Taking the Hellenic Seaway Ferry, Greece With a Dog
One of the great things about traveling in Greece is how accessible the islands actually are from the mainland. You can leave from Piraeus (Athens) and go … pretty much anywhere – even outside of Greek waters!
There are slow ferries and there are fast ferries. The difference in time can be substantial (several hours) depending on how far you have to travel, and in our case that was pretty far; from Piraeus to Thira (Athens to Santorini — I know having multiple names for places can be confusing… but bear with me!).
Time was of the essence and we didn’t fancy spending an entire day on a slow ferry that could take 9 or more hours depending on weather conditions. Even if the slow ferries are larger, and you can spend more time outside enjoying the sun because they have more decks… we really just wanted to get to Santorini and start our vacation. We figured it would be better to take only 5 hours.
But of course, the first question that comes to mind is: Can a canine travel on the fast ferry?
We can. But…
According to their website (depending on the vessel you choose) four-legged “fellow-passengers”, (according to legislation) are forbidden to be inside the vessel area, however beloved pets can travel:
• On the deck and under your personal supervision (Slow Ferry)
• Stay in the specially designated kennels, which are located on all vessels’ (Any Ferry)
In a nutshell, dogs are not allowed inside the passenger area. They do however have special kennels, near where the luggage is stored for all animal companions. It sounds terrible but it’s not that bad I assure you. There was a boxer chewing happily on a bone in one of those kennels when I traveled to Santorini and he seemed quite happy and use to the process. I am guessing he was a frequent traveler.
Basically if you don’t want to place your pet in the special kennel, you have to go with the slow ferry.
So how did I get on a fast ferry and travel in cabin? Well, luckily for me, Hellenic Seaway does recognize service animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).
It is important to note, that in order to avoid abuse of the ESA recognition, Hellenic Seaways can (and does) require proof of ESA certification and registration with an authorized psychiatrist (your family doctor is not qualified and will not do). I am registered with NSRA (National Service Animal Registry) and have documentation from their panel of psychiatrists. The letter must be less than a year old and faxed to the number they provide you within 48 hours or more before you board. I am not including that number because it changed twice during our booking and I assume it will likely change again.
As for the ride we can’t complain.
It was quick, comfortable, very well organized. The seats were plush and roomy. Because it had been flagged there was an ESA on board; the hostess on the intercom called Mom and me shortly after we started off. I was introduced and the hostess was wonderfully sweet, letting us know that the ferry captain and crew had been made aware that there was a “special needs” passenger and service dog on board and to not hesitate to let them know if we needed any assistance. Mom was a little taken aback by it at first – feeling weirded out by being called special needs… but then realized that it was in fact a very kind gesture. It meant that if something did go wrong there would be no need to explain it then and there. It actually made all of us relax a lot more.
Because of very strong north winds our ferry was delayed (2 hours!) but we did get to Sanotrini safely and they did refund 30% of the ticket price for the inconvenience.
We have to say that as far as methods of travel go, our experience with Hellenic Seaway was stellar. We were really well treated by staff, who on our way back recognized Mom and my carrier and just nodded towards us after a little hand wave and gave us a “we know you are here…welcome back!” look and smile — instead of calling us again on the intercom. Considering the hundreds of people they see every day … we were genuinely impressed.
So, if you need to travel around the Greek islands with your pet, Hellenic Seaway provides you with two options!
- The kennels: give you the most flexibility in terms of vessel type.
- On deck/outside: take in the fresh air, pack a book and a picnic and … enjoy a slower pace.
The good news is you CAN travel with your beloved pet (even if not an ESA or Service Animal) with Hellenic Seaway.
And for that we are grateful!