New direct flight from New York to Dubrovnik debuts

If you want to see something truly unusual, head to Dubrovnik, Croatia, where a lone ship floats a few steps from the city’s wonderfully well-persevered medieval Old Town.

Whether the ship is a private 533-foot mega-yacht, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, or has a missile detection system and is worth some $ 400 million, is not what makes it so unusual in the well-heeled Adriatic.

It is because he is so visibly alone.

For decades, Dubrovnik has thrived on armadas of cruise ships that draw crowds of tourists ashore, through its famous 16th-century walls, along the Stradun, the city’s slipped limestone esplanade and into the shops. of ‘Game of Thrones’ memories. In 2019, nearly 1.4 million foreign tourists visited the city.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (inset) floats outside Dubrovnik on his superyacht Eclipse.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (inset) floats outside Dubrovnik on his superyacht Eclipse.
Alamy Stock Photo

But with the larger cruise ships just starting to hit the sea, Dubrovnik is still largely untouched by large tour groups, who all over the world have the supernatural ability to stand in your way.

Not only is Dubrovnik wonderfully open – it welcomed foreign travelers last summer – but it’s suddenly easier to get to than ever.

United Airlines unveiled the only direct flight from New York to Dubrovnik (via Newark) in July. Access to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast previously required an unpleasant airport jump. United has also launched a new ‘travel ready’ center in the airline’s app that allows visitors to upload their COVID-19 test or vaccination card before their trip for quick check-in. A negative test or a vaccination card is sufficient for officials in Zagreb.

While most tourists stay in the bustling Old Town – where affordable, no-frills Airbnbs are the norm – convenience-hungry New Yorkers will appreciate Dubrovnik’s best hotels, located just beyond the tourist zone. Like Manhattan, Dubrovnik is best seen from the outside.

A heaven for celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Bloomberg, Christopher Walken, Orson Welles and Woody Harrelson, the chicest stay in town is the ultramodern 158-room Excelsior, owned by local 5-star operator Adriatic Luxury Hotels (ALH).

The Hotel Excelsior is a favorite stay for celebrities.
The Hotel Excelsior is a favorite stay for celebrities.
The most chic stay in town, the hotel has 158 ultra-modern rooms.
The most chic stay in town, the hotel has 158 ultra-modern rooms.
Discover its healthy spa.
Discover its healthy spa.

The Excelsior weathered the pandemic doldrums on and on and is now in full swing with busy beachfront loungers and a refreshing Mediterranean menu from chef Peter Obad drawing diners to its restaurants.

August rates for a “Deluxe Ocean View Balcony Room” at the hotel start at $ 826 per night.

For a more private experience, big guys just have to look next to the Excelsior, where ALH reopened the historic 13-bedroom Orsula in July. Built in the 1930s with Ottoman ornaments, the villa-turned-hotel is a favorite haunt for very wealthy families, who often buy it for weeks on end. If you are lucky enough to get a single room in August, it will cost you around $ 1,650 per night.

But Dubrovnik is a two night city and once you’ve walked the city walls, seen Titian in the Assumption Cathedral, and searched around the Rector’s Palace, it’s time to do like Abramovich and take the sea.

Croatia has some 1,200 islands, many of which are only an hour or two away via ferries or private charters. These nearby islands, known as the Elaphite Islands, are where the Balkan and Italian culture of southern Croatia shines, especially after a photo of travarica (ubiquitous plant in Croatia rakija). The islands also offer the best views of the spectacular peaks of Dinara, which rise to the Bosnian border, and its eponymous 6,000-foot mountain, the highest in Croatia.

Sail first to Šipan, the third main island north of Dubrovnik – your captain will take you to famous swimming spots, like the Blue Grotto, along the way – and stop for lunch in Bowa. Tucked away in a natural harbor and accessible only by boat, this upscale Mediterranean restaurant is a slice of Instagram influencer heaven with tables and lounge chairs built into private cabanas that can be booked for the day (they’ll set you back in minus $ 770 for a group of four). Drink local white wine. Fresh fish from the East. Take selfies.

If a more lively and boozy atmosphere is on the menu, check your shame, strap on your speedo, and cruise to Moro Beach, on the small uninhabited island of Stupa Vela in the Korcula archipelago. This dockside bar is a local favorite, where colorful Croatian characters will happily drink under the table.

Lešić Dimitri Palace, a Relias & Chateau approved luxury hotel with a Michelin star restaurant, is the premier place in Korcula Old Town.
Lešić Dimitri Palace, a Relias & Chateau approved luxury hotel with a Michelin star restaurant, is the premier place in Korcula Old Town.
Credit: Marko Sitar
The charming Relais & Châteaux retreat is in the heart of Korcula.
The charming Relais & Châteaux retreat is in the heart of Korcula.

Rather than returning to Dubrovnik, spend the night at Lešić Dimitri Palace, a Relias & Chateau approved luxury hotel with a Michelin star restaurant in the old town of the island of Korcula. The prices for one of its internationally themed accommodations range from $ 587 to $ 1,774 per night.

In the Venetian past, Korcula is like a mini Dubrovnik. It’s relaxed, seaside and extremely personal. Even when the cruise ships return you won’t find their backpacks, can I pay in US dollars? Citizens here.

There are literally hundreds of other island treasures to explore – including Vrnik, where Jay-Z and Bey couldn’t resist making a splash – all the way to Tony Hvar near Split. So, hire a good captain (or get behind the wheel) and choose your own adventure. Stop buying a vineyard (they have genetically proven zinfandel to be Croatian), try fresh European flat oysters, or go agrotourism.

There will never be a less odious time to leave.

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