When planning our six-day Greek vacation in April we started the wrong way: we first looked at the islands we wanted to discover. Then we started to look at how to get there. Big problem: no ferries.
Greece has more than 200 inhabited islands.
Although Greece has an amazing armada of ferries, there are even more islands. More precisely: 227 inhabited islands out of 6,000. If you are particularly in search of the small remote islands (as we did), then you need to know that remoteness is logically related to the difficulty to get there.
Our Greek friend George told us it was better –especially if not during the high season– to look at some ferry circuits first. They are often operated on a daily basis with a fixed schedule and a fixed route.
It is good to take a map when starting your research, and to learn about the different island groups such as the Cyclades or the Dodecanese.
We browsed some websites of big ferry operators, such as Blue Star Ferries or Hellenic Seaways. Why? Because of reliability. On the websites of some small companies it was not very clear if and when their ship was running. After some research we made up our minds and booked all our crossings with Blue Star Ferries.
Following George’s advice we decided to stay on one loop, and picked Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini. This would allow us to visit three islands in six days: Ios, Santorini and Paros.
We booked with Blue Star Ferries. Our ferry, the BLUE STAR DELOS, was a modern, recently built ship.
I booked online and had to choose between the aircraft-style seats with assigned places, cabin accommodation, or just an economy type of ticket with no fixed seating. Because I was uncertain about the temperatures in April I booked air seats, which eventually we did not use at all: we sat outside on every crossing.
Of course, if you take a night crossing you might prefer a cabin. Unless you like to sleep under the stars on the open deck, as many youngsters do.
Know your gate number. Piraeus port is large! (photo: George Giannakis)
Some essential tips
-Be on time. Piraeus can be hectic, especially during summer.
-Know at which gate you have to be. Know the name of your ferry and the company.
-Download the App if your ferry company has one. Blue Star Ferries has.
-Some hotels offer a shuttle service to the port. Ask at the reception.
-Redeem your ferry tickets from a ticket counter or a machine.
-Piraeus Port busses from gate E1 to gate E5 provide transportation free of charge.
-If you want to enjoy the crossing in open air, then don’t book a high-speed ferry, where you will mainly have to sit inside.
We sailed with BLUE STAR DELOS, and enjoyed sitting outside on the aft terrace. There are tables and chairs, and you can buy refreshments at one of the bars. Inside there is also a Goody’s burger restaurant. We were disappointed that the ship did not serve that authentic pure Greek food we love so much.
Internet access time was for sale at the reception (3 hours, 3 euro). Actually I was able to do some editorial work during the first crossing. It is not every day that I have an office with sea view.
If you want luggage can safely be stored on the garage deck.
Why take the ferry when you can fly to some islands?
It ads so much more to the experience. Arriving on your island by ferry has no peer. That very moment when the gangway or ramp goes down, and when you catch the first glimpse of quayside, these moments are magic.
That magic moment when the ramp opens. Ready for the island.
Text and photos: Mike
Aerial photo Piraeus: George Giannakis