Tag: ferry (page 1 of 4)

All ferries to and from Mykonos now docking at the New Port

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Greece, Greek island, Cyclades, Mikonos, Mykonos, Mykonos Old Port, Mykonos New Port, Mykonos Town port, Tourlos, Tourlos port, ferry travel, ferry port, Mykonos ferry port, yachts, charter yachts, harbour,

This photo from one of our Mykonos holidays shows four charter yachts docked at the island’s Old Port at Mykonos Town (foreground), and a cruise ship berthed at the New Port in Tourlos, nearly 2 kilometers away by road.

 

Ferry straightforward: Where does my ferry arrive at  / depart from on Mykonos?

That question has vexed visitors for years, since the island has two ports — the original one at the Mykonos Town harbour (commonly called the Old Port) and a newer, substantially larger facility in the island’s Tourlos district (regularly referred to as the New Port, of course).

The standard answer used to sound simple enough: ferries that carry passengers and vehicles sail to and from the New Port, while smaller ferries that just carry passengers operate from the Old Port.  But since most travellers didn’t have a clue if the ship they were booked on carried vehicles or not, that advice wasn’t always helpful. Not surprisingly, many people missed their ferries because they arrived at the wrong port and didn’t have enough time to get to the right departure point.

Thankfully, the reign of ferry port confusion could soon be history:  As of Saturday April 6 2019, all ferry traffic to and from the island will use the New Port only.

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I shot these photos of travellers queuing to board passenger-only catamaran ferries at the Old Port in Mykonos Town several years ago. As of April 6 2019, the Old Port will no longer handle ferry traffic.

 

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One of my Mykonos holiday photos of the New Port at Tourlos.  All ferry ships will now arrive at and depart from this harbour.

 

I learned about this development from Mykonos news websites, but the reports were all in Greek and Google Translate offered an awkward translation. To make certain I wasn’t misinterpreting what I had read, I contacted the top ferry booking agency on Mykonos, Sea & Sky Travel, to confirm if the news was accurate. 

“Yes, it’s true. All the boats, including the small passengers ones , will be leaving from the new port from now on,” a Sea & Sky representative told me.

 

The news reports said the change was implemented by the Mykonos port authority, upon request by the Greek government ministry responsible for shipping and marine regulation, to eliminate confusion and help prevent passengers from missing their ferries.

It’s a welcome change, but I think some confusion may persist for awhile. For one thing, many repeat visitors have travelled to and from Mykonos on passenger-only catamarans that operated in and out of the Old Port. If they don’t hear the news, their travel plans could get screwed up if they head to the Old Port, out of habit, when leaving the island. For another, many first-time visitors won’t be aware of the change, or may have read outdated posts on the TripAdvisor travel forums, or other online travel sites, that describe the old distinction between the two Mykonos ports. Hopefully word will get out and fewer people will miss ferries this year. 

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This Google image shows the Mykonos New Port (top) and the Old Port at Mykonos Town (bottom), a 2 kilometer walk or drive apart. Also shown are the main pick-up and drop-off points for the Mykonos SeaBus, an inexpensive water taxi service that operates between the two ports.

 

Which leaves the next most popular question about ferry travel to Mykonos: How do I get from the port to my accommodations?

For a list of transport options, please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2 of this post, and to view photos of things visitors will see if they travel along the coastal road between Tourlos and Mykonos Town.

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Glimpses of Gavrio, and a ferry ride from Andros to Tinos

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Gavrio port at Andros

Gavrio harbourfront

The harbourfront at Gavrio, the port village on Andros island

 

Au revoir, Andros: When we arrived at Gavrio port on Andros at the start of our Greek holiday last May, we barely even noticed the village. Already groggy from our transatlantic travel and jet lag, we were struggling to shake off more cobwebs after dozing periodically during the ferry ride from Rafina. 

I saw a few shops and tavernas when we stepped off the ship, and can even remember thinking “there doesn’t seem to be much here” when I took a quick glance around. We didn’t have time for a longer look since we had to focus our attention on a more pressing issue — fitting luggage for four people into the compact car our friends had rented.

Soon we were pulling away from the port and driving up a narrow lane that squeezed tightly between rows of whitewashed houses before widening into the two-lane highway that would lead us to Andros Town. As we rounded a bend on the outskirts of Gavrio, we got our first views of exhilarating Andros scenery — fields, beaches and the wide open sea on our right side, and to our left a long line of mountains extending far into the distance.  It was a beautiful sight for our sore and very tired eyes.

