Brief: A couple want to go island-hopping up Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast for a week in May or June. They want the trip to include a couple of days in Dubrovnik to explore the city.

Budget: £2,000.

Verdict: Never be afraid to ask for help; this week winner knew when to request extra expertise.

Thomson

Thomson, 10 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh10 Queensferry Street
Score:
26%

When I told the agent what I was looking for she told me there was nothing she could offer me, and that I would need to use a specialist independent operator for this type of holiday.

She gave me the Thomson Summer Collection Brochure and said that Thomson fly from Manchester or Gatwick, but it was clear to both of us that this didn’t cover what I was looking for. When I asked if she dealt with any other operators she said yes, but that she didn’t currently have any brochures.

The agent wasn’t unfriendly or impatient, just very certain she couldn’t help me, actively encouraging me to go elsewhere for my holiday. She didn’t seek any help from colleagues or look on the internet.

Jimmy Martin Travel

Jimmy Martin Travel, 94 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh94 Raeburn Place
Score:
64%

This agent also said it would be difficult to meet my requirements, explaining that the company they’d used for this type of trip, Holiday Options, had gone bust last year.

The agent seemed experienced and knowledgeable, and went on the internet to find out more. We found two operators who offered these type of trips, but the agent warned me that one, Croatia for Travellers, was not covered by ABTA or ATOL and explained what this meant.

The other, Hidden Croatia, said they only sold direct to the consumer. I was impressed that this agent was willing to do some research even when it became obvious the agency wouldn’t be able to make the sale, and on this basis would recommend the shop to others.

Barrhead Travel

Barrhead Travel, 96-97 St James Centre, Edinburgh 96-97 St James Centre
Score:
70%

The agent here was unable to offer me an island hopping itinerary, but made some creative suggestions for an alternative after doing some research on the internet.

She recommended that I book a stay in Dubrovnik through Balkan Tours and take day trips out to the islands using the regular ferry services. She said she wouldn’t be able to book the ferries for us, but said she could make reservations in Dubrovnik and on the islands, and could organize car hire.

She took my details and gave me hers, plus some hand-written notes on the holiday, but said she couldn’t give me a brochure as it was her only copy.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, 52 Hanover Street, Edinburgh52 Hanover Street
Score:
84%

To start with, the agent showed me the Cresta City Breaks brochure, which had a Dubrovnik stay with an optional island visit day excursion. However, she realized this wasn’t really what I wanted and went to ask her manager for advice.

She returned with the Cosmos Tourama brochure, which had a very suitable option, Delights of Croatia, an eight-day trip visiting Dubrovnik and Split, and islands including Hvar, Korcula and Mjlet.

This option had flights from Gatwick, but she rang the operator to check if she could book us flights separately from Edinburgh. This wasn’t possible, but she reassured us that she could book connecting flights to Gatwick for us.

Unfortunately the trip came in at £3,268 at the times we were looking to travel, but the agent suggested leaving in July when the cost dropped. She gave me a printed quotation and the Cosmos brochure to take away.

Lynsey Dunn, foreign exchange consultant, Thomas Cook EdinburghWinner: Lynsey Dunn, foreign exchange consultant

“I normally work on the foreign exchange desk but I was helping out during a busy time as a travel consultant. My long term goal is to work across both parts of the business.”

Tips

  1. There are over 1000 islands scattered off the coast of Croatia, surrounded by the clear blue Adriatic Sea.
  2. To the north, Krk, Rab and Pag are the most visited. Krk has a sandy beach and is popular with families, Pag is famous for its hedonistic beach parties and Rab has a pretty medieval town and two distinct sides, one green and fertile, the other bare pink rock.
  3. Further south lies the Dalmatian Coast. Here, popular islands include Brac, home of the famous Golden Horn beach, trendy Hvar, relaxed Korcula and Mjlet, a green island with its own National Park. The Elafiti Islands are just off the coast of Dubrovnik and are a popular day trip option.
  4. Operators offering island-hopping itineraries through Croatia’s islands include Travelsphere, Cosmos Tourama and Shearings Holidays.
  5. For more on Croatia and its islands see page 51 and gazetteers.com