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Croatia Cruises: What You Need to Know
Have you always taken land-based breaks because you thought cruises were far too expensive or just for old fogies? Yeah, me also – but now I know better. Since taking our first cruise in Croatia back in 2000, I am now ready to book a Mediterranean cruise again.
Given that more and more of us can take to the high seas (thanks in part to how affordable cruises have become), I decided to put together this guide to cruising Croatia – so you too can be in the know.
This guide is going to tell you everything you need to know about Croatia cruises, one of the greatest ways to travel around Croatia, and is undoubtedly going to leave you hitting the ‘book it now’ button.
First things first, however, what exactly is a cruise?
What Is A Cruise?
This might sound like a ridiculous question for some, but I have been asked it, so let me explain what exactly a cruise is.
So a cruise is a voyage on a ship or boat taken for pleasure or as a holiday and usually calling in at several destinations. A cruise allows you to see a lot of a country or region (or several countries on longer cruises), with the huge bonus of your mode of transport also being your accommodation. They also allow you to visit many islands and coastal destinations in quick succession.
In Croatia, cruise ships have various itinerary options, so you can easily choose the route that suits your interests. You can go for a mini cruise of a few days, but the most common cruises in Croatia are a week-long – but you could do two back-to-back cruises and go island hopping in Croatia for two weeks, which will allow you to see even more.
No matter the length of your cruise, each sailing itinerary will have sailing time between destinations. The ship will then stop in the port and allow you to explore the town, city, or island you are visiting for a prescribed period of time.
Before you get ashore, it’s a good idea to consider whether you want to book an excursion to explore the destination you are visiting. You can choose to have the cruise company take care of the booking for you, do it yourself – or simply galavant and explore at your leisure.
While you’re at sea, you’ll get to enjoy the facilities onboard and relax and soak up the Adriatic sun’s rays.
Every cruise ship is different, so it’s essential to do your research ahead of time. Each ship will be tailored to a set group of travelers. For example, some welcome families, whereas others are more tailored towards a younger crowd.
Be sure to do your research to be paired with like-minded travelers. A few years ago, we booked a sailing trip in Croatia to join some friends and were shocked to learn it was a party ship – queue sleepless nights and days at sea filled with boozed-up 20 somethings. Not fun.
It used to be the case that cruises were something only the rich and affluent could afford, but that is no longer the case given the number of cruise companies and the competitive prices now on offer.
Why Should You Choose To Do A Cruise In Croatia?
There are many reasons why you should opt for a cruise:
- You get to see many different destinations in the space of one week
- You do not need to drive or find transport to get you to and from each location
- The planning is all done for you
- You’re likely to meet new people and make friends
- Many meals are included in the price of your holiday, so you know how to budget (just remember that drinks are never included, so do allocate budget for that!)
- It is easy to book land-based excursions which are designed to show you the highlights of the area
Are Cruises In Croatia Safe?
Totally safe! Large cruise liners and small cruise ships have fantastic reputations for safety in Croatia thanks to very tough maritime laws. So you don’t have to worry about a thing, you simply need to sit back and relax, enjoying the view and the experience!
Which Islands Can You Explore On Croatia Cruises?
Croatia island hopping is so easy when you are on a cruise, each itinerary is different, but cruises in the Adriatic Sea often visit these more popular islands.
With sweeping views over the stunning Adriatic Sea, Hvar is a super popular destination in Croatia. Packed with a history dating back to around 6000BC, an abundance of beautiful natural sites, and something to cater for all types of holidaymakers, Hvar is a top spot to visit on your cruise itinerary. With around 2800 hours of sunshine annually, you can be sure of a tan too!
Check out the Franciscan Monastery and Museum, St Stephen’s Square, and the cathedral, enjoy a wine tour, check out the Renaissance Theatre, head to Grapceva Caves, or chill out on one of the many beaches, including beautiful Grebisce Beach or Lucisca Beach, to name just two.
Pronounced as ‘kor-chula,’ Korcula island is famously known locally as the Emerald Isle. Sitting in a beautiful location in southern Dalmatia, Korcula is stunningly beautiful. Explore Korcula’s charming old town, and you’ll get a feel for life on a Dalmatian island!
Windsurfing is very popular here, so you can certainly try your hand at that at any one of the several windsurfing schools to learn the basics.
If you prefer to stay on dry land, how about cycling around the island? There are many routes on offer. You can choose from hilly routes to flat ones, and all offer glittering views of the Adriatic Sea.
Korcula Town is where it’s at for shopping and gastronomy, with a chilled out, Mediterranean cafe vibe to enjoy. You can also visit the alleged birthplace of Marco Polo, which is found in the center of town.
