Please sign in to post.

Novice traveler never been on a ferry.

I am an extremely inexperienced, possibly naïve traveler. I am spending 13 nights in Greece starting on the last night of September 2018. My plan is to take a ferry from Pireas to Heraklion, and from Chania back to Pireas.

Both Ferries leave at 9pm and arrive at 6am the next morning. Have any of you taken the overnight ferry? What do I do and where should I go when the ferry arrives? It will probably still be dark. I don't want to risk getting robbed, assaulted, encountering suspicious characters, and so on.

I have never taken a ferry, anywhere. Have any of you ever slept on a ferry? Do the ferries have men's rooms (toilets, bathrooms, or whatever you call it)? Do the ferries smell ok?

I want a cabin below deck if possible.

How do I know that I will find the place to pick up my ticket if I buy a ticket in advance?

Are you aware of any bad things or potential problems that could happen? Am I better off flying from the Athens Airport to Crete? I am not anxious about traveling. I am a novice traveler with little experience outside of Michigan.

Posted by
8007 posts

I would book a cabin if I were going on those overnight ferries. I have only gone on ferries in the daytime and enjoyed the scenery of the islands we passed.
. We flew to and from Chania, Crete. I think this would be a better option for you, short flights, inexpensive.

Posted by
6031 posts

My personal opinion, for that route, I would fly via Aegean Air or Olympic. I would also plan on an overnight in Athens on both ends, unless you can connect the flights on one itinerary.

Ferries are working boats, not cruise ships. You can get a cabin (private), or a bunk in a dorm, buy a comfy seat, or go cheap and sleep on the deck. Most do have a cafeteria, sometimes a movie room or TVs, some a casino of sorts (i guess that is more international ferries). But generally, from Pireaus to Crete is a long boring trip.

Yes, bathrooms are on board, maybe not showers, smell is a personal evaluation.

For tickets, you can buy ahead. You can also stop at a travel agency oncein Athens, or at the port, or just buy wen yo get to the port. Large ferries will not sell out in September. You might also see small ferries or seajets, I would personally avoid those for a longer trip.

Posted by
787 posts

Will I save more time by taking the ferries or the airplanes? See my last thread where at first I thought I would take the planes. Here is my supposed itinerary.

Edit: the ferry ride couldn't be boring because the point of them providing overnight ferry trips probably is so travelers can save time and/or skip a night in a hotel by sleeping on the ferry ride. As far as I am aware, the only ferry for the routes I want, are from 9pm to 6am, and I would try going to sleep as soon as I get into my cabin so I get a healthy 8 hour night of sleep. I am not fully committed to the ferry but I am just trying to plan in advance so I can make my hotel/hostel/logging reservations.

(Night zero is on the flight to Greece)

Sunday, September 30: Arrive at Athens International Airport 9:15am. Bus or train to Syntagma square or near downtown Athens. Find hotel / hostel / logging place. If time, Jewish museum (10am-2pm). National archaeological museum (8:00-20:00). Syntagma guard changing spectacle.
1st night: sleep in Athens

Monday, October 2: “Free” walking tour of Athens. Self-guided tours of Acropolis area. Acropolis museum. If time, other old Greek and Roman remains (Agora, Roman forum, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and so on)
2nd night: sleep in Athens

Tuesday, 3: Agora (8:00-19:00). Museum of Greek popular instruments (Tue. 10:00-14:00). The rest of the old Greek and Roman remains not seen yet (Agora, Roman forum, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and so on)
3rd night: sleep in Athens

Wednesday, 4: Bus to Nafplion (about 2 hours 10 minutes). If time, Archaeological museum 8:00-15:00). If time, National Gallery (10:00-15:00 and 17:00-20:00). If time, Palamidi fortress or other Venetian structures and/or walk past various landmarks or monuments.
4th night: sleep in Nafplio

Thursday, 5: Bus day trip to Mycenae. If time, if not seen yet, above museums and/or Venetian era-fortresses and/or walk through Nafplio.
5th night: sleep in Nafplio

Friday, 6: If not seen yet, above museum(s) or Venetian fortresses. Bus to Piraeus (about 3 hours 9 minutes). Arrive by 8pm. Ferry to Heraklion, Crete. Ferry leaves at 9pm.
6th night: sleep in a cabin below deck on the ferry.

