I wrote this blog entry on a ferry taking me from Patras, Greece, to Kefalonia, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. I managed to get a seat facing a window—a total score because the boat is surprisingly packed for an off-season journey. This is the third ferry I’ve taken on this trip and the first taking place during daylight. Today could not be more beautiful—the weather is sunny and in the 50s—and I feel like I’m on a cruise!
Any seasoned cruise-taker would be horrified that I’m so pleased with this journey, but let’s review the first two cruises of this trip in comparison:
In November (on my birthday, to be exact), I took an overnight ferry from Genoa, Italy, to Porto Torres, in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia. It was scheduled to be an 11-hour ferry. It took nearly 13 hours instead, and I missed the train connecting me to my destination, Cagliari, at the southern tip of Sardinia.
The happy part of this story is that, because it was my birthday, I treated myself to a reserved first-class seat for €8 more than a second-class, cattle-car-like arrangement. I never splurge on travel like this—if you can even call reserving a seat to sleep in a splurge—but this time, it paid off. The first-class section was closed for cleaning, so I was upgraded to a four-bed, shared cabin. It was a floating hostel! I slept great and had a decent place to brush my teeth in the morning. That was a super birthday treat.
In mid-December, I took an eight-hour, overnight ferry from Bari, in southern Italy, to Durrës, Albania. This was an entirely different experience. I had spent six weeks in Italy and was able to speak and understand a little bit of functional Italian. When I was in line to purchase my ticket, the guy in front of me managed to explain in Italian that purchasing two general-boarding tickets together would cost us each €14 less than purchasing a single general-boarding ticket. It was not my birthday, and therefore, I was not ready to splurge on any special seating or sleeping arrangements, so this stranger and I bought our cattle-car-class tickets together.
Upon boarding, I checked out the general seating and decided there was no way I’d get an ounce of sleep in that loud, smoke-filled room. (I also noticed the ferry was 90-percent occupied by men. I found not one other woman traveling alone and not one other backpacker. If I were writing a novel, this could be considered foreshadowing for my 10 days in Albania.) I roamed the hallways, found a relatively quiet spot and set up camp. Literally, I was camping. With my scarf over my eyes and my rucksack as a pillow, I spooned my smaller bag and had a fitful night of sleep amidst my limbs falling asleep from laying on the floor, the nearby bathroom doors and exterior doors slamming, and the Albanian and Italian conversations from passers-by. I can’t imagine what was being said about the strange woman sleeping in the hallway.
So now that I have experienced ferries of all kinds (and there will be one more daytime ferry during windy, storm weather this week–I have ginger at the ready), I feel like a spoiled child sitting in the bright, smoke-free room, in a cushioned seat facing the window with the beautiful Ionian Sea and islands beyond it, surrounded by both men and women. I love the challenge of the overnight-ferry experience. It’s a good character builder and budget travel at its best! But I love feeling like a spoiled child sometimes, too, especially three months into a trip.