Please sign in to post.

Help with pre (or post?) cruise Croatia trip

Hello everyone, I would love some help with my pre (or possibly post!) cruise Croatia trip in fall 2022. I love planning out independent trips for us, but this one is throwing me for a few loops so I would love some input!

We (my husband, 2 kids and I) have a cruise booked for September 25-October 2 from Venice - but the actual port is Ravenna. I have been wanting to go to Croatia for years and years and I want to add it on to this cruise. We only have about 7-10 days that we can use for the Croatia portion. My must see places are Dubrovnik and Split, and I would like to add on an island (thinking Korcula) and would love to go to Plitvice Lakes but I may need to drop that. I was thinking we would do the Croatia portion before the cruise because it will be warmer then, but if we went after the cruise my kids would miss 2 less days of school and my husband would have a holiday in there, so that would be nice, but I'm not sure if the weather would start getting rainy in Croatia at the beginning of October and if things would start shutting down.

Our plan is to carry only backpacks and use mostly public transit, although I would only consider the bus for short term travel. My husband is open to renting a car and driving if necessary but he would prefer to not do that immediately upon entering Croatia, just so he can get the lay of the land first. This will be my kids' first time in Europe, they are 12 and 9 and pretty good travelers, but I want to avoid lots of complicated connections. The real hassle that I'm finding is the transport from Croatia to Italy. Since the cruise departs from Ravenna, I thought taking the overnight ferry from Split to Ancona and then a train up to Ravenna would work well for the night before the cruise departs, but it doesn't look like the overnight ferry runs on Saturdays. We would like to spend maybe 2 days in Venice before or after the cruise, so I looked into ferries from Istria to Venice but then we would have to add in Istria to our Croatia portion, which I would love, but that would really be pushing it for time. We can always fly but there doesn't appear to be direct flights between Split and Venice at this time so that would involve a lot of transfers as well. Am I missing a good option? We could do the overnight ferry on a Thursday night and train up to Venice on Friday morning but since we have to come back down that way to leave from Ravenna, it seems like that's a lot of unnecessary travel back and forth.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)

Posted by
6741 posts

As you have discovered there is a large ferry from Italy to Croatia and back that we saw when in Croatia. Our friends drove from Venice through beautiful Slovenia to Croatia and back so driving is an option as long as you return car in Italy.
We were in Croatia in May, had some rain and usually wore a light jacket according to our photos. We spent some time in Venice after Croatia. Your kids will love Venice!

Posted by
2080 posts

I'd let go of the focus on necessarily including Dubrovnik and Split--there are equally beautiful towns all over Croatia, and you won't see it all in a week or so anyway, so I would focus on maximizing your time. If you end up doing the trip after the cruise, Istria is supposed to be great in October (truffle season, though that may be later then your time there, worth checking).
Just south of Ravenna (you might want at least a day to see the mosaics), the Marche area of Italy is another great option. The coast at Sirolo reminded me of Croatia's coast.
I think flying into Venice and driving to Croatia (or ferry and pick up car in Croatia) might be a good way to make the most of your time. You can probably include Plitvice with this plan. If Istria does not captivate you, look at Losinj and Cres, two wild and beautiful islands.

Posted by
10 posts

Yes my kids are excited to go to Venice! I've been there 3 times myself so I don't necessarily need to go there, but they want to, so we'll spend 1-2 days there. I definitely want to go to Split and Dubrovnik. I'm sure there are other nice cities in Croatia as well but those 2 cities are the reason I want to go to Croatia so skipping them isn't an option for me (we specifically chose a cruise that did NOT include those cities because we didn't think a day visit would be enough time there). And I've already traveled quite a bit in Italy so that's not really my focus for this trip, but thanks for the suggestion! Renting a car in Venice and returning it there could work, but it just seems like it would add a lot of time to the trip since it doesn't seem like one-way rentals would be an option (without a huge fee).

Posted by
157 posts

Next year Venezialines Ferries will probably be back in service. Today only one rare ferry by Adriatic Lines is operating.
The ferry speeds with only passengers from Venice to Porec, Rovinj and Pula depending on day. Normally they put all the info online.
I usually come to Rovinj by an airport bus into Venice and catch their afternoon ferry. You can stay in Venice longer.

If you shifted the trip to after the cruise, you could start in Venice and end in Dubrovnik, which has many flights out.
Once at Rovinj - I am biased - you can sleep in, stroll around a car free old town, and arrange taxi/shuttle to Pula Airport.
Flights are a little weird, and you might have to fly Croatia Airlines Pula to Zadar - a wonderful town - and then bus/drive on south to Split and decide if you want to drive to Dubrovnik across the time consuming border with Bosnia or fly quickly to Dubrovnik. Korcula is well worth seeing by local bus - go all along the island to Vela Luka.

