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Kotor in August

Avoid if you can!

We're currently here renting a villa across the bay from the Old Town in Muo and Kotor is incredibly busy, so much so that what should be a 9 minute drive to the supermarket at 7 am ended up being a 40 minute journey due to the volume of traffic. Yesterday I gave up trying to drive to the roundabout that would take us out of Kotor and returned back to the villa.
Instead we walked the dangerous road to a restaurant 30 minutes away. Lunch was nice and we decided to take a look around the Old Town but with two huge cruise ships in port the crowds were huge and with the temperature in the mid 30's my tolerance levels were low so we gave up.

As for the cruise ships. The villa we are staying at has a balcony and pool terrace with oustanding views of the Old Town and mountains, that's until one of those obnoxious behemoths (or two or three) arrive and completely block our view. They sit there all day until leaving, the one yesterday choosing to sound their horn 10 times at 9 pm just to make sure that they had disturbed each and every person for miles around. Other ships manage to sound theirs only once once they start to move.

Unfortunately the town doesn't have the infrastructure to handle the numbers of tourists that it has attracted and the numbers are only going to increase.

Posted by
2374 posts

Ah JC sorry to hear that. We spent a very pleasant week in Dobrota just down the road several years ago. Only one ship in a week but obviously that has changed. Contact these British ex-pats for a fun day if you have time https://www.montenegro4sail.com/. Highlight of our trip!

Posted by
4218 posts

Thanks for the recommendation Alan, I'll bear it in mind although I think the boys had something more exhilirating in mind like a speedboat tour!

Doug, I completely understand the local's view. What was promised hasn't materealised. We may only be a family of four but we've just returned from dinner at a local restaurant via a local taxi to our local owned villa. Tomorrow we'll buy breakfast from a nearby bakery, make lunch with produce from a nearby store and visit another restaurant for dinner. We'll repeat this for the next two weeks interspersed with various visits and excursions in the surrounding area. I acknowledge the appeal of a cruise, personally I could think of nothing worse, but to me it would appear the negatives far outweigh the positives as far as the towns/cities and their inhabitants are concerned.

In a few days time there will be four ships docked with a capacity capability of around 8,000 passengers! If only half that number is realised it is still a shocking amount of people descending on a town that simply cannot accommodate such numbers (and that's excluding non cruise tourists).

Tonight I have a glorious view across the bay to the lights of the Old Town and fortress. When I wake tomorrow it will be completely obscured by another monstrosity, not just for me but for everyone else along this strip of coastline.

Posted by
2597 posts

So are the docking fees the cruise lines pay so large that the ports accept the cruise ships even if they don't spend much money locally? Otherwise, it seems that they would just have a sign-up sheet that limits cruise ships to a maximum of one per day or maybe limit them to only certain days of the week. Or are the cruise lines bribing the officials to let them continue to dock there? Enlighten me, please.

Posted by
4218 posts

So are the docking fees the cruise lines pay so large that the ports accept the cruise ships even if they don't spend much money locally?

I can't answer that but it's fair to say that local government officials don't always have the local's best interests at heart or even the possibility that they have no say in the matter and are taking orders from higher government keen to boost the tourism industry for a relatively young, re-emerging nation.

Is the local government aware of the concerns? Expressing concerns to a friendly, inquisitive tourist is different to expressing them to a local government official particularly in light of the distrust held by many as a result of the post WWII years.

Posted by
2597 posts

Thanks JC. That last statement makes sense because I know if this were a problem in the US and most of the local people didn't see any profit from the ships, they'd probably be all over the officials to stop it. In Alabama, voters made the legislature stop stealing money taken in by the State Parks and using it for other purposes, so when there's a strong majority opinion(and the minority doesn't really care much and the officials aren't being bribed by lobbyists making campaign contributions), citizens here do oppose government policies. Our local state park has hired staff and made infrastructure improvements since the new law took effect.

And while I understand the view that big bus tour groups are also a problem, they do provide the local people with jobs in the hotels and restaurants they use, even if the hotels are part of big international chains, and local or national governments get tax revenue if they have accommodations taxes.

Posted by
194 posts

While it's probably too late or most of us to avoid the cruise ships this season, for those planning to go in the future (2020-21), I'd suggest looking at websites that publish itineraries for all cruise ships, www.cruisemapper.com or www.cruisetimetables.com. There are others. We used these sites to schedule our upcoming trip, sandwiching ourselves between days with 7500 cruisers in Dubrovnik and 3400 in Kotor. It's not our preferred schedule, but it sure beats spending time on the Stradun with masses of people, or elbowing our way through the streets of Kotor.

