Overnight Boat Trips From Italy to Croatia

Tips on how to plan an overnight boat trip from Italy to Croatia.

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With so many budget airlines operating within Europe these days, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to get from major cities across the continent to Croatia’s touristic hubs. Still, there’s something alluring about a journey by sea and the chance to fall asleep in one place and wake up in an entirely different one as the ocean glides you along.

Particularly for budget travelers looking for good prices on 1-way travel options and people traveling with their own cars, the chance to take an overnight ferry between Italy and Croatia can be an appealing option.

It’s a pretty straightforward trajectory across the Adriatic Sea from points on the west coast of Italy to Croatia. And the most popular and well-serviced overnight route that operates year-round runs between Ancona in Italy to Split in Croatia -- a 10-hour trip that makes getting between the 2 countries as effortless as dinner and some shuteye.

Overnight Crossing: What You Need to Know
The first thing to know about making the overnight crossing between Italy and Croatia is that it isn’t the Queen Mary II. The boats servicing the destinations are utilitarian car ferries that do have cabins, but space is at a premium and the emphasis is on getting there more than on getting there in style. That said, if you book a cabin you’ll be in for a fairly comfortable -- if not entirely luxurious -- journey.

If you don’t book a cabin, count on passing the night alongside plenty of strangers during the summer months, when passengers stretch out any place there’s space in the common areas to steal a night’s sleep.

3 Trusted Boat Lines
Here are the top 3 trusted boat lines to consider when making the overnight crossing between Italy and Croatia:
Jadrolinija National Boat Line in Croatia

Jadrolinija National Boat Line in Croatia

Photo by: Konstantinos Dafalias, flickr

Konstantinos Dafalias, flickr

Jadrolinija is a state-run company and Croatia’s national boat line, and as such the most reliable option when it comes to booking overnight trips between Italy and Croatia. The company also runs the most long-distance routes between the countries, with year-round service. The boat line's website, in English, is fairly easy to navigate and a good place to search for schedules and prices. Jadrolinija ferries connect Ancona with Zadar, Hvar Island and Split, and there are also routes between Bari and Dubrovnik from late March through late October. The bulk of the ships in the company’s fleet are large car ferries, so expect lots of families transporting their cars between the countries among your fellow passengers.

Trips depart Ancona in the evenings and arrive 7 hours later in Zadar or 10 hours later in Split. The travel time between Bari and Dubrovnik is 8 hours. You’ll pay extra if you have your car onboard and also if you opt for a private cabin (berths that accommodate up to 4 people are available, as well as doubles). All cabin prices include breakfast, and you can opt for an interior or outside cabin with a private shower and toilet, or save money and opt for shared bathroom facilities. Just don’t expect anything fancy in the way of accommodations and food and you won’t be disappointed. That the ship’s seaworthy is the most important thing, right?
Blue Line Ferries, Croatia

Blue Line Ferries, Croatia

Photo by: Blue Line Ferries

Blue Line Ferries

Blue Line, another reputable boat company transporting passengers and cars between Croatia and Italy, operates overnight routes between Ancona and Split. Like Jadrolinija, Blue Line operates services between the cities year-round, but sailings are only offered a couple of times per week during the winter months, compared with the daily summer sailings.

All of the cabins on Blue Line ferries have private bathrooms with a toilet and shower, and they can accommodate between 2 and 4 passengers. The space is cramped, you’re on a boat after all. But there are 2 restaurants, including an a la carte restaurant with basic seafood, pasta and steak dishes, and a self-service restaurant with more casual fare such as pizza and sandwiches. The ship has a small casino and free internet stations, and there’s also a small playground for children.
Snav Italian Ferry Company

Snav Italian Ferry Company

Photo by: Dennis Jarvis, flickr

Dennis Jarvis, flickr

Snav, an Italian ferry company that only operates seasonally, is another reliable option to consider when traveling between Ancona and Spilt, with daily departures aboard a fast car ferry during high season, from late April to early October. The company’s newest ship, the Snav Adriatico, which begins operating from April 2013 from Ancona to Split, is the line’s most luxurious offering and has room for 1,800 passengers and 550 cars. Among the highlights are luxury suites with more room to stretch out, as well as a self-service snack bar, restaurant, pub, shopping and even a cinema onboard to make the trip pass as quickly and comfortably as possible.
Last Tips for Overnight Ferry Travel
While some of the boats have sundecks where you can sit outside during crossings, lounge chairs and towels won’t be offered. Bring something to stretch out on (a towel or blanket) if you want to sit on the sun deck. Food service and the quality of what’s on offer vary depending on which ships are servicing your particular itinerary (even on the same line, some ships are far superior to others). Consider bringing along your own snacks and drinks if you’re a picky eater.

Book ahead: Particularly during the summer months, berths on overnight crossings fill up quickly. If you’ve rented a car to travel in Italy or Croatia, you’re best off leaving it there and renting anew when you arrive in your new destination. If you do have a car you want to transport between the countries, be sure to book well in advance as car berths fill up particularly fast during the summer due to increased local traffic between the countries.

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