One thing I’ve been repeatedly annoyed with during our year abroad is the total lack of helpful information online. We’ve come to be VERY spoiled in Seattle, where everyone seems to have a stellar website created by a brother or cousin or friend who is a web designer. In a lot of countries we’ve visited, businesses just don’t have websites. When they do, visiting them is like time traveling back into the 1990s, the time of Geocities and animated gifs and purple fonts. Again and again, the most helpful information we’ve been able to find comes from blog posts written by other travelers.
When it came to taking an overnight ferry from Italy to Croatia, I was predictably disappointed in the information the interwebs had to offer. I spent hours and hours searching the internet to try to figure out what to expect. Did we need to book a cabin or can you sleep in common areas? Is it acceptable to bring food onboard with you? Are sharp items forbidden from baggage? Is there a limited liquids rule? How early do we need to arrive? Where do we go to check in? Can you buy food onboard the ferry during the 11-hour trip?
Taking the Jadrolinija Ferry from Ancona to Split was every bit the adventure we hoped it’d be. There was an all-men’s Croatian choir. There were surly Italian and Croatian truck drivers (first and foremost, it is a car ferry, not a cruise), there was a slightly run-down interior that made me feel like we had teleported to Atlantic City circa 1980. Since we were armed with sleeping pills, booked an actual cabin, and brought a bunch of snacks onboard, it was definitely not the nightmare ferry crossing I had feared. In fact, it was pretty fun and I’d definitely do it again.
To try to help other travelers, and to show our blog readers what shenanigans we got into during the ferry crossing, we put together answers to some of the questions we had before taking the Jadrolinija Ferry from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia.
Is It Ok to Bring Booze (and Food) with You?
Absolutely! In fact, you’d be the odd person out if you didn’t bring at least a liter of wine with you. We only brought two tiny 200mL bottles of red wine along. We might have been the most sober people onboard, except for a 10-year-old girl and (hopefully) the boat captain. (PRO TIP: Bring your own cups unless you’re cool drinking straight from the bottle. Hey, I don’t judge.) Most of the Italians and Croatians who clearly take the overnight ferry all the time brought coolers FULL of food and booze. I wish we’d had the foresight to do that!
There is some food available for purchase onboard. You can have a full-on sit down dinner in the fancy onboard restaurant. (Note: all it takes to qualify as “fancy” with me is the use of white tablecloths.) The restaurant prices were very reasonable, especially for a “cruise”. I use the word “cruise” a bit jokingly here – remember, this is really an overnight car ferry, but a very nice one at that.
There’s also a snack bar area where you can buy snacks, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks. The one thing you should bring plenty of is WATER. It’s overpriced onboard, and I didn’t trust what comes from the tap in the bathrooms.
Is there Entertainment Onboard, Like a Normal Cruise?
The short answer? No, unless you count people watching as entertainment. We traveled in February, the lowest of lows as far as tourist season goes. What looked like it might be a duty free shopping area was a total ghost town. There was a dance floor in the lounge area, but like I said, we had less than a half liter of wine on us. It takes more than that for me to start my own dance party.
We happened to win the cruise lottery, though, and ended up on the ferry that was transporting one of Croatia’s finest all-men’s a capella choirs! I’m not sure Kevin and I have ever been on a boat together without encountering some sort of musical group. In Germany, we ended up on a Rhine River ferry boat with a full-on Oktoberfest Oom-pah band!
Back to the Croatians though. Having them on our boat was everything I hoped it would be, and more. They belted out tunes with abandon for over a half hour before the boat disembarked. And when I say they belted it, they really belted it. One of the gals who worked on the ferry boat even stood with us and translated the Croatian lyrics for us! It was so lovely! Most of the songs were fisherman’s tunes traditional to Croatia, about things like missing your wife and family while you’re at sea. Some were about lost love or lost friends.
We fell asleep to the rumble of the boat engines and the sound of the choir singing in the lounge after they had their dinner. It was really a special part of the cruise.
Should I Book a Cabin?
That depends on you. Do you like roughing it? Can you sleep even when there are lights on? Are you traveling with a pillow and blankets? Do you feel comfortable sleeping on a hard, slightly-dirty carpeted floor next to a man who is eating prosciutto? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then just book the cheapest passage possible – a “Deck” seat. “Deck” doesn’t mean you’ll be sleeping outside. It just means you have to hunker down and sleep in the boat’s common areas – the lounge, the chapel, the children’s play area, the dance floor. MOST people who seemed like ferry regulars seemed to have just Deck tickets, and they made themselves at home in the lounge.
We booked the cheapest cabin, a couchette, and were SO glad we did. We’re traveling pretty light, so we don’t have things like blankets or pillows to make a deck ticket do-able. It was also nice to be able to lock our bags in our room and explore the boat without all our stuff. Also, I think there is a time and a place for the smell of prosciutto. Two in the morning is not the time.
Our simple couchette cabin didn’t have a sink or bathroom, it was just a room with four bunks which we had all to ourselves. We were just down the hallway from a shared bathroom that was a bit rustic, but not a nightmare. Added bonus? If you book a cabin you get free breakfast onboard in the restaurant! (Note: other travelers have reported that breakfast is no longer included in cabin tickets – please verify yourself and potentially bring backup food.)
