Greece is bigger country than you may think. Getting around, be it to or from Athens to one of the many islands, however is easy and a well-run system. Check our Greece travel insider tips what’s it like to take the ferry from Crete to Athens (or vice versa) versus flying.
Traveling by Ferry is very Greek
The two most popular ways to travel between Greek destinations that cannot be accessed by car, bus or train are flying or taking one of the many ferries. Deciding what’s the best or ideal depends on a few factors, with time and how much luggage you have being probably the most important. Your budget also matters, and last, but not least: How adventurous and open to new experiences are you?
Since traveling by ferry is a very Greek way of traveling, let’s touch on traveling across the waters in Greece by boat first. With several ferry companies to choose from, your schedule might narrow the choice down some.
Important to know is that Piraeus port is one of the largest and busiest passenger ferry and cruise ship terminals in the world. Therefore, arriving and departing from here is sure to take longer than you may expect and it’s important to pay close attention to your belongings at all times. Speaking of belongings: Traveling by ferry means that you’re in charge of your bags, including that likely heavy piece of luggage that would usually be checked in for a flight. Plus, you’ll lug around everything else. Our number one insider travel tip for going on a Greek ferry thus is to consolidate everything into ideally one, maximum two pieces. Getting on and off the ferries is not without obstacles. While there’s staff to assist people getting off and on, with hundreds and up to a couple thousand of people doing so at the same time, getting help with your bags is a lucky coincidence. Since there’s also cars, busses and trucks getting off, it’s BUSY.
XXL Day Trip or Overnight?
For the overnight journey from Crete to Athens, Minoan Lines Knossos Palace is not only the largest, but likely also the smoothest way to get from Greece’s largest island to the capital city. The bigger the boat, the less even rough seas affect the journey.
Leaving at 9 pm (usually), the XXL ferry gets in at 6:30 am. It’s by no means a luxury ship, but it’s an experience that with a little bit of preparation and a little adventurous spirit gets you across the Ionian and Aegean seas the local way.
While you’ll clearly see more during the slightly longer day trip (that also runs the other way, Athens to Crete), perks of taking the overnight ferry trip in addition to the obvious are that during the summer, you’ll leave at sunset and arrive before or right at sunrise. If you love taking pictures, you’re in for a treat.
As mentioned, the Minoan Lines Knossos Palace is a big vessel: 214 meters long, 26 meters wide, this Greek ferry boat can carry up to 2184 passengers in the particularly busy summer months, offering 744 beds called berths aboard.
Ferry Cabins to Choose from
Those seeking to have some privacy and a better chance to catch some sleep, especially if traveling overnight, get to pick from a variety of cabin layouts: from 4-berth inside or outside cabins, to 2-berth with the same options of a view or none and even so-called lux deluxe outside cabins that are the most spacious. It’s important to know that the main difference between cabins is space and in accordance the cost of the journey varies. Most locals will opt for booking just a seat and not a cabin, however it’s not what we recommend doing for overnight travel.
It’s important to know that every traveler on Minoan lines has access to all amenities of the ferry. Food however is not included in the fare, just transportation in your chosen accommodation.
Flying or Ferrying: Crete to Athens or Athens to Crete
Flight times between Crete (Heraklion or Chania) are usually around 50 minutes, or just under an hour. However with checking in at the respective airports (and being there early to make it on time) as well as then having to wait for your luggage (if checked), adds to that travel time.
Ferry travelers are asked to be at the port an hour before and while we second that recommendation, especially for Piraeus, it’s not as strict of a ‘rule’ as check-in times or baggage cut-off at airports. Passengers can enter the same way as the cars enter, however there’s a dedicated pathway separating those on two feet versus those on four wheels. Travelers navigate the gangway and also escalators. Cabin keys are then distributed from the reception desk and if a steward is available, he or she will accompany those staying overnight in their own room to that space. In case you wonder, all bedding and also towels are provided, plus there’s soap in the shower and at the sink.
Our Greek Ferry Travel Tips
While there’s a restaurant and bar aboard, ferry food’s nothing special. Prices are high, the majority of options are defrosted or of just-okay quality. You’ll eat better off the ship without a doubt. Bring some snacks, water to stay hydrated. Rather than unpacking your suitcase, we suggest that you’ll have your PJs or change of clothes handy in a small overnight bag (or backpack) alongside with your toiletries. There’s no dress code on Greek ferries. Opt for a comfortable, casual outfit. Dressing in layers is our recommendation for this Greek ferry journey (overnight or during the day). It’s fun to go up on deck and enjoy the breeze, but being on the outside is also windy as the Knossos Palace does move fast.
To summarize, taking a ferry, especially for the overnight journey between Crete and Athens or vice versa, is an experience and recommended for most.
The Minoan ferry website is fairly straight forward when it comes to booking your cabin (or seat), but since that trip is likely part of a bigger trip, why not reach out to a travel pro? At Inside Europe, we’ve been everywhere we’re taking you. Both our team of caring travel specialists as well as our network of travel advisors including onsite Greek specialists provide valuable insights and more than just ferry ticket booking assistance.