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Day by Day Itinerary

The sun may have set long ago on the Roman Empire, but the lure of Dalmatian Coast continues to seduce travelers. Discover its lush islands and magnificent walled cities on this Croatia tour during a great time of year for an Adriatic cruise—when the weather’s mild and the summer crowds are thinning out. Explore the walled beauty of Zadar … discover Roman Emperor Diocletian’s summer palace … and cruise to the Croatian islands of Hvar and Korcula, on a private small ship designed for just two groups of 25 travelers each. From Zagreb to Zadar, and Montenegro to Mostar, it’s a journey that will linger in your memory like a gentle Adriatic breeze.

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    You depart from the U.S. for Zagreb, Croatia.

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    Explore Zagreb's Main Square and gardens

    Arrive in Zagreb, where a Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and assists with your transfer to our hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your room immediately upon arrival. Your Grand Circle Program Director will advise you of your check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive. Enjoy a short orientation walk in the vicinity of the hotel.

    This evening, meet your fellow travelers from the Ljubljana, Slovenia pre-trip extension during a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast at your hotel, travel overland toward the Adriatic coast to meet your small ship in Zadar, one of Croatia's true hidden jewels. Originally founded as a Roman colony, this charming peninsula town is replete with 2,000 years of architectural treasures. View Roman ruins dating back to the third century BC, when the Holy Roman Empire ruled the city, and the 16th-century fortified walls built on three sides of the city by Venetians to defend against invading Turks—a prominent remnant of Venice's often unwelcome imperial power over Zadar until the Venetian Republic's fall in 1797.

    Embark your small ship and enjoy lunch onboard before departing on a city tour of Zadar. Stroll along the marble, pedestrian-only streets of Old Town where you'll discover the medieval churches for which the city is famous, including St. Donatus' Church—an imposing, round, stone building dating from the ninth century—and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, a Romanesque-style cathedral built in the 12th and 13th centuries and which holds the distinction of being the largest church in Dalmatia.

    After a Captain's Welcome Dinner aboard ship, you may want to visit one of Zadar's charming harborside cafes for a glass of maraschino, a liqueur distilled from local marasca cherries—a centuries-old Zadar tradition.

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    Explore the ancient port of Sibenik

    Depart Zadar early this morning, arriving in Sibenik as you’re finishing breakfast onboard. The ancient port of Sibenik, a hillside city that fans out like an amphitheater and reflects the elegance of late-Middle Ages architecture, is located in one of the Adriatic’s most naturally protected harbors. Your included morning tour will reveal the city’s highlights, such as the Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built completely of limestone and marble in the Gothic and Renaissance styles, its construction lasted from 1431 until its completion in 1536. Its impressively detailed stone sculptures include 71 human faces—believed to represent local Sibenik residents—carved into the cathedral’s outer sides.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries in Old Town, perhaps enjoying local specialties at one of the many lively cafes lining the Dolac quarter in the city center.

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    See Diocletian's palace while exploring Split

    Enjoy free time this morning to explore Sibenik on your own.

    Or, join an optional tour to Krka Falls, home to a series of cascading waterfalls that is one of Croatia's great natural wonders. Over millennia, the Krka River has carved canyons into the surrounding limestone of the Dinara Mountains, creating a spectacular landscape where you'll view the river's waterfalls cascading over and around lush, dense vegetation. You'll also explore the surrounding Krka National Park, home to abundant indigenous flora and fauna, including over 200 bird species. It's a memorable excursion to one of Croatia's most pristine locales.

    After lunch aboard, you'll begin cruising to Split. Along the way enjoy a Croatian language lesson onboard ship, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Upon arrival, enjoy an evening walk in the stunning medieval town built around the Roman emperor Diocletian's summer palace. Your ship will be docked near Split's fashionable waterfront promenade known as the Riva. After dinner aboard ship, enjoy a performance of Dalmatian folklore, another exclusive Discovery Series event.

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    This morning in Split, discover the Imperial Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the greatest Roman ruin in southeastern Europe. Built like a fortress with walls 590 feet by 705 feet, the palace was occupied by the Emperor Diocletian from AD 300-313. As you stand in the peristyle (central court) of this grand structure, its scale is sure to impress you.

    Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site Split

    The medieval town of Split took shape within the palace walls; Diocletian's Temple of Jupiter was converted into a Christian baptistery and his mausoleum became a cathedral. The entire old section of Split, with the palace as its centerpiece, is a virtual open-air museum with the city's contemporary life bustling through it.

    After lunch onboard, you will have free time to explore Split on your own.

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    Discover Hvar's local culture and the island's beauty

    Early this morning, you'll sail to Hvar Island, the longest of the Croatian isles, and enjoy an included tour. Occupied since at least 3500 BC, beautiful Hvar has been ruled variously by the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Austrians, and French, without ever losing its character as a place of fresh fish, wild herbs, and verdant vineyards. Today it is still known as one of Europe's most beautiful islands, benefiting from warm summers, mild winters, and more than 2,715 hours of sunlight in an average year—making it arguably the sunniest spot in Europe. During your Hvar Island tour, you'll discover its Venetian flavor, reflecting the island's long history of rule by that city-state.

    After lunch onboard, you'll set sail for Dubrovnik. Enjoy dinner onboard tonight.

