Ferry vs. Flight: My Big Fat Greek Transportation Debate

Before I came to Greece I had this notion in my head about island hopping.  The sun would be warm, beating down on the deck of some quaint little boat, the waters of the Mediterranean a bright blue, my tan fierce and a guy who looks a little like this would be manning the boat:

scott eastwood

Reality soon sets in when you head to the port and there is big old regular ferry full of other tourists and the dreams of a Grecian Scott Eastwood lookalike on a yacht quickly fade into the distance.  Here’s the pros and cons of plane or boat travel in Greece and the boat trip that ultimately made me pick flying as the winner of my transport battle.

Ferry Facts

Like train travel, I think there is something romantic about taking alternative forms of transportation.  Not only is it usually Eco friendly, it’s normally cheaper than a flight and if you book your seats right you can have more space than in a little plane seat.  Plus, you have the option of walking around, going outside and getting some fresh air and not being stuck in a seat (Fresh air! Ferry 1 – Flight 0).

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It’s part of the experience of your trip, taking a ferry from island to island and being on the sea, one could argue if you aren’t in a hurry it’s a relaxing way to travel.  If you plan your trip right, you can have quick ferry trips from island to island without any difficulty and with more ease than heading to the airport, checking your bags and then taking a flight. (Island hopping with ease: Ferry 2 – Flight 0).

Flight Features

Flights in Greece between the smaller airports are usually on two airlines, Aegean or Olympic.   Either are really reasonable and unlike flights in the US, they don’t seem to raise prices the closer you get to your travel date so I saved a lot of my ticket purchases for a last minute decision (I had the advantage of traveling during the off season).  I was happy to learn that Aegean is part of Star Alliance so I use my miles towards my reward membership.

Here in Greece the lines for check in and security are not like in the states which means you don’t have to get to the airport at a ridiculously early time and then sit around waiting to board your flight as you drink some overpriced coffee.  I do however, utilize that time by working and taking advantage of some free wifi which is not always available on the ferry (Reliable wifi to pass the time: Ferry 2 – Flight 1).

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There are no two ways about it, flights are quicker.  I was in Crete and there were several people taking an overnight ferry back to Athens which was 12 – 15 hours long.  My flight?  50 minutes.  I’m in the country for over a month and I still think my time here on land is valuable so it’s even more so if you are only here for a week or two.  The times I’ve taken a boat they have been two things, late or really late.  Weather is ever changing here, and I had the luck to be on a boat the day after some intense storms, delaying our trip and almost doubling the time it took us to get to our destination.  (Timeliness: Ferry  2 – Flight 2).

DSC_0491Get on a flight so you can get here quicker!

The Tie Breaker

So how was that wonderful boat trip that made it painfully obvious that I’d fly the friendly skies the rest of my time here in Greece?  It was the day after some viscous wind storms in Santorini, and the island is already notorious for it’s wind.  I had planned on taking the high speed boat up to Athens to avoid being at sea the whole day.  Because of the weather, the trip got to a late start and we shipped out 2 1/2 hours behind schedule.  The seats were like movie theater rows, all lined up facing front with not much room to yourself.  Thankfully, the trip wasn’t at full capacity and I managed to snag 2 seats and lounged.

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No sooner did we leave the port when a tall, sharply dressed worker with a scarf neatly tied around his neck paced the aisles with something in his hands.  “Nice, they serve snacks on this thing!” I thought, even though I had just come from lunch, I’m not going to skip on a free food.  Upon further inspection I realized they were motion sickness bags.  When your ferry attendee is doling out barf bags like a roaring 20’s cigarette girl you know things are not going to bode well.  I reached down to my phone and immediately turned up the volume of my music to a deafening level.  (Avoid the sounds of motion sickness, winner receives double points: Ferry 2 – Flight 4).

I managed to get some sleep, waking up at our drop of/pick up in Mykonos and on my way to the bathroom I noticed a fresh supply of “party bags” so I knew the next half of our voyage would be just as fun as the first half.  I spent the better half of the trip wishing I had enough drugs to dispense to the whole ship like the Oprah of the sea, “You get a Dramamine, you get a Dramamine, and you get a Dramamine!”

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Unlike a flight that normally makes up time in the air OR if you play your cards right can land ahead of schedule, the sea is a fickle woman and while we were on route we slowed due to the rough waters, making our trip close to double the original estimated time.  (Not torturing your customers: Ferry 2 – Flight 5)

We finally made it to Piraeus, the port in Athens, and I was elated to see land again.  This was not the fun, sexy day at sea that I had envisioned.  It was close but the battle ended and Flight has been crowned the victor.  So does this mean no ferry again for me you ask?  Call me a glutton for punishment but I’m always up for second chances.

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  1. Reply
    Mary Walto

    Very funny!

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