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Winter Ferries from Italy to Greece PDF Printable Version E-mail

Ferries from Italy to Greece Winter 2011/12

Barry and Margaret Williamson
Greek Peloponnese
January 2012

The following notes were written for our old friend, Ian Shires and his partner Judit, who were thinking of motorhoming to Greece rather than Spain and Portugal for the remainder of winter 2011/12. This would be their first motorhome foray beyond the shores of the UK.

For your sanity, we must emphasise that the situation with the ferries is always fluid. Things change in ways that are not always reflected in the websites. And different telephone operatives may have different ideas! Always use the ferry line's own website, not the many others that hog the Google ratings; some even pretend to be the official website, but aren't. Non-official sites are even more out of date (even years out of date) and offer a smaller range of options for cabins, vehicle sizes, etc. After looking at the times and prices offered on-line, we always phone to cross-check and sometimes find there are special deals not listed on-line. No harm in asking if there is a 'Camper Special'.


This sounds like a good start Greece! The weather here remains warm, dry and windless so far. Flowers are out early, outdoor lettuces and spring onions have been picked for tea, trees full of oranges and lemons, olives are done, etc. But this is in the south of the Peloponnese and it's not so warm in the north, along the borders with Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria. Leave those countries till March!

When you board a ferry for Greece from any of the four ports in Italy, you are already entering the world of Greece and Greekness, where nothing is as it seems. Forget websites except perhaps to look at timetables. We once asked when a ferry might leave and where it was bound: we were told to ask the captain. First find the captain. Then hope that he knows. Above all, don't pay in advance, if you can avoid it.

Have a look at our article 'To Greece by Sea or Land'. This is a good introduction to the subject.

All the ferries to Greece out of Italy's four ports sail overnight! This is to encourage passengers (who are mainly truck drivers) to take a cabin, which can be expensive for us ordinary mortals. Ferries from Ancona to Patras call at Igoumenitsa in the far northwest of Greece (just below the Albanian border) after 16 or 17 hours, arriving in Patras (in the far northwest of the Peloponnese) about 5 hours later.

The attractive option for motorhomers and caravanners, 'Camping on Board', only operates between 1 April and 31 October. With this, you pay for the motorhome and a deck ticket for yourselves (the lowest fare) and can sleep and eat in your van with a hook up and with access to the upper decks. BUT Minoan Lines have two brand new ships on the Ancona-Patras route that don't have camping on board facilities (they forgot to add them as an extra in the shipyard). Instead, they offer motorhomes and caravanners a free 2-berth en-suite cabin and one meal per person. See our current travel log. We emphasise that in December 2011 this offer was only on Minoan Lines Ancona-Patras crossing (not on their crossing from Venice, and not on Superfast/ANEK, the other line from Ancona you have to pay for a cabin or reclining seat, or sleep on other seats or on the floor of these ships during the off season).

We found that Minoan also offered this free cabin and meal when it wasn't the camping on board season. BUT only on the telephone to their Ancona Office. The Minoan Patras office denied it existed and it's not mentioned on their website.

Once in Greece, use our two key articles: 'Campgrounds Open All Year'.

And 'Greece: Overnight Parking' (aka 'Free Camping') recently updated by our good friend Pete Jenkins (PJ) with 169 such places, a Google map, co-ordinates, descriptions and some photos.

We then focused on the Minoan Lines winter 2011/12 offer in a second email.

The vagaries of ferries to Greece change every year, companies come and go and merge. There used to be 3 lines crossing from northern Italy to Patras (all via Igoumenitsa): Superfast from Ancona, and Minoan or ANEK crossing from both Ancona and Venice. ANEK has been taken over by Superfast, and runs only from Ancona, once a day. Minoan is now part of (Italian) Grimaldi Lines, and still runs daily except Thursdays from Ancona, as well as twice a week from Venice.

ANEK/Superfast (from Ancona) and Minoan (from Venice) allow 'Camping on Board' between 1st April and 31st October, which is the most economical way to go. You pay for your vehicle (by length) and 2 deck passages (with a discount if passengers are over 60). You get an electric hook-up, access to showers and toilets, and have the full run of the boat. Obviously, you can save on food and drink by making your own. However, in the winter season you are not allowed to stay in your motorhome and must pay extra for a cabin or reclining seat, and such meals as you buy.

Now to the exception: Minoan Lines from Ancona (and only from Ancona) have 2 new ferries that don't offer 'Camping on Board'. Their 2011 printed brochure (page 4) lists the 'All Inclusive Camping' deal on this ferry, again officially available from 1st April to 31st October:

"Garage space for your camper/caravan - Electricity supply for your camper/caravan - Accommodation in internal cabin - One free lunch or dinner per person

All for the same price of a DECK and camper/caravan reservation!"

However, when we rang round for fares in December 2011, we were offered this Camper Special deal by the Minoan ticket office at Ancona. Their office in Patras denied all knowledge of it and wanted to charge a lot for a cabin. This is how things work (or rather don't) in Greece! It's not mentioned anywhere on their website, either.

Our fare (for a motorhome of 6 to 8m long, plus 2 passengers with 10% over 60s discount, plus the current fuel surcharge) was 342.60 euros with the Minoan deal from Ancona to Patras (same fare if you disembark at Igoumenitsa, 5 hours earlier). Superfast/ANEK quoted 580.20 euros for the same journey from Ancona, as they charge for the cabin (and no meal voucher). Minoan from Venice was even dearer, at 603.50 euros.

So, if you're sailing before 1st April, Minoan from Ancona is the best bet. Phone the Ancona Ferries Terminal Minoan desk on +39 071 56789 (they do speak English) and ask for the 'All Inclusive Camping' fare. You can book on the phone, they give you a booking reference and you pay for the tickets (credit and debit cards are OK) when you collect them on the day of sailing. That's much better than paying in advance, as you can if necessary change the date or cancel without any penalty.

Of course, if you're going from 1st April onwards you can camp on board on crossings other than the Minoan Ancona-Patras one, making the prices all similar. Again, we would ring round and compare deals rather than trying to book on-line. For most of the year you can just turn up at the port, actually - these ferries are only busy in high summer. The well-signposted ferry terminal in Ancona has a large car park and desks for each ferry company; so you can walk round seeing what's on offer. We were the only camper/caravan on board the Minoan ferry in December!

A final tip - food and drinks are very expensive on board, so if you have a cabin, take some supplies with you!