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    Explore the historic sites of Dubrovnik

    Today, enjoy a tour of Dubrovnik, Croatia's crowning jewel. With its old section, the Stari Grad, surrounded entirely by white stone walls, Dubrovnik gleams like the proverbial City on a Hill. Your tour today in this historic gem includes visits to the Rector's Palace, a Franciscan Monastery housing one of Europe's oldest pharmacies.

    Regarded today as one of the world's most exquisite walled cities, Dubrovnik's character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state's period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808. In recent times, some of Dubrovnik's historic sites sustained damage in the Balkan conflicts of the early 1990s, but the city has been peaceful for more than 15 years and largely restored under UNESCO supervision. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation have contributed to this restoration work.

    After lunch back onboard, your afternoon is at leisure to explore Dubrovnik on your own. You might wish to climb the city's ramparts or visit some of Dubrovnik's hidden museums.

    Tonight, discover the warmth of a Croatian welcome when we enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner in a nearby village, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

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    View the Venetian Baroque architecture of Kotor

    Early this morning, cruise to Croatia's southern neighbor, Montenegro, a small Mediterranean country at the foot of the Balkan mountain range. Your destination is Kotor, a picturesque walled city nestled at the head of Europe's deepest fjord. During a talk this morning, learn the turbulent history of Kotor Bay, a strategic port that has been variously ruled over the centuries by Bulgaria, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, Napoleon's French Empire, and Austria-Hungary.

    Then, set off on a tour to discover the architectural splendor of this ancient Montenegrin city, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ruled by the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797, the city features fine Venetian Baroque architecture in its Old Town, one of the largest and best-preserved medieval areas of the Adriatic region. Your tour of the Stari Grad (Old Town) includes a visit to the Maritime Museum, which highlights the long and proud sailing traditions of Kotor, including navigational tools and maps dating back to 1168.

    Following an onboard lunch, depart for Perast. There, you'll take small boats to visit the baroque Our Lady of the Rocks shrine on a man-made islet. The shrine contains 68 paintings by local 17th-century artist Tripo Kokolja, while its greatest treasure is the icon of Our Lady of the Rock, painted by the Dubrovnik artist Lovro Marinov Dobricevic.

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    See the Baroque Our Lady of the Rocks shrine

    This morning, take time to discover more of Kotor at your own pace.

    Or, join an optional tour to Montenegro's cultural heart and one-time capital, Cetinje. Today, this tiny city, built in the 15th century, retains enough importance to Montenegrins to hold the official residence of the President of Montenegro. Here you'll enjoy a guided tour of the summer palace of Nikola I, Montenegro's only king, who ruled from 1860-1918. You'll also have free time to explore the cultural treasures of this ancient royal town, including the 15th-century Cetinje Monastery, with its fence made out of barrels of captured enemy rifles, and the National Museum of Montenegro.

    Rejoin your fellow travelers for lunch onboard, followed by an afternoon at sea as your ship sails toward the island of Korcula.

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    Today, explore Korcula—the largest island in an archipelago of 48 and the site of a picturesque medieval town. After breakfast, you'll soak up the character of the city on an included walking tour. You'll also get acquainted with Korcula town's history—which included centuries of rule by Venice—with a visit to its local museum. Then call on the spot believed by many historians to have been Marco Polo's birthplace, where one stone wall of his original house remains.

    Then learn about the historical importance of the Roman Catholic Church in Korcula when you visit St. Mark's Cathedral on the main square, which features a detailed Romanesque portal by Bonino of Milano depicting Adam and Eve on either side and St. Mark perched at the top. Inside the cathedral, we'll see a 16th-century painting by the master Tintoretto above the main altar. Even more treasures await as you visit the Bishop's Treasury—a sketch by Da Vinci, drawings by Raphael, and paintings by Italian masters like Carpaccio are highlights.

    Return to your ship for lunch onboard before a discussion about Croatia Today, an exclusive Discovery Series event. You are then free for the afternoon to continue exploring Korcula Island on your own, relax, or revisit the medieval streets of Korcula Town.

    This evening, enjoy an authentic Dalmatian dinner onboard, followed by a demonstration of klapa singing. This a cappella singing style is an informal tradition in which friends gather to sing in four-part harmony, and is perhaps the most definitive of all Croatian music forms.

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    Explore Mostar while touring Herzegovina

    Arrive in Ploče before breakfast. This morning, tour Mostar, the principal city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city is named for the watchtowers (mostars in Bosnian) of its historic bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge spans the Neretva River, which divides the town into Muslim and Croat sections and was designed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Hayruddin in the 16th century. The stone structure was built over a network of wooden supports and the ruling sultan told Hayruddin he would be executed if the bridge collapsed once the supports were removed. Though Hayruddin dug his own grave in preparation, he lived because the bridge stood—for four more centuries. When the original structure was destroyed by a bomb during the Bosnian conflict in 1993, UNESCO helped fund its rebuilding as a symbol of unity—using a combination of steel and original white stone which had been salvaged from the wreckage. Its eleven-year reconstruction took two years longer than its original building.

    Stop for lunch in the quiet rural village of Blagaj which is best known for it Byzantine fortresses but is actually much older—it has been inhabited for 9,000 years. A Dervish monastery rests nestled among the cliffs over the river Buna here, and a serene grace pervades the area.

    Return to your ship late this afternoon and enjoy a Port Talk before a special Captain's Farewell Dinner this evening.

