Croata-Italy ferries are actually cruises

Having been on several hellish ferry trips through the Greek Islands, I was expecting our ferry from Croatia to Italy to be 12 hours of Dramamine high and no sleep. Actually, let me back up…

When we loosely planned this tour of Europe, we needed to figure out a way to get from Croatia to Italy. Since we would be in Split, which is in the southern part of Croatia, taking a train or bus would take painfully long and involve too many stops. Flying was too expensive. But then we discovered we could take a ferry from Split to Ancona.

We booked an overnight ferry through BlueLine Ferries, which would save us a night of hotel, a la the night train. When we were in Split getting ready to head to Ancona, we realized we had a deck ticket. Even now, I have no idea what that means but what I do know is that when you go on the online booking engine, that option shows a cartoon person standing on the deck with luggage. So from the looks of it, we basically had a ticket to be homeless on a ship.

BlueLine

We decided to upgrade, and thankfully, the Blue Line representative was extremely helpful and gave us several cabin options. We got a 2 person berth, which we came to find out is a regular cabin with bunk beds and a private bathroom and shower. But the beds are big enough to share so if you want to get cozy on the bottom bunk, you can do that without paying extra for a bigger bed. The difference between our original deck ticket and this swanky cabin was only 15 Euro. As much as I love to avoid human interaction by buying things online, it just goes to show that you can get far when you speak to a real person.

Despite having a cabin, I expected the boat to be another tiny Greece-like ferry, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this huge cruise ship waiting for us at the Split port. Also unlike Greece, the check-in process was extremely simple. Since we were traveling internationally, we went through customs before boarding the ship. Then people and cars were guided on board by the ship staff. If you have a cabin deck, you have to leave your passport at reception when they give you the room key, which they return in the morning.

On the ship, you’ll find several restaurants and cafes with food options, none of them very good. There is a club/casino where you can drink, eat, and gamble. Or you can hang out on the deck watching the islands go by. Surprisingly, everything on the ship is affordable. Sandwiches or pizza slices are 3 Euro, and for 4, they’ll throw in a beer. However, everything on the ship is cash-only. They accept Euro, Croatian Kuna, and USD but there are no ATMs, so if you didn’t bring some change on board, you’ll be starving and sober until you get to Italy.

Sit, back, and relax with a beer on the top deck.
Sit, back, and relax with a beer on the top deck.

In the morning, they make sure to wake you up in time to get ready and got off the ship. By 6 am, they’re making announcements and playing cruise music (Rolling on the River, Shania Twain, etc.). It’s the same experience you’ll have on the last day of a more luxurious long-term cruise. When you disembark you have to wade through the lines of cars in the garage deck.

Sure, it’s a little dingy, there are no towel animals, and the hot water doesn’t work so well, but for the price, it’s a great value. I’ve been on a $200 weekend cruise to the Bahamas and as much of a steal as that was, if you live in Italy, taking a 55 Euro ferry (which includes the cabin upgrade) and getting a nice room for 50 Euro a night in Split is a way better weekend getaway and it comes out cheaper.

If you really want to make it a party, knock back a couple of Dramamine anyway. It’ll be the best cruise you’ll never remember. Just make sure you don’t get too wasted to forget your passport.