Greece is a wonderful, unforgettable place to vacation. Their sunsets really are more beautiful than any other country, the people are extraordinarily friendly, and the food is amazing. But their ferries fucking suck. Allow me to tell you about the worst five hours of my life so you can understand why.
Obviously a trip to Greece is not complete without a stay in the Greek islands. When we were planning our trip to Greece, we decided to split our time between Santorini, Ios, and Mykonos. It seemed like the most logical way to get around from island to island was to take the ferries. In an effort to save time, we opted for Sea Jets high-speed ferries.
The first mistake was probably booking a ferry for 7 am on the day after we arrived in Athens. We went out the night before and had to drag ourselves out of our hotel and into a ferry before the sun came out. Still, we powered through, excited to get to Santorini which was five hours away from Athens on Sea Jets. The experience of using the Greek ferry system is a little bit like what cattle must feel like when they’re transported to a slaughterhouse. They’re packed. People throw their bags into whatever corner and find a seat. All the seats face forward, like a theater facing a teeny tiny window to the sea beyond.
It was about 30 minutes into the trip, when the ferry started picking up steam and bouncing up and down on the waves, that I started to feel a terrible headache and nausea. Sea Jets ads play on the TV on repeat and there’s nothing to do but look forward so I was trying to just relax and pass the time when it hit me: I was going to vomit. Like a plane, all the seats have vomit bags. There is good reason for that. But wanting to avoid the shame of throwing up in front of several hundred other people and then having to dispose of the bag, I ran to the back of the ferry to the bathroom. That’s another thing ferries in Greece share with airplanes. The bathrooms are like a cross between an airplane bathroom and a port-a-potty. Imagine my horror at having to kneel and hover over that tiny plastic toilet to avoid touching anything around me.
At first, I thought I had the mother of all hangovers, and like most hangovers, I thought I would feel better after throwing up. False on all counts. I was extremely seasick and throwing up just made me want to throw up more. I went back to my seat to a very brief period of relief, but we still had four hours to go. Before long, I was running back to the bathroom to vomit again. Nothing I did was making me feel better. Whether I closed my eyes or put my head down, everything was spinning and I was projectile vomiting into this disgusting tiny toilet. Walking up and down the length of the ferry made me realize that I was not alone. There were definitely other people making use of those vomit bags. I tried to buy Dramamine from the snack counter. They had none to sell and evidently didn’t have any for personal use. I was going to have to rough it out.
I desperately Googled how to alleviate seasickness. The only thing that helped was looking out over the heads of the people in front of me, through the dirty, narrow window and focusing on the horizon. So the time I spent on the ferry not vomiting, I was intensely focused on the ocean in front of us. I’m not the religious type, but when my feet touched the earth of Santorini, I thanked God in heaven.
Of course, now I was terrified of getting on any sea vessel. I had been on many boats of all sizes in my life and never been seasick. Unfortunately, I had two more ferry trips to go on this trip. My first order of business was to buy seasickness medication. Like I said, I had never been seasick so I didn’t bring any from home. If you’ve never taken Dramamine, particularly its Greek version, you should know that its two active ingredients are a potent sedative and a potent stimulant. Remember when doctors warned you about the dangers of Red Bull and vodka? Dramamine has the exact same effect. So know this, it will definitely take away your seasickness, but it will also fuck. you. up. Needless to say, I was taking it before boarding every boat for the remainder of the trip, including our sunset sail cruise. So I was pretty high for a good chunk of that vacation. But at least I wasn’t seasick.
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, and you know you’re going to be taking ferries in Greece, plan ahead and bring the seasickness medication of your choice. The patch might be a better way to avoid the high of dramamine. Since a lot of these ferries are enclosed, I also recommend getting a good window spot, if possible. Having a full view of the ocean outside will help your body naturally combat seasickness because your mind perceives that as stable. Another option is to simply take a different mode of transportation. The high-speed ferries are an attractive option if you want to save time on your trip, but maybe it’s better to go with a bigger, slower vessel that is going to experience less movement, like for example Hellenic Seaways. We saw their beautiful ferries at every port, looking much more like an upscale cruise than the vomit barge we booked to get around the Greek islands. To and from some islands, you also have the option to fly.
Just to be safe, watch what you eat and drink. It was probably not a great idea to get drunk the night before a long ferry ride. If you are going to take Dramamine, do it before you get on the boat. it’s a lot more effective to prevent seasickness altogether than to try to make it go away. If you’re already seasick, sometimes having a bland snack like crackers and Sprite can help settle your stomach.
I don’t wish my experience on anyone, so be prepared for all possibilities. You might just find that the best way to enjoy Greece is to lie around on a sandy beach on a Dramamine high.