View from highway on outskirts of Gavrio Andros

The mountain and sea view from the outskirts of Gavrio, seen in an image from Google Street View. This is the highway that leads from Gavrio to Batsi and onward to Andros Town.

 

We got a better look at Gavrio when we walked there from Batsi on the final full day of our Andros visit. As we turned onto the waterfront strip, we discovered there was much more to the town than we had seen while disembarking the ferry five days earlier.

On arrival day, we had basically seen just half of Gavrio’s commercial district — the extensive port authority area with its parking lots, loading zones, and of course the quays for ferries and ships, as well as a few of the businesses along the main street nearby.  We had not noticed that the street continued farther past the port, lined on one side with tavernas, shops and ferry ticket agencies, and a flagstone-paved walkway on the sea side. It took longer than we had anticipated to stroll the entire length of the road, and we were surprised by the large selection of restaurants and cafes — we had not been expecting to be so spoiled for choice in finding a place to have lunch. 

 

 

Though not as scenic as some other port towns in the Cyclades, Gavrio isn’t an unattractive place — it just doesn’t have the pretty, polished veneer of upscale boutiques and trendy cafe-bars that draw  the big-spending tourist and cruise ship crowds to places like Mykonos Town. And while Gavrio may be conveniently located for quick easy access to a variety of good beaches (see my post A bevy of beaches & coves on the scenic west coast of Andros), we were happy we had chosen to spend our holiday time at Andros Town and Batsi instead, since we preferred their overall look and feel.

Mind you, we didn’t walk around any of the residential streets on the hills tucked behind the waterfront strip, so we didn’t get to see all of Gavrio. We may have been more impressed had we taken time to explore beyond the port and harbourfront.

Gavrio harbourfront

We didn’t get to explore the residential streets on the hill behind the commercial waterfront strip

 

The next day we got more glimpses of Gavrio during a taxi ride to the port, followed by panoramic sea views of all of Gavrio Bay as we stood on the outdoor decks of the ferry taking us to Tinos. It was a brilliantly sunny morning, and Gavrio looked picturesque as it glistened in the sunshine.  I’m sure we’ll be back sometime for another look around.

Click on the link below to see more photos of Gavrio, as well as pictures of the Andros coast that we passed during our ferry trip to Tinos. There also are photos of the ship that took us there, the Superferry II, as well as the western coast of Tinos.

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Steaming to Syros at sunset

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Aqua Spirit ferry

The NEL Lines Aqua Spirit ferry departs Andros en route to Tinos and Syros on the evening of May 29 2015.

 

That’s the Spirit: While we were watching a beautiful sunset from our terrace at the Aneroussa Beach Hotel on Andros on May 29, a passing ferry caught my attention. It was the Aqua Spirit, one of several ships operated by NEL Lines, and I was surprised to see it in service. During the past year, many if not most of its scheduled sailings have been either disrupted or cancelled entirely because of mechanical problems as well as labour disputes by 500 seamen who claimed they had not been paid wages for months. In fact, just before we travelled to Greece in late May, online travel forums were peppered with posts by frustrated holidaymakers who wondered if they could rely on NEL Lines service for their summer island hopping itineraries.

NEL Lines has a 43-year history of shipping in Greece, but has experienced financial difficulties in recent years, reportedly teetering on the verge of bankruptcy at least once. Its frequent service disruptions have caused headaches for Greek citizens and tourists  seeking to travel between islands in the Cyclades. (The Aqua Spirit and its sister ship, the Aqua Jewel, operate on routes connecting nearly two dozen different isles in the Cyclades.)

 

New investors now running NEL Lines

Because of the continuing problems with NEL, Greece’s Coastal Transportation Council (SAS) met last Thursday (June 18) to determine if it would declare NEL in forfeit of its privilege to operate, and to decide if it would bar the company from running ferries in the Cyclades. As the Greek Travel Pages reported that same day, the Council did vote in favour of declaring NEL Lines in forfeit. However, it postponed its decision about banning the company from continuing to operate in the Cyclades after being advised that a new group of investors had taken over NEL and hoped to relaunch the firm once it had settled outstanding obligations to employees and government agencies.

The matter will ultimately be decided by Greece’s Alternate Shipping Minister, Theodoros Dritsas.

