Travel – Ferries of Europe

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  • Journal entry: 7 Sep, 2001 Thursday Athens to Santorini Ferry Up at 5:30, hotel let us into the dining room early for cakes, simit and coffee. 6:15 Transfer to Piraeus and the 7:30 ferry to Santorini. The docks make WA state
    ferry system seem puny. Ferries docked for a mile or more, large multidecked, fast catamarans, and slower hulking ones. Taxis everywhere letting out passengers. We board, and take our assigned seats. Nice interior, comfortable seats. Polished wood floors. Snack bars, reasonably priced. Once boat is underway, no one is allowed to stand outside, though (too much spray). Leave on time; come into Signos harbor about 10:15, just time to get a coupla pictures, then on to
    Santorini. First views of Santorini look like the caldera is snow capped, then the white resolves into houses and hotels cascading down the brown volcanic slopes. Unload about 11:45, met by Fantasy Travel and bussed up the switchbacking road to Volcano View Villas/Hotel. Beautifully sited, all rooms look out into the caldera and spread across the hill with swimming pools spaced among them.Journal entry: 9 Sep, 2001 Thursday  Santorini – Crete Ferry
    Had time for a refreshing swim before transfer to the port. Driver just backed into a parking place at the end of the dock, unloaded our luggage & bid us goodbye. Chaos – people everywhere, lining up for multiple ferry arrivals, dozens of others filling the local cafes while waiting. Cars & taxis spitting out more people at random, trucks maneuvering, with a few police pretending to direct traffic. Had to ask several times to find, then confirm where to go for the Crete ferry; no signs or other details anywhere. Crowd grew impatient when a first ferry docked, disgorged, then immediately backed water and took off without loading anyone. But our boat, the Minoan Lines, El Greco, was just waiting its turn, and backed into the dock, tossed its mooring lines and dropped the ramp. Might as well have cried ‘Havoc’, ’cause the dogs were loose – any attempt at lines ceased to exist as everyone surged forward and up the bumpy ramps, wheeled luggage only a slight advantage.

    Once entering the maw of the ferry, the real journey began. I was directed up and onwards, and then down a long narrow corridor with cabins, all with closed doors. Emerging at the other end, there was no one to direct traffic, and I looked briefly into several smoke filled salons, already jammed with people, many sitting on the floors. (Turned out these were only for those with cabins). When I tried to go further I was turned back, since I had dared to press into first class territory; but no signs to indicate that. Told to go up, but no immediate way to do that, other than return the way I’d come. Finally found stairs up to another deck, only to find packed video game rooms and yet another ‘pullman’ salon just as crowded as the others. After asking several uninterested and unhelpful workers, I finally made my way out to the deck, to find Audrey, Marv & Rosemary who’d fought their way up from below without the trek thru cabin land. They’d checked their bags, hoping it would be possible to recover them in the crush of the anticipated disembarking procedure. All still a hurried jumble around us.

    Finally found a place on the top deck, under cover, and commandeered several movable plastic chairs, more comfortable than those bolted to the deck in sections. Things finally started to sort themselves out, we managed to have chosen a place with few smokers, and the boat pulled out just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset over Therissa and the volcano islands. Ferries let you settle down to read and doze for the 4 hour trip to Crete. Leaving about 7:30, we docked at Heraclion at 11:30 or so. We’d decided to wait for the first wave to cram its way thru the gates before moving down. From the upper decks I was able to use my zoom lens to find the agency agent holding a card with my name on it. When we finally emerged and regrouped about 30′ later, he took us over to the parking lot, in the dark, went thru the paperwork formalities, and gave us instructions to find the hotel “go out that road, and follow it until you see the hotel, it’s not too far”.

  • On 9/11/2001  we were on Crete
  • Rhodes, Greece to Marmaris, Turkey: Sep 16, 2001 Sunday – Rhodes to Bodrum Up around 6, allowed in early for breakfast,then picked up by taxi around 7 and down to the ferry terminal.   On board, it’s an easy ride – comfortable airplane type chairs and tables, 3 decks, with adequate air.  Luggage on ferries is stored in a central area, under cover.  Good early morning views of the harbor and fortifications, with yachts sailing past.  8:10 sailing, supposedly 50 minute catamaran ride, but took nearer 1 1/2 Probably 2/3 or more of ferry’s passengers were just heading across for the day.   So there was no big line for visas, though a bit of a wait to get thru passport control.

Best Way to See Seattle …. Is to Leave It

After boarding, go to what will be the aft of the boat – the end attached to the dock – and go out on the viewing deck. As you leave Seattle, there are great views back to the city skyline, showing the sprawling city from Seattle Center and Queen Anne hill on the left (north), then south to the  stadiums and dockyards. On a clear day, you can even see
Mt. Rainier, over 50 miles away.

Seattle ferry, leaving waterfront
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Seattle ferries
One of the best ways to see and explore Seattle is to leave it! Take one of the Washington State ferries. The boats run frequently.. There may be waits for cars on weekends and holidays, but bikes and walkers always get on.The ferries bound for Bremerton and for Poulsbo leave from the same dock in downtown Seattle. In 2017, adult fares are about $8 for adults, half that for seniors. There’s a $1 charge for bicycles, and about $12 for a car and driver. On the return, passengers and bicycles are free.When we bicycle, we load our bikes in the car and park on the street either to the north or south of the ferry terminals where parking is free, then bike the mile or so to the ferry. Otherwise you can park across the highway from the ferries and walk on or, if you plan to explore beyond the ferries, drive on.
When you tire of these views, grab a coffee in the snack bar, and then walk the length of the ferry to the forward viewing decks.  Now you’ll get views of the many Puget Sound islands, and the Olympic mountain range in the distance.  The ferry is likely to be followed closely by seagulls, and cormorants can usually be seen on the pilings drying their wings. Other shorebirds, coots, ducks are frequently seen. There are whales in the area, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see one. Sunset panorama, Seattle skyline, sailboats

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    Seattle

Once you reach the terminus, you have several choices. You can stay on the ferry and return right away, or  you can walk or bicycle in the small towns nearby, returning for the ferry. There’s usually a short steep hill to get away from the dock, but it flattens out after that. You can drive to visit nearby cities of Port Gamble, Port Orchard or Port Townsend. The latter has several music festivals during the year and  many antique shops. It also has a ferry that goes to Whidbey Island so you can drive a loop trip. On Whidbey you can go north over Deception Pass bridge [the pass is the narrow bit of water under the bridge]. Or drive south to pick up another small ferry to Mukilteo, just north of Seattle. Port Gamble also hosts an annual Civil War re-enactment that offers a fun weekend, with 2 battles scheduled every day, and the soldiers’ camps to visit in between. These towns are also famous for their many Victorian houses. Many of them are now open as Bed & Breakfasts

Yet another option is to drive to nearby Olympic National Park for hikes. There are trailheads near the Hood Canal bridge link up to Highway 101. The park headquarters is atop aptly named Hurricane Ridge, with the best views of this wilderness park. But, since there are no roads into the main parts of the park, unlike Yellowstone or Yosemite, you really need to hike to appreciate everything the park offers. You can hike in the rainforest to the glaciated volcano, Mt. Olympus and then explore the Pacific Ocean beaches in just a few miles, without leaving the park. If you’re going to the Olympics, you’ll probably want to stay overnight. There are many campgrounds, and inexpensive motels in towns like Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks.

With a little forethought, you can come back into Seattle at sunset, or view the city lights at night.