It has been a busy month but this does not mean the season is over for Dubrovnik. Far from it, as September and October will be the busiest months with an expected cruise passenger count of 170,000 each month. I know many cruisers believe they are contributing to the local economy and yes, by visiting our cultural sites and taking the time to enjoy a Dalmatian style meal in one of our outdoor Konabas (restaurants), some money does reach our local residents. However, it is sad but true that the majority of cruisers have determined Dubrovnik is a DIY (do it yourself) town and does not require much time. Earlier this year the local tourist bureau determined the average amount of money spent in the old town by cruise guests is $25 per person, most of it spent for the city wall. Very few guests opt for a private guide; some even return to their ship for meals! Unfortunately, the majority do not visit the inside of any of our cultural and historical sites.
One Sunday in August, we had three very large ships arrive in port at the same time, creating madness with more than 13,000 guests trying to enter the old town. The police had to direct the flow of foot traffic and many tempers flared in the crush, heat and humidity of the day. This lack of proper scheduling was not the fault of the cruise passengers, nor was it the fault of local residents. The Dubrovnik Port Authority promised the residents that there would only be a daily five ships or a total passenger count of no more than 7,000 cruise guests.
With the safety concerns caused by the Arab Spring uprisings in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, cruise lines substituted cruises to the Adriatic Sea. Since the Port Authority permits the extra traffic, the cruisers have a less than good experience and the town residents experience frustration by the crowds. To avoid this kind of problem happening to your vacation experience, ask your travel planner to determine how many other ships with their total passenger load will be in any port you expect to visit.
Dubrovnik is not a big city; our streets are small and guests who have no plan for their visit can be a bit of a problem. Sometimes, just stopping in the middle of the Stradun to look at the local map and talk to their friends causes a traffic jam! Some guests do prior research and take the time to get a good map, plan their day and enjoy the sites. However, I know by experience that many tourists only walk the Stradun (main promenade), buy a gelato and believe they have “done” Dubrovnik. They even advise others that there is not much to Dubrovnik!
Many tourists do not visit the inside of any historical or cultural site and yet think they now have the knowledge to give others advise. How sad! They miss the vignettes of a private tour, never understanding the stories of this rich heritage. I have seen them taking a photo of the clock tower and never noticing our Zelenci (see Clock tower post). The Dubrovnik Tourist Bureau has an extensive website, listing all of the sites, hours of operation and entrance fees, so a do-it-yourself tourist can, at least, plan to go into places and see the richness of the centuries of civilization here. Those who do not want to do this level of planning still have choices to explore the area with a good guide.
The country of Croatia declared its freedom only a short 20 years ago after 5 years of war. Our origins, however, trace back to 700 BC and the beauty and cultural heritage of Dubrovnik is what makes this town so special. I have lived here four years now and I am still finding new treasures off the beaten path. It is hard to stay quiet when tourists who visit for a few hours claim to have experienced Dubrovnik and give advice.
We are making great strides. After the war, great pains were take to repair Dubrovnik quickly by the determination of local residents who take great pride in their town and heritage. The Croatian Diaspora living in Australia, South America, Canada and the USA gave generously to the reconstruction of the old town; it came from their hearts for the love of their hometowns and their country of birth. Dubrovnik is a town, which is a new discovery to many and is now experiencing a new learning curve of tourism. It has begun with baby steps. We only want to continue to share our depth of pride and share the experience of how Dubrovnik is part of our souls. Talk to us. Listen to us.
Dubrovnik itself is a piece of art and like a very good wine savored slowly. Spend a day with me and experience the glory of my home and you will then begin to understand why it is a part of my soul.