So I will be completely honest with you- I have been traveling the last month around Croatia and completely understand everyone has different expectations and costs for traveling around new places. However I was surprised I couldn't find too much info about the overnight ferry service. Therefore I will do my best to give as much details about my experience with Jadrolinja, hopefully helping you make the choice not just for your budget but for your comfort.
First off, good luck with Croatia customs getting on the boat. It doesn't allow you to enter through till after 8:30pm, but you can be sure there is no air flow in the entire building so you'll be left standing outside with hundreds of other people. Once you get in its basically a joke, the barely look at your passport and push you through, so feel free to bring beer and what not for this next part.
Jadrolinja offers 3 options for travelers from low to high; a no reservation ticket, a reserved seat ticket, and a cabin ticket. I'll go through each below:
The no reservation ticket is basically you getting on the boat and sleeping on the floor. No kidding. Hallways of the ship will be littered with make shift beds, inflatable rafts and towels that people bring abroad. Obviously this is your cheapest option, however its first come first serve, so if you can get through customs quick enough you may ensure an ok section of carpet for yourself-- otherwise you are ensured to be sleeping outside. Cons? It's never quiet, like we experienced at the bar, a lovely church group who decided to sing LOUDLY until 12:30. Also, children run freely because by this time, parents dgaf and it's basically like a big sleepover. I recommend this for the hostel/camping traveler.
Next there's reserved seats. While these were a huge step up from the cheaper option, this within itself is probably for the traveller who still is on a budget but doesn't mind lights, loud people and no privacy. Imagine an airplane seat, with wider arm rests and leans back further- that's exactly what you should expect from your reserved seat. These are again, IMO a way better option if you want to splurge a little bit, however people come in and out of the rooms often, children are running around loudly, so it's hard to sleep at certain points. I recommend this for travelers who are willing to spend more but expect less of the other guests.
Lastly, you have the upscale cabins. These will offer you the most privacy, however the are extremely dated, small and the bathroom/showers which are shared are definitely like a locker rooms. We had an extremely potent smell of piss down our hallway so every time we opened the door it was a wave of a urinal. However when it came to sleeping, it was nice to have a bed to spread out on, and I couldn't complain that the sheets, pillows and blankets weren't clean bc they seemed fresh. It's a little tricky getting on the top bunk bed (the ladders they offer actually don't fit the bed so beware of that) but overall the room cooled nicely and it was quiet from the previous floors. I recommend this for the traveller who is willing to spend the extra Kuna/Euro for privacy and a bed.
Overall experience on the boat- most of the crew are not friendly and do not want to help you. I watched an American ask a crew member a question multiple times, and purposely waved off (i actually found it funny but I would have been upset if I was in his position) seeing as how what he was asking was for directions.
There is no food on the boat after 10:30, only chips, pretzels and cookies.
If your lucky, make your way to the 100 section of the boat by the cabins- that lets passengers off first and is the fastest way to Italian customs, otherwise you'll be in line a while (only one person working in Italian customs when we went on a boat that had more than 500 of us).
Hope that helps! Safe travels!
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