. The tendering gave good opportunity to shoot photos of the ship but my wish to once circle the ship was turned down, by waiter Branko, who doubled as lifeboat crew here. That was not all of the Brankos aboard, there was also Security Officer Branko Something and Captain Branko …But I am quite sure there were also other names….  

In Dubrovnik two other cruise ships berthed on the same day: The CRYSTAL SERENADE, looking so sterile that I was really glad to be on a real ship with a history, and SEAWING in MyTravel colours. We had the whole day and all of the night to explore this gorgeous city. The main attraction are of cause the city walls. But nightlife was a pleasant surprise. Seemingly the whole youth of Dalmatia had gathered on the streets and places of the old town and it was hard to get a table. In the nighttime, tourist definitely are a minority. Drink prices were extremely low, given the prominent spot we sat (at the harbour end of the Stradun)!  

 

Next stop was Korcula, a small Dubrovnic in some way. There are no major attractions, it is the picturesque whole of the city, that is worth the call. The guided tour was named the “Marco Polo Tour”. That definitely is a joke, as his supposed house of birth is nothing but a ruin, and it is most doubtful whether he was born in Korcula at all!

I had the exquisite opportunity to shoot aerial views of IASON, which surprisingly berthed directly beneath the only accessible tower of the city wall.

Every time we boarded the ship again, the guard recognized us by our face like on a private yacht, we needn’t produce our boarding card. But we had to think of putting back our number tag to the board. Yes, without barcode scanner at the gangway this board was the only means to know whether all are aboard. Like in old times!  

<= DALMACIJA in Korcula. Klick the image to enlarge!

Dalmacija berthed in front of Korcula

In Sibenik we used the overland bus (almost 2 hours ride) to Split for the palace of most important later Roman emperor Diocletian. Medieval houses had been built in this palace. It is a very imposing example of the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. But even more thrilling was the view over the harbour, where the bus dropped us: We looked straight at the broadside of the ferry ANCONA, in Blue Line colors, the flag of Panama at her stern!
Vestibulum of Diocletian's Palace (Split)

Roman Villa on Brijuni

 

Last stop on our voyage was the island on Brijuni (or Brioni), where Tito had his villa. This is a nature reserve. We were tendered, but you had to pay at least 22 Euros entrance fee, if you wanted to go ashore at all. Therefore the island is peaceful and quaint. It has some Roman and Byzantine sites, though. And a Safari Park with all the animals African leaders had given to Tito (then would-be leader of the league of non-aligned nations). Later we learned that this summer also German Chancellor Schroeder spent his holiday here!

Evening entertainment aboard consisted of a live band of 3 players and some quizzes: The first one, a flag quiz, your humble narrator won, the second, a quiz about the ship, our friends. One question was: “Name three waiters in the dining room!”. No problem: Our waiter is named Drazen, and let’s see… there was, say, Branko and Branko… There was one Dalmatian evening with the crew singing Croatian songs, on considerable musical niveau I must confess. On the talent show some extraordinary gifted singers turned out to be among the passengers, of cause Italians.  

We were back in Venice at 1900 hours, and the last night of our cruise was spent in Venice.

There are down-sides of the ship: Access to foredeck was not always allowed, ceilings are low and there was no lift. Well, already the front cover of our brochure stated: Cruise, as cruising once has been…

But there was always a sweet of the pillow in the evening complete with complimentary mineral water. And for ship lovers there was the bridge visit and I was escorted to the forward manoeuvre deck for photoshooting.

After one week, the passengers almost felt like a big family, given their numbers. I suppose, most would do it again.

Starboard Promenade

Staircase with enameled tin plate artwork

Stern with magnetic compass

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