Saturday, 7: Ferry arrives at 6am. Historical museum of Crete (Mon-Sat Apr-Oct, 9-5pm). Archaeological museum (8am-8pm daily Apr –Oct, get joint ticket with Knossos). If time, walk past various landmarks/ monuments. If time/ if open, old Venetian buildings.
7th night: sleep in Heraklion

Sunday, 8. Bus to Knossos (8am-5pm). If time, walk past other landmarks and/or Venetian buildings, and so on.
8th night: sleep in Heraklion

Monday, 9: Bus to Chania (about 3 hours 5 minutes). Synagogue (Mon-Thurs 10am-5pm). Possibly Cretan House Folklore Museum (Mon-Fri 9am-3pm & 6-9pm). Small Minoan excavation, city walls, other landmarks, and so on.
9th night: sleep in Chania

Tuesday, 10: Archaeological museum (Tues-Sun, 8:30am-3pm). Byzantine museum (also Tues-Sun, 8:30am-3pm). Ferry from Chaina to Piraeus, leaves 9pm, arrive by 8pm.
10th night: sleep on the ferry.

Wednesday, 11: Ferry arrives in Piraeus 6am. Bus to the center of Athens (about 52 minutes). Bus to Delphi (about 3 hours 20 minutes).

Find hotel in the town of Delphi. Museum or outdoor site. If time, the other site too. If not time, the other site the next morning.
11th night

Thursday, 12: If not seen yet, the outdoor site and/or museum. Bus to Athens.
12th night: sleep in Athens again.

Friday, 13: If time, if not seen yet, possibly Jewish museum 9am-2:30pm). Benaki museum of Greek history (9:00am-5pm). If time, Museum of the city of Athens (9am-4pm). Possibly Panathenaic stadium (8am-7pm).
13th night: sleep in Athens again.

Saturday, October 13: fly back to Detroit

Posted by
1795 posts

I have taken ferries but never over night. I took overnight trains with cabins in my 20s. I wouldn't do an overnight ferry or train now to save money or time. You don't sleep well and in my 50s now I don't do as well with that as I used to.


Posted by
2901 posts

Take a plane michael. In the dark there will be nothing to see from the ferry. And the ferry will make you nervous about things you are not familiar with, since you seem prone to anxiety.... yes you ARE anxious about traveling or you would not have posted 19 separate inquiry threads so far on RS, maybe the same # on other forums as well. Your worries about bathrooms and smells does make it appear that you are somewhat phobic about hygiene. Overnight ferries are very large vessels, more like a small ocean liner, not the kind of ferry you would see on a lake. Of course each cabin has its own restroom. There are also ample restrooms throughout the ship, very well attended and in my experience on many many large Greek long-distance ferrys, they are very clean and sanitary. However from trying to reassure you on previous threads about your transportation worries, I know that giving you facts will not help.

Take the plane, it will be FAST, safe MODERN planes and in October, the plane ride will be far less expensive than taking a private cabin for one, on an overnight ferry (and I don't even want to bring up the economy option of taking a bunk in a shared all-male cabin, how scary would that be).

Posted by
1204 posts

Mike, I agree that you sound anxious about it and that maybe flights would be easier for you. However, as you have never taken a ferry, and maybe want the experience, a lot of information is available online about the ferries. We are taking the overnight ferry but only because our flight was canceled and the flights now are far more expensive. And for the novelty of an overnight ferry, and because the timing works really well for us. The expense people are ignoring is that an overnight ferry price is being compared to a flight + 1 night hotel (if cost is even a factor for you). Anyway, here are some pictures I found of the name of the ferry we are taking (Elyros, from Piraeus to Chania). But of course these are promotional pictures and the reality could be a lot dingier and worn, but maybe not. Also, Ive read some very mixed reviews of ANEK. The point is, its an unknown, where a flight is not. I would also say that if you do want to have the experience, maybe ferry only one way and fly the other:

