The connection of Crete to the Greek mainland is handled by
five different shipping lines running a total of eleven big
ferry boats that will take you to one of Crete’s north
shore harbours. Boats depart from Piraeus, Githio and Kalamata,
and they arrive at Kasteli, Hania, Rethimno, Iraklio, Aghios
Nikolaos and Sitia.
In spite of the heavy tourism in the summer and the huge profit
of the ferry companies, the conditions at the ports and inside
the ships are quite bad and keep getting worse.
Travelling by ferry during the months of July and August can
indeed be a trying experience. The heat is often unbearable
and ships and islands are swamped with millions of tourists.
If you add to this the general sloppiness that characterises
Greeks, there is only one word to describe the situation in
the Greek ports and ships: chaos!
ROAD Editions is currently working on preparing an Annual Guide
of Ferry Connections. It will be published soon and will contain
valuable information on routes and prices and the quality of
service in every ship, along with all the addresses and phone
numbers of port authorities and shipping lines. But until we
are ready to publish the guide, we hope that the following information
will help you to survive.
Eating on the ferry
The trip to Crete lasts several hours, so you will probably
feel the need to eat something. The bar or restaurant of the
ship usually serves good quality food at reasonable prices.
However, if you want to avoid the queues or want to enjoy your
lunch on the ship’s deck, try to get your own food and
drinks before boarding the ship. Most restaurants in the port
area will sell food in a package, so all you need to do is point
to the dish you like and say “se pakèto parakalò”
(package, please). In addition, you can buy some good quality
snacks, or candy, bottled water and a few soft drinks from any
street kiosk, or, alternatively, you can go into a supermarket
and find everything your heart desires.
Sleeping on the ferry
As a rule, ferries leave for Crete some time in the late evening
and arrive at the island the next morning. (In fact, day trips
are almost impossible to find, though there is one from Githio
and a couple from Piraeus). If you are travelling with at least
one friend, your smartest move would be to book a cabin. (They
come with either two beds or four). If you are alone, however,
it might be best to avoid cabins altogether, because you never
know who you’ll be sharing it with, and you may end up
having a dreadful night!
If you cannot afford to pay for a cabin, take along your sleeping
bag and plastic mattress and look for a quiet spot on the deck
or in one of the lounges. Such spots are unfortunately very
hard to find and very quick to go, and motorcyclists in particular
have little chance of finding one because they are always the
last to board the ship. If the ship is too crowded, you may
even have difficulty finding a place to sit!
These sad facts prompt us to advise you the following: If you
are travelling with a group of friends go to the port early
and park your bike near the place where the ship will moor.
Send one person from the group to wait in line with the sleeping
bags. As soon as passengers can board the ship, your friend
will get in, run to the deck, find a good spot on which to lay
the sleeping bags, and stay there to protect the place from
invaders. This is why it is best to send the biggest fellow
among you rather than a girl. As for the rest of the group,
you must in no way relax your attention and scatter about the
place, but should be alert so you can help your friend in case
of emergency. If all this reminds you of a battle, well... this
is exactly the case! Overcrowded ships in the high tourist season
have unfortunately become a frequent phenomenon, and they can
make your trip quite unpleasant.
Safety on the ferry
What suffers most during ferry trips is your motorcycle. The
people at the garage could not care less for the fortune it
may have cost you; they treat it like a sack of potatoes. They
ask you to fit it in the gaps left between cars and trucks,
or they squeeze all motorcycles together in front of the movable
door or under the ramps leading to the second level of the garage.
Of course, if something happens to your bike they never accept
Worst of all, insurance companies are well aware of the chaos
prevailing in ferry garages and refuse to compensate you for
any damages sustained in there. If there are witnesses you just
may have a chance of compensation by the shipowners, but you
must act immediately and with great persistence. Notify the
person in charge of the garage and the captain of the ship,
and show them that you are very angry at what happened and very
determined to set things right. Otherwise, it will be impossible
for you later to prove that the dint on the gas tank or the
broken fairing had anything to do with the ship; so know it
and act accordingly...
It is always best to park your bike near the garage wall, to
put on a gear, to use the side stand rather than the middle
one, and to secure the bike tightly with ropes tied against
something immovable. If you use the wrong stand you may later
find that the waves have rocked the boat so hard that they have
caused it to fall; August, especially, is famous for its strong
winds (meltèmia), which create high waves that can rock
even the biggest boat travelling in the Aegean. As for the ropes,
do not expect to find any on the boat but bring your own.
A final note: The best precaution you can take is to stay near
your bike until everyone around you has parked and to go down
to the garage every time the boat makes a stop. In this way
you will save your bike from any rough handling.
Tips for a pleasant voyage
All ships have air-conditioning, so the temperature on board
may be slightly (or considerably) lower than you would like
it to be. But since it is not possible to tell the crew to turn
the air-condition down, it might be wise to take along a footer
so you can keep yourself warm.
Lights never go out on a ship! Why should they, anyway, if
no one pays for the electricity? If you have no cabin and plan
to spend the night on the deck or in some passageway, be sure
to bring along an eye mask like those distributed in airplanes.
Creaking and snoring and all kinds of sounds will go on all
night. If you want to sleep in peace you must also bring along
a pair of ear plugs.
For safety reasons, the garage of the ship will be locked all
during the trip. Since in the havoc of the parking process you
can easily get distracted by the shouts of the parking crew
and the exhaust fumes of the truck right in front of you, you
may easily forget to take with you half of the things you need.
For this reason, we suggest you use the time you’re waiting
at the port to put those things in a shoulder bag.
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.