Mljet Island and National Park
Mljet is a small yet romantic island, which is ideal for couples and those looking for seclusion. There are lots of walking and cycling trails around, which will show you the stunning scenery, and many of them will lead you to quiet, chilled out bays, where you can catch some rays.
Around a third of the island is dedicated as a national park and is therefore protected. There are two salt lakes to explore and an old Benedictine monastery, which is actually a cafe these days. Put simply, Mljet is the ideal spot to enjoy natural Croatia.
Definitely, an island with a lot of life and fun to be had is Pag. During the summer months, famous Zrce Beach is home to countless parties and festivals, and with the sun beating down, you’re in for a fun-filled, memorable time on the island! Of course, it’s not all about partying, because Pag Town itself is a total contradiction to Zrce Beach.
Pag Town is much quieter and laid-back, and you can enjoy the winding streets and architecture here while soaking up the sun. If you have a longer stop-over on your cruise, head into Zadar, which you can reach via a bridge that connects Pag to the mainland.
Vis is a fantastic stop off if you’ve had several days of being busy and you want to chill out totally.
This island is about beauty more than anything else, and with Stiniva Beach, formerly voted the best beach in Europe, this is an absolute must-see and swim beach.
While Stiniva beach isn’t the easiest beach to get to, and you will need to hike a little or go by boat, the effort is more than worth it, and the slow pace of life will allow you to really appreciate what you’re seeing.
Where Can You Explore On The Croatian Mainland?
A Croatia cruise is not all about sailing the Croatian islands (trust me!); you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know just how much there is to see and do on the Croatian mainland too.
Let’s check each one out a little more.
Perhaps the most famous and most popular mainland stop in Croatia, Dubrovnik has plenty to keep everyone occupied.
The choice of Dubrovnik shore excursions is so vast, and there is no way you can see all of Dubrovnik in one day. That said, you can check out the city walls, the forts, the Cathedral of The Assumption of Mary, Rector’s Palace, the Dominican Monastery and Museum easily in one day. Or you might want to enjoy one of the many beaches and wander around Gunduliceva Poljana Market.
Dubrovnik is packed with gastronomical delights, shopping opportunities, and nightlife, and the sun certainly beats down during the summer months so that you can top up your tan while you’re exploring.
While you can certainly enjoy Dubrovnik while on a cruise, this is a destination you really need to plan to come back and explore in detail because there is so much on offer past the city walls.
The seafront promenade is ideal for a sunset walk, and the nightlife is lively, without being too loud. Located on a small bay, there are wooded sections of the headland, which give fantastic views, and you can easily explore the old town in one day, which is home to lively Kacic Square.
The other most popular mainland destination (along with Dubrovnik) is Split.
Located in central Dalmatia, there is a lot of history to explore here, dating back to Ancient Greek and Roman times. The action is centered around Diocletian’s Palace, with the Roman architecture around every turn. Split has an ultra-cool vibe and is a little more fast-paced than the other Croatian coastal cities.
Besides history, Split is a fun destination, too; there is much to see and do for families, singles, and couples alike.
Check out the Four Gates of Diocletian’s Palace, the Temple of Jupiter, check out some of the museums, enjoy Pazar Market or Peskarija Market, or sit and watch the world go by at one of the cafes on the Riva.
If beaches are for you, then there are many to check out, including Kasuni Beach, or Firule Beach, to name just two.
Omis is undoubtedly a destination for the outdoor adventure fan!
Omis is packed with fun-filled activities in the Central Dalmatia region, such as canoeing, canyoning, zip-lining, trekking, horseback riding, fishing, and sea kayaking paintballing, and paragliding.
Of course, if you prefer to sit back and relax, you can enjoy time on the beach and paddle in the sea, as well as enjoying several diving opportunities. Still, overall, Omis is a must-do on your cruise itinerary if you love a little extra natural adrenaline!
Primosten is located on an islet, which is now connected to the mainland and is a fortified Dalmatian town with its own special charm.
Primosten is only around an hour or so from Split itself, so if you have a longer stop off, you could actually head out and see two places at the same time using a reliable private transfer company.
Primosten has a very pretty old town, which is ideal for walking around, and there are plenty of shaded spots to escape from the summer heat. Oh and of the country’s biggest nightclubs is found here so that you won’t be bored if you spend an evening at the Aurora Club!
One of the largest cities in Dalmatia is packed with things to see and do, as well as having some wonderful beaches to chill the hell out on! Far from just a port town, Zadar has a long history and culture to explore.
From the famous Sea Organ to the Gold and Silver Museum, People’s Square, to St Anastasia’s Cathedral, The Forum to the Sphinx, the list goes on!
