(Not Exactly) A Ferry Tale: The Jadrolinija Ferry from Dubrovnik to Rijeka
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We had high hopes for our 23 hour ferry ride from Dubrovnik to Rijeka, Croatia. After all, we’d recently had a wonderful 7 days at sea aboard the MSC Splendida so cruising the famed Dalmatian Coast on Croatia’s Jadrolinija Line sounded like the perfect way to get from Dubrovnik to our next stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Rijeka is about 2hrs away by bus).
We’d taken all reasonable precautions to ensure a delightful experience. We splurged on an outside cabin with ensuite bath versus riding out the hours in the ship’s lounge or on deck (like many others). I’d been on an overnight ferry before (from Tallinn to Stockholm) and it was a fantastic experience. Just like a mini-cruise ship with all the amenities. My cabin was adorable.
I’m trying to think of the opposite of adorable to describe our cabin on the Jadrolinija Ferry ship Liburnija. Utilitarian? Drab? Depressing? Take your pick. My first thought when I opened the door and we warily peeked in was, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Just a week ago we were living large in a plush balcony cabin on MSC. Now we were in a dorm room at sea.
We had hoped for a nice big window from which to take in the coast line, instead we got a tiny porthole (turns out you had to be on Deck 4 or higher to get the bigger window – wish I’d known that). The cabin technically had A/C but it was about as effective as a single car vent trying to cool your entire living room. For the sake of my sanity I shall refrain from comment on the bathroom.
Determined to put a positive spin on it, I thought at least it was a safe place to store our stuff for the next 23 hours and we would be able to get a little sleep and take showers in the morning before docking at 7am. Who cares if we have to head topside to enjoy the views of the coast? We could use the fresh air anyway!
Before boarding the Jadrolinija Ferry Shannon and I had tried to do some research online about what to expect. We quickly learned there was precious little information about the practicalities of these type of ferries. For example, what kind of food is offered on board? What kind of currency do they take? Is breakfast included with your fare? The information available online varied widely based on the ship in question.
Since we didn’t know the name of our ship, we really had no idea what to expect. That’s why I thought it was important to write a post about the experience to provide information to others considering this or any of Jadrolinija’s ferries.
The Liburnija was basically an aging, floating bucket of bolts. The only positive thing I can say about the ship itself is that it did turn out to be sea-worthy. There was a main restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since we had booked a cabin, breakfast was included with our rate – which was good news.
There was a large sundeck on the back of the ship. No chairs but plenty of passengers had brought beach towels and spread them out on the deck to sunbathe most of the ride. Next to the sundeck was a snack bar with limited food options but a full bar. As it turned out, they accepted both euro and kuna which was excellent since we were trying to use up the last of our Croatian kuna and didn’t have much left.
Setting Sail from Dubrovnik
By 8:30am we set sail from Dubrovnik. We decided to spend some time on the sundeck enjoying the views of the coast line since there was certainly no reason to hang out in our cabin. We had several stops scheduled throughout the day at islands I was looking forward to seeing. Of course, they were just quick stops to let passengers on and off but I still hoped it would be scenic. Our first stop was the island of Mljet, unfortunately there wasn’t much to see from the ferry port.
We had much better luck on our second stop around noon. The island of Korcula was surrounded by beautiful city walls and green sea reminiscent of Dubrovnik. It looked like a terrific holiday spot and I wished we’d had some time to explore.
As we pulled away from Korcula, we passed a number of beaches filled with windsurfers and kite surfers. They were a lot of fun to watch and we were really starting to enjoy the ride a little. The coastline was just as gorgeous as I’d heard.
Our next stop was the island of Hvar. Another island of legendary Croatian beauty but again there wasn’t much to see from the ferry port. As we were pulling away from Hvar, disaster struck.
Shannon and I were on the top deck taking a couple of pictures. I’d set down my cell phone and bag on the bench next to us. We’d been up on this sun deck most of the day and there were only a few other people up there. I’d been keeping watch on my things out of the corner of my eye, they were maybe three feet from where I was standing. When we finishing taking a few pictures and were back out to sea, I reached down to pick up my bag and phone only to discover that my phone was gone. Just like that.
