No Tourists Board Beloved Dubrovnik Republic Ship Replicas This Summer

Lauren Simmonds

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia

As Novac/Gabrijela Bijelic writes on the 27th of August, 2020, the ongoing coronavirus crisis which hit Dubrovnik the hardest of all of Croatia’s coastal destinations, has permanently disrupted the sailing schedule of two popular sailing ships, the Tirena and the Karaka. These beautiful replicas of the merchant ships of the old Dubrovnik Republic have been an indispensable part of the the city’s waters for countless years until now, and this August they are waiting for the return of tourists, which looks a dire prospect.

”We haven’t done any rides this season. There are no passengers. The boat is moored along Rijeka Dubrovacka, the other day we introduced sunset sailing at 18:30 and we did so vain, just so that the boat sails. We did a promo ride for one of the cafe owners and did a party for one of our commercial employees on Saturday and that’s it. It’s an absolute horror,” said the captain of the Tirena, Bogomir Vukovic.

In the past generous tourists seasons, Bogo, as he is affectionately known, had 140 to 150 working days a year, and in this unfortunate 2020, there’s been little to none of that. He hoped to do some work in September and October, but even that is unlikely, given the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is putting off many guests.

”At the beginning of the month I was at the bank, they extended my moratorium on my loan repayment for another six months. We’re now waiting for survival support from the state, any kind of loan with a two to three year wait would be good if salaries for 4 to 5 crew members and the service for the ship could be settled. I’m sad to see the Tirena just standing idle like this. And I only invested 100 thousand euros in the preparation for this season, so you can work it out,” Captain Vukovic says in a resigned tone. He also made an original proposal for the local authorities:

”I’d call on Mayor Frankovic or County Prefect Nikola Dobroslavic, who is already deciding on this, to declare a disaster for the City and the County, which are both 99.9 percent dependent on tourism. This is the only way we will save ourselves from this little beast that has done more damage to the world than the atomic bomb,” says Captain Bogomir Vukovic.

The situation with another Dubrovnik Republic replica vessel isn’t much different either. The ship, which is under the command of Captain Fran Radosevic, spends most of its time docked berth at Gruska placa.

”We’ve had three small groups so far, and we’ve not been doing excursions this summer at all because so far, we haven’t been able to gather even the minimum number of passengers needed, 30 to 50 people per voyage, to be at all profitable. We had to do one wedding of 80 people, and in the end, due to the epidemiological measures, it all came down to 8 of them, the newlyweds, their parents and their godparents. Fortunately, so far, we haven’t fired anyone, and we haven’t reduced the salaries of our employees. We have an agency and that has helped us so far, I just don’t know how we’re going to proceed. I don’t rely much on bankers or politicians,” Radosevic explains.

”We returned on March the 18th, and a day later we already had 70 people arranged for dinner. Instead of dinner, we were greeted by quarantine,” recalls Radosevic, who is sick ans tired of the state’s attitude towards entrepreneurs in tourism.

”Our VAT rate of 25 percent is the highest in the entire Mediterranean. If this isn’t an opportunity for it to be taken down, then I don’t know when it is. It isn’t normal that from one trip that costs 350 kuna, we have to give 250 kuna to the state,” Frano Radosevic complains. He says he is angry at the statistics that politicians are still claiming that we’re at 50 percent of last year’s turnover.

”Let them come to Dubrovnik themselves and they’ll see what the real situation is on the ground,” says the disgruntled captain of the Karaka, which remains an eternal piece of the Dubrovnik Republic in the modern day.

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