Monday, 16 September 2019

Dubrovnik Features in The Guardian's Picture Essay on Cruise Ships and Overtourism

September 16, 2019 - Dubrovnik is in the international media once again, and once again the topic is the inseparable duo or overtourism and cruise ships. 

How much have the perceptions of Dubrovnik changed in the last ten years, do you think?

It was a question I was wondering looking over this morning's news about Croatia in the international media. 

Back in the 1980s, it was fondly known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, arguably the top destination in the whole of former Yugoslavia. 

Then in the 1990s, it became one of the symbols of the horrors of war in the region. a siege and shelling of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The tourism recovery from the tragedy of war was mightily impressive, and Dubrovnik was at the heart of tourism in the new modern Croatian state, the very symbol of the Mediterranean as It Once Was. 

And then, 8 years ago, came a new name and identity for the iconic city in southern Dalmatia - Kings Landing, the home of hit global HBO show, Kings Landing. A new genre of Dubrovnik fans was born. 

But all the while, there was another aspect to tourism in Dubrovnik, which was growing steadily - cruise ship tourism. Cruise ships were among the first to return after the war, and their influence has gradually increased over the years to such an extent that they dominate during the main tourism months. And they are starting to dominate the international column inches when talking of Dubrovnik. 

Overtourism, cruise ships - Barcelona, Venice, Dubrovnik. 

The latest focus on Dubrovnik, overtourism and cruise ships is in a picture essay in The Guardian this morning:

Known as the “pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Mediterranean. Its charming old town, array of Unesco World Heritage sites and sizeable port were always draws, but the new success of Game of Thrones, much of which was shot in the Croatian city, has made it a particularly popular stopoff point for cruise ships, whose passengers are told they can see the highlights in a single day.

Minders accompany the passengers on to dry land, where they are typically bussed into the old town. Tours often start at the 16th-century Pile Gate, followed by a stroll along the Stradun to the city walls, entrance to which costs €30 (£27). Game of Thrones locations and Europe’s oldest pharmacy in a 14th-century Franciscan monastery are big pulls.

Read the full photo essay in The Guardian.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

How Croatia's Cruise Ship Emissions Compare with Europe: New Report

June 12, 2019 - As Croatia's leading boutique travel agency stops working with cruise ship tourists, a look at emissions from cruise ships in Croatia and the rest of Europe.

They are the poster child of over tourism and there are few more controversial types of tourism in the world. 

The cruise ship industry is a lucrative one, and it has been a regular part of the tourism scene for many years now in Croatia. Indeed, Dubrovnik has much to thank cruise ships for in rebuilding tourism after the Homeland War, as they were one of the first major tourism sectors back after the war. The number of cruise ships and cruise ship visitors has become a major source of contention in recent years, however. 

Reaction to our story that leading boutique travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, had announced that it would no longer accept any new tour bookings from cruise tourists was met with an overwhelmingly favourable response. I was curious to see how much alleged damaged cruise ships in Croatia and whether or not it was possible to compare that damage to the rest of Europe and the EU. 

It turns out that it is, in the former of a very comprehensive document released last week by And while some of the headline numbers are truly shocking, a more sober analysis of the data and recommendations shows that there is some hope - provided the stakeholders take certain steps. I was very surprised at some of the data, particularly to learn which Croatian port is emitting the most sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). It is not Dubrovnik. It is not Split. 

It is Rijeka. 

The report begins with an overall summary of their findings - it is important to note that the data is from 2017.

The report found that in 2017, 203 cruise ships in Europe emitted about 62 kt of SOx, 155 kt of NOx, 10 kt of PM (particulate matter) and more than 10 Mt of carbon dioxide. Most of these emissions (especially SOx) took place in the Mediterranean Sea and other major touristic destinations, but also along the coasts of the key member states where cruise ships depart from/terminate at or operate around. CO2 emissions from the 203 analysed ships alone (covering only the sailing time in European EEZs) are on par with total national greenhouse gas emissions of Latvia, Luxembourg and Cyprus, but twice as big as the total national GHG emissions of Malta.

The cruise ships docked at ports such as Barcelona, Hamburg and Marseilles, the report alleges, emitted 2-5 times more SOx during their stay than all the passenger cars in those cities, for the entire year. 