Looking back, I should have known better. But we’d settled into a false sense of security after being on the ferry all day with the same people and I didn’t keep as close a watch on my stuff as I should have. It absolutely amazes me how fast it must have happened. Neither Shannon nor I saw anyone go anywhere near our stuff. I blame myself. And the jerk who thought a two year old Samsung was a good score.
Since we were now back at sea, I had no way to contact T-Mobile and get the phone shut off. I was paranoid that whoever stole it was going to be making international calls all the way to Rijeka for the next 14 hours and I’d be responsible.
I went to the ship’s reception desk to inform them of the theft. As you might expect, they pretty much shrugged it off and said there was nothing they could do. I got the impression this sort of thing happens a lot, they didn’t express any degree of surprise. Thanks for nothing Jadrolinija.
The Race for Wifi
Our next and final stop before heading out to sea for the night was Split. We’d be docking there in just over an hour. I asked the reception person if there was a wifi place near the ferry terminal in Split. She said there was so I decided I’d make a run for it with my laptop and try to Skype T-Mobile while the ship was docked for just 30 minutes. It was going to be a race.
When we docked in Split, Shannon and I were first off the ship and searching for the internet cafe. Unfortunately, it was a good 10 minute walk from the ship which didn’t leave much time. After having the call dropped twice, I finally got through to T-Mobile with just seconds left to go on my internet connection. I’d sent Shannon back to the ship to hopefully ensure that they waited for me. I managed to get the phone shut off and determine that only one call had been made in the last hour that would cost me only $1.50 – definitely could have been worse.
Just as I was about to thank the T-Mobile woman and hang up, the internet connection cut-off. Talk about close. I grabbed my laptop and ran from the internet cafe – as fast as I could run in flip-flops – the entire half mile+ back to the ship.
Meanwhile, Shannon was losing her battle with the ship’s crew and they were about to close the door and shove off when she saw me running toward them. Since they now saw me coming, they left the door open long enough for me to leap aboard before closing it quickly behind me as we set sail. Could…not…have…been…closer.
But I’d been successful, I managed to get the phone shut off and now I’d sleep much better tonight. The cell phone thief couldn’t do any more damage. I have no idea what I would have done had the ship left me. I guess I would have tried to find an overnight train to meet the boat in Rijeka the next day. I’m really glad I didn’t have to figure that out.
After catching our breath and pouring ourselves a hefty congratulatory glass of wine from the bottle we’d brought with us, we had dinner at the ship’s restaurant. We’d thought to bring some sandwiches for lunch (and were glad that we had) but by dinner time we were famished. The dinner menu was uninspiring but the prices were reasonable and we weren’t picky at this point.
After dinner, we headed back to the cabin to try to get some sleep before our early morning. If it was possible, the cabin was now even hotter than it had been in the afternoon. Neither of us got any sleep in the stuffy cabin and were just happy to dock in Rijeka the next morning and finally get off this dreadful ship. We were easily able to navigate our way to the bus station in Rijeka and book tickets for the 8:10am direct bus to Ljubljana.
So now, since it’s impossible to replace a US cell phone while overseas, I’m without a phone – my primary link to the world when I travel – for the remaining two weeks of this trip. It sucks but I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been my brand new camera that was stolen…or my passport. The cell phone is an inconvenience, certainly, but it’ll be easily replaceable once I get home.
As for Jadrolinija, though the sights along the way were certainly spectacular at times, there’s got to be a better way to see them. I definitely won’t be signing up for any more 23 hour ferry rides up the Croatian coast. But that won’t keep me from coming back to Croatia. I really think I’d like to visit Korcula Island sometime…maybe next time by yacht.
Next stop, Ljubljana!
Thank you so much for your review!
