Ferry to Crete - Festos Palace

Today in Confused Travelling: Greek Ferries

So, you’ve decided to go island-hopping in Greece. Let’s talk about something that could cause you much frustration – booking and taking ferries.

Spoiler alert: After a couple of pre-trip hiccups, our ferry-taking experience went very smoothly (aside from a bumpy ride to Santorini). I highly recommend the overnight ferry to Crete.

This post is a little different from my usual. I think I prefer to post stories, a little snapshot of what I saw, how I felt. That said, I’m learning a LOT as I travel, and I thought it might be nice to share it with you. Keep in mind that I’m no expert – I’m collecting info, and making mistakes along the way.

Ferry to Crete - Festos Palace
Ferry to Crete – Festos Palace

What the heck is a ‘berth’?

One of the first points of confusion for us was understanding the lingo describing the type of seat or cabin we needed. Terms like ‘1 berth’, ‘2 berth’, ‘sole use’ made it hard to know what we should book – and different booking sites used *different* terms and codes! We knew we wanted a cabin to ourselves, so we could sleep and have some privacy. Unfortunately, I booked the wrong thing.

Even if you are booking a whole cabin, each traveller has to book a ticket. I thought that I was booking us to share a cabin – instead, I booked us each a cabin (OH, so THAT’S what “SOLE USE” means!). I should have booked ‘2 berth’ and selected ‘whole cabin’ for us to share a single cabin.

Luckily, someone from the booking company (danae.gr) suspected we didn’t mean to book two cabins, and emailed us to clarify. We only had to pay a small fee to make the change.

In short, email the booking company in advance to clarify your needs (or work with a travel agent, if you can). This will also give you a sense of their customer service. I won’t hesitate to book with danae.gr again – their team went out of their way to contact us and save us some money! They were also really friendly and helpful when we went to pick up our tickets at their Athens office.

Greece - a ferry in the dock

What do you mean they’re on strike?

Yup, the ferries in Greece have been known to strike. Other forms of transit (rail, bus, metro, airline) and other workers’ groups may also be affected by strikes.

This may leave you without a way to your next destination, into an attraction that you planned to tour, or to a hotel that you had booked. Expect this; try to be chill about it if it happens. (Easier said than done, I know. This is more of a mantra for me than anything). Keep composed, and try to find someone who can help you figure out what to do next. If you’re awesome, you may already have a contingency plan arranged, or are happy to go with the flow. I applaud you.

This website tries to collect info on upcoming strikes, but there is no way to know when a strike may happen. There isn’t always much advance notice.

Are you saying I should hold off booking, and just buy a ticket when I get there?

There are pros and cons to this. I’ve read that this is a good strategy when going to a regular destination, at a time when there aren’t as many people going there.

In other words, you may want to book an advance ticket in the following situations:

  • You need a whole cabin to yourselves. (Great for an overnight ferry, like the one we took to Crete)
  • You want to go to Santorini in the high season.
  • You want to go to Santorini from a location that doesn’t have many ferries to Santorini.

Tips for planning

  • Give yourself a couple of days in between taking a ferry to a destination and flying out of that destination. If the ferry is delayed, you could miss your flight!

Try not to freak out. Let it go. Enjoy yourself.

Again, this is a mantra for me to repeat. I’m the kind of person that plans things, and when things don’t go according to plan it isn’t pretty. To ensure a great vacation, I need to let go a little.

Out of a frustrating experience, you may find an unexpected adventure. These can provide some of the best memories, and some of the most compelling stories. No, I’m not hoping things go wrong just so I have more to blog about.

Luckily, for me, my small problems happened during the booking stage (my own mistakes), and everything went on time with no trouble. *Whew!*