Posted by
1204 posts

Also, ferries are notoriously late (from what Im reading), by an hour or two. So figure that into your schedule. Imagine arriving at 8a rather than 6a

Posted by
787 posts

If I start in the middle of Athens, an airplane flight to Crete takes about, rough ballpark estimate, one 45 minutes to get to the bus station or bus stop, an hour bus ride to the airport, arriving at the airport 2 or more hours early, to have time to get through security and wait for the plane, 50 minutes to an hour for the plane ride, and a minimum of a hour, or maybe 2 hours, to walk off the plane, figure out how to take a bus to the middle of Heraklion, and find my hotel. That is a rough ballpark estimate of 6 or 7 hours to get from the middle of Athens or my hotel in Athens, to a hotel in Heraklion.

Edit: I expect my trip to cost $2,800-$3,100 US dollars, although if necessary I could spend up to $3,500. This amount includes what I already spent, $1,486 on the flights from Detroit to Greece.

I stayed in hostels in England and Italy without problems.

Posted by
2901 posts

I don't know where your hotel in central Athens is ... is it in Omonia neighborhood?? If it's at all near Syntagma Square or Acropolis, your timing is way off. The bus from Syntagma square t akes under 60 minutes except at the height of rush hour. ATH Airport is only ONE building, so you can get from front door to domestic check-in line in 5 minutes. You do NOT need to check in 2 hours ahead for domestic flight -- 45-60 minutes is ample, except for nervous people. at the other end, except if you are late at night, the bus from the airport goes at least every 30 minutes, right to the pier in front of Main part of Heraklion. We could tell you how to get to your hotel if you would share its name. OR you could share a taxi in from Airport with a fellow passenger (but that might strike you as risky -- who knows? He might be a criminal who would mug you). In short, your trip would be closer to 4 hours. And taking an overnight ferry would require almost as much time to reach the ferry, wait for it, disembark and find your way to lodgings.... and the travel part would be 7 hrs vs. 50 minutes. But who am I to argue with the expertise of someone who bills himself as "Novice traveler".

Posted by
3184 posts

I vote for the overnight ferry. They are usually surprisingly comfortable with all the amenities you'd need. I've taken overnight ferries 3 times in Europe including Greece and always had a pleasant time. You'll never know unless you try this new to you mode of transportation. It's another life experience in Europe!

Posted by
787 posts

I have not made Hotel reservations yet, because I had not finalized my itinerary. When I have settled on an itinerary, I can make hotel reservations. If I go with my latest itinerary, I will take the bus from Nafplio to Pireas, and then I just have to worry about whether I will find the place to pick up my reserved ferry ticket. And I don't want to risk running around Pireas not finding my boat and/or ticket pick-up place, with the time getting dangerously close to 9pm. But as long as I get my ticket and find my boat, it doesn't matter so much if the boat leaves late. I just ask all these weird questions because I have little experience outside Michigan even though I am 34 but I did go to Italy last year without problems. But I never tried riding a large boat or ferry.

Posted by
7270 posts

Take a ferry somewhere as practice before you do this. You can get motion sick while trying sleep.

Posted by
1204 posts

Mike, in response to your comment about not knowing how to navigate the port (not trying to promote either choice), this is what Ive done (and maybe what you have): I look up which "gate" my ferry will depart from (so I went to the ANEK website, which is the ferry line that goes to Crete, and found that the one for Chania departs from E3). Then I look up a map of the port online, and find where E3 is. Then I figured out where the ticket pick-up spot is. So now when I pull up in my rental car, I know where to go.
Because you are taking the bus, you would want to look up where the bus stop is, and then where it is in relation to your gate. You can also look up pictures of the inside of whatever ferry you would take (which you could learn by looking up the name of the ferry that travels the route you will take - Piraeus -> Heraklion - on the website of the ferry company you choose). Its just logistics. You've taken public transportation in Michigan right? And in Italy. So you just look up the info. you need.
As for the experience, travel is unpredictable, and I would say thats a big part of the joy. If the ferry experience is horrible for you, well, chalk it up to experience and take away a good story. I read a review recently of ANEK ferries where the person described it as being like "The Shining". I told my husband and we laughed. We told our kids we're going on "The Shining Boat". Its just one night.
But for all the reasons stated above, a flight might just be a better fit for you

Posted by
787 posts

Thanks for your input.