There are three Croatian cities in the list of top 50 European cities suffering from the most SOx emissions from cruise ships: Split is in 42nd position with 5,266 kg of sulphur oxides emitted, Dubrovnik in 32nd place (6,344), and Rijeka in 16th with, 10,169 kg of SOx. Rijeka was a major surprise to me, especially as there were a lot less ships, but looking at the data, there was a very high number of hours in port, so that is perhaps the explanation. 

When it comes to nitrous oxides, Split is once again 42nd (113,167 kg), Dubrovnik 32nd (140,259 kg), and Rijeka 13th (273,622 kg).

And Croatia is the EU leader (and second in Europe after Iceland) in one statistic - the ratio of SOx emissions from visiting cruise ships compared to the number of cars in the destinations. 

In relative terms, Croatia has the highest ratio of ship to LDV (light duty vehicles - passenger cars) SOx emissions among the EU countries, with 78 cruise ships outdoing the national passenger vehicles by a factor of 189.

Fairly alarming stuff, and it would be easy to stop there with a sensationalist article, but the report does go on and look to the future and come up with some recommendations. Some good news is that these sulphur emissions will be reduced considerably from 2020:

In 2020, sulphur standard for marine fuels will be tightened under the MARPOL Annex VI and EU Sulphur Directive. For cruise ships sailing in the EU EEZ outside the ports and SECAs, this will be a three-fold improvement from 1.5% down to 0.5%. Anticipating this change in legislation, this report also estimated the potential impact of the 2020 sulphur standard on emissions. 

However, even after the new sulphur standard, cruise ships will remain a huge source of SOX emissions in almost all Europe countries. In the most cruise SOX polluted European countries, namely Spain, Italy and Greece, cruise ships will keep exceeding domestic LDV fleets by a factor of 10-40.

Perhaps the even more heartening point from the report (at least potentially, as it requires the stakeholders putting their hands in their pockets) is this one:

Fortunately, there are technologies available to eliminate all ship emissions at berth and at sea. Notably, shore-side electricity (SSE), the possibility for ships at berth to connect to the local electricity grid and power their on-board equipment, is a proven and mature technology which can greatly reduce the local air pollution generated by docked vessels in ports. The European Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive requires SSE in major European ports, but only if it is cost-beneficial; as a result, there is little uptake so far by ships and ports.

Rather than try and draw my own conclusions, I direct you instead to the full report so that you can make yours with all the available data.


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Responsible Travel: Secret Dalmatia Refuses All Tours for Cruise Passengers

June 10, 2019 - The relationship between tourism and the environment is fragile, and the recent media about Carnival Cruises and pollution has led Croatia's leading boutique travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, to take a symbolic stand. 

Tourism keeps on growing. Living in Croatia for many years, I can see at first hand how the environment has changed to do additional construction (and so can you via this incredible new 1984-2019 timelapse service from Google Earth), and the sheer weight of numbers of visitors in cities like Dubrovnik in summer are taking their toll. 

The poster child of this overtourism and negative effects on the environment is often the cruise ship industry. Thousands of day trip visitors arriving at the same time, transported by giant ships that pollute the pristine waters that are one of the destination's main attractions. 

The recent $20 million fine for pollution for Carnival Cruises has brought the issue sharply back in the media focus, with some truly alarming numbers. (You can read the original Financial Times article here - subscription only)

Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary just can’t seem to quit polluting the planet. As the Financial Times reports, Carnival’s pollution problem is so bad that across its fleet, the large boats pollute 10 times more than all 260 million of Europe’s cars. That tidbit comes courtesy of a study by the European think tank Transport & Environment, which looked at 203 cruise ships sailing European waters in 2017. The organization found that Carnival–and its brands–were the proud owners of seven of the 20 most polluting cruise-ship lines.

Secret Dalmatia, a boutique tourism company in Croatia known for its ethical and innovative custom-made tours around Croatia, including its lesser-known areas, has decided to make a symbolic stand to protest this cruise ship pollution. As Secret Dalmatia founder and CEO Alan Mandic explained to TCN:

Over the past years, we have witnessed a rising number of consequences from cruise ship tourism in Croatia. A few positives, perhaps, but many negatives. World heritage cities, like Dubrovnik, crumbling under the weight of thousands coming to see it all at once. Crowds which chip away at everyone’s experience, primarily their own. Local infrastructure completely backed up and locals’ everyday living suffering as a result.

