Keeping our Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia guidebook fully up-to-date, I really sweat the details (often literally). If you think travel writing sounds glamorous, I invite you to shadow me for a few hours as I stand in long lines at ferry terminals, quizzing agitated ticket clerks and squinting at byzantine schedules, on a mission to to help our readers smoothly ply the waters of the Dalmatian Coast.
But I digress. The good news is that the boat situation is getting better and better in southern Croatia. More high-speed passenger catamarans are setting sail each year, zipping travelers between Dalmatia’s many dreamy destinations. However, the boat companies love monkeying around with their schedules as much as I do with my fantasy football lineup. Which means that even our relatively fresh, year-and-a-half-old guidebook is already hopelessly out of date.
The other challenge is that three separate companies run catamarans between Split and Dubrovnik. And, because they operate independently, you have to do your homework to know how to get from point A to point B. But if you do your homework, island-hopping is a breeze.
One Saturday night in Dubrovnik, as I heard the distant thumping bass of the neighborhood jazz club echo up the narrow lane to my B&B, I spent a couple of hours spreading out all of the various schedules on my bed and mentally tracing the route of each and every boat as it ferried to and fro between Dalmatian islands. By the time the clock hit midnight and the music went quiet, I hadn’t had any fun…but our book is, once again (and, you can be sure, very temporarily) up to date.
If you’re hoping to take a Croatian boat anytime soon, here’s the brand-new, cover-all-our-bases text that will appear in the upcoming seventh edition of Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia:
While slow car ferries plod up and down the Dalmatian Coast, for most travelers, the best connections are on fast passenger catamarans. These are run by three different companies, and the only way to fully understand all of your options is to check the websites for all three: Jadrolinija (www.jadrolinija.hr), Krilo (www.krilo.hr), and Nona Ana (www.gv-line.hr). Boats can sell out at busy times. Fortunately, you can book online at all three of these sites (though Jadrolinija requires you to book in person for same-day departures). Ideally, get your tickets at least a day or two ahead — or longer, in peak season. All three companies can send an e-ticket to your phone, which the attendant will scan as you board. At busy times, be sure to arrive at your boat a little early, since the best seats go fast. For the best views, sit on the port (left) side of the boat on northbound journeys, and on the starboard (right) side when going south. Happy sailing!