I have never taken public transportation in Michigan. I grew up in a suburb; I drive almost everywhere now.

Once I went to an event which included a boat ride on the Detroit river, and I have been on canoes and paddleboats at summer camp as a kid. I never had a problem with motion sickness; (my mother is afraid of boats and planes but by accident or coincidence I am not, and she thinks I am nuts or worse for traveling alone, without a whole trip group tour).

At first I assumed I wanted to fly to Crete or Santorini for part of my trip – I think I have settled on Crete. Now I am leaning toward taking the ferry.

I am estimating that a ferry trip may take less time than a plane flight: These are very rough ballpark estimates, but if I go with my second to last supposed itinerary, I will take buses from Nafplio to Pireas - an hour to wait for the bus, over 3 hours for the bus ride, 1-1/2 hours to find the boat – that is almost 6 hours. The boat ride is supposed to take 9 hours, BUT, those 9 hours don’t count because - I want to sleep in a cabin on the boat, and a boat (or on other trips, a plane or train ride at night) doesn’t take away from doing other activities because that’s when I expect to otherwise sleep in a hotel (I don’t go to bars or clubs late at night to early in the morning and drink alcohol and sleep late into the day like some other young people might do if they could).

To get from my hotel in Nafplio to my hotel in Heraklion, traveling on buses and a plane flight, - considering an hour to wait for the bus, 52 minutes to approximately an hour to get from pireas to Athens, about another hour to the airport, 2 hours to allow time to get through security and wait for the plane, 50 minutes to an hour plane flight, and whatever time it takes to get from the plane to the door of the hotel – I am assuming a rough ballpark estimate of 9 hours or more.

The boat ride is 3 hours shorter, because the time on the boat doesn’t count, in a way of thinking, because it (should) approximately cover a nights worth of sleep.

For all I know I could be wrong and I won't fall asleep on the ferry and I will wish I had taken the bus and plane to Crete or even just stayed on the mainland and skipped Crete.

Posted by
1204 posts

Wow, you are practically Amish ;)
I think you are WAY overthinking this. The timing is not going to be as long as you plot out above, but even if it were, waiting for a bus is fun .... when you're doing it in a foreign country!
Can you get a single room o the boat? Do you care if you have to share a room?
I see these as really equal choices. Just pick the one your gut is drawn to and then stop thinking about it

Posted by
396 posts

We're taking an overnight ferry from Chania to Pireaus next month (and flying the other way). I don't expect it to be a superior experience as compared to flying but a different experience, as someone said earlier. For the two of us with an overnight private cabin it is somewhat less expensive than two plane tickets and a hotel room. I figure we will loiter as the ship gets under way and so we won't get a full night's sleep, but we can handle that for one night. Ferry engines usually hum in the background, although not nearly as loudly as an airplane. We travel with those squishy orange earplugs that people use at concerts, which we can use to make it a little quieter for sleeping. Since these are large vessels I expect some feeling of motion, perhaps some rolling depending on the size of the sea swells, and a sensation of throbbing through the ship's structure from the engines. Not too different from flying in that respect, although prolonged. One plus for me is being on the water, although I realize most of the ferries on this route are large. We like the slow travel aspect; it seems more civilized somehow than getting stuffed into a small space on an airplane. I wouldn't do it all the time but it's fun as a change of pace.

Posted by
308 posts

I took an overnight ferry twice in Scandinavia in 2016. I am a delicate sleeper who rarely gets any sleep on planes. I got two very good nights of sleep on the ferry. I found the whole experience to be rather fun, and enjoyed the views. There were several different restaurants.

