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The shocking truth about Greek Ferries

It has been a few months since we returned from our trip to Greece. Although this has been one of the best trips in years, I dread writing this article about our experience with the Greek ferries as it reminds me of the most unpleasant parts of our trip. Before traveling to Greece, I romanticised the idea of Greek ferries as taking the scenic route. If you’re thinking the same, change your plans. Don’t get me wrong; I fully get the essentialness of travelling by ferry between the islands; I only wish we had come more prepared.

If you are planning a trip to Greece, island hopping between Santorini, Milos, and Mykonos, I highly recommend you read this before taking a Greek Ferry to avoid having a horrible experience. My apologies in advance if this article sounds overly dramatic, but then also read this article “The ultimate guide to taking Greek Ferries” by the Blond Abroad. We loved how she described her experiences too.

This article aims to give you all the information I wish I had known before travelling by ferry in Greece. By being prepared, you will be spared some of the unpleasantness and uncertainty often accompanying ferry trips in the Greek islands.

Views from the top deck of a Greek ferry

Ferry trips in the Greek Islands

We took three ferry trips during our Greece holiday in September 2022. The first trip was from Santorini to Milos, then Mykonos, and finally back to Santorini. Our first ferry trip from Santorini was daunting because we didn’t know what to expect and came unprepared.

From Santorini to Milos, we took the SeaJets, Speedrunner Jet ferry. This ferry trip was by far our worst trip! Our trip was also delayed on the day, causing us to wait at the port for more than two hours after having to leave our hotel early morning. Although we purchased superior tickets, we had no idea where to go and ended up on the lower level of the vessel, where so many people were seasick. We didn’t take any precautions against getting seasick as we thought it unnecessary. Be warned! You need to take medication against motion sickness, commonly known as Dramamine. We experienced very rough seas, which are common in the Greek islands. 

From Milos to Mykonos, we were again booked on Seajets. As first-time visitors to Greece, we had no time to waste and wanted to get to our next destination as soon as possible! This is the most common mistake when deciding on which ferry to take! I will get into this further later on in this article.

For this trip, we managed to buy tablets from a port cafe owner for 3 euros each! This ferry trip was pleasant because the seas were much calmer than our first trip, and we came prepared with seasick tablets. This trip took 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Our final ferry trip, from Mykonos to Santorini (Thira), was our best! We booked our tickets on Minoan lines, on the Santorini Palace, and this trip took three hours. We experienced calm seas and had VIP seats on the upper level of the vessel.

Also read our related articles listed below but particularly “What make Santorini irresistible?”. In this article we also go into detail about our ferry experiences.

Views of the Milos port from the top deck

Must I fly instead of taking a Greek Ferry?

Consider these ten facts before making your decision:

  1. Rough seas are common

Strong winds over the Aegean Sea often cause extreme weather conditions. These conditions lead to unpleasant trips for passengers when vessels tremble and shake for hours.

  1. Not all ferries are created equal

Fast ferries

Research your vessel carefully for your route before making your booking. The smaller, fast ferries mean preparing yourself for a rough ride (read sea-sickness). They save you a lot of time on your trip but often come with a sacrifice. The fast ferries are not only more expensive, but they also only have indoor seating options available.

These ferries have a snack bar and café. Prices are very expensive. Pro Tip: Take some snacks and drinks with you for the trip.

Slow ferries

Big, slower ferries look like cruise liners ensuring you hardly feel the movement of the waves. They have fully functional restaurants with many meal and drink options. The restaurants on board the vessels are very convenient as they bring the food to your seat, and this is a lovely way to pass the time on a long journey.

  1. Ferries often get cancelled or replaced by another type of ferry

The faster and smaller ferries like Seajets often get cancelled first. Moreover, ferries mostly get cancelled during the windy months, January, February, July, and August. We travelled with Seajets, Speedrunnes after our Seajet2 was cancelled due to rough seas.

We received a departure notification change, by email, from Ferries.gr the night before informing us of the changes in departure times. We did not have to change our tickets or take any action. As we arrived at the port, our booking had been amended. On a positive note, the Greek ferries run a well-organised system, although it may seem overwhelming and complicated from the outside. 

  1. It is worth paying more for a superior-class ticket

In our experience, the answer is absolutely yes! It is worth booking a seat if you don’t want to fight for a good seat. Sea Jets offer three classes, namely standard (silver), business (club class), and VIP (platinum). Standard seats are on the lower deck, and VIP on the top deck. We found the toilets on the lower decks small and smelled of vomit. Moreover, the lower deck was very crowded, with many seasick people. For these reasons, we upgraded our tickets for the following trips; the upper classes toilets were much bigger and cleaner, and the seating areas were more comfortable and less crowded.