PS The Arriva,hr website will show you all the Croatia bus routes - click on the UK flag icon top right to read it in English :)
PPS End each day for your kids with dessert Palachinke/Crepes and different fillings and they will remember Croatia for ever.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks, that gives me something to consider, starting in Venice and taking the ferry from there to Rovinj. I will look to see how that would work.

I'm sure my kids would love that dessert as they love crepes! We will make sure to try that! Thank you!

Posted by
2080 posts

Just brainstorming--If you fly round-trip to Venice (probably easier than getting a flight to Croatia, but don't rule that out), wouldn't you return to Ravenna for the cruise (or if after the cruise, to Venice for flight out), making round-trip car rental an option?
If you get ten days, then making it to Split and Dubrovnik would work, with seven I would find that too much time in transit since direct flights are not possible.
Such a puzzle! Have you checked multi-city itineraries? Flying into Zagreb or Dubrovnik and out of Venice might help. If ZAG, you might be able to get to Plitvice the day you arrive. Bus travel in Croatia is great for the main traveled places. You only need a night or two at Plitvice, then you could take a bus to Split and a bus or catamaran from Split to Dubrovnik. It might be better to start in DBV since Zagreb to Venice is likely easier. Maybe some more seasonal flights will come into effect before then, good luck!
I do think it would be preferable in September if you want to swim, but October would be okay if the two towns are the main focus, and certainly if that gives you more time.

Posted by
10 posts

My original thought was to do open jaw flights, flying into Dubrovnik and out of Venice. I was thinking of flying into Dubrovnik, taking the ferry to Korcula, then on to Split, and taking an overnight ferry to Ancona, and take the train from Ancona to Ravenna, board the cruise, and after the cruise, take some type of transportation up to Venice, stay for a couple of days and fly home from Venice. But because the overnight ferry doesn't go on Saturday nights, it would require us to go a few days earlier if we wanted to do that, train from Ancona to Venice, stay in Venice a few days, then transportation back down to Ravenna to board the cruise, and then transportation back up to Venice to fly out afterwards. Feels like a lot of back and forth so I was trying to simplify things but I'm not sure if that's possible!

It does look like I can get a nonstop flight into Venice (flying from Toronto), so maybe it is worth considering flying in and out of Venice. We don't want to do Venice at the very beginning of the trip since we're joining my parents for the cruise who will be doing Munich beforehand, but they would like to visit Venice with us since my dad has never been there. It still seems like driving back and forth to Venice would add unnecessary time that we don't really have since we would just be traveling south along the Dalmatian coast and not really looping back towards Venice. I believe I can get a nonstop flight into Zagreb as well with Air Transat (as long as they're back to more normal schedules next year) so maybe that would be a better option to fly into.

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far! It's nice to bounce ideas around with other people!

Posted by
2080 posts

If you do need to while a couple days near Ancona, Senigallia is fabulous. Hope it all works out!

Posted by
2098 posts

I would visit Croatia before your cruise. We are in Dubrovnik now and the weather is glorious. Definitely can go to the beach everyday. A few days before we came it said rain every day. Well, when we got here on Sept 16 the rain blew up north and not a drop in 9 days. But things are starting to close down for the season. A restaurant we wanted to try in Korcula has already closed for the season. Tomorrow we are taking the ferry to Korcula then ferry to Split, very easy. I would take the Thursday night ferry and find something to do near or in Ravenna till my cruise started. Don’t over complicate it. 7-10 days is plenty. If you need to cut a day or two because of the ferry that is fine too. These are not very big cities like London, Paris or even Venice. A few days is sufficient to get around and see things. Last piece of advice. Stay within the city walls in all three places, it makes the experience that much better.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks so much for that info, that is super helpful! I think we will stick to traveling the week before the cruise since we would love to have some beach time and have everything be open. How many nights would you suggest for Dubrovnik? I usually like to do 3 nights in a city but you're right, if these cities are much smaller then I probably don't need as much time as I think I do!

Posted by
2098 posts

I also don’t like to stay less then 3 nights for various reasons. I would eliminate korčula as it is similar to Dubrovnik. Personally, I would pick Split over Dubrovnik so I would spend an extra day there. From Split you can do day trips to Krka Falls and Trogir. Also with children the old city of Split is flat unlike Dubrovnik which is very hilly and has numerous stairs everywhere. In Dubrovnik definitely take the children to Lokrum Island. They can run around and look for wildlife and the peacocks which roam around. There is a cafe there you can have a nice lunch. Also there is a small beach on the island. Get on the early ferry and follow the older people, they know where to go.

