Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cruising on the Ferry to Greece

We’ve woken up to a few alarms lately, and despite years of practice, we’ve become accustomed to waking up naturally. Alarms are unwelcome and on the morning of our ferry to Greece, even more so at 4am. We had packed almost everything the night before so we just strapped it all on the bike and got the night guard to let us out. It was well and truly dark and while the cool air was refreshing at first, it only took an hour or so before I wished the sun would hurry up and provide some warmth.

We drove alongside the sunrise, red and purple over the fields of Italy. We stopped once for hot drinks but found yet again parts of Europe aren’t big on Hot Chocolate. The ride was 5 hours from Venice to Ancona to catch the ferry and we had to check in at 11.30am. We had purposely left early incase we got lost or the GPS took us the long way as it often does. Everything went to plan though, so we ended up riding into Ancona at 9am. The view was incredible, high up in the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

We figured out where the ferry terminal was and then back tracked a bit to find a McDonalds that the GPS said was nearby. It was closed, the first time we discovered that not everywhere does Maccas breakfast menu, so we went back to the ferry, checked in early and then had snack food from the nearby kiosks.

Nearer to boarding time we made our way to the loading zone and navigated our way through the thick stream of vehicles coming off the just-arrived ferry. We parked underneath it and stripped off all our gear, strapping it onto the bike in favour of shorts and singlets. The ferry was huge but only offered shade to the other side of it, so we sweltered in the mid morning heat and waited for our queue.

After loading the bike and stowing our boots and helmets in a locker we went straight to the top to see the view of Ancona. We could see the cathedral perched high on a cliff top and the bustling port long at work below us. We nabbed loungers next to the swimming pool just before a crowd of teenagers attempted to do the same but they settled on the opposite side of the pool and we grabbed wine and food and settled in. We never went in the water but I could have stayed poolside all day. Instead when the shady side became the sunny side as we turned, Courts requested a retreat under cover and we ate our lunch overlooking the endless ocean with no land in sight.

Having been travelling every couple of days for a week or so we were well and truly ready for a rest so mid afternoon we purchased wifi access and sat on the couches near reception for the best signal. From this vantage point we were able to witness Greek customer service at its best – which is terrible. We haven’t had as bad an experience since leaving the boat so maybe it was just Superfast staff but they were short, impatient and rude to everyone that asked them for help. This included a group on a Topdeck tour whose friend was in a cabin very very ill and who couldn’t find their tour leader. The receptionists didn’t want to know because they had no doctor.

As we sailed away from the sunset we went to the buffet for dinner and were able to watch an incredible sunset from the window next to our table. We literally watched as a ball of brilliant orange light disappeared over the horizon, slowly blinking away like the eyelid of a child who desperately wants to stay awake.

Our food was good and as expected, overpriced, and we left the restaurant for hot drinks in the lounge while pondering where to sleep. I was sure I had booked airplane seats as our accommodation on the 22 hour voyage, the cheapest option, but when we couldn’t see them on the map or on the elevator level guide I started wondering if I hadn’t booked them for this particular ferry afterall. When we spotted lots of other people unrolling lilos and sleeping bags on the sundecks we started looking around for comfy chairs – only problem being that most areas had ‘no sleeping’ signs or were roped off. As I got more and more tired I went to look at the Cabinettes that were shown on the map, just out of blatant curiosity as to what a cabinette was. On the maps of the ship it showed a female cabinette side and a male cabinette side but when I went to the female door it had a sign saying ‘airplane seats’ on it.

With a tiny ball of hope starting to rise within I ran down to Courtney and got our tickets off him, asking reception if they came with airplane seats. Low and behold they did and it was apparent we were the last in the know when we were given two keycards for the door and discovered only two seats left. Luckily they were together and I took them over, leaving Courts downstairs on the net.

Courts joined me not long after and over the course of the night our sleeping positions changed several times. A lot of people had bought sleeping mats or at least blankets and were stretched out on the floor. With Courtney on our two seats (with a massive plastic arm rest in between unfortunately) I moved to lie in the tiny gap between our seats and the ones in front, with our backpack as a pillow. At some point Courtney moved to sleep behind our chairs, which were the back row and for an hour or so in the wee hours he even slept under them, head first. I got cold and moved to curl up as little spoon behind the chairs after which I slept much better. 

It was a broken sleep, especially when a ferry employee came to wake up everyone getting off at Igoumentisa, but it was a lot better than trying to sleep on the hard sundeck floor without a lilo.