Responsible tourism tips

The main issue for us, when it comes to the ‘C’ word, is that of the giant floating hotels that cram into Dubrovnik, Split and Sibenik and release thousands of people into the streets like a tsunami of tourists every day. They are big, but they are not clever and they are certainly not funny. Small cruise vacations in Croatia are the antithesis of this, dipping in and out of small islands, being captained and crewed by local people, and encouraging people to spend locally by dining in local tavernas. In addition to these issues, the marine environment is always an issue when it comes to water-based vacation, so we give you a few responsible tourism tips on how to travel better on a small cruise vacation in Croatia.

The giant cruise liners and irresponsible tourism

With new ships that can carry up to 7,000 passengers and crew, these floating cities pollute the air we breathe and the water we use and enjoy.
– Friends of the Earth
It’s as if Croatia caught the bug from neighbouring Venice – giant cruise ships like soulless, multinational floating hotels taking over the ancient ports, spilling out pollution and people in ways that go relatively unpoliced.

In fairness, Croatia’s port authorities have carried out sustainability reports and limited the average number of cruise ship passengers in Dubrovnik to a meagre 5,000 from prior numbers which were topping 10,000... although in peak season this can become a little more flexible. Bringing money to the country is always the excuse, but in fact it is well documented that cruise ship passengers spend very little, because they have an all-inclusive meal deal on board, and so the majority of money is spent on coffees and ice cream.

In terms of environmental damage to Croatia, which has one of the most stunning coastlines in the world, Friends of the Earth carried out pioneering research in 2014, highlighting the good players and the bad ones in terms of their environmental footprint. They assessed how transparent companies are about their environmental policies, how much they pollute the air when docked, if they comply with water quality regulations, and how advanced their sewage systems are. The research reports on 16 major cruise lines and 167 cruise ships.
Giant cruise ships have many other negative impacts on the world, from exploitation of human rights to tax evasion. Read more about our views on irresponsible cruising.
What you can do
Apart from taking a responsible small ship cruise, where the boats are locally owned, food is sourced locally and dinner is eaten at local restaurants, you can join many Croatians in asking the Ministry of Tourism to have a rethink on cruise ships. You can contact them on the Croatia Ministry of Tourism website, and reassure them that you believe tourism in Croatia really doesn't need a bigger boat.

Responsible tourism tips

You will spend plenty of time on land on these trips, and most of your crew is likely to be local, so learning a couple of words in Croatian will go down very well. Language is very important to Croatians, particularly because in the 1960s there was a big movement to gain autonomy for the Croatian language when the country was part of Yugoslavia. Always listen to the skipper’s instructions to respect the safety of your fellow passengers and crew, as well as protecting the environment. And listen to your guide when you go on land, as many excursions are into environmentally sensitive areas, such as in the Kornati Islands or Mljet National Parks, which have strict visitor guidelines. In general, take nothing with you, leave nothing behind and keep to designated trails. ’t judge a cruise ship for using plastic water bottles. Water is a limited resource in Croatia. If glasses are provided for water, they have to be washed up after each use. Asking passengers to bring their own water bottles rarely works; realistically, people forget more often than not. Currently, using plastic bottles is often the lesser of two evils until travelers are more willing to change their habits by bringing their own water bottle. Until that day, cruise ships – even small ones – will keep providing plastic cups. In conclusion: BYOWB. Do not feed or touch the wildlife, and when taking photos of animals such as dolphins, do not use flash photography. Please don’t remove shells or stones from the beaches. According to the Marine Conservation Society, there are nearly 2,500 items of rubbish for every kilometre of beach, so this is a good time to really think about your use of plastics and what goes into the marine environment. Cut out what you can, from microbeads to straws, cotton buds to plastic bottles, and make a Plastic Pledge at Greenpeace. Waste removal and disposal is a big issue on many of Croatia’s islands, and it usually costs them money too. So take your packaging and waste away with you to dispose of once you return to the cities or back home, and bring that refillable water bottle with you as tap water is usually safe to drink on the mainland. If you are spending any time in the water, do ensure that your suncreams, shampoos and body lotions are environmentally friendly (sometimes called “reef safe”). The wars in Croatia and other surrounding countries are still very recent. Some local people are happy to talk about them, and others don’t want to discuss it at all. So please handle any such conversations with sensitivity and read up on the history before you go. Don’t buy cheap red coral jewellery. Although the harvesting of red coral is protected and regulated under the Nature Protection Act, it is hard to police. If it is cheap, the chances are it is not sourced responsibly. If you are inspired by spending time on the Adriatic, then use this opportunity to inform yourself about the growing concerns about overfishing. Talk with your skipper and crew about it as everyone will have a view on Adriatic fish stocks. And then when you go home, please use it as a reminder to only buy sustainable fish. The Marine Conservation’s Good Fish Guide is a great source of up to date information.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anrie Papp] [Cruise ship giants: Tony Hisgett]