For years, I’ve been hearing about the tour company Busabout. They offer hop-on, hop–off-again bus tours throughout Europe, similar to the Kiwi and Oz Experience. Basically, they have set routes through Europe and along that route, you can leave the bus and rejoin when you want. I’ve never used them before as I’ve always just taken trains around Europe. (Though I have nothing against that way of travel — I loved my time on the Kiwi Experience!)
In addition to their bus trips, Busabout offers sailing tours around Croatia. I continuously met travelers in Europe who rave about this trip, so this year I decided to experience it for myself.
I took the Split-to-Split sailing tour, which was a seven-day cruise around the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. My boat, the Plomin, had 33 passengers (of which I was the only one not from Australia or New Zealand), our guide (also Australian), and five crew members.
From a business point of view, I was impressed with their product. The trip was well organized, the boat was nice, the itinerary was well put-together, and there were a few on-shore activities included. Additionally, the guide knew what he was talking about and gave excellent advice, and everything ran like clockwork. Organizationally, I was impressed.
How Did I Spend My Week?
Day 1 – Hvar
We left Split around 2pm and, after taking a brief swim, arrived at the island of Hvar around 6. After dinner, we had some drinks and went out to the bars, where the crowded atmosphere was a little much to handle. I don’t like being constantly bumped into while I’m trying to have a beer. If you are into drinking, Hvar is the spot to enjoy crazy nightlife.
Day 2 – Mljet
Mljet is home to a big national park with an island in the middle of the lake. There’s hiking, camping, and other fun activities that would have been nice if we had more than a few hours to enjoy them. There’s not much on this island and we just spent the night hanging out on the boat, getting to know the other people on the tour.
Day 3 – Dubrovnik
We arrived here midday, which was disappointing because I had hoped to spend more time here at one of the biggest destinations in Croatia. Dubrovnik was beautiful, and I’ll be coming back here for a longer stay. After wandering the city streets for a while, our group went out for dinner — where I had the best calamari I’ve had in recent memory — before heading to the club in a fortress called “Revelin.”
Day 4 – Korcula
Korcula is famous for being the alleged birthplace of Marco Polo. The town is a beautiful medieval walled city that I enjoyed walking around. There wasn’t much going on in the city, and since my group was still tired from Dubrovnik, I spent the evening on the ship, watching a movie and getting some rest.
Day 5 – Markaska
Makarska is a huge spot for beachgoers, and there are a lot of water sports here. I wasn’t a big fan of this place; the beaches were overflowing with people and I felt more like I was in Bangkok during rush hour than on a beach. I walked the boardwalk, had an ice cream, and went to dinner. The highlight of my time here? Partying in a cave. Yes, that was as cool as it sounds. Outside of that though, I’ll skip Markaska in the future. There are too many people on too small of a beach.
Day 6 – Omis
Our last night before returning to Split was spent in the tiny town of Omis. There is a place to swim, a place to eat, and one main bar. After frying in the sun the whole morning, I dipped into a café and relaxed. That night was the captain’s dinner and the famous pirate party. On all the cruises, Busabout groups have a dress-up party on their last night. All boats are in Omis that night, so you end up in town with people from multiple boats. Everyone heads to the one bar, and it looks like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was quite fun and many (many) pirate jokes were had.
Day 7 – Split
Back in Split, we were left to our own devices for the day before returning to the boat for one last night out.
A few notes on the tour:
In between all of our destinations there was a midday swim stop. Lunch was served on boat every day; beer and alcohol were also served but cost extra. Water also cost extra, which was an unfortunate surprise. I also found the added costs of the BBQ and captain’s dinner huge wastes of money and would recommend simply heading into the villages for better and cheaper food.
How much does it cost?
These tours cost upwards of $1,400 USD in peak season, and when coupled with the other incidental expenses of the trip, people usually end up averaging about $250 per day. That’s a lot of money! I could enjoy a five-star holiday in Paris for that amount! However, when compared with the other operators such as Fanatics, Contiki, or Sail Croatia, Busabout the cheapest option for an organized Croatia boat trip.
However, I would consider taking these tours during the shoulder season of early May and September when prices are about 50-60% cheaper, it’s easier to find deals, and the crowds in each port are smaller. At that lower price level, these tours become a much better value.
Would I recommend this tour?
Going into this tour, I knew only two things: it would be mostly Aussies (Busabout is very popular with Australian backpackers) and there would be a lot of drinking.
In the end, I had a really good time and walked away having met a few people I’ll stay in touch with in the future. However, I don’t think I would take one of these tours again. There’s not enough time spent in each destination, and I’m well over the “travel to party” mode that most of the other people on the boat were in. The boat was fun, the people nice, and the weather perfect — but I’d rather watch a movie and go to bed than stay out drinking until dawn.
But just because I wouldn’t do it again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. I think if you are a solo traveler, a couple, or a pair of friends looking to meet other travelers and party, Busabout would be fantastic for you. It offers the same benefit as the hop-on, hop-off buses that I think are wonderful for travelers. (Sadly, there is no hop-on, hop-off boat, which would be AWESOME, but I think that option is just called a ferry.)
I always ask people on trips like these, “Would you recommend it to friends, and did you have fun?” And while many people on my boat wished there was some free water (come on, can’t you even give us one bottle when we get on?!) and better value with the BBQ and captain’s dinner, not one person I asked said they didn’t enjoy themselves. In heartbeat they said they would all do it again. In fact for some, this was their second or third Busabout tour.
And I think that says a lot about how good the company and experience is.
My Busabout Croatia sailing trip turning out to be a good deal of fun, more than I thought it would be. These tours aren’t my cup of a tea anymore, but if you’re looking for a party, want to hang out with a bunch of other young (and older — there were two 40-year-old women on my boat) travelers, this boat could be for you.
After all, how many companies organize massive pirate-themed parties?!
Note: Busabout provided the tour for free. Flights, drinks, off-ship meals, and other incidentals were paid for by me.