Posted by
2374 posts

It’s complicated. What we know is that cruising is growing. More and bigger ships every year with more ports being built to accommodate them. Docking fees go to the port, so they are divorced from how the onslaught of visitors impact the town. Many towns, particularly in the Caribbean, pay to have the ships dock there. Visitors do spend money on shopping, excursions, bad drinks. In some places that is diminishing and here is where it gets interesting. The cruise industry is making the ship more and more, THE destination. I can tell you we cruise, and unless it’s to stretch our legs, see a particular site, we stay onboard. If I want to really see a place, I don’t cruise there, we take RS tours or travel independently. Cruising is fun and most cruisers are repeat customers. The ships have food which is pre-paid so anyone dining off the ship is paying twice-most people return to the ship for main meals. Many have beverage packages that are pre-paid so it feels like the drinks are free (they are not of course) so why pay to get sloshed on shore? Even shopping at ports is taking a hit as mega ships get bigger and better shops onboard. No bargains there, but very easy (especially after a few of those not free drinks). So, now we find places like Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice and others overrun. I don’t see an end in sight unless these cities decide it’s enough and severely curtail the number of ships. Then I fear the very profitable cruise lines would pay a lot to maintain the ability to visit some ports and it would be hard for cities to resist. I don’t know what the end game looks like.

Posted by
4218 posts

I for one hope that these historic towns and cities that receive very little benefit from these monstrosities fight back and ban these megaships. If the cruise companies want the ship to be the destination then remain out at sea.

Today I was woken by the inconsiderate blasts of a ship's horn as it approached docking. It was still there when I returned late this afternoon, I tried sitting on my balcony to enjoy the last few rays of sun, drink in hand and listening to the waves lapping on the shore however what I was subjected to was the very loud sound of what I assume was an exercise class on board, I could hear the instructor along with the crappy music. The entire bay could hear it as it echoed off the mountain walls, it was a demonstration of complete ignorance. Why should I and thousands more be subjected to such unwanted noise? Eventually it left but as I type an even larger ship is taking its place so my view has once more been obstructed and I'll brace myself for more selfish, intrusive behaviour.

In future I'm going to make sure I avoid cruise destinations.

Posted by
2597 posts

The endgame is that the rest of us will avoid travel to these cities. This will really hurt the local hotels and restaurants when the rest of us stop going to these destinations. Venice and Barcelona are already on my "don't go there" lists.

Posted by
12155 posts

Sort of why I've been suggesting skipping Kotor for quite some time. See Dubrovnik (2 nights max), then head south down the coast to Budva. but stop and visit Kotor for lunch if you must.

Posted by
99 posts

Yes, Kotor and the surrounding towns, Budva, Bar, Suto More, Tivat, Perast can get really busy during summer season especially July and August. We were there last July and since we were in a villa 4 km away from Kotor, it took ages to get into town because of the one road leading to the other nearby towns. There were big lines of cars and they were not moving very fast. Avoid if you can. June and September are better months to visit and could also be cheaper.

Posted by
12155 posts

I've been to Kotor in May (okay only stayed for lunch then moved on), wasnt bad at all and a ship was in. But after seeing Dubrovnik (which was a regular Disneyland in May) Kotor really isnt worth the time. Budva I have been to the first week of September. It wasnt particularly crowded. Loved it actually. Same with Ulcinj. Both Dubrovnik and Kotor are museums in the sense of the term that they only exist now to be viewed by tourists. Sort of like main street in Disneyland. But Dubrovnik is beautiful, especially in the evening. Budva has some parts are a bit thick with tourists but its walkable and there is pleanty of interest away from the hotspots. Ulcinj also has its tourist/party district but again, pleanty to see and enjoy within a short walk.

The ships havent hit the Albanian Rivera yet, so thats what I am trying next.

Posted by
350 posts

I spent 2 nights in Kotor in 2016 and very much enjoyed my visit. We were staying within the walls, so were not as inconvenienced as you have been. It was also May, not August and there were not so very many ships. When visiting a port popular with cruise ships, I always try to find the cruise ship schedule for that port and plan my days accordingly. We specifically arranged our visits to Dubrovnik, Kotor and Mostar to avoid being in Kotor and Dubrovnik on heavy cruise passenger days. It sounds like there may be no way around them in August.

Posted by
4218 posts

The problem with Kotor is that you have to pass through it to get to other places (unless you want to take the dangerous mountain road). In the height of summer there is rarely a day when a cruise ship is not in port and thus the whole town and roads become jammed which makes it very difficult to plan to visit anywhere that requires transition through the town.

It's not just the sheer number of people but also the noise of the ships. Being surrounded by mountainous hills either side acts as an amplifier of sound so the clunking of an anchor being lowered is enough to wake you. The overuse of the horn to announce the ships departure is unnecessary, ignorant and disrupting. The ship may be in party mood at 9 pm but plenty of parents are not so happy to have their young children and babies woken by a departing horn (one ship sounded theirs 10 times!). We also don't need to hear the discos or exercise classes taking place on board. If you want to experience all that on a ship then experience it out at sea, well away from disturbing other people

Posted by
12155 posts

(unless you want to take the dangerous mountain road)

I have been on it twice. Its no more dangerous than a lot of US Park roads.

Posted by
4218 posts

To be fair I haven't driven it (my wife would refuse to get in the car if I'd suggested it) but certainly if you want to take the quickest, most direct route to Perast, Herceg Novi etc then the coastal road is the only sensible option and that means going through Kotor.