It was so interesting to read this! My family and I went on what was to us, a fancy cruise in 1970 aboard the Liburnija. For me (age 7) and I think the rest of my family, it was an amazing cruise around the Greek Islands. I had never been on a cruise before (and haven’t since). The ship was in her heyday then, apparently. I remember playing with the other kids on the deck and being shooed away from the lifeboats by the crew. We went to the kitchen to beg for lettuce for my smuggled tortoise, and tried to communicate in pantomime with the crew, none of whom spoke English. They served lobster (or something equally exotic) at the Captain’s Dinner, and the crew sang “hippy burzday” to my sister who turned 16 while on board. There was a pool on board then, and during a storm they drained the pool. I remember a lady drinking a cup of tea when a large wave hit the ship and her teacup sailed in a large arc through the air and smashed into the bottom of the empty pool. Times were simpler then, I guess.
Alison, that is an AWESOME story! Thank you so much for sharing it, what an adventure that must have been 🙂
We took the overnight from Reyjeka to Hvar. Cabin spartan, but functional and AC not bad for August. Food pretty ordinary. That said we had a blast. Only Americans on board. Numerous nationalities, with a lot lot of kids partying and sleeping on deck. Crew and dining staff nice. Wouldn’t want to do 12 hrs by day, but as an overnight, not bad.
Thanks for adding to the comments here, Chris! Glad to hear you had a nice time. It certainly works as a great overnight transportation option but the views during the day were just lovely!
Wish we had found this before we travelled.Whilst broadly agreeing with you I wanted to leave a few comments. We struck lucky with accommodation being allocated a suite, all old but cool and loads of room.Clearly you need to go for outside cabin with shower for a chance of that. The food is poor but the restaurant is the nicest part of the ship. Don’t pre book meals as you have absolutely no choice and save little. Finally we travelled down from Rijeka. Pick up your tickets at the ferry terminal and not some office in the city centre. Also left luggage at the ferry terminal appears to be wishful thinking, but there is a good one at the bus terminal
Suites?? Who knew they had suites? Ha! Sounds like that definitely was a lucky break. Excellent information, thanks for the comments!
Jenny, I ended up taking the ferry to Rijeka, but I had to change the date so I ended up on the 3rd floor instead of the 4th floor.
Also, I changed my mind and reserved an outside cabin.
My take on this overnight ferry would be a C+ and that’s pushing it.
When it was all said and done I’m SO glad I had a window in my room or I would have felt so closed in. The room was pretty dark even with both lights on, and having the light from outside helped a lot. Having the window to look out kept my sanity. I was able to see boats go BT and even other islands. I enjoyed that part of it.
The food in the restuarant was poor, and I’m not a picky eater. It was just below average. But, something is better than nothing.
It was a breezy day, and being on deck wasn’t much fun at all after an hour or so, so my room with the window was actually more enjoyable.
Also, for anyone wanting to see the coastline from their room they need to book ODD NUMBER rooms.
The staff was lacking in customer service, and seldom provided any answers to my questions. Didn’t understand English much.
They allow people to lay around and sleep in the cafe, so you have no place to sit and drink/eat after buying your food.
When we arrived to Rijeka they had all passengers stage in the garage between the motor vehicles. It was a mess trying to maneuver around all those vehicles. Eventually, they lowered the ramp and we got off.
Also, I’m not sure why their website indicates that the purchase of a cabin includes breakfast, because none came with my room.
I would use another mode of transportation before ever taking this ferry again.
Thanks for your article, and all the contributing comments on this site.
Thanks for the review, Alice! Sounds like your overall experience was pretty similar to mine. Since it’s been two years now since my trip, it’s great to have a current review to add to the information already compiled here. Good point on the cabin number, I think we were on the wrong side. Glad you made it to Rijeka without incident and thanks again for taking the time to share your experience!
I just wanted to add that I had no issue with the toilet, sink or shower. The bed was comfortable for being a twin size. Everything in the room functioned very well, and the AC was actually very cold. The room itself gets a B+, especially since the window orovided light and a view. Its just so sad that nothing else was very satisfactory.
Thank you so much for all the information you’ve provided. I’ve finally got answers to all my questions after reading your article and readers comments. I will be booking a room next week and will be taking your advice and just get an inner cabin. Thanks again!
You’re welcome, Alice! Enjoy the trip!
