Friday 17 July 2015

A Grim time with Grimaldi Lines: The Ferry to Greece

Italy and Greece, 26th – 28th May 2015

The Ferry Journey

At the ferry port, after initially driving straight down to the security gates as it wasn’t clear where to go, the security guard pointed us in the direction of the ferry company ticket offices to get tickets and boarding passes first. We queued for quite some time at the Grimaldi Lines ticket office even though there were only 4 people in front of us, the staff took ages to sell them tickets and check them in. When we eventually got served it didn’t take long to get our tickets with our advance
booking. While here we noticed a sign saying that passengers must not stay in any vehicles during the crossing which seemed odd but we hoped would not be applicable as usually you can stay in motorhomes and ‘camp on board’ which is what we were expecting.

Before we headed down to board Jo prepared a bag with books, Kindle, laptop and a few bits for if we did have to stay in the passenger area. It looked like this was going to be the case, as we got to the boat passengers had to get out and walk on with just drivers staying in vehicles. In the ferry I drove up ramps up 2 levels onto the open deck and got directed into a space much tighter than the cross-channel ferries, I could only just get out the door! I quickly got a bag of snacks and water together then joined Jo in the passenger deck. The sofas were in use or ‘reserved’ with bags left on them so we got one comfy chair and a wicker chair in a quiet area. The majority of the sofas were left unused for hours until later in the night when the Albanian/Romanian truckers (that made up the majority of the passengers) and others decided to return to sleep on them.

As it turned out it was lucky we’d had our main meal at lunchtime in case we didn’t have time to cook whilst waiting to board. We just had a chunk of plain ciabatta and some crisps to eat then got stuck into reading our book and Kindle. I went to reception to enquire about staying in the van during the crossing, saying that I thought it was usually allowed, had it changed, and was told “It's not allowed, with Greek Flag you can, on the Greek boats, this one is an Italian boat, it’s different”. When we booked through Direct Ferries we only had the one choice of operator presumably because they don’t have a deal with the Greek operators, or their crossings were on different days to what we were looking at. I assumed we would be able to ‘camp on board’ as other people whose blogs I’d read had for the same crossing, and as we were short of time I didn’t have time to start searching through the small print when booking. So if you want to camp on board on a crossing from Italy to Greece I would advise to avoid Grimaldi Lines and go with a Greek operator, plus check the details to confirm it is allowed.

We took it in turns to sleep and keep an eye on our things as there were a lot of people wandering about. Jo updated our accounts while I had a sleep for a bit then I read while she slept. I thought the 16 hour crossing was going to be hell and drag on for ages but my book was very interesting and gripping so the time passed surprisingly quickly. When Jo woke up at 4am-ish she found a sofa around the corner had become free after people had started going back to their vehicles ready to disembark at the mid-way stop at Igoumenitsa, so we moved there. It was long enough for us both to lay on head to toe and get some sleep as it was now much quieter, there was hardly anyone left on this deck. We had a reasonable sleep until around 8-9 am then our breakfast consisted of the rest of our bread and an apple and banana between us. We continued reading and doing accounts on the laptop until we arrived at Patras at about 1pm with the time being 1hr ahead. During the crossing I got about half way through my book and realised that this was the first adult’s fiction book I’ve ever read because I’ve not had the time at home to read before.

Into Greece

Setting off driving out of the port, it immediately felt very different in Greece, it seemed more antiquated and poorer, the cars were 1980’s or 90’s and had been knocked about, and mopeds riders didn’t have helmets on. As we were very low on fuel we checked prices at the first 3 fuel stations then stopped at the fourth, a Shell garage that was 4-7 cents cheaper at €1.189 (much less than the €1.40-€1.50 we’d been paying in Italy). Getting onto the main road the Greeks had a different driving style to the Italian one I’d become used to; it was more laid back, and they were driving halfway onto the hard shoulder to leave room for faster moving vehicles to pass even when vehicles are coming the opposite direction, effectively making 3 or 4 lanes out of the two.

We pulled off the coast road and stopped for lunch on a bit of roughland overlooking the sea. Afterwards we continued and turned down roads signposted to beaches but the three we tried weren’t suitable for overnighting. On one single track lane we got waved down by a local seemingly saying something about the road ahead not being suitable and suggesting an alternative one 1km away. He guided me to do a multi-point turn in the wider area of the narrow road we got on way again.


We got to Kalogria where we had details for a camper stop (one of very few in Greece) and also free beach parking. We parked up at the beach (N38.16164, E21.36649) and had a short walk before writing the log and having dinner. It was then time for an early night to catch up on some lost sleep.

Kalogria Beach

After a good 12 hours sleep we moved the short distance around the corner to Camper Stop Kalogria (N38.15986 E21.37162, €10 inc WiFi, +€3 electric) to fill up on water and get online to do some planning. There was a very small cute kitten in the reception that seemed to like my feet, walking over and around them. The girl working there had found him the day before and was looking after him, she’d made a bed out of a small box and got him a bowl. In the afternoon while doing our washing in a bucket I’d gone to get a bucket of water from the back of the reception, which was after the girl had gone home, and the kitten came around meowing. I took him over to the van for some fussing before putting a plastic tray of water under the gate of the covered area of the shop where his bed was in case he’d not got any left in the bowl.

Our new friend!

Kalogria Camperstop - There was a shaded area available but we opted for the grass area so we could get some sunshine

After we’d got the washing done Jo sat out in the sun reading while I saved copies of other's blog posts for the Peloponnese to use for planning while offline. For dinner we got the Cadac out and cooked some of Jo’s burgers on the grill plate with a bottle of Spritz we’d got in Italy to try, which was unusual but quite nice.

- Matt

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