Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Greek Ferry Tales ~ Not Always a Greek Tragedy

There is nothing like the romance of boarding a Greek ferry and setting off for a new destination. The excitement of the trip becomes as much about ‘the journey’ as ‘the destination’. We think Greek ferry travel has got to rank in the top 10 of life’s best travel experiences.

Ready to set sail - Piraeus, Greece
So, I was stunned at the reaction of a friend in America's Pacific Northwest when I suggested that she consider taking a ferry between Athens and Crete on an upcoming trip. She visibly recoiled, and exclaimed,  “But, they are unsafe. . .they are always sinking!!” 

Our ferry between Piraeus and the island of Poros Greece arrives
While I will admit I obsess about plane crashes (as The Scout will attest), I’ve never fretted about ferries sinking and we’ve been on quite a few in recent years. In fairness to my friend’s response though, I thought maybe I’d missed something so I set out to do a bit of research about Greek ferries.

Ferry disasters, like plane crashes, make headlines for the obvious reasons.  Loss of life, the human error or malfunctioning equipment grab the readers’ attention.  And those disasters – thanks to the internet – can live on for decades with the flick of the wrist and a Google search.

Car/passenger ferry links Poros island with mainland Peloponnese
I had to go back a bit but found two mid-century Greek ferry tragedies. Both took place in 1966; a half century ago (that time span since 1966, in itself, is a startling fact to those of us who are a ‘certain age’).

* The Express Samina, one of the oldest ferries sailing at the time, went down killing 82 of 550 passengers, just two kilometers off the coast of the island of Paros. Reportedly the crew had left the bridge to watch a replay of a goal in an important soccer match on television and the ship hit some rocks.

* The other disaster that year took place near Falkonera island, when the Heraklion sailing between Chania (Crete) to Pireaus (Athen’s port city) capsized in a storm.  Only 46 survived out of 73 crewmembers and 191 passengers.

Minoan and Anek Lines ferries in Chania, Crete
* In 2014 the Norman Atlantic, a ship owned by an Italian ferry company and flagged in that country, sank as it was sailing from Patras, a port town in the northern Peloponnese en route to Ancona, Italy. The ship had been leased by the Greek line, Anek. It was carrying 422 passengers and 56 crew.  Nine died and 19 went missing.

* In 2016 the ferry Pangia Tinou sank while in port in Pireaus.  It wasn’t in service and no one was on board at the time.

Heading to Loutro village (white spot on the coastline) from Hora Sfakia
In addition to reports on those incidents, I also came across some interesting statistics:

* There are 164 passenger ferry sailings daily from Piraeus.  That means more than 50,000 sailings a year from that port alone.  If you go back to 1966, the year of the double disasters, and do the math, you find that there have been more than 250,000 sailings from Piraeus alone in the last five decades. 

* In 2000, the UK’s Guardian reported, “According to the Annual Ferry Review produced by research company IRN Services, 50 million passenger trips are made on Greek ferries each year, and between 1994 and 1999 there were no fatalities - an impressive track record for a country which has the biggest ferry fleet in Europe.”

One of our favorite Greek ferries, Samaria I, southern Crete
We’ve had the opportunity to sail on small ferries like the Samaria I above, which links the communities that dot the southwestern coastline of Crete.  Several times it has transported us between Hora Sfakia and Loutro. Unless you come by private boat this is the only way to reach Loutro – it is not accessible by road.

PicMonkey Collage
The size of cruise ships and nicely appointed - we took the Blue Star above to Piraeus from Crete
We’ve also traveled between Crete and Piraeus as well as Crete and Rhodes on the large cruise-ship sized ferries.  Because the trip to Pireaus, is an overnight sailing we’ve booked cabins and slept comfortably in twin beds, awaking at 6 a.m. in Piraeus.  I wrote comparing the ferry’s interior to that of a cruise ship in this post. Check it for interior photos.

