Did you ever take the ferry to Croatia? Split is a stunning city. We try to go on holidays as often as we can, which is never often enough to tell you the truth. I have been going to Split since the 70s and I have lost my heart to that town as a child really. It has changed a lot those last years as tourism has been booming. This does mean that there are many more options to get there nowadays. There are loads of direct flights but we prefer to go by train and ferry. The trip down there, from the Netherlands, is long but fun.
The train to Ancona
The last time we went, the kids and I started out in the Hague where we took a train to München (with changes in Utrecht and Frankfurt). We had about two hours in München to grab something to eat before catching the night train to Verona. It would have been more logical to catch the night train to Bologna but it was full. Arrival in Verona around 6:30 where we took a train to Ancona (change in Bologna). We stayed the night in a hotel in Ancona to visit the city a bit but we could have taken the ferry the evening we arrived. We decided to take the Jadrolinija ferry to Split the next evening. The kids were happy as they got to sleep on a train and on a boat within two days.
SNAV and Jadrolinija
SNAV and Jadrolinija sail from different towns in Italy to various towns in Croatia. The main crossing is from Ancona to Split but there are also crossings between Dubrovnik and Bari and between Ancona and Zadar at the moment. We experienced the Ancona Split crossing quite a few times over the last years. There are two companies that make the crossing: the Croatian Jadrolinija and the Italian SNAV. There was also BlueLine which I really liked but unfortunatly it does not operate anymore.
SNAV operates daily from March until November. They have crossings during the day and during the night. You can check the schedule here.
In winter time, Jadrolinija sails twice a week between Ancona and Split. All crossings off season are done at nighttime, in summer there are also a few day crossings, not many though. Jadrolinija does not sail daily, not even in high season. They operate 4 times a week in July and August. Check here for the Jadrolinija schedule.
Get your tickets at the ticket office
Our ferry, the Marko Polo, was supposed to leave Ancona at 19h45 but it was delayed. We left an hour later but arrived at the ‘normal’ time, at 7h00. We could enter the ship 2 hours prior to the sailing out and no later than half an hour before. Take care though: (we saw some people waiting in the queue who made the mistake) you have to exchange your reservation documents for the actual tickets at the ticket office. It’s a complicated 15 to 20 minute walk to that office so it’s much better to take the shuttle bus.
No worries if you’re driving. The ferry to Croatia and the ticket office are well signposted from the moment you arrive into Ancona.
Ancona to Split with Jadrolinija’s Marko Polo ferry
The Marko Polo is a comfortable vessel of 128 meters long and 19,6 meters wide. There are 574 beds and room for about 270 cars. There is a restaurant and two bars. I would not recommend the restaurant as the food was not very good and it’s relatively expensive. We had ćevapčići and spaghetti bolognese. You can get a good pizza in Ancona and eat it on the ship. We will do that next time.
There are also two bars, a small one and a large one. There is a (very) small souvenirshop with some clothes and jewelry. There seems to be a children’s corner but we missed it I guess.
The staff on the ferry to Croatia is Croatian. They were nice (not supersuper friendly but nice), most of them spoke quite good English.
Traveling with kids
When you get into the ship, you start by parking your car. Don’t forget to take a bag with the stuff you’ll need later on during the crossing to or from Croatia as you are not always allowed back on the car deck once the ship is at sea. After parking you go up by the stairs or elevator and arrive on deck 3 or 4 (not sure anymore) where there is the reception area.
The reception lady was helpful and brought us to our cabin. The cabin had four beds (bunk beds), a shower , a toilet and a window. You can’t open the window and the shower is in the small toilet so you kind of shower next to your toilet. Well you know, it’s good enough, it is a ferry and not a cruise ship so I thought it was just fine. The beds were made up and everything was clean.
I find it to be a perfect way to make this trip with the children. They loved sleeping in a boat and they slept most of the way so they did not find the trip too long. The cabin is not expensive in low season (and totally worth it) but from the 26th of July the prices are high season prices and that’s much (much much much) more expensive. If you know you will be making the return trip by ferry as well, you can better buy a return ticket as you will get a discount.
We did not hear any wake up call through the speakers and I had assumed we would arrive late as we had left Ancona late. I woke up as I heard voices in the corridor. We were already in the harbour of Split and the ship was nearly empty! 🙂
When you drive or walk off the ship you have to get in line for customs but it all goes quite fast and seems well organized.
All together, I would recommend. The ferry is a good way to travel from Italy to Croatia with (or without) your car without arriving all tired after a long drive. The cabins were clean and comfortable. The staff friendly and helpful. We arrived right on time. The only downside was the food. I do notice that passangers are sometimes a bit disappointed as most amenities are basic but it is a ferry and not a cruise ship so don’t expect any luxury.
Ferry from Italy to Croatia with SNAV
We did not use the SNAV ourselves. The ship that operates the Croatia to Italy crossing is the Aurelia. It does not have the best reviews on Tripadvisor but I did not experience it myself so I don’t know if it’s any good. I did notice it is much longer and higher than the Marko Polo – from the exterior.
We traveled back to Ancona with the Jadrolinija as well as we were satisfied. We traveled differently this time as we took the train from Ancona to Nice in France. We stayed in France a few days and then took the train to the Netherlands. This way is longer and more expensive then the ‘Germany via Bologna-traject’. I also often use the Jadrolinija ferries for national crossings within Croatia and I only had good experiences so far. Jadrolinija is a good company that’s been around for ages (since I can remember, I would go to Hvar and Brac as a kid with my grandma with the Jadrolinija ferries) and it is reliable and safe.