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    Today, say farewell to your ship’s crew and travel overland to Opatija, a seaside resort nestled under the pine-covered slopes of Mount Ucka near Istria.

    Explore the coastal resort town of Opatija

    On your overland journey to Opatija, you’ll stop for lunch at a local restaurant, arriving at the coastal resort town in the late afternoon. Opatija has been a popular all-season resort destination since the mid-19th century, when fashionable aristocrats from around Europe came here to rejuvenate. For several years, the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I used to enjoy his winters in Opatija. You can still see many of these late 19th-century luxury hotels and villas scattered along Opatija’s mountainous coast.

    After dinner at your hotel, you should take the opportunity to stroll along the Lungomare, a famous waterfront promenade that stretches for seven and a half miles along the Gulf of Kvarner, linking Opatija to the town of Lovran.

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    After a morning in Opatija with lunch on our own, journey overland to Zagreb, where you can enjoy your final evening at leisure.

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    • Meals included:

    This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension in Zagreb, Croatia.

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    You depart from the U.S. for Zagreb, Croatia.

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    Explore Zagreb's Main Square and gardens

    Arrive in Zagreb, where a Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and assists with your transfer to our hotel. Enjoy a short orientation walk with your Program Director in the vicinity of the hotel.

    This evening, meet your fellow travelers from the Zagreb, Croatia pre-trip extension during a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast in your hotel, transfer overland to Ploče, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant en route. Upon arrival, embark your small ship, meet the crew, and enjoy our first dinner onboard. Spend the evening aboard ship docked in Ploče.

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    This morning, tour Mostar, the principal city of the Herzegovina region. The city is named for the watchtowers (mostars in Bosnian) of its historic bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge spans the Neretva River, which divides the town into Muslim and Croat sections and was designed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Hayruddin in the 16th century. The stone structure was built over a network of wooden supports and the ruling sultan told Hayruddin he would be executed if the bridge collapsed once the supports were removed. Though Hayruddin dug his own grave in preparation, he lived because the bridge stood—for four more centuries. When the original structure was destroyed by a bomb during the Bosnian conflict in 1993, UNESCO helped fund its rebuilding as a symbol of unity—using a combination of steel and original white stone which had been salvaged from the wreckage. Its 11-year reconstruction took two years longer than its original building.

    View the New Old Bridge while touring Mostar

    Stop for lunch in the quiet rural village of Blagaj, which is best known for its Byzantine fortresses, but is actually much older—it has been inhabited for 9,000 years. A Dervish monastery rests nestled among the cliffs over the River Buna here, and a serene grace pervades the area.

    Return to your ship late this afternoon and enjoy a port talk before a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner this evening. Later this evening, your ship sets sail into the Adriatic toward the island of Korcula. Upon arrival, you'll dock just outside the fortified towers of Korcula Town.

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    Today you'll explore Korcula, the largest island in an archipelago of 48 and the site of a picturesque medieval town. After breakfast, soak up the character of the city on an included walking tour. You'll also get acquainted with Korcula town's history—which included centuries of rule by Venice—with a visit to its local museum. Then call on the spot believed by many historians to have been Marco Polo's birthplace, where one stone wall of his original house remains.

    Then learn about the historical importance of the Roman Catholic Church in Korcula as you visit St. Mark's Cathedral on the main square, which features a detailed Romanesque portal by Bonino of Milano depicting Adam and Eve on either side and St. Mark perched at the top. Inside the cathedral, you'll see a 16th-century painting by the master Tintoretto above the main altar. Even more treasures await when you visit the Bishop's Treasury—a sketch by Da Vinci, drawings by Raphael, and paintings by Italian masters like Carpaccio are highlights.

    Return to your ship for lunch onboard before a discussion about Croatia Today, an exclusive Discovery Series event. You are then free for the afternoon to continue exploring Korcula Island on your own, relax, or revisit the medieval streets of Korcula Town.

    This evening, enjoy an authentic Dalmatian dinner onboard, followed by a demonstration of klapa singing. This a cappella singing style is an informal tradition in which friends gather to sing in four-part harmony, and is perhaps the most definitive of all Croatian music forms.

  • hidden

    View the Venetian Baroque architecture of Kotor

    After breakfast, cruise to Croatia's southern neighbor, Montenegro, a small Mediterranean country at the foot of the Balkan mountain range. Your destination is Kotor, a picturesque walled city nestled at the head of Europe's deepest fjord. During a talk this morning, you'll learn the turbulent history of Kotor Bay, a strategic port that has been variously ruled over the centuries by Bulgaria, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, Napoleon's French Empire, and Austria-Hungary.

    Then, a morning tour will reveal the architectural splendor of this ancient Montenegrin city, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ruled by the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797, the city features fine Venetian Baroque architecture in its Old Town, one of the largest and best-preserved medieval areas of the Adriatic region. Your tour of the Stari Grad (Old Town) includes a visit to the Maritime Museum, which highlights the long and proud sailing traditions of Kotor, including navigational tools and maps dating back to 1168.

    Following an onboard lunch, depart for Perast. There, you'll take small boats to visit the baroque Our Lady of the Rocks shrine on a man-made islet. The shrine contains 68 paintings by local 17th-century artist Tripo Kokolja, while its greatest treasure is the icon of Our Lady of the Rock, painted by the Dubrovnik artist Lovro Marinov Dobricevic.

  • hidden

    See the Baroque Our Lady of the Rocks shrine

    This morning, take time to discover more of Kotor at your own pace.