While many people used to overlook Zadar, in favor of other cities such as Split or Dubrovnik, this is now changing, and each year this town gets busier and busier (I know as it’s where I live!). Zadar is also the ideal city to visit Croatia’s two most popular national parks, Plitvice and Krka National Park.
Located in beautiful Sibenik-Knin county, in Central Dalmatia, Vodice is a busy, lively, and fun place to visit! With plenty to see and do, both inside the town and around it, a mainland stop off here will be filled with adventure.
There is a beautiful and large marina in the center of town, and Blue Beach has been awarded Blue Flag status and a long promenade, which is ideal for walking, especially at sunset.
Of course, there are plentiful beaches to enjoy, but there are also many cafes and restaurants.
Trogir is located between Zadar and Split, so it is effortless to get to from either destination and is also a popular stop-off point on the many cruise itineraries that sail Croatia.
If you’re into photography, this UNESCO-Listed town is an ideal place to go, with stunning sea views and historic architecture.
Be sure to check out Kamerlango Castle, the Cathedral of St Lawrence, the local farmer’s market, and some beaches around the area, such as Okrug Beach and Pantan Beach. A real hidden gem!
What Are The Best Croatia Cruises? What Do The Itineraries Look Like?
Before you cruise the Adriatic, you need to find the right itinerary. Choosing the right cruise around Croatia could leave you with a headache – as there are so many options. You should know that there are three main regions when cruising Croatia;
- Northern Adriatic: covering Rijeka to Zadar
- Central Adriatic: covering Zadar to Split
- Southern Adriatic: covering Split to Dubrovnik
So choose a few places that interest you, and then find the itineraries that suit you.
Cruising Croatia from Dubrovnik is always really popular given how many low-cost carriers land there. This makes a one-way Dubrovnik to Split cruise very popular. Sailing Croatia one way especially ending in Split, means you can continue your holiday by road to explore other parts of Croatia.
Dubrovnik To Split – One Week
- Depart Dubrovnik and sail to Lopud
- Spend the day on the island of Mljet at Polace
- Spend the day on Korcula
- Spend the day on Vis
- Spend the day on Hvar Island, at Starigrad
- Spend the day on Brac Island, at Supetar
- Sail to Split
Cruises from Split are very popular – so book early. A cruise Split to Dubrovnik one way means you can explore Dubrovnik in detail – or find a cheap flight home.
Split To Dubrovnik – One Week
- Leave Split and sail to Milna
- Spend a day in Hvar
- Travel to and stay the day at Komiza, on the island of Vis
- Spend the day on Korcula
- Spend a day at Pomena, on the island of Mljet
- Another day spent on an island, this time in Sipan
- End your cruise in Dubrovnik
The Trogir Circle – Eight Days
- Leave Trogir and head to Makarska
- Spend the day in the Mljet National Park
- Sail to the Elaphiti Islands
- Spend time in either Dubrovnik, the Elaphiti Islands, or Slano
- Spend the day in Korcula
- Spend time on Hvar Island
- Sail to Solta Island
- Head back to Trogir
The Rijeka Circle – Eight Days
- Leave Rijeka and sail to Krk Island
- Spend the day on Rab Island
- Spend the day in Sali, Dugi Otok
- Head to the Zadar archipelago and the Kornati Islands
- Visit Losinj Island
- Sail to Cres Island
- Head back to Rijeka
The Split Circle – Eight Days
- Leave Split and sail to Makarska
- Spend the day on Mljet Island
- Spend the day in Dubrovnik
- Spend the day in Trstenik
- Spend the day in Korcula
- Spend the day in Hvar
- Cruise to Bol
- Arrive back in Split
Discover Dubrovnik – One Week
- Leave Dubrovnik
- Cruise to Mljet Island
- Arrive in Korcula
- Spend time in Hvar
- Sail to the Peljesac Peninsula and visit Trstenik
- Sail to the Elaphiti Islands
- Head back to Dubrovnik
Rijeka To Kornati – One Week
- Leave Rijeka and cruise to Krk Island
- Spend time on Rab Island
- Sail to Sali Town on Dugi Otok
- Visit the Kornati Islands
- Cruise to Losinj Island
- Sail to Cres Island
- Head back to Rijeka
Small Ship Croatia Cruises
In my opinion, the ultimate and best cruises in Croatia are small ship cruises. Those giant-sized luxury Adriatic cruises just stop in one or two ports in Croatia – and you lose the appeal and charm of this country by skipping the smaller island and ports.
Of course, if you base yourself in the right spot, you can make island trips from Split – but traveling by ferry is nowhere near as fun as a cruise.
