Ferry #1: Italy to Greece

January 8, 2007

When we were joining the dots on our map of the journey there were two givens; the ferry from Venice to Patras, and the ferry from Athens to Limassol. The second was non-negotiable, there was no other way to make the final jump to Cyprus with the car.

The first was practical more than anything – we could take the ferry from Italy to the west coast of Greece, or we could drive from Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia to Athens. An extra five countries and 1,000 miles, or a day and a half on a ferry. OK, perhaps not such a tough choice.

It turns out that Venice is a huge start point both major cruise liners and for ferries. Having spent so long looking at Venice from the inside, it was strange to see it from such a different perspective.

Venice from the sea

We arrived at the departure dock on Sunday, having paid the required ransom for the car. As we searched for our ferry we had to acknowledge that, paperwork wise, this was one of the weak links of the trip.

We had a handwritten number on a 3×5 index card.

That was it – no printed confirmation, certainly no ticket, just a single six digit number which would, allegedly be the key to getting the car onto the ferry and us into a cabin. Of course that was just training for the angst of Ferry #2 but that’s a story for another day.

In the end, our concerns were unfounded. We handed over our precious number and were given tickets, in triplicate, in return. Ian and the car took two of the tickets and headed for the queue for entry to the car deck. Mandy picked up all of the bags and took the final ticket and went in search of the cabin. She was later heard to comment that she might have got the rough end of the deal and perhaps trying to shoehorn the car into the vehicle deck, in between a variety of articulated lorries might have been easier.

Travel companions for the car

Cabin found and bags stowed we headed off to explore our home for the next two days. When booking we’d had a myriad of options to choose from. Inside cabins, outside cabins, cabins for two, for four, with shower, camping on deck…….. camping on deck?

We were suitably baffled but, since there was no way that Mandy was going to agree to camp on deck we ignored it. However, as soon as we started exploring the Sophocles all became clear. People were, well, camping on deck. These would be the people who had been queuing to board whilst holding cool boxes, pillows and in some cases camp beds.

It seems that some people who take this route regularly see no reason for a cabin, and sleeping on deck is much cheaper. Actually, paying to sleep on deck but then camping out in the stairwell, the corridors and the lounges seemed to be the order of the day. With the amount of organisation that some families had gone into they may have been more comfortable than we were. Once the prime corridors had gone people began picking suitable spots on the deck. Whilst it was warm and sunny during the day the temperature was due to drop at night so sheltered spots were much prized.

We had found a quiet corner outside and were sitting enjoying the view when it became apparent that we were occupying a prime spot. A family of four moved their belonging to right next to our chairs. They then inflated the air beds, fluffed out the sleeping bags and pulled pillows out of bags. When their belongings started to get piled at our feet we took the hint and left them to it.

Camping on deck

Class Distinctions!

We had the option of two ferry services. Different ferry lines, slightly different speeds and therefore journey times, but essentially the same service. Over the course of the trip we passed, or were passed by the other ferry several times. Their ability to do three-point turns at sea is impressive!

Catching up with the other ferry

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. We left Venice early on Sunday morning and eventually arrived in Patras late on Monday night, having stopped off in Corfu and Igoumenitsa.

No, we’d never heard of Igoumenitsa either. A little research established that it used to be a pretty fishing village on the west coast of Greece. It is now the western-most end of the Egnatia motorway which runs through Greece as far as the border with Turkey. Considered to be the most expensive construction project in modern Greek history, the motorway when completed is expected to have cost €6 billion. When we docked dozens of lorries off-loaded and headed to the start of the motorway – about a quarter of a mile from the harbour entrance.

Almost there – Dusk over the Greek coastline
Greek Coastline

Finally, we sailed into Patras. By now it was late and, considering that we’d done nothing constructive for the last day and a half, we were tired. All we needed to do was to do now was to load the car, get off the ship and find our hotel for the night …..

….. You’ve probably read enough of this blog to know that things didn’t go quite that smoothly. But, have you ever known anyone get trapped on a vehicle deck of a ferry with 40 degree temperatures?

No, thought not ;-)



  1. We need to find a ferry from Portofino, Italy and or Capri, Italy to the Greek Island of
    Mykonos and Portofino.
    Can you help us to find a route and a ferry company.

    • Suggest heading for ANCONA on the Adriatic coast. THE major Italian port for Greece whence all the best ferries run.

  2. Hi there. That sounds like an interesting trip! From Portofino it looks like your best bet would be to take the train to Genoa and on to Venice. You can then pick up one of the ferries down to Patras on the west coast of Greece. From there make your way to Athens and pick up one of the regular boats to Mykonos.

    The following website should help;


    If you buy your train tickets first you may find that you get a decent price on the ferries. It’s worth noting that there’s a ‘Greece Plus’ rail ticket that includes at least one ferry crossing to Italy.

    Have a fantastic trip!

  3. Did you get sea sick at all?

  4. Nope. Smooth sailing all the way :-)

  5. My wife is kind of a wimp, and I am considering possibly flying that part of our trip. :P

  6. The style of writing is quite familiar to me. Did you write guest posts for other blogs?

  7. Oh my god enjoyed reading your article. I submitted your rss to my reader!

  8. […] having docked in Patras the plan was to load the car, depart the ship, find the hotel and then […]

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