    Or, join an optional tour to Montenegro's cultural heart and one-time capital, Cetinje. Today, this tiny city, built in the 15th century, retains enough importance to Montenegrins to hold the official residence of the President of Montenegro. Here, you'll enjoy a guided tour of the summer palace of Nikola I, Montenegro's only king, who ruled from 1860-1918. You'll also have free time to explore the cultural treasures of this ancient royal town, including the 15th-century Cetinje Monastery—with its fence made out of barrels of captured enemy rifles—and the National Museum of Montenegro.

    Rejoin your fellow travelers for lunch onboard, followed by time to explore as you please before your ship sets sail for Dubrovnik.

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    Explore the historic sites of Dubrovnik

    Today, enjoy a tour of Dubrovnik—Croatia's crowning jewel. With its old section, the Stari Grad, surrounded entirely by white stone walls, Dubrovnik gleams like the proverbial City on a Hill. Your tour today in this historic gem includes visits to the Rector's Palace, a Franciscan Monastery housing one of Europe's oldest pharmacies.

    Regarded today as one of the world's most exquisite walled cities, Dubrovnik's character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state's period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808. In recent times, some of Dubrovnik's historic sites sustained damage in the Balkan conflicts of the early 1990s, but the city has been peaceful for more than 15 years and largely restored under UNESCO supervision. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation have helped with some of the restoration work.

    After lunch back onboard, your afternoon is at leisure to explore Dubrovnik on your own. You might wish to climb the city's ramparts or visit some of Dubrovnik's hidden museums.

    Tonight, discover the warmth of a Croatian welcome when we enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner in a nearby village, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Later this evening, your small ship begins to cruise toward Hvar Island.

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    Discover Hvar's local culture and the island's beauty

    After an early breakfast, set out for a tour of Hvar Island, the longest of the Croatian isles. Occupied since at least 3500 BC, beautiful Hvar has been ruled variously by the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Austrians, and French, without ever losing its character as a place of fresh fish, wild herbs, and verdant vineyards. Today it is still known as one of Europe's most beautiful islands, benefiting from warm summers, mild winters, and more than 2,715 hours of sunlight in an average year—making it arguably the sunniest spot in Europe. During our tour, we'll discover Hvar's Venetian flavor, reflecting the island's long history of rule by that city-state.

    Then cruise to Split, arriving in late afternoon. Since your ship will be docked just outside the Riva, the city's famous waterfront promenade, you'll be able to step off for an evening stroll before your dinner back onboard ship followed by a performance of Dalmatian folklore, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

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    This morning in Split, you'll discover the Imperial Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the greatest Roman ruin in southeastern Europe. Built like a fortress with walls 590 feet by 705 feet, the palace was occupied by the Emperor Diocletian from AD 300-313. As you stand in the peristyle (central court) of this grand structure, its scale is sure to impress you.

    Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site Split

    The medieval town of Split took shape within the palace walls; Diocletian's Temple of Jupiter was converted into a Christian baptistery and his mausoleum became a cathedral. The entire old section of Split, with the palace as its centerpiece, is a virtual open-air museum with the city's contemporary life bustling through it.

    Return to your ship for lunch onboard. Then take the afternoon to make your own discoveries. This evening, begin your cruise to Sibenik, where you'll spend the night onboard ship.

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    Explore the ancient port of Sibenik

    After breakfast, enjoy a city tour of Sibenik. The ancient port of Sibenik, a hillside city that fans out like an amphitheater and reflects the elegance of late-Middle Ages architecture, is located in one of the Adriatic’s most naturally protected harbors. Your included morning tour will reveal the city’s highlights, including the Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built completely of limestone and marble in the Gothic and Renaissance styles, its construction lasted from 1431 until its completion in 1536. Its impressively detailed stone sculptures include 71 human faces—believed to represent local Sibenik residents—carved into the cathedral’s outer sides.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to wander the network of tangled streets and alleys of Old Town on your own, perhaps enjoying local specialties at one of the many lively cafes lining the Dolac quarter in the city center. Your ship will dock for the night in Sibenik.

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    View the Cathedral of St James while touring Sibenik

    Take another morning to delight in Sibenik's historic architecture.

    Or, join an optional tour to nearby Krka Falls, a series of spectacular cascading waterfalls that comprises one of Croatia's true natural wonders. Over millennia, the Krka River has carved canyons into the surrounding limestone of the Dinara Mountains, creating a spectacular landscape where you'll view the river's waterfalls cascading over and around lush, dense vegetation. You'll also explore the surrounding Krka National Park, home to abundant indigenous flora and fauna, including over 200 bird species. It's a memorable excursion to one of Croatia's most pristine locales.

    This afternoon, cruise to Zadar, and enjoy a Croatian language lesson en route, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Arrive in Zadar in time for an evening walk before dinner onboard your ship.

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    View the Port of Zadar while touring the peninsula town

    After breakfast, explore Zadar, one of Croatia's true hidden jewels. Originally founded as a Roman colony, this charming peninsula town is replete with 2,000 years of architectural treasures. You'll view Roman ruins dating back to the third century BC, when the Holy Roman Empire ruled the city, and the 16th-century fortified walls built on three sides of the city by Venetians to defend against invading Turks—a prominent remnant of Venice's often unwelcome imperial power over Zadar until the Venetian Republic's fall in 1797.