I was worried about seasickness but that didn't happen.

Posted by
3493 posts

I don't know the size of the ferry you take in Greece, but the one I took in Scandinavia was fairly large. It was completely stable, no rocking or unexpected movements at all.

I had a small inside cabin that reminded me of some of the business rooms European hotels offer and it was perfectly quiet. All the cabins are below deck. It was probably the best night's sleep I had on the entire trip.

It had several food choices as well from a buffet area to several other options that would satisfy every taste. I would have no problems doing it again.

I did not notice any smells that were unexpected, but not sure by your question what types of smells you worry about. Yes there are toilets. The room I was in had its own shower and toilet. There were many located around the boat as well. How could there not be on an 8 hour trip?

Posted by
7 posts

From one inexperienced ferry traveler to another; opt for the plane. I did take the Ferry last I was in Greece from Piraeus to Santorini. I lucked out and bought tickets the day before and they were dirt cheap for the faster Hellenic Seaways ferry. About a 5 hr trip I think compared to the 8 hour Blue Star. Once on board I was lucky a girl in my hostel had provided me with motion sickness medicine. I was barely out of the port before I was nauseated. There were plenty of people who worked aboard the ferry and my seat was in an open area in the center deck. You could probably wander if you chose but i opted to sit still and try to sleep so I didn't vomit everywhere. Granted I left at like 6 am and not overnight but the chair was comfortable enough for just a few hours. I am currently planning my return to Greece and I am flying everywhere this time. Maybe more time in an airport but still less than 5-8 hours on a ferry. Short flights and I looked on and compared flights. I can get round trip from Athens to Crete for about $115. Honestly I am really looking forward to that transfer rather than the ferry. It was impressive to see the ferry dock when it picked us up and if you were traveling during the day I would say take the ferry but for an overnight trip grab a flight and save time and effort and worry. Have a great trip!

Posted by
80 posts

When I lived near Seattle I commuted by ferry, so I am a bit biased, but I find ferries soothing, like riding on a purring cat. I sleep very well. About 15 years ago I took the overnight ferry to Heraklion and had a lovely trip. The views were great at sunset and dawn, and I slept well even if I didn't get a full eight hours because I was so excited. And don't discount the night! A full moon over the empty Med made me want to read Homer to remind myself of his "wine dark sea"! I have also taken other ferries in Greece. There were plenty of seats and restrooms and everything was clean. It was more like a small cruise ship (one even had a 'disco'). Part of the joys of island hopping in Greece for me is taking ferries sometimes to get on the water, and taking planes sometimes to move quickly.

As for potential problems, well, the same type of things that can happen anywhere, for the most part. Keep an eye on your stuff, don't leave your cabin door unlocked, be aware of your surroundings. Ummm...don't lean too far over the rail. :-) No matter what, you will have a blast! Crete is one of my favorite places!

Posted by
975 posts

Take the Plane! It's relatively inexpensive and takes less than 1 hour. Aegean Airlines is an excellent airlines and is recommended by many Greek Travelers. I've flown with them and am perfectly happy with their service.

Once you travel overseas you'll realize like most things unfamiliar . . . it's not as bad as you think and works out nicely.

Nothing wrong with ferries but why use a ferry that takes 9 hours when you can fly to a destination in less than 60 minutes? If it was an island closer to the mainland then a ferry would be preferable but those far off islands can take many hours and usually arrive at some god-forsaken hour.

In the end do what's best for you . . . budget-wise, convenience-wise and low-stress-wise.

Posted by
31524 posts

Mike L,

I've read a few of your recent threads and given your apprehension with some aspects of travelling in Europe, you might consider taking a guided tour. If you're interested in Greece, THIS would be a good one to consider.

Again depending on time and budget, you could do some self guided travel after the tour. If you decide to do that, I'd suggest using one of the Greek travel agencies mentioned on this website, as they can arrange hotels, transfers, ferry tickets, etc.

