Despite having just the narrowest sliver of Adriatic coastline, Slovenia – sandwiched between the hot passenger ports of Venice and Dubrovnik – finds itself on a growing number of large cruise ship itineraries, having received its first vessel as recently as 2005. Koper is Slovenia’s main port; its picturesque old town and proximity to the Alps and Ljubljana make it an understandable favourite with cruise ship passengers. With the largest ships containing up to 3,800 passengers – in a city of just 25,000 inhabitants – the impact is being felt. While Koper Bay has done an admirable job of reducing pollution from both cruise and cargo ships (the nearby beach was awarded Blue Flag status
), the tidal waves of day trippers bring questionable benefit to Koper and to Slovenia. Free tourist trains run directly from the port around the town – denying income to local transport providers. Interaction with taxi drivers is strictly controlled; they are only permitted to offer three set tours
at fixed prices. Shuttle buses take passengers straight out of Koper and into the surrounding large shopping malls, whisking them away from local shops and cafes. For those who want to explore further, large coaches carry up to 50 people at a time on daytrips to the surrounding villages, lakes and mountains; often, more time is spent on the coach than exploring the local sights – a particular problem in a country which has identified road traffic as one of its biggest environmental issues
. Worse, some excursions even carry passengers into neighbouring Italy for the day, withdrawing any possible benefit from Slovenia. And for those that do stay behind, the spilling of thousands of passengers into Koper’s narrow streets for several chaotic hours can spoil the charming atmosphere for those visitors who are holidaying here for longer.
What you can do
Aside from not booking a large cruise holiday, there are numerous ways you can give your business to guesthouses, restaurants, cafes, market stall holders and craftspeople – the more local, the better! And if you still want to see Slovenia from the water, there are various boat tours that take place along the coast, including some that take place on sailing boats. It’s a much more unique, personalised experience, and much more beneficial to local boat owners and guides.