As I promised, here is my tour review (sorry it took me so long)
Our trip was beyond my expectations, and we travel a lot, at least two international trips per year, so it is not easy to be impressed by an entire journey. First of all, thank you very much for making our travel plans easy, we had our pre-tour time as planned before joining the group.
Since we booked our flights by ourselves, I can't complain much about them, but just in case other customers ask, flying to Dubrovnik by Iberia was a good choice (JFK-Mad, MAD-DBV), brand new plane, very good service (premium economy); coming back wasn't that good, we flew British Airlines (ZAG-LHR, LHR-JFK), very crowded old dirty 747, and not so good service (premium economy).
Once in Dubrovnik, the transfer was on us since we booked a pre-tour hotel near the Old Town. Our first hotel, Grand Villa Argentina, was superb, excellent service, nice room overlooking the Adriatic Sea and Lokrum Island with a small balcony with seating area.
Before our tour, we did activities that wasn't included in the tour like going to Montenegro (very nice visiting Perast and Kotor, but Budva was a waste of time), riding the gondola up to Mount Srd, kayaking during sunset, walking the Dubrovnik walls, and visiting the other fort.
Our tour started on September 1st as planned, check in at the hotel was easy, and then at 7pm we had our first meeting with the tour leader (Ivana) and the group, followed by dinner at the hotel. At the beginning we were a little scared if that is the word, because there weren't other people from NJ/NY like it happened before, but a large Filipino-American group from California (26 people), and other five friends from Australia, but it happened to be the best group we ever had, everybody was friendly, funny, and treated us like family since the beginning of the tour. I guess we were very lucky to tour with them.
The next day we had our walking tour of the Old Town of Dubrovnik in the morning, and free the rest of the day, with an optional tour for those that wanted to join it (we didn't take any optional, we like to have our free time or to book other activities).
On September 3rd, we went on the road with Dalivor as our driver (I hope I spelled his name right). We stop in Markaska (beautiful small coastal town), and then in Split were we had our walking tour, and dinner. After that was Trogir in the morning (the only rainy day), arriving at Plitvice Lakes in the afternoon for the walking tour (actually we did both, lower and upper walking tour with other 4 people from the group). After Plitvice Lakes we went to Slovenia, first was Postonja Caves, then Bled, and some time in Ljubljana before going back to Croatia. In Bled we left the group during the visit to the castle to do some hiking around the lake, and we didn't join the optional.
The last part of the tour was Zagreb were we had time for ourselves after the morning city walking tour.
Now, I want to review the hotels:
Dubrovnik: Lapad Hotel. We supposed to have the Valamar Lacroma Hotel, but Kompas changed for the Lapad Hotel. This hotel is far from Old Town, but accessible by bus #6 (15 kuna each way) about 10-15 minutes ride. The hotel has no views, a huge new marina is being built in front of it an all you can see is a floating metal platform with a high roof. Rooms are quite small but nice, modern, and nicely decorated, but the garden view was a wall four feet away with bushes. Good breakfast with plenty of seating accommodating all the tour groups.
Split: Atrium hotel. Walking distance from the Diocletian Palace. Good dinner, good breakfast. Wonderful room, large, very comfortable beds, huge bathroom with double sinks, everything brand new.
Plitvice Lakes: Jezero Hotel. Perfect location, just right on the park, but it was all the good of it. Dated rooms, small, and yellowing for some deep cleaning (mold in a leaking bathroom). Service was bad, kind of rude waiters. Dinner and breakfast were OK but far from a first class hotel.
Bled; Park Hotel (Savas group) right on the lake, dinner and breakfast were good with nice selections; rooms were OK.
Zagreb; Westin Zagreb Hotel. Beautiful hotel, nice rooms, excellent breakfast.
Tour guide and driver
Ivana was our tour guide (I'm regretting not asking her address to send her a thank you note). She was perfect! As a former teacher, she talked about places and history in the most didactic way. She was lively and funny to the extent that everybody ended singing and laughing. Best tour guide I've ever had!
Dalivor was our driver, very professional and polite.
And I can't forget to mention the bus! Brand new bus, very comfortable, with plenty of room.
Wonderful trip, beautiful places, the only downside of this trip was coming back to the routine, but this can't be avoided. Thank you Lina for doing our booking! I'll be glad to write my review if you need it, Central Holidays was great with us ten years ago when we went to Greece, and once again with this trip. We will book with you again, that's for sure! Thank you again.