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Crowds entering Pile Gate
courtesy of Toronto Star
Crowds around Pile Gate

Cruise ship docked in Dubrovnik
Cruise ship docked in Gruz

Dubrovnik is a major stop on the Mediterranean cruise circuit receiving nearly a million passengers per year. If they all came at once the city would probably sink into the sea! The crush of cruise ship visitors has become deeply unpleasant to the old town's remaining residents and has even endangered Dubrovnik's World Heritage status. Dubrovnik's new mayor has promised to limit cruise ship arrivals but because contracts are signed years in advance, the limits are not expected to take effect until 2019. Meanwhile, I strongly advise visitors to take note of cruise ship schedules and plan accordingly.

The cruise season runs from March to November with the bulk of the ships docking from May to October. Each day during this period anywhere from a few hundred to 10,000 visitors may descend upon Dubrovnik's Old Town. Remember that the area contained within Dubrovnik's walls (circumference: 2km) is only 140000 square meters or 34 acres which means that on high-traffic days, Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street, is shoulder-to-shoulder with pedestrians. This you want to avoid if possible.

[Check out 5 Insider Tips to Avoiding Crowds in Dubrovnik]

All about Dubrovnik

Fortunately, the Dubrovnik Port Authority, publishes a monthly schedule of cruise ship arrivals. The schedule is conveniently colour-coded with the busiest days highlighted in red, the least busy days in green and moderately busy days in yellow. Also listed is the exact hour of arrival and whether the ship docks in Gruz or in the Old Town harbour. This is important because passengers on ships docking in Gruz will enter the Old Town through Pile gate while passengers disembarking in the Old Town harbour will enter on the opposite side of town, eastern Ploce gate. Unfortunately the Port Authority no longer publishes the exact passenger count but the color codes give you some idea.

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You'll notice that most arrivals are in the morning. By mid-afternoon, most cruise ship passengers are on buses from Pile gate to Gruz harbour. Even on the busiest days, the Old Town starts emptying out by 3pm.

I highly recommend that you download and consult the relevant guide before planning your Dubrovnik sightseeing. In many cases, it's only a matter of delaying your Dubrovnik walking tour by a few hours in order to better appreciate the city's charms without the crush of others. Besides there are plenty of things to do in Dubrovnik besides visiting the old town. Why not take a day trip on the busiest days?

The schedules are in pdf format and all are for 2018.

March
April

May
June
July
August
September
October
November

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Further Resources

Dubrovnik Port Authority

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Visitor Feedback

One of the most helpful things was the link to the Cruise Ship Arrivals. While some days 40,000 passengers debark into Dubrovnik,with the help of that link I was able to spend 3 nights there with a total of only 1,500 for the 3 days. A completely different experience thanks to you.

B. Medeiros


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