Posted by
787 posts

The Rick steves heart of Greece tour cists $3,195 + $695 + about $1,500 flight to Athens, or at least $5,390, + maybe $30 per day extra on whatever else is not provided, or around $5,810 US dollars. My trip will cost me $2,800 to $3,100.

My mother and an aunt already tried convincing me that if I insist on taking a trip, I should go on a guided tour. They and my parents are the ones who are anxious; I obviously have a low enough amount of anxiety that I can take trips. Maybe I am still anxious about interacting with people but not traveling. For example my mother has phobias of bridges, tall buildings, boats, airplanes, bad weather, possibly terrorist attcks, and so on; my flippant apparent lack of worry doesn’t make her feel any better. Additionally, I am from a Jewish family - I personally am reform to secular in terms of non-observanse, I don’t go around with a yalmuka, I wear typical clothing - so for understandable and/or irrational reasons they have some low-medium level of fear of hatred of Jewish people.

I already bought my airplane tickets and made my hostel and hotel reservations; I think or feel like I would feel out of place or worse on a whole-trip guided tour where all the participants are married couples around 60-90 years old. I am a 35 year old man with no travel companions. I am not traveling alone to save money; my lower costs of traveling alone are just a coincidence - a nice coincidence, but not my reason for traveling alone. Now I don’t have to worry about whether I have to talk to the people on a guided tour, I don’t have to worry about sittng in restaurants or bars with the people on a guided tour, and so on.

Again, according to coincidence, genetic accident, and/or subconscious irrational reasons, I have a lack of anxiety that would prevent me from traveling alone, and I already went to Canada, England, and Italy alone. It is my parents who have the anxiety.

Posted by
2951 posts

I didn't start travelling until I was 38. I spent a full year travelling solo around the world, visiting 17 countries in the process. That was in 1985. Since then I've traveled extensively, and always by myself, until 2016 when I took two friends with me to my favorite place in the world, Santorini. In all that time I have never felt out of place or unsafe. The opposite is actually true. I was welcomed with open arms by strangers everywhere I went. Just keep an open mind and an open heart and you'll be fine!

P.S. -- The ferries are a breeze!

Posted by
1806 posts

Not sure how you can state your parents have all the anxiety and you have a total lack of it when traveling as your original post is just chock full of things you clearly have some level of anxiety about - robbery, assault, smelly boats, wondering if people are peeing over the railing into the ocean for lack of modern toilets on a giant vessel, questioning what other 'bad things' or 'potential problems' could happen on a ferry... well, sinking springs to mind when one is talking about a boat...but the likelihood is probably about the same as your plane crashing - so you would very likely come out just fine on the other side.

Take the advice from others and just take the plane.

Posted by
1795 posts

We had a very unpleasant ferry ride from Santorini to Naxos where several of us felt sea sick and my daughter actually got sick. It may have been a smaller ferry than you are considering. But still my two cents is to fly if you possibly can. We flew back from Naxos to Athens and it was so pleasant compared to being on the ferry.


Posted by
681 posts

I just took the ferry from Chania to Pireas. It was great! The cabin was nice, comfy bed and slept until landed. I loved Chania and would recommend spending time there.

Posted by
546 posts

I agree with MarkG and some others. Don’t worry so much just do it.

I love trips at sea they are relaxing and special. The boats are usually very good. Ports are more like airports now well lit and easy to navigate full of taxis meeting the boat along with tour buses and lots of people rushing about. Nothing to worry about.

My advice: Go by either like it or not...but at least you can say you have done it. You have already flown so add a new experience.

Just Have FUN that is the point of the whole thing.

Posted by
787 posts

I think my two ferry trips will be fine. I am going to pay for a bed in a cabin below deck and sleep for the whole trip.

Posted by
891 posts

I second the idea of flying, for at least once. I took the Blue Star ferry twice (not overnight). It was fine. However, the sea was choppy in my second ride. I didn't vomit but felt sea-sicked somewhat. It took me two days to fully recover.