Greek Travel Pages said Hellenic Seaways has expressed interest in operating to the Cyclades from the Lavrio port in Attica in the event NEL is barred from providing the service.

Fingers crossed that the issue is resolved quickly …we have relied on NEL Lines for some of our Cyclades island hopping, and would have used them on our recent holiday had we been able to count on the Aqua Spirit sailing as scheduled.

 [Editor’s Update June 24 2015: Greek media have today reported that the Alternate Shipping Minister declared NEL Lines forfeit, thereby barring the company from operating ferries in the Cyclades.  Next step is for the Greek Shipowners Association for Passenger Ships (SEEN) to hold a process in which qualifying shipping companies can bid to win a 3-month operating permit for service to the Cyclades. For its part, NEL will be seeking new business opportunities to replace the lost ferry contract. Greek Travel Pages reported that NEL issued a statement saying: “The company is exploring ways to replace these revenues by leasing its ships for charter travel in Greece, or preferably abroad, granted that it has been proven that coastal shipping in this continuing and intensifying financial crisis is no longer a profitable business.”

[Update June 26 2015:  Greek Travel Pages has reported: “For the next three months the Greek coastal ferry operator Hellenic Seaways will run the route connecting the Western Cyclades with Syros and other islands of the Cyclades complex, according to a decision by the Greek Shipping Ministry.” In three months’ time, the government will open tenders for continuing service on the routes.]

 

Aqua Spirit ferry

The Aqua Spirit departs Andros on its way to Tinos and Syros

 

Aqua Spirit ferry sailing past Andros

Aqua Spirit steams across the horizon while we watch the sunset from our hotel near Batsi on Andros

A roller coaster ferry ride across rough seas in the Cyclades

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 The Blue Star Paros ferry rocks and rolls in rough seas as it crosses the strait between Tinos and Mykonos around noon on April 9 2015

 

Greek Easter celebrations got off to a chilly, windy and soggy start yesterday for thousands of Greeks and tourists hoping to spend the holiday weekend with family and friends on islands in the Aegean.

A powerful storm system swept across the Cyclades and other archipelagos, thrashing islands with cooler than seasonal temperatures, heavy rains, and wind gusting to force 8 and 9 on the Beaufort scale. Photos and videos shared on social media showed flooded beach areas on Naxos and Paros, as well as large waves crashing ashore at Amorgos, Mykonos, Syros and Samos.

Rough seas forced the cancellation of numerous ferries scheduled to depart Piraeus port at Athens, and there were reports that some Olympic Air flights to several islands, including Naxos, were cancelled as well. The port authority of Heraklion, on Crete, also ordered the suspension of ferry service from that island.

 

Bigger ferries tried to battle the seas

Many people whose ferries weren’t cancelled probably wished they had been — including, I’m sure, many of the passengers who travelled on the Blue Star Paros from Mykonos to Tinos yesterday. The video that I posted above shows the ship battling its way through enormous waves in the straight between the two islands. The film, which was shot by someone on Tinos, shows the ferry almost disappearing from view as it crashes through swells several storeys tall. I couldn’t imagine what it was like being a passenger as the ship rocked, rolled and swayed in such tempestuous seas.

The Nissos Mykonos ferry yesterday managed to sail only partway through its route from Pireaus to Syros, Mykonos, Ikaria, and Samos. It made it as far as Mykonos when adverse weather conditions prevented it from continuing the journey to Ikaria. The ship instead returned to Syros for safe anchorage, but because of brutal wind and waves there, it took over an hour for the crew to dock the vessel. The ferry was carrying 430 passengers who had to spend the night in Syros and hope the ship could resume its voyage today.

Meanwhile, light snow and hail fell on parts of mainland Greece and mountainous areas of some islands.

The unusually severe Holy Week weather follows on the heels of what many Greeks say was the coldest and snowiest winter in memory, during which at least three separate storm systems battered the islands and mainland. You can view photos and videos of the winter storms in my posts on January 2, January 17, and February 14.

Wind, rain and cloud is expected to continue today but the forecast shows gradually improving conditions, with sunshine, for Easter weekend. Ferry service from Piraeus and Heraklion could resume later this afternoon (Friday April 10) if the weather improves.

 

This video shows the Nissos Mykonos ferry attempting to dock at Syros after it had to cut short its scheduled voyage to Samos because of the weather.

 

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