If you’re someone who really likes to get up close and personal with a destination, savoring every last bit of action and adventure from it, then a small ship cruise is for you.
What to Pack For a Cruise Holiday
Now, you know what cruise you are heading off to – it’s time to pack.
When you’re heading off cruising, you don’t need to take a huge suitcase! Traveling light is the name of the game here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few must-have items to slot in your case. Aside from your clothes, shoes, fashion accessories, and your bikinis/swim shorts, what else do you need?
- Seasickness tablets – You might not be affected at all, but isn’t it best to be prepared?
- Earplugs – Depending on your type of ship, you might be close to a bar or nightclub, and if you want an early night, your earplugs will come in very handy indeed.
- A light jacket – Even if you were going to be cruising around the hottest region in the world, you’d still need a light jacket for evenings. There is usually a light breeze at sea, and it can be a little chilly in the evenings.
- Fold up binoculars – You might miss that pod of dolphins if you don’t pack some binoculars! Buy some small, even fold up ones, and you won’t even notice the extra weight.
- Mini speakers – If you want to sit on your balcony and check out the sunset, you can have your music on and totally enjoy the moment!
- Power Bank – Of course, you’ll be able to charge your devices in your cabin, but what if you’re out on the deck or out and about somewhere on an excursion and you need a little extra juice?
- Formal clothing – It could be the case that there is a formal night on your itinerary. You can check this by contacting your cruise company ahead of time, but it’s always a good idea to have formal wear, at least one outfit, so you can enjoy the upmarket evening that’s ahead of you.
What to leave at home?
You do not need a million outfits and pairs of shoes! Aside from the dress-up evenings (if there are any), onboard clothing is quite casual, so you don’t even have to glam it up too much at night if you don’t want to. There are a few other things you don’t necessarily need to pack:
All of these will already be in your room!
How to Tip Cruise Staff
Do you tip? Don’t you tip? How do you do it?
Basically, to avoid embarrassment and awkwardness, there is an unspoken rule when it comes to tipping. It isn’t a hard and fast rule – but one common in the sailing industry.
Start by working out the price of your holiday, and then tip 5-15% according to how good you thought the service was. Give this tip to the captain or put it in the ‘tips’ jar at the end of your cruise – this saves you from having to go around tipping everyone every day! Doing this will put a smile on the face of the people who looked after you so well during your cruise.
What to Budget For on a Sailing Holiday
Your holiday is paid for, and your food is included (double-check exactly what is/is not included, but more often than not, cruises are half-board deals), so what else do you need to budget for while you are onboard?
- Drinks – Sometimes, you can purchase drinks packages, i.e., soft drinks packages or alcoholic packages, which means you can drink whatever you want within that package in an unlimited amount, provided you pay for the package beforehand. You can do this at the time of booking, or you can do it when you get on the ship.
- Day trips and excursions – You will, of course, want to head out and explore the places you’re docking at, so you’ll need cash to pay for excursions. If you’ve arranged these yourself beforehand, you don’t need to pay again, but if you’re booking them on the cruise, you’ll need the cash to do so.
- Spending money on days out – When you’re out and about on excursions, you might want a drink, a quick snack, or an ice cream, or you might want to buy a few trinkets and souvenirs to take back home.
- Tips – We just mentioned tipping, so budget some cash aside to tip your crew members at the end of your holiday.
Croatia Cruises: Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s wrap it all up!
How far in advance do I need to book my Croatia cruise? – Just like any other type of holiday, you can get many last-minute deals on cruises, so it depends on your budget. If you want to book well in advance, you can usually find dates up to one year beforehand, or you can find a last-minute deal a month before!
Can I buy supplies at the marina when we dock? – Yes, most people stock up on their necessities when they dock, including staff!
Are meals provided? If so, which meals? – Typically, it’s half-board; however, it is dependant on the cruise, so you’ll need to check the details before you make a booking.
Are drinks included? – No. You will need to purchase drinks.
Can I bring kids? Some companies have a policy that only children 15 years and over are allowed to board. Do ask to be sure.
How many bags can I take on the cruise ship? – There are no hard and fast rules, unlike when flying. However, the general rule of thumb is no more than two suitcases. Having said that, you’re not going to have the largest amount of room inside your cabin, so try and keep your packing as light as possible.
Will my cruise have Wi-Fi? – Yes! There will be times when the connection won’t be amazing if you’re in the middle of the sea, but the overall connection will be available. If constant Wi-FI in Croatia is essential to you, get one of these.
Can I smoke onboard? – No designated smoking areas are available on small cruise ships – not even in your room, and if you want to smoke, then you must wait till you disembark your boat.Share