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Dalmatia and Croatia - Is Dubrovnik Essential?

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I'm slowly finalising sections of my itinerary for May-June 2011.

At this stage I look like arriving in Milan from Switzerland around Monday 23rd May. I'm booked to depart from Budapest to St Petersburg on Friday 3rd June. The eleven nights between those dates are open.

I have lots of options and initially I included Dubrovnik in all of them. But the more I look at the travel planning, the more difficult that option seems. Currently I'm considering a ferry to Dubrovnik and leaving by bus and train via Ploce and Sarajevo. So my first question is how essential is it to include Dubrovnik?

If I commence in Rijeka (via Ljubjlana) and use buses and ferries to wander down the coast to Split, the villages between and some islands, then return by bus or train to Zagreb before taking the train from Zagreb to Budapest on the 2nd June, what do I miss by missing Dubrovnik that I can't see in other locations along that route? And my next question is what are the must-sees along that route in Dalmatia and from the coast to Zagreb?

All suggestions welcomed.

Cheers, Alan

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