05 Sep Review: Party Yachting With Sailing.hr
There are many providers offering party sailing holidays in Croatia. The most famous among them is Yacht Week, a Swedish giant with boats in exotic locations worldwide including the British Virgin Islands or Thailand. But it is far from the only option! I went with Sailing.hr – a local company who offered to host me in exchange for a review on my blog. I’d never heard of them before, but the trailer below convinced me…
Spoiler alert: just because the company covered the cost of my stay, don’t expect a glowing review. I would never lie to you and I’m not going to start because of a comped holiday. So here goes the good, the bad and the ugly…
Sailing.hr is a Croatian company with local skippers who know the waters very well and can speak the local language. This gives the company a clear edge over many of its competitors – who wouldn’t want to sail with those who know the area the best and support local businesses?
This is one of the main draws of Sailing.hr, but in reality it contributes little to your experience. Our skipper sometimes told us little pieces of trivia about the islands we were about to visit, which added a little dash of culture to the otherwise thoroughly hedonistic experience. Should you choose your provider based on this though? Nope.
Unlike its rival Yacht Week, Sailing.hr is a relatively small company. It has a smaller fleet, fewer crew members and hence lower numbers of weekly participants. Let’s put this into numbers – during my visit there were 13 boats sailing. When I watched the company’s trailer posted above, they talked about having 120 boats so this was basically a tenth of what I’d expected.
Now, I must point out that the weather was direly bad – think rain, storms and an omnipresent cold which forced me to cover my bikinis with bulky sweaters. In short, ugh! According to the skipper, there were more than 30 boats sailing the week before – however, that is still nowhere near 120!
I’m actually a big fan of smaller companies – they are easier to manage which can avoid a lot of potential stress and travelling with them can create a nice sense of community. But the problem with having fewer boats is that the exclusive parties don’t quite work, because there simply aren’t enough people to make them awesome. When it comes to partying, there really is strength in numbers and all those incredible beach locations need a big crowd to do them justice!
The event Sailing.hr threw in cooperation with Yacht Week at Aquarius club in Komiža was among the best of the week… and sadly it wasn’t the company’s doing. In fact, that night we all felt like second class citizens compared to Yacht Week guests – the buses for Sailing.hr guests ran at an inconveniently early time because all the later ones had been reserved for Yacht Week people. In other words, it was clear who was a valued guest and who wasn’t. We decided to take a taxi to avoid going to the party at 8pm and awkwardly standing around for hours – and the taxi ended up being cheaper than what the bus ride organised by Sailing.hr would have cost us!
One of the appeals of travelling with Sailing.hr are their price incentives. The company runs 50% off deals for girls thanks to which my friend Lyna scored a cabin on the boat for €250! Let’s do a little comparison… When I was staying in a hostel in Split, only metres away from where our sailing boat had been docked, I paid €20 per night – at €250, Lyna was paying €36 per night on a gorgeous sailing boat with a skipper! Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Unfortunately, nothing in life is free and there are quite a few extra costs involved. There are the docking charges, money for gas and food for the skipper. All of these are mentioned on the website, but it’s easy to overlook them or underestimate just how much they can add up to. Each passenger of my boat ended up paying at least €50 in docking fees and 80 kuna (€10) for petrol at the end of the trip. There are also transport costs – none of those boat taxis and bus rides you will need are included in the base rate.
Food and alcohol expenses obviously depend on each individual’s preferences but most crews put money together to use for covering these costs as a group. We did the same and I’d recommend that approach, as it’ll save you a few of headaches along the way. On a side note – I hadn’t realised just how expensive Croatia has become. Once upon a time many Czech families including mine made a habit of vacationing in this lovely country because of its relative proximity and the low prices, but affordability is a thing of the past now! Eating out, sipping on drinks and partying in funky clubs – the three vital ingredients of a good party vacation – will cost you as much as it would in a place like London. You’d do best to keep that in mind when planning your holiday and calculating an appropriate budget.
Keep in mind that there is also a refundable deposit of €1,500 per boat, which you must pay on the first day. In theory it could be divided into equal parts among passengers, but the company discourages this as it means extra work for them. In our case, they let three of us pay for a crew of eight. If you are sailing with a bunch of strangers as Lyna and I were, this can be a little awkward and scary. Of all the people I’ve spoken to on the trip, everyone got their full deposit back – but it took the bank a few weeks to release the outstanding payment of €500 on my card, which was annoying. This, I should point out, was not Sailing.hr’s fault but the rental company’s.