Seat tickets are also available, but literally NO ONE had one of these on our ferry. The seat room is a brightly lit room full of tightly packed seats that recline slightly. I do not recommend this option.
Here’s a peek at our Cabin:
To book tickets, do it ahead of time directly with Jadrolinija.
So What Is the Price Breakdown?
First, everyone pays a bare Per Person Fee called “passenger taxes” (You pay this no matter what accommodations you book) of 114 HRK (about $16).
Then, on top of the bare per person fee, you have to select your “accommodation”. Here are some options we considered:
- Deck Ticket: 301 HRK (about $43) per person
- “Seat” Ticket: 361 HRK (about $52) per seat
- Cabin 4-berth Couchette: 811 HRK (about $116) for 1 person, 540 HRK ($77) per person for 2, 3 or 4 people
- Cabin 2-berth outside with shower/toilet: 1484 HRK total ($212) for 2 people or 1114 HRK ($159) for 1 person
- Berth in a Unisex 4-berth couchette: 540 HRK ($77) per person
The couchette ended up being most cost effective for us. So the total fare for Kevin and I for the Ancona to Split ferry was 2*114 HRK for Passenger Taxes plus 2*540 HRK for our private couchette cabin, which came out to a grand total of 1308 HRK, or about $187. Not bad when you consider it was an 11-hour journey with beds to sleep in and breakfast included. It sure beat the cost of flying! And it was a lot more fun.
Can I Bring Liquids or Sharp Objects Onboard?
We saw so many things onboard that made us do a double take. One man had a huge butcher’s knife to prepare his dinner in the lounge. Another group had a full sized rolling cooler with drinks and dinner supplies. Another group brought a couple big chocolate cakes onboard with them. One guy had a handle of vodka.
Within reason, you can bring anything your heart desires onto the Jadrolinija ferry. I prrrrobably could’ve smuggled Kevin onboard in a big suitcase to save money. But we’re not quite THAT cheap… Yet.
Where and How Do I Check In?
Ugh. The Jadrolinija ferry check-in process is just awful. Imagine the run-around you get when dealing with health insurance in the United States. Now take that experience, and change the context to traveling, and change the language to Italian and Croatian. THAT is the joy that checking into the Jadrolinija ferry will bring you. There’s a reason we opened our wine and started drinking midday before we left on our ferry:
UPDATE 2/21/2018: I fixed the map! Unfortunately, it has been several years since we’ve been in Ancona, so I don’t know any longer if this is accurate. Please leave me a comment to let me know!
I made a google map showing all the important locations for Jadrolinija ferry check-in:
Here’s what you should know to get through check-in without wanting to strangle someone:
- Arrive more than 2 hours early! Do not even think about cutting it close. You want to allow lots of extra time to account for unhelpful employees, slow check-in lines, busses that run infrequently, and last-minute trips to the store to get extra wine.
- If you arrive by train, you’ll arrive to the main Ancona Train station (the red pin on the map). If it’s raining and the timing lines up, you can connect on a train to the Ancona Maritima station (the blue pin on the map), which is much closer to the main Ferry area.
- The ferry check-in building is nowhere near the ferry departure point. On the map above, Ferry check-in is at the red star, while the green star is the main ferry area where the ferries dock. At the main ferry area (green star), there is luggage storage (EURO 2/bag) and free bathrooms, and this is where you’ll go through passport control before boarding your boat.
- There is a FREE BUS that runs every 20 minutes or so between the Check-in Building (Red star) and the Main Ferry Building (Green star). We were glad we used the bus, because I would EASILY get lost in the area around the Check-in building and there are no sidewalks.
- Passport Control opened 2 hours before our boat departure. Unless you have a deck ticket and want to stake out a nice sleeping spot in the lounge, there’s no rush to board. Take your time exploring Ancona, have some dinner at a local cafe, buy some biscotti from one of the town’s many bakeries, then get on the boat when there’s less than an hour before departure. Once you’re onboard, head to the reception desk to pick up the key to your cabin, and hunker down for the night!
Updates from other helpful travelers:
- Booking a cabin no longer comes with breakfast.
- Make sure you take your passports when going to pick up the tickets.
- The ticket office closes from 12-3.
- The bus #20 doesn’t run from 2pm to 4pm.
- Our ferry in early May was almost empty except for trucks and maybe 30 tourists.
- If they bang on your cabin door that means you are 30 minutes out of port. (We arrived in, half an hour early and had a mad scramble to pack)
- The ticket office is a long way from the boarding area but it is now very well signposted in several languages including English
- Getting the tickets was easy, we booked on line turned up at the ticket offline showed our ticket confirmation and passports and bike docs and got issued our tickets.
- To embark on the ferry you have to know what dock your going from follow the well signposted route and join the chaos.
- The queue area for passport control straddles a roundabout but as we were on a bikes we were pushed to the front.
- Showed our passports and we were directed to our ferry.
- No cabin for us no issues half the passengers slept all over on blow up beds.
- It all went quiet just after midnight and we managed to get 5 to 6 hours sleep.
- Bring your own food and wine our beer it’s not cheap on-board.
- Getting off in Split was easy and 10 mins after we got off the ship we were on our way.
We Want to Hear From You!
Do you have any interesting cruise stories? Are you planning to take A Jadrolinija Ferry from Italy to Croatia? Leave us a comment to let us know!