PicMonkey Collage
Arriving Mykonos about the high speed ferry (Cosmote is a telephone company ad) not the ferry name
We’ve also traveled on various types of high speed catamaran-style ferries with interiors that look much like that of an airplane and which significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to go from place to place.
Car/passenger ferry for short haul runs to the Peloponnese
Any ferry. Any size. Any Greek destination. We wouldn’t hesitate to travel on a Greek ferry.

However, there are three things we’d advise you to keep in mind when planning a ferry trip in Greece:  1) Ferry travel – even for walk on passengers – is not inexpensive. Airline tickets might be cheaper than the ferry tickets. 2) a storm at sea can cause major delays or cancellations of ferries so if you are heading to Athens to catch a flight give yourself some wiggle room when planning your ferry trip because if the weather doesn’t impact it, 3) there just might be a strike by ferry or dock workers.

One of the best sites we’ve found for researching Greek ferry travel is http://www.directferries.co.uk

That’s it from us this week.  We wish you happy travels and smooth sailing ~ And as always a big thanks for stopping by TravelnWrite
Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


  1. What a great post - I love ferries and plan to someday tour Greece by ferry, so lots of good information here.

    1. Thanks Cindy. Glad you enjoyed it and found it useful!

  2. Isn't it amazing how perceived danger can be so much more real than the actual danger? I also had thought of ferries as quite safe and your meticulous research backs up that assumption. I love a slow ride on a ferry (as long as I've got my motion-sickness med on board) and I can see why you love it too, Jackie. Makes the journey as much fun as the destination! Anita

    1. And sadly so many live their lives within the borders of the perceived danger instead of finding out that there may not be any danger at all!

  3. I guess living in the PNW has made ferrys seem rather every day. A great way to get around.

    1. You know? I get as excited traveling on a NW ferry through Puget Sound as I do a Greek ferry. There is a romance to traveling on them that is unmatched by any other form of transportation.

  4. I wouldn't think twice about catching a Greek Ferry. I must admit if I were in Asia I might think twice about it, but even then I'd probably still do it! I think some people worry about everything and if you did that you'd never go anywhere lol.

    1. I'm with you - we saw a few in Myanmar that I wouldn't have wanted to be on as they were so jammed in that I know the weight limit had been far exceeded.

  5. The reason I don't fear a ferry disaster like I fear a plane crash is that I have a much better chance of surviving a ferry disaster in the unlikely event that it happened, as demonstrated by the numbers you share here! Back in the dark ages, when I did my summer backpacking around Europe, I did some island-hopping in the Greek islands by ferry. It was lovely: sitting on the top deck, soaking in the sun and fresh air, reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Wonderful.

    1. I've used that same reasoning Rachel - I agree. Love how you spent your backpacking summer.

  6. I prefer to take a ferry than a plane. I am one of those who are not comfortable with planes and see boats as more secure (just my perception). I feel like there is some time to rescue ferry passengers in case of an emergency. On a plane, that is not the case (not that that happens a lot). #TPThursday

    1. And I agree Ruth - much prefer being on water than hurtling through space!

  7. I like ferries, but I have to say I've been on a few sketchy ones in South East Asia. The Greek ferries look fantastic. When it comes to disasters though you're dealing with the unknown, right? Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    1. Yes, as Jan also noted, I agree with you both about some of the Asian ferries we've seen.

  8. I think if you are too worried about disasters it might be difficult to cross the street. Sometimes you just have to conquer your fear, take a chance and enjoy the moment.

  9. We even had a ferry disaster here in NY a few years back but there are also risks in crossing the street! Thanks for doing so much research and illuminating the relatively low risks of taking a ferry in Greece!

  10. There are risks in all kinds of travel, but I admire your research to put at ease anyone thinking of ferry travel in Greece. Well done!!

  11. A couple of further observations:

    o Unlike many other things in Greece, the ferry services run strictly and scrupulously to time.

    o The Greeks have been navigating these waters for thousands of years, and the standard of seamanship and professionalism is unrivalled anywhere.

    o Have you seen this one?


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