    During your city tour of Zadar, stroll along the marble, pedestrian-only streets of Old Town where you'll discover the medieval churches for which the city is famous, including St. Donatus' Church—an imposing, round, stone building dating from the ninth century—and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, a Romanesque-style cathedral built in the 12th and 13th centuries and which holds the distinction of being the largest church in Dalmatia. This afternoon is yours to explore Zadar on your own.

    This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a Captain's Farewell Dinner aboard ship. Afterwards, you may want to visit one of Zadar's charming harborside cafes for a glass of maraschino, a liqueur distilled from local marasca cherries, a centuries-old Zadar tradition.

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    Disembark your small ship this morning and transfer overland to Zagreb. Lunch is on your own en route. Upon arrival at your hotel in Zagreb, your final evening is at leisure.

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    • Meals included:

    This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Travel considerations for you and your small group of no more than 25, on Cruising the Adriatic: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Pacing

  • Zadar to Ploče cruise itinerary: 14 days, with 10 nights aboard M/V Artemis or M/V Athena, and 3 hotel stays, including 3 single-night stays
  • Ploče to Zadar cruise itinerary: 14 days, with 11 nights aboard M/V Artemis or M/V Athena, and 2 hotel stays, including 2 single-night stays

Physical requirements

  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day, including several sets of stairs (up to 100 stairs, uphill and downhill)
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 52-54°F during cruising season

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, including ruins and archaeological sites, unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones

Transportation

  • Travel by 45-seat coach and 50-passenger small ship

Small Ship Cruising

  • If docked at a pier, gangway incline can be steep
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary
  • Good agility, balance, and strength needed for possible rough seas
  • You must be cleared by a country’s local port authorities before disembarking the ship. You must wait onboard while this process is completed

Accommodation

  • The M/V Artemis and M/V Athena do not have elevators onboard

Cuisine

  • Meals will be based on local and international cuisine

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/V Artemis or M/V Athena

    Our M/V Artemis was ranked #1 on Condé Nast Traveler's "Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World" 2014 Readers' Poll. Designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, these small ships feature spacious common areas, including a lounge/bar with inviting leather couches and soft chairs. Topside, a Sun Deck has classic wooden deck chairs for admiring the scenery. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available throughout your ship; connectivity may be limited in certain locations on your itinerary.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Westin Zagreb Hotel

    Zagreb, Croatia | Rating: Superior First Class

    Centrally located in downtown Zagreb, the Superior First-Class Westin Zagreb offers a health club, indoor pool, laundry facilities, and ATM/bank. Your air-conditioned room features cable/satellite TV, telephone, minibar, radio/alarm clock, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Hotel Continental

    Opatija, Croatia

    Steps from Opatija’s scenic waterfront and Angiolina Park, the 53-room Hotel Continental is an Austro-Hungarian villa dating back to 1898. Amenities include a café, pub, and champagne and fresh juice bar, and each air-conditioned room features a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

Extensions

  • Hotel Slon

    Ljubljana, Slovenia | Rating: Moderate First Class

    Situated in the heart of the city center, the Hotel Slon is just steps away from historic Old Town, Ljubljana Castle, and other highlights. The hotel features three restaurants, a fitness center, and lounge. There are 168 comfortable and well-appointed rooms, each with satellite TV, minibar, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with robe and slippers.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Westin Zagreb Hotel

    Zagreb, Croatia | Rating: Superior First Class

    Centrally located in downtown Zagreb, the Superior First-Class Westin Zagreb offers a health club, indoor pool, laundry facilities, and ATM/bank. Your air-conditioned room features cable/satellite TV, telephone, minibar, radio/alarm clock, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

Flight Information

Customize Your Trip

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to customizing your trip—and creating your own unique travel experience:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Choose the departure city and airline that works best for you
  • Depart from one city and return to another
  • Upgrade your air itinerary based on your travel preferences
  • “Break away” before or after your trip to explore independently or re-energize
  • Combine two or more trips to make the most of your value—and avoid another long flight
  • Extend your discoveries with pre- or post-trip extensions

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

Bay of Kotor

Find out why this area, the 33-mile jewel box of Montenegro, has been so coveted throughout the centuries.

Read More »

Liberal Arts

See how the Republic of Ragusa, the heart of which we now know as the city of Dubrovnik, became a progressive culture.

Read More »

A Tale of Love and War

In Croatia, locals proudly adorn themselves with the morcic to bring good luck. Learn more about this special symbol.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

Bay of Kotor

The 33-mile jewel box of Montenegro

by Philip McClusky, for Grand Circle

The Bay of Kotor’s allure has resulted in more than 2,000 years of a sort of imperial musical chairs: a steady stream of invading armies that take over and are eventually replaced by the next great conqueror. And if you visit, it’s easy to see why the area has been so coveted throughout the centuries.

Although generally referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord, the bay is technically a submerged river canyon in what is today southwestern Montenegro. Ringed by mountains that are reflected in its placid waters, with idyllic, terra cotta-roofed villages dotting its coastline, it can seem as if every nook of the Bay of Kotor is a postcard scene waiting to be photographed. Add its pleasant climate and strategic location along the Adriatic and the region’s allure is undeniable. So it’s no surprise that a number of kingdoms sought to capture it through the years.

