There are several different ferry companies that operate between the islands and Athens. Depending on your dates and destinations, it’s sometimes cheaper and faster to book a flight (like Aegean) to an island, so it’s best to research your options beforehand on both Google Flights and Ferryhopper. For us, we ended up taking a quick 50 minute flight from Athens to Mykonos, and then a ferry from Mykonos to Santorini, another ferry from Santorini to Crete, and then a flight back to Athens.
There are several different ferry companies and it seems some travelers have their favorites. We opted for Seajet because it was the fastest route (taking just 1 hour and 50 minutes from Mykonos to Santorini) while others could take nearly double. Blue Star Delos is another popular choice, but the route was much longer. I’ve heard Blue Star and some others are better for those that get seasick, although the size of the Seajet didn’t make for too rocky of a voyage, and I think the weather can really dictate how queezy passengers can get.
I compared options on Ferryhopper and booked through their website which I found really easy to use and was even able to change dates when my plans changed (for a small fee). The mobile app was also helpful to track any schedule changes (which can often happen) and it emailed me the day before to check it online. You’ll want to check in online and either print your tickets or download them on your phone.
Ferries from Mykonos
Ferries depart Mykonos from the new port (separate from the Old Port near Mykonos town) and is always described as a bit of chaos. There are no signs indicating your boat’s status or where it will dock, so be prepared to wait around with other tourists looking into the abyss for signs of your boat. Ours was 40 minutes late, with no indication of when it would arrive. (A fellow passenger did download the mobile app and was able to track its arrival.) Try to listen for anyone to call out which dock the boat will arrive on to stand near that entrance. Know the name of your ferry as they will call out the ferry name (e.g. “World Champion” or “Power jet”). Many of the SeaJet ferries have similar names. But ultimately you’ll see the boat coming from pretty far away so it would be hard to miss it docking, and there is plenty of time to board.
There are no lines for boarding, so when the boat finally arrives it’s a mad dash to the boat with a sea of people crossing the lot to get on the boat along with cars and vespas. You drop your luggage on a shelf or on the ground near the sign for your destination (in our case “Thera” which is the name of the Santorini stop). Then a bit more chaos getting to our seats which seemed to be confusing for a lot of people who didn’t have seats assigned together.
Ferries from Santorini (Thera)
The Santorini ferry port is in Thera, at the bottom of a cliffside, and is a bit more organized than Mykonos in that there was more division between the different ferry gates and more announcements when a ferry arrived.
We took the Sea Jet direct from Thera to Herkalion, Crete and the experience was slightly different than our Mykonos ferry. Boarding the boat was still chaotic, with suitcases stacked in shelves when boarding and then waiting in the heat to squeeze up the stairs and have your ticket scanned. But here the assigned seats were in fact not assigned at all, and just open seating (even though there’s a seat number on the ticket). It seems this was the seat chaos we had witnessed on our first ferry, except this time we were the ones without seats.
This ferry did have a rooftop that you could access, where several of us sat until we couldn’t stand the wine anymore and ultimately ended up sitting in the hallways of the main cabin.
Getting off the ferry
On the World Champion ferry they will first call for any car drivers to head down to the lower level first, followed by anyone else a few minutes later. We made the mistake of being the first ones on the ferry and first ones off, as our luggage ended up buried under a giant pile of suitcases which we then had to dig out.
However on the smaller Power Jet ferry this was not the case – there were no announcements made and the cars were last off the boat. The luggage also didn’t seem to be piled as high, likely due to having fewer passengers.
We did wait at the bottom of the boat in sweltering heat and humidity for the boat to dock and the ramp to be lowered, so if you’re likely to get overheated it’s best you wait to head down to the lower level for your luggage when the boat is actually docked.
In both destinations (Santorini and Crete) there was a sea of drivers holding signs with names as soon as you step off the boat. It took us several minutes to find ours. You can typically get a taxi at the port, but I highly recommend pre-booking your arrival transfer for a quick in and out of the port.
TLDR; what to know about Greek Ferries
- Compare ferry travel times and prices on a site like Ferryhopper.
- Flights on Aegean air can sometimes be faster and cheaper, so check flight options as well on Google Flights.
- SeaJet was the fastest ferries we found. Blue Star is also a popular company but they sometimes take longer.
- Arrive early to the port, but ferries are often very late. Most ferries have apps (or use the Ferryhopper app) to track arrival times.
- Know the name of your boat as someone will often just yell it out during arrival (but you can often see it coming).
- If you board the ferry first your luggage may be the bottom of the pile as others stack on top of you. But if you are at the back of the line you may not get a seat unless you’ve paid for an upgrade.