Hello everyone. I’ve taken a break from writing about our 2019 trip to Greece, but now that Greece is opening up to Americans, it is time I write more about it.
Every visitor to Greece who wants to visit the islands will probably end up taking at least one ferry. This post will be outlining my personal experiences during my trip last year, as well as giving some advice on what method of transportation to use in certain scenarios.
Hope you enjoy and find this post useful.
There is plenty of competition in the ferry industry in Greece, which is great for consumers as it means more destinations (and, in some cases, lower prices). During the peak summer travel season during a normal year, ferries travel to pretty much all the islands.
The two biggest long-distance ferry companies are ANEK/Blue Star Ferries and Minoan Lines. The biggest company when it comes to smaller boats hopping shorter distances is SeaJets. On top of the companies listed above, there are many smaller lines, including Golden Star, Hellenic Seaways, and many more.
The point is, as a ferry traveller in Greece, you’ve got options.
Long-Distance Review (Athens to Crete)
Our first decision for us to make, and one that many visitors to Greece likely will have to make, was whether to fly or take an overnight ferry from Athens to Crete. The flight is about an hour and would have costed around $100, and there were flights available all day, mainly on Aegean, Olympic Air, or Sky Express. The upside is that it is definitely the fastest option, but the downside is that travelers will have to go to the airport, go through the security process, etc.
The other option, which we eventually decided to do for the experience, was to take a ferry. The three main ferry lines in Greece are Anek Lines, Blue Star Ferries (which partners with Anek), and Minoan Lines. Because we needed to go to Chania on the Western side of Crete (rather than the bigger Heraklion more toward the center), and we wanted an overnight ferry, we decided on Blue Star, which in the summer sailed the ship Blue Galaxy.
While it is possible to book tickets from Ferryhopper (which actually seemed like the most user-friendly website), we just looked at ferry schedules on that website and instead decided to book straight from the ferry company itself. Although the website was pretty terrible to be honest (though it now looks like it has been improved), after creating an account and diving through some hoops, we managed to get to the ticketing page.
In terms of tickets, the options on our ship (in order from lowest price to highest price) included deck seating (no assigned seats), airplane-style seating (airplane domestic first-class-style seats), regular cabins for either two, three, or four people (either with or without outside views), and “lux” cabins.
The videos below both give a good tour of the ship:
We managed to score a great deal on a regular four-person outside cabin through a “3+1” deal, which if I remember correctly meant that my younger brother’s ticket was free, making the total cost of the cabin just slightly more than if we booked deck/air seats!
One thing to keep in mind about taking a ferry from Athens is that the main port is actually located in Piraeus, which is a neighboring city. We decided to take the metro to Piraeus, which was smooth. We arrived at Piraeus Station around 9:40 PM, only around 20 minutes before the boat was due to depart. We quickly made our way towards the port, where we got our first glimpse of the ship that would be carrying us on our overnight journey to the largest Greek island.
We then got onto a bus which drove us to the loading port. We seemed to be some of the last people to board, only 10 minutes before the ship was due to depart.
We entered through the garage, and then got to a reception area, where someone checked our tickets and directed us to our cabins.
The cabin was nicer than expected. It had four real twin beds in the form of two bunk beds.
Behind this photo, there was also a working desk and a closet.
There was also a tiny bathroom which included a shower. It was clean enough.
After checking out the rooms, we went out to the back deck. There was a lot of smoking, but it was still a fine place to hang out. We watched the ship depart from here.
There were also a few restaurants onboard, which we did not check out. You can see what they look like in the tour video above.
We even checked out the top deck. We were the only people there, so it was extremely peaceful. (Unfortunately, because it was pitch-black, I could not get a good picture.)
After a couple hours exploring and relaxing, we headed to our room to sleep. We woke up around 6:30 AM, as we were approaching Chania. The arrival and debarking process was super quick and smooth, and it was easy to find a taxi.
We then drove to the airport to pick up our car rental, and got our first look at the beautiful Cretan scenery!
Overall, although the long-distance ferry obviously takes longer than the flight, the fact that it is overnight means that riders can save a night in a hotel, and have a fun experience along the way.
While during the rest of the year, most ferries either begin or terminate their routes at Athens/Piraeus, during the peak summer months, many ferries travel between the islands on multistop routes. There are large ferries that have cabins, such as some of Golden Star’s ships, but there are also smaller high-speed catamaran companies. The biggest company in Greece specializing in the speedboat business is SeaJets, and it is the ferry that we booked when traveling from Heraklion to Santorini.
After exploring Crete for a few days, it was time to travel to Santorini. If I remember correctly, there were four nonstop ferries available, and the fastest one was on Champion Jet 2, a high-speed catamaran operated by SeaJets.
The below video gives a decent tour of the ship:
As you can see, there are a few different classes available. In ascending price order, these are named Silver, Club, and Platinum. We booked Silver tickets straight through the company’s website for a little under 50 euros each if I remember correctly, but as you will see below, we actually ended up in the Club section.
We arrived at the Heraklion port at about 7:30 AM, just in time to catch our ferry, which was already waiting for us.
Just like with the Blue Star ferry, we had to board through the car garage. After someone checked our tickets, we climbed up a set of stairs and found ourselves at the front of the Silver class cabin.
We then found our assigned seats, which I believe were in the M-section in the picture above. Waiting at the seat were a safety card and a magazine.
A safety video soon played, and we were away.
Shortly after the boat departed, we realized that there was no separation between the Silver cabin downstairs and the Club cabin upstairs. People were freely moving between the two cabins. We therefore helped ourselves to a few of the club seats, which had slightly more recline and width, and as an added bonus, were at the window. The AC was right on top of us, so it was freezing, but it definitely was worth the switch it for the view, if not the seat. (Unfortunately, due to water splashing over the windows, it was hard to get photos of the great view.)
The Platinum section was located towards the back of the ferry. It was closed off to anyone without a ticket. Basically, it had even bigger seats and tables.
At the back of the ship, there was an outdoor area. It was windy, but a lot of fun, and a great way to get some fresh air.
We had some fun walking around the ship, and before we knew it, we were approaching Santorini. The ship would continue onto Mykonos and the Athens, so it was a quick stop and unload.
We flew from Santorini back to the mainland, so no ferry comment for that.
Taking ferries rather than flying was a great experience, and one that I would recommend for any leisure traveling to Greece. It is far more relaxing and fun than flying if time permits.
It seems like there are frequently discounts, so definitely check to see if you can snag a deal. Definitely book in advance if possible.
Perhaps the best thing about taking the ferry in today’s world is that there is far less exposure to people when taking a ferry rather than flying, especially if you get a cabin. If you are planning to travel to Greece this summer, (or anytime in the future, for that matter,) that is definitely an additional advantage to keep in mind.
Thanks for reading. I hope this post is helpful to at least some of you!