There is one more expense you have to be aware of and which probably causes the most controversy. Upon boarding your boat, you have to pay €80 for a wristband whose sole purpose is providing club entry. We actually only paid €50 because the big pirate ship which was meant to host one of the main parties had been destroyed and hence couldn’t be used on our week – but that was no consolation, especially because no one had bothered to tell us the boat would be defunct in advance and we’d all been looking forward to partying on it!
In my opinion, the wristband should be included in the price of the trip – in fact, I’d argue that it already was. Of all the parties we went to, only two were in places we normally wouldn’t have access to. Here is what some reviewers on TripAdvisor have to say:
“The wristband purchase was possibly the most shocking part of the whole experience. This is supposed to give you entrance to several clubs that you realise they mostly would have free entrance anyway. Also, it is supposed to be used for welcome drinks at clubs that you soon realise are in the form of just a shot that you can buy with few Kunas. When I was told that the staff had a blue wristband that gave them free open bar access until they got totally wasted, I suddenly had a vivid suspicion of where all that money was going!” (via TripAdvisor)
“I’m also still not clear as to what we paid for with our 80 Euro mandatory wristbands. The “parties” that were put together were pathetic. There was no boat party or any party the first night, nor was there a welcome drink/champagne upon check in. We did go to Hula Hula and Kiva Bar in Hvar Town, but there was no Sailing HR party. A party isn’t necessary to be put together as these are two of the most happening places in Hvar Town. We did get a free shot of some juice concoction at Kiva Bar. There was no night boat party in the Pakleni Islands or a beach party at Komiza. There was a joint party with the Yacht Week at Ft. George on Vis which was great. The beach party on Brac got shut down by the police for being too loud. With over a 1,000 islands dotting the Dalmatian coast why Sailing HR would choose to have a DJ blast music in a cove that is full of people’s houses is beyond me. The party on the last night was the pièce de résistance. Not only was it at the worst club in Split, located at the ferry terminal and completely empty, but the bus that was supposed to transfer us back to the marina at four A.M. never showed up and no one from sailing HR was even there.” (via TripAdvisor)
I’ve already mentioned the company’s amazing deals for girls – now let me tell you why they run them… The crowd aboard the ships is overwhelmingly male, which can come as a bitter disappointment to all the men aboard. My friend Lyna and I actually didn’t have much of a problem with this because there were enough gorgeous men to keep us entertained for months. But the gender imbalance left most of the guys I’ve spoken to extremely disappointed. Once again, let me refer you to another reviewer on TripAdvisor:
“Our flotilla was also a huge sausage fest. Out of 12-13 yachts there were maybe seven girls. … I’m sure if I took a poll most of the boats were in same boat as my own – wanted to do The Yacht Week, but didn’t have enough girls to book with them.” (via TripAdvisor)
That last point really hits close to home – many of the people I spoke to had only chosen Sailing.hr because they couldn’t find a spot aboard one of the Yacht Week ships. That in itself speaks volumes.
There are quite a few activities which you can take part in outside of sailing. Snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing… The list goes on. Unfortunately, due to bad weather we got offered exactly none of those. Hell, we couldn’t even visit the beautiful blue cave near the island of Vis – a day trip everyone on my boat was really looking forward to. The company are hardly to blame for bad weather, but looking back I’m not certain all those omissions were a result of bad weather.
To be fair, I did go on one trip organised by the company – wine tasting in Hvar, which I did enjoy. For about €20 we got to sample devour five big glasses of wine and a freshly caught fish (freshly caught and cooked, that is) whilst surrounded by a friendly troupe of donkeys, cows and kittens. If only the entire trip had been that well organised!
Sailing.hr: Final verdict
Would I go party sailing again? YES, YES, YES! Would I do it with Sailing.hr? Eh… nope! I had a really good time during my week of party yachting in Croatia, but it wasn’t because of Sailing.hr – it was despite them. In fact, the best bonding moment for our boat mates, Lyna and I was when we all started talking about how poorly organised the entire trip was.
I’d thoroughly recommend party yachting to any single twenty-something looking to have fun and unwind in style in the summer months. However, I don’t think Sailing.hr is the best option out there and going with Yacht Week might be a much better bet. Whenever I saw Yacht Week guests out and about, they looked like they were having so much fun and I’ll admit I was a little jealous of them! Having said that, I’ve never dealt with the latter company and cannot speak to their quality.