A prized parcel of land and sea

Although small—just a little more than 33 square miles—the bay is a treasure trove of historical significance and local lore. One of the most notable early leaders was Queen Teuta of the Illyrians, who ruled this region in the third century BC. Her reign was heavily dependent upon piracy and levies placed on those entering through Verige Strait, the narrow entrance to the bay. Only a quarter-mile across, this portal left approaching ships vulnerable to attack.

When incoming ships didn’t pay Queen Teuta, they were subject to an elaborate ship-wrecking system created to defend the strait. To this day, the bottom of the bay is strewn with unlucky vessels that ran afoul of Teuta. Later, chains were laced across the entrance to keep nautical aggressors out. In fact, the name of the strait—Verige—is derived from the Slavic word for “chain.”

Queen Teuta’s prosperity drew the attention of the budding Roman Empire, which eventually assumed power here after defeating the Illyrians. It is said the obstinate queen leaped to her death rather than submit to the vanquishers, adding to a legend that still survives in this part of the world today (a depiction of Teuta is on one of Albania’s coins).

The Romans ruled for centuries, establishing what would be the seat of the region and the namesake for the bay itself—Kotor.

"Bride of the Adriatic"

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Kotor seems frozen in time. The reputation of this walled city, sheltered by the fjord-like bay, grew over time, eventually coming to be known as the “Bride of the Adriatic.” In the Middle Ages, the schools of architecture and art here were well-respected, and the city became a center of commercial activity and wealth.

The past was prologue, of course, and the success of the city of Kotor once again attracted unwanted attention in the form of voracious empires. From the tenth century onward, the settlement was consecutively under Byzantine, Venetian, Hungarian, French, and Austrian control before becoming part of Yugoslavia. Due in part to the many visiting armies from around the region, there are several unique buildings in this fortified city—including the twelfth-century cathedral built in honor of Kotor’s patron saint, St. Tryphon. Kotor remains one of the best-preserved medieval outposts in the Adriatic, yet it wasn’t the bay’s only region to celebrate success over the years.

Prosperous Perast

Known as the “Pearl of Venetian Baroque,” the town of Perast flourished under the rule of La Serenissimas—or the ancient Serene Republic of Venice. Perast was situated in a strategic location near the Verige Strait; to many, it now feels as though a piece of Venice simply broke away and was placed in the middle of the bay. Perast is home to a number of churches and shrines; one of the most famous is Our Lady of the Rocks, which is found on the spot where some fishermen claim to have seen the Virgin Mary. Local lore holds that the fishermen dropped a stone in the same spot every time they passed, eventually creating the island on which the church rests.

Although this section of Europe is traditionally Eastern Orthodox, reminders of non-Orthodox religions are plentiful here. The Venetians and Austrians left behind their Catholic churches, and the Ottomans have left an Islamic legacy. This mixture of faiths has become an institution, and religious tolerance has become a hallmark not only of Kotor, but of the whole country of Montenegro.

Europe’s newest country

After many centuries of suitors, the Bay of Kotor is now part of Europe’s most recently independent country: Montenegro. Originally one of the six republics that made up Yugoslavia, Montenegro remained tied to Serbia once the Soviet Bloc began to disintegrate. In 2006, the country’s independence from Serbia was put to a vote, and by a mere 2,300 votes, the citizens voted to become an independent state.

Though Montenegro is “new,” its ancient roots add to its compelling character. The Bay of Kotor is a big part of that profile. In fact, the bay has become the country’s most popular region—proving that even many centuries later, it can still draw a crowd.

History, Culture & More

Liberal Arts

The progressive culture of the Republic of Ragusa

by David Valdes Greenwood from Currents

The somber leader leaned over the table, his pale brow furrowed as he considered the words before him one last time. His advisors and peers waited quietly, knowing the significance of the moment. And then, with a stroke of a pen, it was over. The slaves were declared free.

This dramatic moment might sound familiar, the stuff of Lincoln biographies and American history texts. But in fact, the scene played out more than 4,000 miles away and 400 years before the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation. (In fact, it occurred decades before Christopher Columbus first set eyes on the Americas.) The scene described is the legal abolition of slavery in the Republic of Ragusa, a maritime state that rivaled Venice in its heyday. And the ruler was a prince, not a president, surrounded by some of the wealthiest men in the kingdom.

Surprisingly for an aristocracy of that type, Ragusa—the heart of which we now know as the city of Dubrovnik—made itself a place where the most progressive ideals came to life. Ragusa was never perfect, but while it lasted, it came close to demonstrating how a society that believed in liberty could make such a thing true.

A city comes together

As early as the seventh century, a rocky island just off the Dalmatian coastline of Croatia had become an outpost for Greek sailors pausing to rest on their trading excursions; onshore, small bands of refugees from the Roman city of Epidaurum made camp and eventually settled. Over the next few centuries, the two communities became so entwined that they filled in the channel that separated them. The united settlement was Ragusa (later named Dubrovnik in Croatian).

Because of Ragusa’s prime spot on trade paths, first the Saracens and then the Venetians tried to seize control of the city. A stealthy Venetian plot to overthrow local leadership in the tenth century was thwarted when an old man named Blaise warned a priest that he, aided by heavenly forces, had been holding off the intruders for several days to allow the city time to prepare. When Ragusa took measures to defend itself, the Venetian fleet abandoned their attack. Ever since, Blaise has been the city’s patron saint.

