Ferry Travel In Croatia: The Jadrolinija Timetable and Routes
With its 1185 islands proving a large draw for tourists, ferries to Croatian islands are popular, especially in the summer. A quick guide to Jadrolinija.
Most tourists who travel in Croatia will head to the coast at some point, with the 1185 islands an enticing offer, and for those who choose to leave the mainland, the state ferry company, Jadrolinija, has by far the most comprehensive service. With its fleet of thirty-six car ferries and eight catamarans, the company (literally meaning 'Adriatic Line') operates an impressive year-round network to many islands, providing a lifeline to islanders in winter, and accessibility with an increased service for tourists in the summer.
Ferries to Croatia – The International Routes
Jadrolinija currently offers three international routes, which unlike the domestic crossings, can be booked online. Travellers to and from Italy have the choice of a Bari to Dubrovnik and two options from Ancona - to Zadar and to Starigrad on Hvar via Split. This service has been reduced off-season, possibly due to economic cutbacks, but also influenced by the running aground of the pride of the fleet, Marco Polo, in 2009. Despite this incident and another involving Tin Ujevic in Split, where 31,000 litres of fuel leaked into the harbour, Croatian ferries are safe, modern and extremely efficient.
Ferries in Croatia - The Island Connections
Ferry connections are the lifeline of any island community and there are the main islands are extremely well served. The island of Hvar, for example, has boats arriving to four destinations every day of the year (weather permitting) - from Drvenik to Sucuraj, catamarans from Split to Hvar Town and Jelsa and the main car ferry service from Split to Starigrad.
The island of Brac, much closer to Split, is even better served with regular year-round connections to the capital, Supetar, allowing many islanders to make the daily commute to Split. With subsidised tickets for islanders, the additional cost of travel is somewhat covered, although ticket prices are an additional cost to an already higher cost of living on Croatian islands. One little reported benefit for mothers-to-be who are thinking of settling on the islands is that Jadrolinija offers free travel for life to any child born on one of its journeys. Whether the long-term saving is worth the inconvenience is a personal decision of course...
Jadrolinija Catamaran And The Papal Visit
In addition to the car ferries, a fleet of catamarans provide essential connections to Croatian island ports. Among the most popular are the 16.00 from Split to Jelsa on Hvar, via Bol on Brac (with its famous Zlatni Rat beach) and the 14.00 from Split to Hvar Town and Korcula Island. While the service in the season is excellent and extremely poplar, the winter departures are heavily at the mercy of the fierce Adriatic winds, most notably, the bura. Regular sailing updates can be obtained by calling Jadrolinija on +385-21-338333.
The late Pope John Paul II visited this very Catholic country in 2003, and Jadrolinija is very proud of the part it played, according to its website: "On the fifth of June 2003, the Pope John Paul II, after having landed on the airport of Krk, continued his journey from the port of Omišalj by our Catamaran Judita. The Pope, after embarkation on board the ship, took a sit at the specially designed chair and gave His blessing to Jadrolinija and to all our seamen. The representatives of our Company and all eight members of the crew got the commemorative gold coins, in the permanent memory of this event. Our present to the Holy Father was the model of the ancient coastal cargo sailing vessel-bracera, which is characteristic of our region, with the inscription of the seamen of Jadrolinija, thanking Him in such a way for visiting Croatia and sailing our ship."
Some Island-Hopping Tips For Ferries And Catamarans
Tourists arriving for the season can endure a number of frustrations with ferry travel and it pays to plan ahead. One main frustration is the lack of connections between islands, which catches people out and causes extra travel time. There is no car ferry connection between Korcula, Brac or Hvar, for example - island hopping with a car requires a diversion to the mainland. For this reason, island car hire, while more expensive on the surface, can sometimes be a better option.
The other frustration is waiting times. With increased traffic come increased sailings, but there can still be long waits. At the small eastern port of Sucuraj on Hvar, for example, the tiny car ferry for the half-hour crossing to Drvenik can only handle 32 cars in one go. It is not uncommon to arrive and find more than 100 cars waiting. One tip if your schedule allows, is to take the very first ferry, departing 0630, almost always empty, even in Summer.
The Jadrolinija Timetable
The Jadrolinija timetable is widely available at ports and online, with the (fairly) useful website available in English, Italian, German and Croatian. The winter timetable up to May is usually made available at the end of the season, but it is a source of frustration to many early planners that the tourist summer schedule is not available until shortly before the season.
In summary, Jadrolinija provides a vital and broadly efficient ferry experience, one that has been enhanced for non-lovers of passive smoking with a smoking ban indoors. If you have time on your hands, one extremely relaxing trip is to take the ferry from Dubrovnik to Starigrad on Hvar, via Korcula. A hearty restaurant meal, decent red wine and entertaining book are the perfect accompaniments to watching the islands pass slowly by. Enjoy!