No trip to Greece is complete without a hop on over to the island of Santorini. And to get there from Athens, you have two options: fly or sail.
You can fly from Athens to Santorini for relatively cheap on Aegean Airlines, which takes about an hour. But, if you want to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the Aegean Sea (which I highly recommend), Blue Star Ferries has you covered. Taking the ship takes 8 hours, but it’s a wonderful little cruise that I recommend doing at least once.
Pro Tip: Don’t get the fast ferry.
This article focuses on taking the “slow” ferries, which take about 8 hours to sail from Piraeus Port to the Port of Santorini. There are “fast” ferries (like SeaJets), that can make the trip in as little as 4 hours, but they consistently get awful reviews. If you want to get there quick, fly. If you want to sit back and relax, sailing is the way to go.
1. Reserve Your Seat Online
Okay, so you’re ready to book your ticket. The first thing you need to do is go to BlueStarFerries.com.
There you can find timetables for the departing ships and reserve your seat. There are several different classes available, but I would recommend the second-cheapest seats. These are called Air seats, so named because they resemble airplane layouts. But don’t worry, these “Air” seats are much more comfortable and spacious than their airborne counterparts.
The reason I don’t go with the cheapest seats, called General seating, is because these are not assigned. It’s basically a free-for-all and in the popular Summer months you may not get an actual seat. There are plenty of reviews of people who weren’t able to get General seats and ended up having to sit out on the deck. To be fair, if you’re going in the off-season, you likely won’t have this problem. Even so, better to spend the extra five euro and get the reserved Air seats.
When I went in November 2021 these seats cost 49.50 euro.
Keep in mind that you will still need a paper ticket once you get to the port. I’ll explain that in #3.
2. Go to Piraeus Port
The first thing you need to do is get to Athens’ passenger ferry terminal, Piraeus Port. You can of course hop in a cab (if you want to experience some of that notorious Athens driving), but there is also a subway line leading directly to the port. You’ll want to be on the M1 subway line, which actually terminates right at the port. The Athens Metro is pretty cheap, so wherever you are in the city you can hop on and get there without too much difficulty and expense.
Piraeus Port is located about 30 minutes outside the city center so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there.
When you get off the subway, you’ll walk out of the train station (ostensibly following everyone else, as they’ll likely be going to the port as well). The ferries and cruise ships are pretty tall, so you’ll see them before long.
Congratulations, you’re at Piraeus Port!
3. Get Your Paper Ticket
For foreign tourists, you may be blocked from buying tickets online. That’s okay. When you see the ships, turn to the left, and you’ll see a row of stalls with ticket vendors. Find your company (Blue Star Ferries is a big blue star on a yellow background) and go up to the counter. They’ll ask for your Personal Locator Form and passport, and then issue your paper ticket right there.
Give yourself time to get this done but also don’t stress too much because there will be a lot going on at the port. These ferries are HUGE and hold not just passengers but even vehicles as well. My boat was the Delos, which is 479 feet long and can carry 2,400 passengers on top of up to 160 vehicles. All the passengers going to and fro and the vehicles and cargo being loaded and unloaded adds to the sense of adventure.
4. Find Your Seat
There are 7 levels of passenger seating. Some of these are reserved for Business Class, but the rest will be Air seats. If you’re going in the Fall or Winter months like we did, you may very well have your pick of the seats.
5. Enjoy the Ride!
Sit back and enjoy the cruise! The seats are comfortable enough to get some sleep in, and the views will be breathtaking and relaxing.
The cruise will make calls at two ports, Paros and Naxos. The stops are short, but they are beautiful places that will give you a quick chance to stretch your legs and take in the beauty of the Cyclades.
Have a cup of strong Greek coffee and a pastry, get some lunch from one of the restaurants, and enjoy your trip!