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By Cherryl Browne, Cruise World, in association with McIntosh Travel

The Croatian coast is Europe’s new ‘Riviera’. The coastline, and regional area of the Adriatic, provides a myriad of travelling experiences, and undoubtedly the best way to access them is onboard a small boat or cruise ship. There are over 1000 islands in the Adriatic and miles of spectacular coastline to explore, with medieval walled cities, Venetian-styled palaces, cobble-stoned villages, bays and coves, crystal clear turquoise waters, stunning mountain views, and magnificent national parks. These sightseeing delights are coupled with delicious regional food specialties, and a Mediterranean climate that is warm and balmy. Venice is a fantastic start and end point for small ship cruising. Venice occupies 117 islands in the Adriatic, and is a watery maze of grand canals, 177 smaller canals, and over 450 bridges. Venice has an exotic beauty, and an historic role as the great Eastern trader city. Other ports visited are highlights in Croatia - stunning islands and fascinating towns with unforgettable names. Small ships can access port areas and tiny harbours not possible for bigger ships, so passengers often find themselves in the heart of the towns when they walk off the ship.

DUBROVNIK is the ”Pearl of the Adriatic”. The Old Town is a breathtaking sight being entirely surrounded by massive grey stone walls. Designated as a World Heritage site, it is a treasure trove of medieval art and architecture. Dubrovnik was a city caught up in ethnic and nationalist conflict, and the early 1990s saw people hiding in basements as grenades and bombs exploded around them, but the city is now beautifully restored. Its heart is the beautiful Placa and wide marbled pedestrian boulevard which has a vibrant and lively atmosphere, and where new cafe's position alongside ancient churches, fine public buildings and grand palaces. A must-do excursion is to walk the two kilometre wall that surrounds the Old City at sunset.

PULASplit, Croatia, on the Istrian Peninsula is famous for its Roman antiquities. The town was part of Italy until after World War II, when it became affixed to Yugoslavia. But it has remained Roman in its streetscapes, the ruins, and sprawling amphitheatre. This amphitheatre was designed primarily to host gladiatorial contests, and is often regaled as the most beautiful of the Roman amphitheatres seating some 20,000 guests, and is one of six of the largest still in existence. SPLIT, the second largest city in Croatia, has a treasured old town dating back to Roman times, and like Dubrovnik is designated as a World Heritage Site. The emperor Diocletian built a huge retirement palace here around 300 AD. The Roman walls, imperial quarters, and mausoleum survive to this day, intermingled with medieval homes, alleyways, and churches juxtaposed with the original Roman structures.

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