The burden upon cities comes hand in hand with the threat the pollution caused by cruisers poses to our fragile seas and oceans. And the Adriatic is Croatia’s largest treasure.

As promoters, but primarily protectors of the Croatian heritage and environment, we have decided to forego all types of cruise ship business in the future. In line with good practice, we intend to honor all of our commitments to date in 2019, but will no longer be able to accept tour and traveling requests put forth by both cruise ship visitors and shore excursion operators.

We strongly believe that it is us who benefit from Croatia’s beauty must be its front line of defense from overuse. This is our small contribution in that direction and in hope that we preserve Croatia’s beauty for all the future generations of both locals and travelers.

Within hours of making the decision, Mandic said he was able to put the new policy into practice - refusing a cruise ship enquiry for a lucrative tour around Sibenik.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Croatia's Kompas Cruise Survives Collapse of Parent Company

Less than a month before sending his Fleet Rent-a-Car company to bankruptcy, and a few months after he ended Compass Zagreb travel agency’s operations in the same way, Matko Bolanča left the Kompas Cruise project, leaving it to his former partner Roman Reicher, who is determined to develop a business with luxury cruises in the Adriatic Sea. One of his partners is DIV Cruises, owned by Tomislav Debeljak, reports on January 7, 2019.

Reicher admits that such a start to doing business is not easy, which is why he is thinking about changing the name of the company. Still, he believes that eight Kompas Cruise employees can launch projects they have planned. “We have founded Kompas Cruise with the intention of developing the incoming segment in the luxury cruise business. From the very beginning, we started open communication with partners who have shown understanding, and the start of the 2019 booking gives us reasons to be optimistic. Of course, every start is difficult, especially in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but I hope we can justify the trust of all our partners,” explained Reicher.

In a few weeks, the new website of Kompas Cruise will be launched, offering luxury cruises in the Adriatic. Reicher revealed that they would be the first Croatian company to operate international tours through four or five countries, from Venice to Kotor and Albania.

They will sail from April to October with a total of six ships with guaranteed departures, including three vessels owned by Debeljak. The tours will be sold to distant markets in the United States, New Zealand, Australia.

DIV Cruises is a relatively young company, resulting from the desire of the DIV Group to expand its operations in the sector of luxury cruise ships. The partnership agreement with Kompas Cruise will be implemented in such a way that both companies will sell and book their partner’s ships. "In this way, both our and their ships will be booked faster. Because of the synergy and the fact that ships will reach a larger number of potential customers, this will bring a win-win effect,” explained Robert Sedlar, the CEO of DIV Cruises.

His company cooperates with numerous other Croatian companies like Katarina Line, Amathus Travel and Unlimited Croatia. “Almost all of our agencies which deal with the incoming side of the business have all our ships in their offer. We are particularly pleased to see that they have all recognized the uniqueness of our ships. Another reason for satisfaction is the fact that we have managed to enter the offer of most serious foreign partners in 2019, which was very difficult because such deals are usually made a year or two in advance,” explained Sedlar. They have also fulfilled the goal of having year-round operations of their ships in 2020 and 2021.

More news about sailing in Croatia can be found in our Travel section.

Translated from (reported by Marija Crnjak).

Monday, 12 February 2018

Fewer Cruise Ships Stopping at Croatian Ports

ZAGREB, February 12, 2018 - The number of foreign cruise ships visiting the Croatian Adriatic was down in 2017 compared to 2016.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Construction of Piers for Cruisers at the Split Port to Miss Original Deadline

Works to accommodate more cruisers in Split's harbour, but they will be late in completion.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Rijeka Becoming Popular Destination for Cruisers

After Dubrovnik and Split, is Rijeka the next star on the Croatian cruising scene? 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Millionth Passenger in the Dubrovnik Gruž Port

A million passengers for 2015 by air last month, a million by ship this month. Dubrovnik is popular... 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Peak Season in Dubrovnik: Tourism Gridlock (Includes Video)

(Photo credit

There was not a lof space in Dubrovnik Old Town for a casual stroll yesterday...