If you want to get from Italy to Croatia (or Montenegro, or Bosnia and Herzegovina), flying is not cheap, especially in peak season. I was looking at $300 flights with layovers just to travel the relatively short distance between Rome and Sarajevo. After researching my options as to how to get to the Balkans, it became evident that taking the ferry from Italy to Croatia was going to be the most practical and financially feasible option.
Which ferry company to take
There are three companies running ferries between Italy and Croatia:
SNAV: Ancona-Split, Ancona-Starigrad (Hvar)
Blue Line: Ancona-Split, Ancona-Starigrad (Hvar)
Jadrolinija: Ancona-Split, Ancona-Starigrad (Hvar), Ancona-Zadar
Prices were all more or less the same for the different companies so that was no help in choosing between them. They also had similar journey times.
However, they did have different schedules. For example, I was unable to find a ferry departing on a Sunday night (in shoulder season). And I believe only SNAV and Blue Line were running on Saturday night.
Honestly, I choose Blue Line because their website was the easiest to navigate. I could easily select a bed in a female, four bed, dorm-style cabin. The other websites were a little more complicated to choose whether I was getting a dorm bed or a full cabin.
Seat or cabin options
The cheapest option is a spot on the deck or an air seat, which are priced at about 40 euros.
I had zero hesitation to pay an extra 10 euros for a bed so I could have a decent night’s sleep instead of wasting the next day recovering from the journey.
If you’re travelling in a group or couple you can get a private cabin for less than 50 euros each. You can also pay extra for a window cabin if that’s important to you.
I felt like the price was very reasonable. As the ferry went overnight (Leaving Ancona at 8pm and arriving in Split around 7am) it saved me booking accommodation that night which is usually 20-30 euros in Italy anyway.
As it was not yet high season and the boat was quite empty, I got a free upgrade to my own two bed cabin with a shower and toilet all to myself. This felt very luxurious after a month of sleeping in dorms!
Getting to the Ferry
The ferry leaves Italy from Ancona, which is just a port town in the Marche region of Italy without much else for tourists to do or see. It has good connections to other cities via train. I took the train from Bologna, which was scheduled to take only 2 hours or so, but it was very slow and ended up arriving more than an hour late! This put a lot of pressure on me to get the ferry in time (they recommend you arrive two hours before hand to go through passport control etc). So be sure to get the train early!
There’s a free shuttle bus that goes between the train station to the check in area to the port. I didn’t know about the bus so I frantically walked about 1km from the station trying to find the check in area. Don’t do this. Just get the shuttle haha 🙂
I was surprised at how much there was on offer onboard the ship! I almost wished I had more time to experience it all.
There was a snacks/drinks bar on the deck where you could sip a beer and watch the water roll by. There was a grocery story a smoothie bar, a nice restaurant and a self-service canteen for cheapies like me. I was pleasantly surprised that the prices weren’t too outrageous.
They also had a convenience store in case you forgot your toothbrush or some other essential item.
They had a nightclub and casino on board if you’re ready to start partying before you even reach Croatia’s shores.
If you’ve watched Titanic recently and you’re feeling a bit nervous about the trip, they even have a chapel on board for you to say some prayers!
Note: Bring cash as they don’t accept card onboard.
As for me, I watched the sunset as we left Ancona, ate some spaghetti for dinner, did a bit of blog post writing and by then I was ready to enjoy having a room to myself and get some proper sleep! I had a really good sleep and woke up just in time to have a shower, watch on deck as the ship arrived in Split, before disembarking.
I was so surprised at how comfortable and enjoyable the ferry was. It was the perfect solution to my problem of travelling between Italy and the Balkans, which proved to be more difficult than expected, despite their close proximity.
Have you travelled on an overnight ferry before? How was your experience?