Bella Battle cruises around Croatia’s glorious Dalmatian coast on the Salve Di Mare (above), a ship that’s part of Sail Croatia’s fleet of cruising ships After a cooling dip in the Adriatic, I nurse a G&T on the sun deck as our yacht weighs anchor and we set a leisurely course for the Croatian island of Hvar. No buses, no ferry tickets, no queues or hectic timetables to pore over. Instead, my only concern is what might be on the menu for the daily three-course lunch on board. As author Kenneth Grahame said: ‘There is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.’ The one I’m on is a beautiful 160ft vessel – think acres of lovingly varnished wood and highly polished chrome – and part of Sail Croatia’s fleet of cruising ships that make their way up and down the glorious Dalmatian coast each summer. The Salve Di Mare has 20 cabins – with room for 40 guests on board – but, as luck would have it, our sailing is not fully booked. So we are an eclectic crew of 29, with mostly Brits, Australians, Americans and Canadians aboard as we island-hop from Dubrovnik up to Split over the course of a week. We take in the lush greenery of Mljet’s national forest and lakes, the fortified magic of Korcula (possible birthplace of Marco Polo) and the bohemian charm of Vis along the way. The first thing to say is you’ll need to pack your chatty pants. Although there is ample opportunity to explore by oneself when you dock each afternoon, that aforementioned lunch is a languorous, 90-minute affair in the saloon with no buffet and five tables of six laid for us each day. Forget squirrelling off to a corner with a quick salad. Instead, think toying with the idea of a second parmesan crisp while summoning your best, ‘And what do you do?’ voice. You might think this would lead to established tribes who stick together, but it says much about the friendly and convivial atmosphere our Sail Croatia host Stephanie creates that we mix and mingle in different ways at each meal. So much so that, from feeling slightly hostile about the enforced company, I end the week trilling hello to almost everyone on sight: ‘Morning, Julie!’ ‘How was the water, Brett?’ Cabins are not particularly spacious – or light if you’re below deck, as we were – but they are modern, comfortable and the en-suite bathroom was the biggest I’ve ever had while at sea. Each day follows roughly the same pattern: we set sail at dawn, having docked sometimes five, six or even seven boats abreast. Then we anchor briefly for a swim stop mid-morning and make port at a new island at roughly 3pm, staying harboured overnight. Sounds samey? Impressively, it’s not. The routine is comforting, with plenty of time for sunbathing and reading in the morning before Stephanie pipes up on the PA system to announce lunch: ‘Lunchtime everybody! Lunch… is served.’ The itinerary is carefully worked out with each guest catered for rather than coddled. While we eat lunch, Stephanie runs down the activities to sign up for the following day and recommends places to dine or drink that night. There is a handy app to remind you where you’re headed next and the best things to see and do there, plus an incredibly helpful WhatsApp group, which helps the more sociable of our group meet up for everything from bike rides to cocktails once ashore. The tirelessly energetic can enjoy canyoning, dune buggy riding or zip-line adventures. With unerring good sense, we pick the geriatric itinerary instead – a healthy smattering of coffees at hill forts and putt-putt boat rides to visit remote 12th-century monasteries. Bliss. But it’s the evenings I shall remember best. A riotous, joyous blend of good food, lethal cobbles and cocktail-fuelled hedonism. The highlights? You simply must climb the ladder to the roof of Massimo’s Cocktail Bar in Korcula (beware short skirts or dresses if you don’t want to give your fellow drinkers an eyeful while they wait to climb up behind you). Drinks arrive via a tray on a rope pulley as you watch the sun go down. Hvar’s buzzing waterfront is almost a must, with countless chic bars, clubs and restaurants vying for the crowd’s attention each summer. If partying’s not your scene, you can simply drink in the breathtaking history and architecture of the fortified city of Dubrovnik and 4th-century UNESCO-protected Split, home to Diocletian’s Palace. Our cruise finishes with the latter and Game of Thrones fans will recognise both. To crown a perfect week, we dine at Michelin-star ZOI (from the Greek word for life), set in the walls of the palace and overlooking the harbour. Just 12 hours later, the fun is over and it’s off to the airport. I WhatsApp the group to say goodbye and question how I will know when to get up and what to eat each day without Stephanie telling me. With my case banging my ankles, I join the long, snaking queue to go through security just as Stephanie replies to us all with a playful voice note: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, lunch is served. Lunch is… served.’ I could have wept.