The journey to the holiday island takes hours, and the farther away the longer the hours are. For Crete, Dodecanese and eastern Aegean, most routes are overnight. For Rhodes it can reach up to 24 hours. Those who travel often know how to spend their time more pleasant, but anyone who is not familiar with it needs to read some tips.
The routes for the most popular islands, Milos, Paros, Mykonos and Santorini are not long. Once you get bored the ferry will be close to its destination but there is also the choice of high-speed and catamaran that significantly limit the duration of the journey.
In a long journey the hours are endless and the night has to come. And having a pleasant time is not the only issue as you need to reach your destination relaxed. If you arrive tired this is not good for your holidays.
Long routes are operated exclusively by conventional ferries and not by high-speed or catamarans.
What type of seat to choose
- economy class/lounge: the seats on the main deck. It is a large space like a living room, with sofas, chairs and tables. Hallway tables are included here
- Air seats: the most uncomfortable seats. Recommended for short trips only
- business class: usually located on the upper deck, it has a better view and the seats and spaces are more spacious
- cabin: the options vary depending on the company and the ferry. You can choose between cabins with 2 single beds (berths), 4 single, double bed, with window or without. You can book the whole single bed cabins so as to avoid sleeping with strangers
For overnight trips, the cabin is recommended especially if you have children.
How to spend your time on a conventional ferry
During boarding, passengers wander around with their luggage and head to their seats, at this time it is better to stay on your seat.
The ferry has a bar (24 hours) as well as a restaurant, of course the prices are higher than the market's.
If your seat is in the lounge, you can sit by the TV or by the window.
Departure is the signal that you can get up and walk. You can see the departure of the ferry from one of the open-air areas.
The open-air decks are on the sides and are like balconies, on the stern above the catapult and on the upper deck where there's a bar. There are chairs and benches to sit and enjoy the view and the sea air.
The bow of the ferry is not accessible to the passengers.
You have to be resourceful about what to do. You can read a book, newspaper or magazine, listen to music, watch TV, watch a movie on a mobile device, or connect to the Wi-Fi. If you have children they can play board games. From the lounge bar you can drink coffee, soft drinks or eat sandwiches and toast at any time. You can also walk in the common areas of the ferry. It's a very good idea to sit at the upper deck bar as well.
But what are the best hours to go outside?
- at sunset: enjoy the sunset in the middle of the sea and take photos
- when approaching a port: this moment go to the stern. The ferry maneuvers to bring the stern to the port and at the appropriate time the staff throws the anchor ropes. If strong winds prevail, the process becomes difficult and more stressful. Once tied up, you can watch the passengers, the cars and the trucks getting on and off. Of course, all this will take place at every stop.
Sunset at sea
Once it gets dark things significantly change. You can no longer look at the sea, the only see lights you'll see are from lighthouses, other passing ferries and lights from the islands. The ferry is surrounded by darkness. At this time passengers are having their dinner. A great idea is to go to the bar on the upper deck to see if there's a movie on. This bar is not 24h and closes late at night.
As the hours are passing the conversations stop, those who have a cabin go to sleep and slowly you hear only the sound of the engines. The time has come for you to sleep too. The lounge bar doesn't close so if you need water or anything during the night you can get it. The only thing you can do after midnight (if you don't sleep) is the arrival at the ports where the process described above takes place.
Modern ferries have a screen with a digital map where you can see the course of the ferry, usually located near the entrance. You can check it for the current location, which port it approaches and which island it passes by.
In the morning as soon as you wake up nothing compares to the morning coffee on the ferry. Most likely you are close to your destination so make sure you are ready to disembark.
How to spend your time on high-speed ferries and catamarans
Journeys with high speed ferries and catamarans are not so long compared to the conventional ferries but the spaces are very limited.
The high-speed has only one outdoor space at the stern where you can see the ferry's drains, which is really small. Depending on the size of the ferry, there may be corridors to walk on.
Otherwise you can read a book, newspaper or magazine, listen to music, watch TV, watch a movie on a mobile device or connect to the Wi-Fi.
There are no outdoor areas in the catamaran and there are only air seats.
If the ferry is full of passengers
This is not good as the free spaces of the ferry are getting limited and there is a lot of noise. However, these crowds head to the popular islands, Paros, Mykonos or Santorini, usually dissembark en masse to these destinations. You'll encounter such crowds in high season.
There are times when the groups of young people literally occupy the slightest corner, so it's good to board earlier to find a better seat.
Should I travel by boat or plane?
The plane is more convenient but only a few greek islands have an airport. If the island you have chosen has one then it's fine. If on the other hand it doesn't have, then you should check if it's worth it.
Airports and ports are not side by side, so there's the issue of transition. Also what time does the ferry arrive to the port, do the routes match? These are the issues you need to consider to decide.