Posted by
10 posts

Ok, thinking about this some more, would it make sense to skip Korcula? I envisioned us island-hopping up the coast (well, really only going to Dubrovnik, an island, and then Split) because we did that in Greece and loved it. Would it make more sense to do Dubrovnik, Split, and then rent a car, maybe overnight at Plitvice Lakes, and then go to Pula or Rovinj, and take a ferry from there to Venice? Would you choose Korcula or Pula/Rovinj?

Posted by
2080 posts

I'm partial to the islands, and if you are going for swimming and beaches, it makes sense to include one. Dub-Korcula-Split is easy because it's the catamaran route, plus buses go from Dbv to Korcula. If you end up getting a flight out of Split, I'd do that. But, if you end up needing to drive, then I think you would need to skip Korcula for time reasons. You cannot swim at Plitvice (for environmental reasons), but you can at Krka, just FYI.
South of Pula, there is Premantura park that I have put on my list for when I finally get to Istria. It is much trickier with the scheduling, but there is also a ferry from Zadar to Losinj, from there you could drive to Pula/Rovinj.

Posted by
2098 posts

Honestly, I love korčula for so many reasons (family and my favorite Croatian artist live there) but you can definitely skip it. The Pula is great, the Roman colosseum is fabulous and I just heard that they opened the lower level to tourists. You can then go to Rovinj for a few days and then the ferry to Venice. If I remember correctly, they have a Pirate ship you go out on a day trip, the kids might like this activity. Also there is a water park up in Istria called Aquapark Istralandia which could also be a day trip. Just an FYI. PS, as of this year you cannot swim at Krka any longer.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks for your input! I've got lots to think about! :) I did check flights again today and it does look like there are nonstop flights with Volotea from Split to Venice so that would make that trek a bit smoother!

Posted by
2098 posts

If you are going to fly from Split then add back Korčula or another island within your route. Check the ferry schedule, and the islands’ websites, to see which other island you could visit. Croatiaferries.com is great for checking days/times/months/costs. When you are ready to book, go to the ferry company’s website. Try and use Krilo over Jadrolinija. Krilo uses catamarans which are smaller and more comfortable. They are also faster. Jadrolinija is a large ferry and takes cars.

Posted by
70 posts

Hi Star, I hope your trip planning is going smoothly, looks like you have received some good advice so far. I just returned home from a month in Croatia and Slovenia so I'll throw you my 2 cents too! Some background: We were originally planning this trip in May 2020 and were going to include Venice, like you, because how can you be that close and NOT go to Venice? We love it there and have been many times, but it was our first time in Croatia and Slovenia. But also like you finding a ferry to get to Venice was a challenge, and because we went now (fall 2021) restrictions Italy being unpredictable, we decided to stick with just Croatia and Slovenia. But I can speak to your Croatia brainstorming. I totally agree with you on Dubrovnik and Split. Both are at least 2 days worthy each, depending on your pace. We took a 7-day small boat cruise Dubrovnik to Split with 'Sail Croatia' September 25 - October 2. We swam every day and wore sandals, shorts and T-shirts; we visited Mjlet, Korcula, Hvar, Stari Grad, the Blue Grotto, Vis. The weather was beautiful! For us it was the best way to island hop plus see both Dubrovnik and Split. During our whole month trip, that was our favorite week.
For islands, I absolutely loved Korcula. We only saw Korcula town, but there is loads to do and see on the island. You might also consider Hvar or Mjlet. Mjlet is close to Dubrovnik, it has a very relaxed vibe (read that no night clubs/party scene to keep you away at night). Our favorite thing to do there was to rent bikes to ride around the lake in the National Park and take a swim stop at the river. We stayed over in Polace in Mjlet. Croatia is beautiful, so whatever you choose, you'll have a great time! I am happy to answer any questions you might have or brainstorm further :) So much depends on the pace that you're looking for and what activities your kids might like to do.
(Side note for Dubrovnik, backpacks are smart because the allies are steep stairs and narrow. Rolling cases are impractical; I took a rolling backpack and was happy for the backpack option.)

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much for your detailed response!! We are definitely planning on taking backpacks - we find them much easier to navigate public transit and narrow streets in Europe! The cruise sounds awesome - those are the exact dates that we’re going on our cruise next year so I’m happy to hear that the weather was still nice and warm for you! I am really hoping for good weather that’s not too hot! This gives me lots to think about! 😊

Posted by
70 posts

I thought of you again yesterday when I was flipping around Youtube videos. There is a series that might be helpful to you choosing destination(s) in Croatia. It's called Rok Goes Around. His videos are current and he gives useful information. He's got some on the different towns in Istria (you could spend the whole 10 days just in Istria!) and I think there is one about Hvar too.