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8 Nights in Croatia ~ First Trip ~ Looking for Wow Factor!

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Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Little background: group of 4-5 of us; very active 60ish crowd; one is semi-pro photographer; we all love wine, good food and beautiful scenery. Price always plays a minor role but location and surroundings more important. We all love Italy but have always heard about beautiful Croatia. Hours looking at ocean and surroundings while drinking good wine with good friends is the ideal evening. Probably go 3 or 4 week of September (2013). The photographer will be up early taking pictures. Rental car would be OK. The logistics are very confusing ~ cars vs boats. Here is what I am thinking at this point:

Flights from Texas: probably Delta using frequent flyer miles. I don’t see that Delta has any connections into Croatia but could use miles to get to convenient location (say Rome) and take flights over to Croatia. Any suggestions or experience?

Day One: Dubrovnik and stay Hotel Excelsior. Will be jet lagged so walk around and have generally an easier day.
Day Two: Take day tour to Montenegro (Budva). Is organized tour best thing to do? If so, any recommendations for higher end tour.
Day Three: Finish touring Dubrovnik area
Day Four: Head towards Karcola and stay Marko Polo Hotel. Best transportation from Dubrovnik to Karcola ~ car rental; boat?
Day Five: Enjoy Karcola and relax
Day Six: Head towards Hvar and stay Amfora or Hotel Park Hvar. Any suggestions on nicest hotel that has best views and location. Once again ~ best way from Karcola to Hvar
Day Seven: Hvar and relax
Day Eight: Hvar to Split and stay Hotel Luxe. Tour town
Day Nine: Fly back to Texas

Thanks for suggestions.

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