Thank you, Jenny! You did a real public service in sharing your experience as I was getting very frustrated trying to find more information. This was very helpful. I’m planning to travel round trip on the ferry between Dubrovnik and Rijeka to see the coastline in September. It’s good to know what to expect. I’m sorry about your phone, but you handled an unfortunate situation beautifully. I’ll know to be careful.
Thanks, Susan! That’s exactly why I wrote it, I had the same problem finding good information online before I went. I’m so glad it was helpful to you. It definitely can be a beautiful trip if you know what to expect. The coastline is spectacular. Enjoy!
Hi Jenny- Would you say there is a big difference between the inside and outside cabins. As there is a price difference the outside cabins should be better? As you said, not easy to get info!
We splurged for the outside cabin but if I had it to do over again I would have just gotten an interior cabin. The window in our cabin was only over the top bunk and was so small and dirty it was virtually useless. You won’t want to spend much time in your cabin other than sleeping anyway, I’d save the money and get the interior cabin and enjoy the views from the deck.
Thanks so much for the reply 🙂 I’m looking forward to the trip, and will hopefully keep my belongings safe!
Thanks so much for posting about your experience with the ferry! I am thinking about taking it from Rijeka to Dubrovnik next year, and I’m glad to know what to expect. A couple questions- did you feel like your belongings were safe in your room? Also, how far in advance did you have to book the cabin?
Hi Melissa! You’re so welcome. Yes, I definitely felt like my luggage was safe in the cabin. It was nice to have someplace to lock stuff up so you could enjoy the view without being paranoid. We booked it online about a month before departure. Not sure how far in advance you have to book but it was pretty easy to do online. The views along the way are gorgeous so it’s absolutely worth doing as long as you’re smarter than I was about your stuff! It was a huge help to have the cabin and at least have somewhere to sleep. It’s a long trip and people were sleeping on the deck which I wouldn’t have felt safe about doing, especially after the phone theft. Book a cabin in advance online and enjoy! 🙂
The Liburnija is an elderly ship, built in the 1960s and obviously no one going aboard should expect a modern-style cruise experience – the amazing coastal scenery is the primary diversion.
But the ship is beloved by the coastal communities of Croatia, for its 40 years of service but particularly for its role in the war – the Liburnija led one of the Libertas humanitarian convoys in an attempt to stop the destruction of Dubrovnik and the murder of its civilians during the Croatian War of Independence.
Sailing on the Liburnija is therefore to visit a historic and important part of Croatia’s history – a chat with older members of the crew alone provides a fascinating experience had you taken the chance.
Thanks for your comments. I was not aware of the ship’s history (despite numerous online searches prior to sailing) and probably would have found the trip much more interesting had I known. I’ll agree with you that the coastal scenery was spectacular and that was the primary reason we chose to cruise rather than fly. We certaily did not expect a modern cruise experience but I think it was reasonable to expect to leave the ship with all the belongings we arrived with. I wrote the post not to disparage the whole experience but to let other travelers know what to expect should they choose the same trip. While researching the ship beforehand I found precious little information on it and I know the information I provided would have been as helpful to me as I hope it will be to future travelers. Thanks again for your comments and for taking time to read the post, I appreciate the information on the ship’s history. Fascinating, indeed!
Thank you so much for information about this boat. Me and my boyfriend are going to take this boat from Hvar to Dubrovnik this summer. I couldn’t find any information about this boat, so thank you!
You are so welcome! I had the same problem when I was looking into this boat…no information online anywhere. So, I knew I had to write about it. If you go into it with low expectations of luxury and keep a close eye on your belongings, you’ll be fine. The views from the boat really are spectacular!
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I’m so glad to hear you had a better experience than I did and I hope your comments will help others who are debating whether to take this trip. I’m sure the fact that I was careless enough to let my phone be stolen certainly colored my perception of the experience. And I do wish I’d been aware of the history of the ship before our trip, I might have been able to appreciate it more. All in all, it can certainly be a more enjoyable journey if you know what to expect going in. That was the problem I had beforehand since I couldn’t find any solid information online. That’s the main reason I wrote the post, which ironically has turned out to be one of the most popular I’ve ever written (or at least, has the most comments!). Thanks again for sharing your experience, I know it will be helpful to others and I’m so happy you had a great time!
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