The cruising season in Croatia started very early this year, or at the beginning of April, when the first MSC cruise ship of this year, MSC Fantasia, sailed into the port of Dubrovnik. This ship, which can accommodate up to 4,300 passengers, will visit Dubrovnik on Thursdays until the end of the season, scheduled for September 8, reports Novi List.
In addition to Dubrovnik, MSC Cruises will visit Split, Zadar, and Rijeka and record 63 Croatian ports this season, which will end on November 21 in Split. Dubrovnik, the first and strongest Croatian port for large cruisers, expects to achieve 70 percent of 2019’s traffic, which means that the city should reach about half a million passengers on large cruisers, or about 340 large ships. However, the number of cruisers and cruise passengers in the city is limited to two berths, or 4,000 passengers at a time.
While southern Croatia has opened the cruising season for large cruisers, Kvarner has started a new season this year with small cruise ships. Over the weekend, the ID Riva tours Alpha and Vita set off on a seven-day cruise from Rijeka with a group of guests from Switzerland who rented the boat for three weeks at the beginning of the season and three weeks at the end of the season and go on a bike tour. This is around 70 guests. Mario Konta, head of the port of Rijeka in ID Riva tours, said that this year’s season started six weeks earlier than last year and that booking is incomparably better.
“This year, if all goes well, we should have a better year than 2019. I have been working here for 20 years, and this is the first time we are leaving in mid-April. It had never moved this early, always towards the end of April. And that’s a very good sign. Today we are on board the ‘Alpha,’ which was sold in 13 charters this year before the season even started. So we have a lot of old guests coming back to us, and also a lot of guests who were there during the pandemic and who came back to us precisely because they said we were one of the few who asked for hand sanitizers, disinfection, wore gloves and masks and carried out all epidemiological measures. And the guests remembered that,” said Konta, adding the last tour should be done on October 22, before the proper off-season begins.
“The ships will sail for six months, which is a huge improvement compared to the last two years, so we are delighted. Next week we already have six ships departing from Rijeka, which is also a great indicator considering that it has not happened to us that we already have six full ships at the beginning,” said Konta and explained that the route goes through the Kvarner islands, visiting Krk, Rab, Pag, Zadar, Kornati, Lošinj and Cres, before returning to Rijeka.
The captain of the motor yacht ‘Alpha’, Marin Tomaš, pointed out that he has had a boat with ID Riva for more than half a year.
“You know how much that means to us in these circumstances. This ship, ‘Alpha,’ is sailing for its third season, so the first was during the 2020 pandemic, and that year was unknown to everyone. ID Riva was on the front line of cooperation with the Croatian Institute of Public Health, the German health authorities, and others. And we found a balance, and, in addition, we all joined the Ministry’s “Safe stay in Croatia” program. The complete ID Riva fleet is under this program, and we all adhere to epidemiological rules. This season we are starting to work also with epidemiological measures. For example, when leaving the kitchen, waiters must wear masks when receiving guests, during room service, and, therefore, during contact with the guest. Because, above all, we want our guests here to continue to feel safe. The entire crew has, of course, been vaccinated,” said the young captain, adding that for the past two years, they have been driving at reduced capacity, on the verge of profitability. But the banks, he says, have met the needs of shipowners and approved a moratorium on loans for shipbuilding, and all that has been balanced so that those two critical years ended well.
“As for this year’s bookings, it is phenomenal. We plan to sail for 26 weeks, and we are already at a good 80 percent occupancy. I must say that when the situation with Ukraine arose, there was a great fear of how it would develop and what would happen to the season; however, fortunately, it turned out very quickly that the situation with booking, despite everything, is excellent,” said Tomas. Yesterday, another small luxury cruiser, ‘Vita’ with guests from Germany, set sail from the port of Rijeka.
His captain Silvestar Vukovic, doyen of the ID Riva cruise, also pointed out his satisfaction with this year’s announcements and the fact that after two pandemic years, he is starting two months earlier.
“This is the success of our ID Riva agency and its entire team led by Selimir Ognjenović. The past two years have been challenging, but thanks to the Government’s help, which provided the minimum wage to our employees, and thanks to the banks that approved the moratorium on loans, we managed to survive those two difficult years,” said Vukovic.
He added that this year the old guests are coming back. Still, new ones are coming who have the opportunity to enjoy this unique vacation, beautiful towns, and small coastal and island places, but also the kindness of the hosts and very important gastronomy. This long-time sailor who has been with ID Riva since the very beginning of the cruise pointed out the excellent cooperation through all those years with the Port of Rijeka Authority, whose employees, he pointed out, he can always count on.
MB ‘Morena’ and MB ‘Kalipsa’ sailed from Opatija over the weekend. There were over 60 Austrian guests on these cruises in total.
“Today is an important day for the Katarina Line agency. Although these are not our first departures this season, since we already had American guests who set out on a cruise from Split, three ships will set sail from the port of Opatija today. More precisely, two today, and another tomorrow morning. This is not what we had in 2019, but it is still a good start in 2022 and an indicator that, as it looks now, our business will be much better than last year. However, it should be said that all this together is still with a lot of ‘holes’ and uncertainties.
Reservations exist, but they can be canceled at any time, and we must not be deceived, but work intensively to offer as much as possible around the world and in the domestic market. For domestic tourists to also be able to enjoy cruises, I announce that we will have special offers for them,” said the owner and director of the Opatija agency Katarina Line Katica Hauptfeld.
Cruises in various categories, from traditional to premium and deluxe quality ships along the Croatian coast, are their specialty. Of their three boats, two will be stationed in the port of Opatija.
“We have been to Croatia many times, we are a small agency from Villach and our guests love the combination of sports and relaxation on board. We always do it out of season and spring is ideal for that, because the islands are still fresh now, nature is waking up, everything is quiet, there is very little traffic, no crowds, which is very good for cyclists.
With the Katarina Line agency, we create exciting routes for our guests because they love cycling and cruising. The boats give us flexibility in terms of weather conditions, our departure today is from Opatija, and after a seven-day cruise, we will return to Opatija. Our guests are all from Austria, except for one Frenchman, there are 24 of them on the cruise, and they did not come to swim in the sea, but for active rest, relaxation, health, and enjoy excellent food. We sail to Krk, Rab, Pag, and Mali Lošinj and Cres, and then return to Opatija,” explained Elke Neuhuber, owner of the agency from Villach, who sailed on the MB ‘Morena’.
As Katica Hauptfeld pointed out, there are six more sailing on Katarina Line in Kvarner in addition to the already mentioned ships.
This is the year of great cruisers to Rijeka, given that the pandemic essentially reduced their arrivals to zero. Nineteen ships are expected to arrive, slightly less than the record in 2019 when there were 24. Eight shipping companies have announced their arrival in Rijeka, and according to the current plan, the first ship to arrive in Rijeka is Marella Explorer 2 from Marella Cruises. Its first arrival was announced on May 7. The ship comes to the port of Rijeka for the first time, and it will be the first of its eight arrivals this season. In addition to Marella Cruises, ships of Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises, TUI Cruises, MSC Cruises, Crystal Cruises, AIDA Cruises, and Noble Caledonia will arrive in Rijeka in 2022.
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