For most of the next two centuries, Venice and Ragusa were fairly amicable as enemies go, with Venice using the port as its naval base. But the locals increasingly grew tired of their rival profiting most from this arrangement, and when Hungary wrested control of Ragusa from Venice, the ruling class seized the moment. With little interference from Hungary, they set about transforming Ragusa into a worldclass city-state, with its own thriving trade industry and newly expanded holdings that ran the length of Southern Dalmatia.

Silver spoons & hearts of gold

Life in Ragusa was decidedly stratified. There were only three classes: the plebeians, consisting of the poor and the laborers; citizens, the equivalent of the middle class; and nobility, whose status was guaranteed by birth. You couldn’t marry outside your class, thus limiting your upward mobility if you were not already noble by blood. And being noble came not only with status and wealth, but with power.

According to the laws of Ragusa, only nobility could hold major government offices. Citizens could hold positions as clerks and minor functionaries, but could not make policy; plebeians had no role at all. The head of state was a Rector (chosen from among the princes) who presided over a two councils, but the powerhouse body was the Senate. To avoid corruption, both Rector and Senators were subject to strict term limits: one month for Rectors and one year for Senators. In this way, the long-term values of the group as a whole became more dominant than the values of a single individual in any given session.

Happily, what they valued was (to use American lingo) liberty and justice for all. The flag of the Republic bore the motto Libertas (freedom) and the fortress walls at the entrance to the city were inscribed with this phrase: Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (“Liberty cannot be sold for all the gold of the world”). This was more than a slogan, for these wealthy elite put in place some of the most progressive policies Europe had ever seen. They didn’t need to do that, of course, seeing as they already had status and power, but they seemed intent on proving the motto written on the state council chamber crest: Obliti privatorum publica curate (“Manage the public affairs as if you had no private interests”).

A kinder, gentler Europe

The nobles took care to safeguard the population from birth to death, establishing in the 14th century both an almshouse for the elderly and an orphanage for the young. The orphanage was created not just to care for children whose parents had died but also for those born out of wedlock. Wearing veils to hide their features, women came at night to the ruota, a rotating wooden platform at the entry to the orphanage. After kissing her infant goodbye, a mother would ring the bell and slip away. The staff of the orphanage would allow for a few moments to pass out of concern for the mother’s privacy, and then turn the ruota so that the baby could be taken in. Concern for the emotional well-being of the mother was so great that a law was passed to severely punish any who dared accost a woman before she could depart.

Physical health was deemed no less important. Public medical care was instituted at the dawn of the 14th century and soon after, the city’s first pharmacy (and the third anywhere on Earth) opened in 1317. On the ground floor of a Franciscan monastery, the pharmacy offered remedies and medical supplies at low cost to the citizenry, allowing them to better care for themselves, while also helping fund the continued existence of the Franciscan order. By the end of the century, the city also had a separate quarantine hospital to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

The greatest accomplishment in forwardthinking Ragusa was the abolition of slavery. In 1416, with the full support of the Senate, the Rector of Ragusa signed a proclamation that the existing slaves were to be free and that further transport of slaves through the region was prohibited. As Ragusa depended little on slave labor aside from household servants, it was that latter provision that had the most effect: slave labor had been a major component of the trade between Eastern and Western Europe. Cutting off this supply route took a number of years but it set a precedent, and Venice was one of the states that followed suit before the end of the 1400s.

Boom time

With such progressive policies in place, Ragusa blossomed, and the 15th century saw the acquisition of the coveted islands of Korcula, Brac, and Hvar. Ragusa’s population swelled to more than 40,000, putting it nearly on par with London. A treaty with the Ottoman Empire, though expensive, allowed the merchant ships of Ragusa to enter the Black Sea, to which only Ottoman vessels had access, and gave the republic a serious defensive strategy in times of conflict.

The Ottomans liked this deal as well, because they considered Ragusa an indispensable stop on their trade route between Anatolia and Florence. That’s why the Sultans reacted mildly in the 16th century when Ragusa, angling ever upward, agreed to let its merchant vessels sail under the Spanish flag. With Ottoman routes and the backing of the Spanish armada, Ragusa became a trading powerhouse that rivaled—and weakened—Venice.

For the next 200 years, Ragusa was the showpiece of the Balkans. The epicenter for both the scientific community in the region and for the burgeoning Slavic literary scene, the city also became a playground for architects. Public and private buildings rose at an astonishing rate, with an eye toward unity of aesthetic. The republic’s style blended Venetian influences from both the Gothic and Renaissance eras with traditional Croat building techniques and embraced rich color on decorative trim.

Expression continued to soar in the fine arts, as well. Sculpture and painting reached new heights in Ragusa, with 16th century masters bringing new realism and softness to depictions of religious and cultural life. Onstage, liturgical mystery plays were popular, but soon gave way to Croatian dramas of secular nature, gripping dramas unique to Ragusa that were in such demand that they were performed on a public stage in front of the Prince’s Palace to accommodate the crowds.

Shake, rattle, and fall

So how did such a richly cultured economic powerhouse lose its way? The first answer is that it was shaken to its core, literally, by an earthquake in 1667. Almost the entire city collapsed or burned in the ensuring fire and 5,000 citizens were killed (a surprisingly small number considering how much of the infrastructure was destroyed). Among the dead were the Rector and a fair number of Senators, throwing leadership into chaos even as the dust was settling.

