Croatian Cities Attracting Giant Norwegian Cruise Ships

Lauren Simmonds

norwegian croatian cities

March the 13th, 2024 – Croatia has always had a love/hate relationship with cruisers, turning against them before the pandemic, and then asking for them back after it. Now, it seems Croatian cities along the coast are a big attraction for gigantic Norwegian vessels.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, one of the leading cruise lines has removed Venice from its 2024 and 2025 itineraries as the Italian destination continues to battle overtourism and environmentally devastating ships.

The Norwegian Cruise Line announced this decision after Venice declared its waterways a “national monument” and banned large cruise ships from docking in its historic centre at all.

Until now, Norwegian, much like other cruise lines, has transported visitors to the city on smaller ships – but now they claim that even that compromise option with Venice is no longer viable for them.

“Although we’ve made every possible effort to maintain travel to Venice, the competition and the overall experience of this doesn’t give our guests the standard we want to provide to them,” a company spokesperson told Euro News.

Venice was forced to ban cruise ships back in 2021, after damage to the lagoon led to UNESCO threatening to put the city on its list of endangered sites unless it banned these incredibly damaging ships.

Experts claim that these large ships, which look more like floating cities in many cases, cause enormous levels of marine pollution and even the erosion of the foundations of this ancient city, which already suffers from regular flooding.

At the time of the ban, many cruise lines supported the decision. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) expressed support for Venice’s brave new approach, calling it a “major step forward”.

If not Venice, then where? Croatian cities are still alluring

Some cruise operators have found ways around the ban to get their guests to Venice anyway, like MSC Cruises, which stops at Marghera. Others stop in Trieste or Ravenna – both of which are at least a two hour drive from Venice.

The Venetian authorities, on the other hand, continue to make many concerted efforts to limit excessive tourism. Starting this year, Venice will introduce a tourist tax for day visitors from spring and try to limit the size of tour groups present there this summer.

From 2025 onwards, Norwegian will replace their traditional stop in Venice with spending a day at sea or anchoring in another port. This year, passengers on their cruises will replace Venice with Ravenna in Italy, Koper in Slovenia, or the Croatian cities of Zadar and Rijeka.

privileged access to Rijeka

Three hours away from Venice, Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia after Zagreb and Split. The reason it may not be as well known as those cities may be that it’s fairly difficult to reach by air outside the tourist season, as more frequent flights are only organised from May to October.

Cruise passengers would thus have the privilege of seeing a destination that is relatively unknown among other Croatian cities. We all know by now that Rijeka was the first Croatian city to boast of having the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture, back in the disastrous year of 2020. Since then, it has been attracting visitors from all over Europe with numerous cultural programmes.

Zadar is deemed the coolest among Croatian cities

Much further south in Croatia lies the ancient Dalmatian city of Zadar. Located on the very edge of the Adriatic Sea, it is often referred to as one of the “coolest” destinations to visit in not only Croatia, but the entire immediate region. Since that destination is one of the most recognisable stops when it comes to Croatian cities known for cruise ships, it won’t particularly benefit as much as the formerly industrial city of Rijeka could from the new travel schedule of this huge Norwegian company. The ecological and environmental impact of yet more huge ships docking in Croatian cities, however, is another story entirely.


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