You cannot visit the Greek Islands without a greek ferry experience. Getting to Rhodes had been by catamaran which means you are locked inside the vessel for the whole high speed trip. This time we made sure we booked a traditional ferry so that we could enjoy the views unencumbered by the dirty glass and breathe the fresh air of the Mediterranean sea.
The Ferry from Rhodes to Santorini
Our ferry departed from Rhodes at 4pm which gives you chance to have an easy morning of a leisurely breakfast, hotel checkout and snatch a final few hours of sunbathing, shopping, or sightseeing in Rhodes town.
The ferry for Santorini leaves from the Akantia harbour on the far side of the Rhodes peninsula. There is absolutely nothing in terms of shops or cafes at the port once you get there so stock up on provisions before you arrive. There are no bus services to this port so if you don’t want to walk the taxi will cost you five Euros from Rhodes town.
The boat was docked by the time we arrived and we deposited our luggage on the car deck and then wandered up to see what the ferry had to offer. We were surprised that all the bars and cafes we already open; so if you want to make a quick exit from your hotel you can board the ferry early, find a good seat and get yourself comfortable.
Eating and Drinking on Board
If you want to have a tipple on board be aware the prices are steep, a 250ml bottle of coke will set you back 2.40 Euros with coffee at a similar price, beer was 3 Euros for a small 330cl bottle. The food however isn’t over the top with a basic stodgy meal costing about. 6-7 euro which we didn’t think was bad given the captive audience. If you want to save your backpacking budget stock up before your board.
Getting Comfortable on Board
The ferry stops at Kos and Santorini before finally making its way Athens , so the ferry is a mix of cabins, airline and economy seats. An economy seat means you pay your fare and snag one of the sofas or chairs in the public areas for your journey. We paid for the airline seats, but knowing what we know now we would probably have opted for economy and claimed a sofa early on for the journey. It would be a different story no doubt in peak season.
The journey is extremely pleasant and we spent 90% of it on the pool deck (sadly the pool was empty at this time of year) sipping expensive cokes topping them up with our own bottle of vodka we brought on board while enjoying the views. It was a little windy, but the deck has windbreaks either side and we a managed to sit comfortably warm here until the sun went down an hour or so after we made our stop at Kos.
The views of the islands and the Turkish coastline are enough to keep you amused as you watch your fellow passengers go about their business. We also had our little Mifi internet gadget so were able to get internet access as we skirted the Greek islands making good use of the hours Facetiming people back home so they could monitor our on board drunkenness. There is satellite wifi you can purchase on board, but the costs are very high.
I was looking forward to the sunset from the boat and despite a lumpy cloud settling on the horizon just before the sun went down I was not disappointed. The sky turned from pale pinks to fiery reds within the space of twenty minutes, silhouetting some of the smaller Greek island near to Kos.
With the sun removing the last vestiges of heat for the day the upper deck got chilly so we made our way below deck for something to eat and to avail ourselves of our premium airline seats.
We had a prime spot by the TV’s and the fact that the TV channel was tuned into a Jackie Chan film helped us slip off for a few hours vodka induced sleep. This was despite the best efforts of an Eastern European traveller family, who seemed to think that the ferry was their front room at home. We endured loud family fights and rather fragrant older family members farting and snoring next to us. The best spectacle was the sight of two feuding family members having a stand up row in the restaurant that culminated in the aggrieved male participant pouring a bottle of coke over his wife/partners uneaten meal before storming out of the place. I thought my family was dysfunctional!
My body clock woke me up about ten minutes before we arrived in Santorini and I wandered up on deck for a fag and watched the lights of the Santorini villages twinkle in the distance as we made our way to the new port at Athinos.
Even though we arrived on time at 1.10 am in the morning the port was alive with shops and cafes open and ready to do business. The port is deep down a cliff face and a long winding slightly scary road journey is required to get you to the main cliff top roads and onwards to your hotel. If you are staying at one of the budget places you will not have the luxury of a meet and greet so you have two options.
Getting from Athinos port to Fira
A taxi to Fira will cost you around 15-20 Euros or you can hop on the local bus for the bargain fare of 2.80 Euros. Tell the bus conductor where you want to get off when you pay your fare, or like us you will have to make a mad dash to the front to get them to stop. The downside of this form of transport is that the bus waits for the next ferry to arrive some 20 minutes later so it was getting towards 2am when we finally left the port for journey to the villages.
If you don’t have accommodation booked, there are plenty of people on arrival that will be happy to guide you to their local pension or hotel. I am not sure you will get a better price than booking on line though.
We finally managed to get to our pension (Anna’s pension) in Karterdos at about 2.40. This was after we got lost trying to find it in the dark. Luckily we found a bakery that was open and the baker, despite not speaking a word of English, knew our hotel and called the owner to come and rescue us.
All in all despite the really late arrival this was a pleasant journey on calm seas with some beautiful scenery along the way and a magnificent sunset. Not bad for the 39 Euro fare. We consider that a cheap mini cruise.