This post includes info on the experience of traveling by Jadrolonija ferry from Zadar to Ancona and it is not about the cities of Zadar and Ancona. Read more about Zadar here and about Ancona – here.
This year was my family’s first time on a ferry going to Italy. We took Jadrolonija’s line 51 from Zadar, Croatia, to Ancona, Italy. Jadrolonija is a Croatian ferry company that operates in the country since the 1940s and offers many internal routes as well as a couple of international routes to Italy.
There is a ferry going from Zadar to Ancona every day during the high season month, which lasts from 20 July to 20 August. Also, there are pretty decent options throughout the summer. Ferries go to Ancona and back every other day or four days a week. Most of the ferryboats travel by night and reach their destination in 6-7 hours. Plus, there are daily ferries once a week and we chose those for our trip.
Details on the ferry trip
We took the daily ferry to Ancona on a Saturday at 11:30 AM and arrived in Italy at 5:50 PM with no delays. The boat actually took off with a 20-minute delay, but we were in Ancona on time.
The check-in begins two hours before the boat sails off, at 9:30, and one goes to passport control before getting on the boat. Most of the people do not have their actual tickets, but just reservation confirmations. They need to check-in for tickets, too, which can take 10-15 minutes.
Buying our tickets from Sibenik, Croatia, that was our case, so we needed to get the tickets from a booth next to the port prior to going to passport control. Keep in mind that these booths are not always located nearby as most of the harbors are quite big.
Since we came at 10:45 AM, we needed to do everything fast as we were running out of time and we got a bit anxious. Being with a baby allowed us to skip the line of waiting people. There was a lady who overlooks at the queue and lets travelers with priority based on some Jadrolonija order or her own discretion (not really sure).
Despite getting in faster, we were on the boat at 11:20 AM, just minutes before the journey begins.
Get in and find seats
Once you get in, you go to the reception on the third floor and show them your tickets. When buying ours, I said to the lady that we want seats reserved, but it turned out we have no seats and need to go to the area where it is every man for himself fighting to get a couch or a chair.
We were surprised to see that all seats on the 4th floor are already taken. People were lying and even sleeping on the couches available and every café table was full of passengers. If you have no booked seats, be sure to get there early. I really didn’t like how three people, for instance, lie on three couches instead of sit on one couch and free the other two couches for the other travelers.
Even though we were looking for seats with a baby, no one moved from their seats or made room for us. There was enough room for everyone, but what can you do…
We did a couple of rounds and then we went back to reception to explain the situation. A lady working there said we could go to the area with reserved seats and find ourselves some places that are not taken. Still, in my opinion she said that because we were with a baby and she felt sympathy. Otherwise, maybe she wouldn’t let us stay on the third floor. Finally having seats was a big relief and we spent most of the trip time there.
What is the atmosphere on board?
One can go outside and enjoy the beautiful Croatian landscape and later on – the big blue Adriatic Sea. At the beginning of the trip the ferry goes along the Croatian coast, which is full of small rocky islands. We passed by the famous Kornati islands about one hour after starting the journey, so make sure you don’t miss them.
Lunch at the ferry lasts an hour and a half or so and it is not available after that. The restaurant actually opened just for the lunch, which was a huge disappointment to us as we assumed that it will be opened at all times. Alas, it was our first time, so we were not aware of that policy. We were forced to satisfy our hunger with some basic and not-at-all-good sandwiches from the cafeteria.
The passengers on board were several types. There were families with children, less couples and a lot of young people who seemingly were going to a party, drinking, loudly talking to each other or just sleeping and taking too much space on the couches. I saw a few teenagers smoking a joint outside. They were not aggressive or anything.
Still, keep in mind that many 20-something lads take the ferry and it is their location between partying or for partying.
Entertainment for children on the ferry
All Jadrolinija international lines have children’s corners and line 51 is no exception. However, the room dedicated to children was small and had almost no items in it. Just some tables and decoration on the walls, which were old dated. It definitely needs redesigning.
Still, we spent some time in that room and I saw 6-7 years old children playing there at some point. The ferry company’s advertising brochure said that the children’s corner on the Dubrovnik – Bari ferry is brand new. Maybe they are moving into the right direction with redecorating the old stuff on the boats.
Value for money
All in all, the prices on Jadrolonija are fair, but ferry line 51 definitely needs refreshing. The restaurant and the café are really old dated. It’s like traveling back in time as they haven’t been changed since the times of Yugoslavia for sure. Maybe this would be charming for some of the travelers out there.
The area with the seats on the 3rd floor is fine, while the couches and other sitting options on the 4th floor need to be renewed. I already mentioned I didn’t like the children room either. There are private cabins, but we didn’t want to book one since we were traveling during the day. One can save money as Jadrolinija has a big discount if you book a cabin on a daily trip. We though of doing this, but our baby usually prefers more spacious places. So we decided a cabin no matter how big would not do the trick for us.
Going back to Croatia
The Sunday ferry from Ancona to Zadar had less passengers, which made the journey more pleasant. We found seats on the 4th floor even though we entered at the last moment, but decided to try our luck on the reserved section on the 3rd floor as there were some loud youngsters near us. Luckily, it was almost empty and we sat there again. There were no personnel supervising the entering and no one asked for our tickets.
This time we managed to have lunch on board and it was nice. The prices were also alright.
We paid about HRK 200 (EUR 27) for a meal for two.
There were no delays with the ferry schedule. One thing that the travelers must know is that the ticket booths at the Ancona harbor are one kilometer away from Jadrolonija’s line 51 ferry. We wrongly thought that the check-in booth will be some place near the boat. So we had to go back at the last moment, thus we got on board really short before it took off into the wide blue sea.
Taking the ferry was a new and exciting experience for my family. Let me know if I missed some valuable information for you – I’ll be happy to help.