Forget what you have known about Greek island hopping in the past. "Times they are a changing."
I have wanted to write a comprehensive article on the deregulation of Greek ferries but, as is typical of Greece, reliable information is hard to come by. Each sector (travel agents, ferry companies, governments) is waiting to see what the other does.
Last week I saved this article from The Times, UK
July 17, 2006
Greek ferries to see price wars
Greece is deregulating its ferry services — so that routes and fares across its 240 ports will be opened to competition. Fifty of the least profitable routes are protected by government subsidies for now, but the busier routes will see fierce price wars.
Noel Josephides, of the specialist tour operator Sunvil, says: “Companies have spent a fortune on new ships — the ferries are more modern, faster and more comfortable. Fares are more flexible: travel midweek, for example, and you can now get great discounts, while weekends might be very expensive.”
Blue Star Ferries (www.bluestarferries.com), for example, has fares starting at £7 from Piraeus to the Cyclades, and £15 to the Dodecanese, and a 10% discount on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Hellenic Seaways (www.hellenicseaways.gr) also has 15% off for early booking on the internet, as well as serious discounts on business-class and cabin prices.
In this transition period to full deregulation, the government has set ceiling fares for economy class and vehicles, but cabins and premium-class fares are now unregulated.
The prospect of reduced fares was exciting to us. We checked and saw a "super economy" fare from Piraeus to Paros of 10 Euro where before the cheapest was just under 25 Euro. The euphoria was short lived however, as this week we learned that most of the ferries were booked solid for next weekend. People would have trouble getting to the island and those here difficulty leaving on schedule. There simply are not enough spaces to go around, unless perhaps you upgrade to First Class. Note that for safety reasons the ferries have strictly enforced rules limiting the number of passengers per boat.
Stay tuned. I will try and update the situation as it develops.