Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Greece Day 6: On the Ferry, back to Athens

The next morning, after a relaxed breakfast, we went for a walk until checkout time (noon) . We intended to walk to the beach, but although it is probably only 2 km away, the way is on hills. TIP: Later, we learned that renting a motorcycle was about €20 /day, somebody told us he got a car at €15/day, and this would have solved the up/downhill problem. But then, there are others such as safety for the motorcycle as Greek drivers are known for being pretty reckeless, or place to park a car (there are some, but not many). However, in the time spent so far here, I haven't seen any car accident or reckless driver. Actually, it seems pretty safe to drive so far. Still, bus is cheaper of course. Also, the few buses we took have been on time, although we were warned that they could delay 20-30 minutes from the scheduled time.

We spent the rest of the day walking in OIA , enjoying every inch of this place. The front desk of the hotel has a schedule of buses on display, and we started walking to the stop about 30' before departure. The bus was on time, we drove to Fira and from there we would take the bus to the New Port, where the Blue Star ferry to Athens departs . The next bus, would leave at 2:30pm and our ferry departed at 3:30pm. We had arrived shortly after 1:30pm to Fira, and it was going to be a long wait. But also, I had been told by the Blue Ferry agent that we needed to be at the port one hour earlier, so we just took a cab (€14 from bus station in Fira to the new port).  The taxi stop is around the corner from the bus stop. TIP: Since many people will take the ferry at the same time, it is easy to find others willing to share a cab ride and slit the costs. Somewhere I read that the taxi driver would charge each party the full fare, even when they ride the  same trip. Therefore, it might be better to make as if all of passengers were part of the same party. We  arrived to the port early, giving time for a quick lunch and beer.

Blue Star ferry
Blue Star ferry

A reference fost for the restaurant is a 12'' pizza for €10, and a 500ml beer for €4. TIP: Try Mythos beer, available almost anywhere. I tried 3 different types of Greek beers, but Mythos is the one I liked the most. The cost of Mythos is between €3.5 - €4 in restaurants, and €1.2 in small convenience stores or kiosks.

Mythos - One of the Greek beers
Mythos - One of the Greek beers

Also, now that I remember I should mention that the tap water in Santorini is NOT potable. It is potable on Athens and other places, but not on some islands. Santorini has a water shortage, they either gather rain water in cisterns, or bring it from somwehere else. This is something for considering, showers should be short, and water saved. Almost everywhere (Athens, islands) a small bottle of water (500 ml.) is €0.5, and a large one (1500ml.) costs €1.

The ferry departed on time, and it arrived at 11:30pm to Athens. On the way, it stopped at a couple of islands.

It's interesting to see the whole loading/unloading process. Also, we could see a very nice sunset on the way back, however, not as good as the one that can be seen from OIA.

The quality of the ferry trip exceed my expecations. Some highights:

  • Ship looks pretty new
  • Clean
  • Safe
  • Not crowded (we're still on low season; it isn't Summer yet)
  • WI-FI available (although I didn't try it): 120 minutes for €3.
  • Fast food restaurant on board, having sandwich, hamburguer, gyros among others. Average price is around €7 with  a soda. They also have beer for €2.2 (quite good price for a ship, actually).

The ship offers business and economy class. The benefit of business is access to the business lounges, which are nicer, less crouded, and have comfortable seats. The business ticket cost is €52, about €14 more than economy. We actually spent  the time on economy area, talking to other travelers and looking at the sea. Economy should be just fine for the trip.
Something I read on the guide books, and confirmed by other travelers that went through the experience, is that ferrys will cancel the trip in case of bad weather conditions. If this happens, somebody would get stuck at the departing port, or at an island on the way to destination. Passengers can remain and sleep on the ship, or go out to town until it departs. Also, it's hard to find a central place with the latest schedules for all ferries. For my trip, I just took the chance and purchased it online some weeks ago, without any problem. There are two ferry lines. Helenic Seaways and Blue Star. The schedules are available online.

In Athens, the public transportation stops at midnight. The ferry arrives after 11:30pm, and there's little time to catch the last train to the city. It can be done by just walking fast to the station, but although we were able to get into it , we had to stop at Plaka and walk, as we missed our  connection at the metro. TIP: If  taking a late train from Piraeus, make a hotel reservation close to a green line stop of the train green).

The next hotel, were we would overnight and leave early in the morning, wasn't at the most convenient location for us. From Monastiraki metro station at Plaka, we had to walk about 40' to the Acropolis Select hotel, which lies two blocks away from Acropolis. Although it was late at night, it didn't feel unsafe at all. Also, there are many cabs on the way.

Hotel Acropolis Select - Athens
Hotel Acropolis Select - Athens

Hotel Acropolis Select - Athens
Hotel Acropolis Select - Athens

The Hotel Acropolis Select looks pretty new inside, perhaps recently remodeled. But it has one big drawback, the rooms -at least the 506 that we got- face an avenue that has traffic the whole night. We were pretty tired after a long day and could sleep, but the place is quite noisy. Besides, the hotel includes TV (also some in English, one in Spanish) , air conditioner, includes good and abundant breakfast, safety box in room, and other standard amenities.  TIP: the hair dryer is under the desk!

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