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Croatia Cruise Ship Schedules and Planning Around Them

So, I've been looking at the cruise ship schedules for our time in Croatia, as suggested on other threads. Our dates are set already, so what I would like to do is try to plan our days so that we aren't doing the popular activities on the busier cruise ship days. This will be during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May.

There are cruise ships in port each of our 4 days in Dubrovnik. From what I can tell, looking at their passenger capacities, the maximum number of passengers per day will be as follows:

Day 1 - Saturday. Arrival Day. We arrive in the morning and won't be too jet lagged, because we have an overnight in London before our flight. However, we may have to deal with our lugguge (carryon) until we can check into our apartment. There is one ship in port that day, from 8 to 5, maximum 999 passengers.
Day 2-Sunday. 2 ships in port. One has a max of 153 passengers and the other lists 99-198 passengers and is there from 5-9 pm. I figure this isn't too bad and might be a good day to plan a popular activity.
Day 3-Monday. 1 ship in port from 7 am to 6 pm. 1258 - 1447 passengers
Day 4-Tuesday. Departure day. We are probably taking the ferry to Hvar, leaving at 4:30 pm. There will be 2 ships in port. One has a max of 930 passengers. The other, there from 8 am to 5 pm, has 2666 - 3214 passengers. This looks to be the busiest day, so this is the day we'd probably want to schedule something outside of the old town, I'm thinking, but we may have our luggage to deal with. (I'm thinking there is storage near the ferry, as there is in Split?)

Hvar-Tuesday to Friday. No cruise ships in port that month until the day we leave (early). Hooray! However, I'm wondering about our day trip to the Blue Cave. Do people on cruise ships often do trips to the Blue Cave when they have just the day in Split? Should I try to go to the Blue Cave on the day there will be fewer passengers in Split (weather may also dictate our choice), or does it matter? (1150 on Day 1 in Hvar vs ~2000 on day 2, but one of the ships isn't in port until afternoon).

Split-Friday-Saturday. There are no ships in port on our full day in Split (yay!). We will arrive early in the morning from Hvar and can store our luggage. We are going to Zadar the next day, but I thought we'd spend the second morning in Split. 2 ships totalling up to almost 5000 passengers will be in port that day, arriving at 7 or 8 am. So, if we spend the morning here, suggestions on how to avoid the crowds?

Zadar-Saturday-Monday. 1 ship in port the day we arrive. 672-804 passengers, there from 8 am to 8 pm. I'm guessing the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun will be busier that evening. There are no ships in port our second day (full day and night) in Zadar. Yay!

Plitvice-Monday-Tuesday. There are no ships in port in Zadar the day we go to Plitvice. There is one ship in port in Split that day, from 10 am to 6 pm, with 2260 - 2712 passengers. Might this affect the crowds in Plitvice? We are staying overnight at a park hotel and plan to take advantage of the 2-day entry, going later in the day the first day and earlier in the day the second. The second day, there is one ship in port in Split, from 8 am to 6 pm with 698-803 passengers.

So, it looks as if there are only a couple of days (our departure day in Dubrovnik and our departure morning in Split, where large numbers of cruise passengers might affect our plans, but I would appreciate any tips on what to make sure to do on the less-crowded days and what are some good options for the more crowded days.

Posted by
10112 posts

Wishing you a good visit to Croatia with your cruise ship avoidance plans. We love being on the water but those ships are a real problem.

Posted by
710 posts

Good for you planning ahead. The number of cruisers in town that day will always have an impact on the town, but it's all relative. There could be 4 times what you're looking at when bigger or multiple ships are in port. And overall, you're in good shape as none of the ships you mention are the largest out there -- 1000 people is nothing when talking ships. However, Dubrovnik isn't that big and those 1000 people will all be doing two things -- Mt. Srd and walking the wall. (A third destination would be the Game of Thrones stuff, but not as much a must-do as the others, presumably.) Wait until Sunday for these. You won't have any problem with these at all. The Stradun will be able to absorb the Monday +/- 1500 pax fairly well, but it won't be great. Tuesday will be crazy. If you're thinking of going out to one of the small islands near Dubrovnik that would be a good day. Alternately, pick one of the lesser sites, for example, the Maritime Museum or the Ethnological History Museum, well off the Stradun. Frankly, there's not that much to see in Dubrovnik. You could well have finished everything by Tuesday. You could consider a day trip to Kotor or Mostar that day.

Cruisers going to Plitvice (remember to buy your park tickets in advance) or the Blue Cave from their ship are doing "shore excursions". It's pretty hard to say how many would take part in this, or if they even exist, but in my experience, excursions are generally limited to one or two bus loads off each ship with 2000-3000 pax. Rarely, 3 or 4, but generally that's when there's only one show in town -- Tiede in the Canaries for example. It will be those who researched beyond the itinerary who will go, and not to diss cruisers, as I am one, there won't be a lot. If you really want to get an idea of the types of shore excursions to these places, and how many cruisers might participate, go to the cruise company's website and look at shore excursions for each sailing. Depending on the line, you might not have access to this info, but you could always call them; they'd be happy to tell you I'm sure. There will be cruisers who set up their own shore excursions (check Tours by Locals, cruise ship excursions to see what they might be selecting from). Viatour will be the choice of others, but that's not huge numbers. I'm not sure if there would be local companies or not with the means to organize large excursions. The important thing to remember in cruise season is getting ahead of the crowds. Find out what time the ship docks. Allow 30-60 minutes for the bulk of passengers to disembark and head to the most popular destinations. If you can, be on your way out the door as they arrive.

You won't be able to avoid crowds in Split with 5000 extra bodies in the old town. Just not possible. Best to think about a small excursion, Trogir perhaps. If not, get as far away from Diocletian's Palace as you can. The Ivan Meštrović Gallery is a great place, and it is a bit outside the historic center.

With a little advance planning, you'll be fine. Hope you enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1 posts

How did you determine how many ships would be in port during those days? That looks like helpful info to know. Thank you