Although I’d arrived in Santorini by aeroplane, as I had the time to spare and it seemed like a good thing to experience in the grander scheme of life, I decided to return to Athens at the end of my stay via the medium of FERRY. Oooh, ferries! Despite the fact that I spend a great portion of my life living on a ship, I’m not an experienced ferry traveller and do get quite seasick from time to time, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect in the way of comfort and nausea levels. But luck was on my side that day in September: the water was calm and the journey was smooth. I was overjoyed.
Buses on Santorini are a little on the odd side, because there’s not really a strict schedule. You basically turn up at the bus stop an hour or so before your ferry or flight is scheduled to leave, and stand there trusting that a bus will come along and get you to your destination in time. That is literally exactly what you do, I’m not even exaggerating. I therefore naturally left Caveland Santorini approximately two and a half hours before my ferry was due to leave just to make sure that a bus really did come along and that I really would make it to the port in time, and as it happened I wasn’t the only one from the hostel that had made that decision. Waiting in the baking sun already was an Argentinian lass who worked in something to do with banking, who kindly said she’d give me a signal if the bus came while I ran into the bakery to stock up on pastries and water for the eight hour ferry journey that lay ahead. We never actually worked out what the signal would be, so it’s a good thing I finished buying the fifty thousand pastries with approximately a minute and ten seconds to spare before the bus pulled in. SCORE.
The bus journey down the side of the rock face to the port is something I would lightly describe as a White Knuckle Ride. The road zig-zags back and forth at such tight angles that I was majorly impressed at the skills of that bus driver, especially when traffic decided to casually overtake every now and then, or just simply DRIVE THE WRONG WAY BACK UP THE HILL. We made it to the bottom, had a really quick lunch together where I learnt a considerable amount about Argentinian banking, and then headed to the gate to await the Blue Star Ferry.
I’d heard a few sketchy things about ferries going between Greek islands and was expecting something completely different than what actually arrived. It was pretty full on slick in there, and despite the surge of people all pushing forward to get a seat when the boat arrived, it turned out there was actually more than enough for everyone. As we set off, the crew appeared to inform everyone about what to do in an emergency and how to put on their life jackets. This is a task I normally have to undertake when I’m working on ships, so it was all round a bloody marvellous feeling to watch a lifejacket demo for once in my life, not be part of it.
Surprisingly the eight hour journey to Athens flew by; I read an entire book in that time, chilling out at a table by the window looking out over the sea at the islands passing by and it was downright lovely I tell you. There was a slightly odd moment where a couple of Asian girls plugged a rice cooker in next to my phone and proceeded to cook their dinner on the floor (doubley odd as this was on a carpeted floor adjacent to a restaurant and a coffee shop), but I sort of appreciated their dysfunctional functionality to be honest, and they did watch my bag whilst I headed up for some fresh air and a look around, so good on them. Also, although there are restaurants and cafes on board, they’re quite overpriced for not the most amazing looking fast food options. These girls had clearly thought things through, and it’s fair to say you’d do far better to bring your own pre-prepared meal with you if you want nourishment without feeling ripped off.
It was only after the sunset that things began to drag a bit- mainly because there was nothing to look at anymore, obv- but by around 11pm we docked and everyone made their way to the exit, waiting in a ginormous crowd for the massive gangway to be lowered. The strangest thing about this and a real sign of the times is that as soon as the clanking sound of it lowering like a drawbridge began, a sea of selfie sticks went into the air in order to document the whole thing. It was…weird.
Upon exiting in darkness onto dry land, I made my way to the train into the city. It was a real shame that I was sat opposite an old boy who hadn’t washed in at least six years and was possibly also suffering with extreme incontinence. Poor lad. The smell was unbearable but I felt like it would be proper nasty of me to move away so I just sat there attempting to hold my breath and not faint at the same time for the whole half hour journey.
- There are three ferry companies that operate round these parts: Hellenic Seaways, Seajets and Blue Star. Although there were faster choices in terms of journey time, I went with Blue Star as I’m so prone to throwing up on boats and I’d heard the ride can be smoother with them. The downside to this is that the journey takes around 8 hours as opposed to five-ish.
- Whilst there is a schedule for all the ferries, that schedule is highly dependent on the conditions at sea. If the sea is rough then obviously the journey will take far longer than on a completely calm day like the one I had.
- If you want to buy your tickets in advance (which is only really necessary at very busy periods on the most popular routes), make sure you book via the company’s actual website. Other agents can charge you a big and highly unnecessary fee.
- If you’re travelling to or from Athens, don’t be shocked that you can’t find Athens listed as a destination; the name of the port is Piraeus.