Pro tip: Minoanian lines operate some of the most luxurious ferries in Greece. This was the most enjoyable ferry trip of all. The seats were comfortable, it had a useful restaurant on board, and (bonus) we didn’t experience any unpleasant smells of sick passengers.

  1. Chances are high of getting seasick; come prepared

People who don’t typically suffer from motion sickness often get seasick on ferries. The water gets seriously choppy and very uncomfortable at times. You have nothing to lose! Come prepared; take Dramamine at least 30 minutes before your trip. This worked very well for us. We didn’t get sick when we took the medication.

  1. Ferries are chaotic

Once you’re on the vessel, you need to find a space for your suitcase on either side of the vessel where secure holders are available on the floor. Take your valuables with you. There is no need to worry about theft; this rarely happens ferries. The stairs cases  are very steep, and taking your luggage with you will be difficult unless you have a light backpack.   

Despite the chaos during embarkation and debarkation, you need not panic! But be warned…ferries wait for no one! There are regular announcements on the loudspeakers informing passengers when they are approaching a port and when passengers must start making their way to the exits of the vessel. When we spotted land, we went downstairs to avoid the impending stampede off the vessel.

  1. Ferries are notoriously late

Before leaving your hotel, check with the ferry company if your ferry is still on time. There is no need to arrive more than half an hour before your trip. Port officials are very helpful and will assist you in lining up at the correct station. In our experience, people at the port chat with each other to make sure they are in line for the correct vessel.

PRO TIP: As soon as you arrive at the port, again ask port officials if your ferry is on time and if there has been a change to your vessel.

  1. Book tickets in advance using a company with an online application such as Ferryhopper

Ferryhopper has a user-friendly cellphone app that lets you browse routes and different vessels and view upcoming and past trips. You can check online using the app. You can also board the vessel using your e-ticket; no need to have your ticket printed out beforehand. We booked our Santorini to Milos trip with Ferries.gr. We didn’t find this app very helpful. During our travels in September 2022, they mostly dealt with us through emails.

*During our trip (September 2022), e-tickets were accepted on most vessels.

  1. Arrange transport from the ferry port, in advance, to your destination

Like most other ports, Santorini port is too far to walk from the nearest town. Transfer options from the ports include buses, taxis, private transfers, and shuttle service arranged through your hotel. Note there are limited taxis and busses at ports because transport is limited on most islands. If you didn’t book transport in advance, you must get off the ferry first to ensure you don’t get left behind. We prebooked our transfer using Welcome pickups from Santorini Port to Santorini Airport on our last trip. This trip cost 35 euros.

  1. Don’t leave the ferry port without cash

Most ports have ATMs allowing you to get cash, as most taxi drivers only accept cash.

The port in Santorini
Passengers getting on board a vessel
Once onboard passengers start scrambelling for space for their luggage
A small cafeteria onboard the Seajet vessel
The toilets on board the vessel
The staircase to lower levels
Comfortable seating on the Seajets, fast ferries, from Milos to Mykonos
Taking the Minoan lines high speed ferry, Santorini Palace, from Milos to Santorini
The luxury seating on the Santorini Palace ferry
The comfortable seats on Minoan Lines
Spacious seating areas on Santorini Palace
Views showing the upper deck of the VIP level
Window views from the ferry

Conclusion

Sea Jets never again! The thought of so many people sitting next to us looking green in their faces, the smell of vomit coming from all sides, and the rock and roll of the vessel is something we will never forget. In all fairness, this could have been due to the rough seas we experienced during some of our trips. However, we would definitely recommend taking Minoanian lines, particularly Santorini Palace, as this was the experience we imagined when dreaming of island hopping in the Greek islands.

Despite the unreliable Greek ferry system, it is still the most efficient and busiest in the world. There is no need to arrive at any port more than 30 minutes before the time. Ferries never leave before the scheduled time.

Instead of taking a ferry back to Athens, we booked a flight from Santorini, which only took 30 minutes. Although the time spent at the airport checking in took much longer, we found the experience much more pleasant, considering what we had endured on some of the ferries. 

Good to know: We connected to the Internet on most ferries we travelled on. PRO TIP: We bought an 18 GIG sim card at Athens airport for 30 Euros for 30 days. Many of the larger ferries have Wi-Fi, although it is not free.

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