The city tried to rebuild, though its signature architectural flourishes were traded in for more modest style, and trade routes were re-opened. Venice was not able to capitalize on its rival’s losses and, slowly, the Republic regained its footing, at least in diplomatic terms; by the end of the 18th century, Ragusa had offices and consulates in 80 port cities worldwide, and the flag of Saint Blaise was considered a symbol of neutrality in an increasingly fractious Europe.

But a second blow was to come, this time political: Just as the Ottoman Empire was waning, diluting its ability to bolster and protect Ragusa, both Habsburg Austria and Napoleonic France were ascending. Ragusa tried to use its neutrality to take advantage of ports that warring parties and their allies couldn’t enter, but by not shoring up alliances, Ragusa risked being left friendless should one side emerge triumphant. And that is just what happened.

With Britain, Austria, Russian, and France forces all eyeing the Republic, its days were numbered. Russian forces laid siege to Ragusa in 1806, firing thousands of cannonballs on the city, and the city agreed to surrender to Napoleon, who used his power to end the barrage. But even Napoleon’s might was temporal. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna awarded the entire territory to the Habsburgs. Just like that, with a stroke of another pen, the Republic of Ragusa was abolished, centuries of power signed away into history.

History, Culture & More

The Morcic: A Tale of Love and War

by Travis Taylor, for Grand Circle

Every culture has its charms and symbols for warding off evil spirits and keeping on the right side of fate. From the kavacha tube pendant of India to the iron horseshoe of the U.S., superstition weaves itself around these objects and lends an air of mysticism and intrigue to their otherwise humble histories. In Croatia, specifically in the region surrounding the city of Rijeka, it is the morcic (pronounced “more-cheech”) locals proudly adorn themselves with to bring good luck and acknowledge their loyalty to the region.

An unlikely symbol, the morcic is a portly, Moor-inspired bust wearing a large white turban and thick, golden necklace. Since the 17th century, jewelers have fashioned the figurine into necklaces, rings, pendants, and earrings that are indelible symbols of good fortune in Rijeka and Croatia. And, as is the case with most good luck charms, the history of the morcic is muddied by myth, its narrative thread weighted with beads of legend.

Love & loss

The first of several stories about the origins of the morcic involves an Italian countess who, in an act of love, granted her black-skinned maidservant and friend freedom so that she could return to her home and family. When her maidservant left, the countess, overcome with sadness at having lost her friend, commissioned a jeweler to fashion the girl’s likeness in precious metals for her to wear as a way to always remember their friendship.

A trophy of war

Another popular story of the morcic’s origins describes a nobleman of Rijeka who fired an arrow into an approaching Ottoman army camped on the Grobnik Field outside the city. The arrow struck and killed the Ottoman’s pasha (high ranking officer), sending the threatening military forces scattering. As the warriors dispersed, the people of Rijeka prayed to God to save them from any further attacks from the Ottoman Empire. In response to their prayers, stones rained down from heaven, covering the warriors up to their necks, until only their heads and turbans remained. To commemorate the miraculous victory, Rijeka’s men created earrings for their wives with the bust of a turban-wearing Moor.

The Venetian connection

The truth, historians contend, is much less mythical. The creation of the morcic is attributed to Venice, the famed city of water on the opposite side of the Adriatic Sea from Croatia. While relations between the Croats and Venetians was not always amicable, the two cultures shared many similarities, including an obsession with the latest fashion.

Around the 17th century, the Venetians, captivated with the distant Orient, began to appropriate elements from these far away, enigmatic lands. It wasn’t long before Venetian noblemen began to use royal servants—black Moors—dressed in Oriental clothes of the finest silk and beaded with beautiful jewels. These much-sought after servants were known as moretto, and it was a matter of prestige to have one of these foreigners as a servant. Inspired by the lavish colors and finery of their dress, Venetian jewelers fashioned decorative ornaments of the moretto out of precious metals and stones. These figurines, also known as blackamoors, became very popular among royalty and common people alike.

Not to be outdone by the Venetians, the Croats created their own version of the moretto, which is the morcic. The Croatian version highlights the head specifically, but is no less ornate and bejeweled than its Venetian counterpart. The prevalence of the image—for a period, nearly everyone in Rijeka wore some form of the morcic—helped it become something more than a piece of jewelry.

The miniature Moor became a reminder of the region’s history (the defeat of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire), an indication of economic power and social standing, and an icon of positive energy. Keeping it close, it is said, will manifest optimism, guarantee good fortune and provide protection from evil forces. Once worn by the fishermen of the city, the morcic can still be found decorating men's ears, while brooches, bracelets, rings, and pins can be found in the homes of almost every resident of the city. Due to its distinct appearance and exquisite craftsmanship, the morcic is recognized across the globe, and even modern-day designers like Dolce & Gabbana have used the blackamoor in their creations.

Contemporary criticism

Some art historians and activists have raised concern over the continued creation of such jewelry, describing the morcic and moretto as offensive reminders of African subjugation concealed in beautiful ornamentation. However, despite such controversy, the morcic remains a common, much-loved symbol in Croatia and is the mascot for the extravagant International Rijeka Carnival, which is held every year from January to early March.

Although Rijeka is considered the home of the morcic, morcic jewelry can be found throughout Croatia. Master jewelers and artisans imbue their morcic creations with the nobility, beauty, and cheerful spirit of the region, creating a good luck charm and souvenir that embodies a grand tradition for Croatians.

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