We got up around eight o’clock as usual, and eagerly went out onto our balcony to look around. The Queen Victoria was just about ready to dock in the port of Split, Croatia. Split is Croatia’s second largest city after Zagreb, the capital. It was originally a trading post established by Greek settlers and is now the largest passenger port in Croatia, with approximately 18,000 recorded ship arrivals each year.
This was a new port of call to us and we looked forward to exploring. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I breathed a big, contented sigh as I watched the sunlight glittering on the calm ripples of blue sea.
After a good breakfast in the Lido self-service restaurant, we returned to stateroom 5130 and got our stuff together, complete with the Croatian currency, the Kuna. Then we went down to Deck A and disembarked the ship. I was able to get some great bow photos of the Queen Victoria as we waited for the shuttle bus to take us into town.
It was only a short ride into the main square; in fact we could have walked it. We alighted from the bus and looked around us with interest at this pretty little town. In fact, Split seemed to contain many contrasts. On one hand, there was the attractive little harbour with its many colourful boats, the marble-paved square and the mountainous backdrop, but on the other hand there were the slightly-run-down high-rise apartment blocks; at least they would have had the most tremendous view. Old buildings rubbed shoulders with more modern constructions and everything seemed to have a natural, laid-back charm, rather than being a contrived, tourist trap.
We found ourselves in a wide promenade along the sea-front, flanked on one side with ornate modern buildings, one of which was the Town Hall and British Consulate. In front of the buildings there were a few canopied stalls, selling handicrafts, lavender, local produce and other souvenirs.
We strolled along, taking our time, enjoying the sunshine. We came across a very large, ornate building which contained two large wings attached to another building in a square U-shape. We found out it was the Trg Republike (Republic Square), otherwise known as the Prokurative. It was constructed during the latter half of the 19th century under the supervision of General Marmont, with the buildings inspired largely by the architecture of the same period in Venice. While relatively unoccupied in the cooler months, the square comes alive in the summer with concerts and cultural events, the most popular being the Entertainment Musical Festival of Split. In front of it was a water fountain, sending up its dancing spray and creating fleeting rainbows in the bright sunshine.
The main thoroughfare was crowded with tourists, even though the Queen Victoria was the only ship in port. We decided to get some postcards and sit and write them out. We bought the cards and stamps from one of those little tobacconist-type stalls that seem to sell everything, and we noticed they also had a drinks cooler containing cans of chilled beer. We decided to enjoy a beer each as I wrote out the postcards, and we sat down on a nearby large marble block to do so.
The only thing that marred the place for us was an all-pervading stench that was hanging over the harbour and quayside. It wasn’t the smell of seaweed or fish, or even sewage, but it had a sort of ammonia-type stink to it; maybe it was coming from a gas pipe.
We sat and enjoyed our beers and wrote out the cards, then walked along to a nearby postbox to send them on their way. We then walked along one of the wide streets of shops, enjoying the fact that it all seemed to be pedestrianised. The prices were all in Kunas, although some places did take Euros as well. There were 8.5 Kunas to the pound, and things seemed quite expensive.
We window-shopped for a while but didn’t actually buy anything, then we walked along to what was clearly the old town of Split, with its fine old architecture and an interesting church and bell-tower. As we walked along, our attention was attracted by a spout of water coming out of the top of a building in a graceful arc. Below it was a perfectly-positioned giant teacup to catch the water – an unusual feature.
We then saw some stray cats and kittens and a gentleman had put out some bowls of milk for them; a cardboard sign nearby invited donations so he could help feed the cats. I cuddled a little black kitten then we pressed a coin into the guy’s hand.
Afterwards we decided to take a slow stroll back to the Queen Victoria in time for lunch, rather than spend time queueing for the shuttle bus.
Back on board we enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of a fairly empty ship, as most people seemed to be ashore. We therefore went up to the pool deck for lunch and enjoyed a tasty burger each, washed down with a cold bottle of beer. Then we returned to our stateroom and had a post-luncheon nap, before sitting out on the balcony for a while, then going for a walk around deck. From our high vantage point on Deck 11 we could see right across to the town, including Diocletian’s Palace and the bell-tower we’d seen earlier.
The afternoon passed in its pleasant way until it was time to get showered and changed, ready for dinner. Were we eating again?! Sometimes it can seem that all you do on a cruise is eat and drink, and even the most determined efforts to watch the calories is soon thwarted by the array of delicious meals available.
We made our way to table #529 where, once again, we were on our own – no sign of Guy and Tessa. From our window table we had a great view of the Adriatic Sea as the Queen Victoria slipped her moorings and glided off once more into the sunset.
I enjoyed a delicious sirloin steak for my main meal, washed down with chilled rosé wine and iced water. Although it wasn’t a formal night, Cunard passengers always make the effort to dress a little more smartly, and it was such a pleasure to sit here in these elegant surroundings, enjoying scrumptious food among well-travelled, well-dressed people. This, to me, is what real cruising is all about, rather than the modern propensity for those huge vessels with their “Butlin’s at Sea” culture.
After dinner we adjourned, as usual, to the Golden Lion to do the Wipeout Trivia Quiz. Or rather, to answer the questions amongst ourselves but not actually participate. The reason was twofold; first of all, we only had about 20 minutes before we had to be in the theatre for tonight’s show, and secondly, the questions are really hard so we haven’t done well in the quiz so far. Therefore, we just enjoyed a drink, which we took along to the Royal Court Theatre to finish whilst enjoying the evening’s performance.
The show tonight starred musician Samantha Jay. What a talented performer she was! She played the piano, alto saxophone, oboe and violin, all of them very well. She played anything from classical to pop to rock, and ended her amazing performance with a selection of music from around the world, played to a backdrop of photos on a large screen that dropped down from above the stage. The show was tremendous, and Samantha was well-deserving of the standing ovation she received from the audience.
We finished off the evening as we have been doing all this cruise; along to the Golden Lion where the barman materialised immediately, already knowing what we were going to have to drink. Then we listened to the resident pianist Glenn Monie for a while, before the Big Pub Quiz (which once again we played just for fun).
Afterwards we were flagging a bit, so we decided to return to stateroom 5130 and sit out on our balcony for a short while. We had an early start tomorrow (we had to be up by 06:45 hours) as we were booked on an all-day excursion in Slovenia.
We therefore settled down around 23:00 hours (early for us!) in our crisp cotton sheets, as Queen Victoria glided through the peaceful Adriatic waters towards our next exciting destination.