Get thee to an island monastery
"I really didn't expect to find a large monastery in the middle of a small island.
"It was actually on a tiny island in the middle of a lake, so it's an island within an island - very obscure.
"It was a short hike from where we got off our boat to the edge of the lake and then we got on a ferry across to the smaller island.
"The monastery is called the Monastery of St Mary and hasn't been used as a monastery since 1809, so it is now just visited by tourists.
"There are no organised tours there - you just get the ferry across and do your own thing - and there are some shops there so you can buy a cold drink or an ice-cream.
"We spent three or four hours there and it was so relaxing.
"We had a look at the monastery and then walked around the island, which was very pretty.
"We had a swim in the lake; getting in at any point other than the wharf is tricky but the views while you swim are worth it, plus the lake is extremely salty so you're extra buoyant, making for a lazy swim.
"After that we had an ice-cream and just spent the afternoon there.
"The ferries run regularly and our boat wasn't leaving Mljet until the next morning, so we didn't have to worry about missing it.
"I think everyone from our boat went across to the monastery that day, because it was quite a unique thing to see.
"Croatia was actually not high on my list of places to see - I got swept along because my friends wanted to go - but it was such a lovely surprise.
"I tell everybody now, if they're going to that part of the world, that they just have to do a Croatian cruise.
"It was the most relaxing part of our holiday, our time in the Dalmatian islands."
VALUE FOR MONEY?
Nicole paid about $1200 for her cruise, which included breakfasts and lunches.
"We spent each night in a port, always sailing at 8am the next day, so we did our own thing for dinner, and they allowed us to take our own wine and snacks on board," Nicole says.
All of the excursions were self-guided, with passengers gathered together in a group before arriving at each destination to be given information on what to see and how to get there.
"I was happy for it to be done that way," Nicole says.
"We were visiting small islands, not big cities, so it would have been very hard to get lost."
WHO Nicole Sewell, of Narrabeen, Sydney, on her first cruise.
WHAT Exploring the site of a remote monastery in the Adriatic islands, in the Dalmatia region of Croatia.
WHERE The island of Mljet, north-west of Dubrovnik.
THE SHIP Nicole travelled with two friends on an eight-day cruise from Dubrovnik and back on the small ship Pape Prvi, sold in Australia through Beyond Travel. Beyond Travel sells a range of small-ship Croatian cruises, many featuring vintage sailing ships.
As told to Jane E. Fraser
Sydney Morning Herald