In this trip report, we review a Blue Star Ferries night boat in Greece between the islands of Astypalea and Kastellorizo and show you what you can expect on board.
After a great couple of days on the island of Astypalea it was time to continue my trip and to head to the next destination. This evening I would take the night boat all the way to Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island.
Just to put it into perspective how easterly Kastellorizo is located: the closest permanently inhabited Greek island is Rhodes, four hours away by ferry.
If you would take a ferry all the way from Piraeus (the port of Athens) to Kastellorizo it would take a full 24 hours on sea.
Embarking the ferry at Astypalea (often spelled ‘Astypalaia’ on ferry timetables and websites, it being a more closely resembling transliteration of the Greek Αστυπάλαια) meant however that my journey time would be halved as the island is located roughly halfway between Piraeus and Kastellorizo.
Astypalaia (JTY) to Kastellorizo (KZS)
Blue Star Ferries – Vessel: Blue Star Chios
Stops: Kalymnos, Kos, Nisyros, Tilos, Rhodes
Departure: 10.25pm – Arrival: 10.40am (+1)
Duration: 12h05m – Distance: ~218 nautical miles
Costs: 105 EUR (A41 – outside cabin with 4 berths for single use)
Booking the ferry
As I already wrote before in the introduction to this trip report, I booked the ferry through the excellent ferry booking tool of Viva. Due to its easy-to-use interface it is by far the best website to book up Greek ferry routes, in my humble opinion.
Of course, you could also just use the Viva website to look up shipping timetables and routes and then book your ticket directly with the ferry company.
For my overnight crossing to Kastellorizo, I had booked a private cabin. The cheapest available cabin was a ‘A41’ category room – a four berth exterior cabin for single use.
The entire ferry crossing, including the cabin, set me back 105 euro – a fair price given that I would cover big distance covered and have my own cabin. If you travel on another night boat route in Greece (for example Piraeus to Crete) you can expect similar prices.
Of course, if you are travelling as a couple or family, the tickets will be relatively cheaper as the extra costs for the cabin will be shared over the entire party.
In comparison, it would cost just 33.50 EUR if you would just buy a ‘deck only’ ferry ticket from Astypalea to Kastellorizo without a cabin. In that case, you can stay/sleep in the public areas of the ship as well as on deck.
If you are on a budget or backpacking through Greece in summer, that might not be such a bad thing to do. You will see many other people rolling out their blankets or sleeping bags at night on the deck or in a quiet corner inside the ferry.
For a small surcharge (between 1.5 and 5 EUR on this particular route), you can also reserve an ‘airplane style seat’ – which basically is a recliner seat in a large saloon.
So how is the experience on board a night boat like in Greece? What can you expect during your island hopping adventure? Let’s find out!
Below, I will detail my experience on the overnight ferry to Kastellorizo and show you what to expect when booking a cabin, airplane style seat or deck class.
If you are looking for a trip report detailing a daytime ferry in Greece, I recommend you to check out my previous chapter detailing the day crossing between Naxos and Astypalea.
Port of Astypalea
Astypalea’s main port is located in the middle of nowhere some 7 kilometres from Astypalea Town. After picking up my luggage from my accommodation, I drove my rental car to the port.
I had previously agreed with the rental car company that I could drop off the car at the harbour for no extra costs. And indeed, at the pre-arranged time two representatives of the car rental agency arrived to quickly inspect my car and to drive it back to their office.
There is not much to do at the Port of Astypalea, so I wouldn’t recommend arriving too early (although you are supposed to be there 30 minutes before the ferry departure).
The harbour has a small port office, in which you can find a small café selling drinks and snacks, as well as some restrooms. Having already picked up my tickets days earlier at the Naxos office of Blue Star Ferries, all I had to do was waiting for the ship to arrive.
Fortunately, I had brought a cold beer with me – and when I finished it I may have bought another one from the small café.
Soon after finishing my second beer, the Blue Star Chios arrived into the Port of Astypalea. This Blue Star Ferries vessel is a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ship which can carry up to 418 vehicles in its car garage.
The Blue Star Chios measures 141 by 21 metres (463 by 69 ft) and has a maximum speed of 27 knots. Its carrying capacity is 13,955 gross tonnage.
In total, there is space for 1.782 passengers, although the ship only has 72 cabins.
As there were not many passengers, vehicles and lorries disembarking at the Port of Astypalea, it only took minutes before we were all given the green light by the port officer to embark.
After showing my ticket and handing over a short health declaration which all passengers had to fill in because of the corona pandemic, I was allowed to set foot on board the ship and made my way up to the main deck.
If you have a cabin booked, you have to report at the ship’s reception desk. Simply show your ticket, and you will be given the electronic key card to your cabin – it is as simple as that.
In case you booked a ticket with an airplane-style seat, the seat number will already be written your ticket.
After collecting the key-card to my room, I made my way up one level and walked down the corridor towards my cabin.
My cabin on board the Blue Star Chios was a four-berth external cabin. It has two lower bunks on each side of the room, and two upper bunks which were folded away.
It had one window from which I could look outside, although given that it was already dark by the time I finally set foot in my cabin there wasn’t much to see from it.
Cabins on Greek ferries are rather basic, so do not expect any luxuries. Only on a few larger ferries (such as for example the Knossos Palace of Minoan Lines) there are luxury cabins or suites available which you can book.
My cabin on the Blue Star Chios was exactly that: basic but functional. There was a small desk, a telephone, and plenty of storage space to put down your bags or to hang your coat.
The cabin has a few power sockets, although WiFi on the boat isn’t complimentary. If you however have roaming in the EU, you will have no trouble getting a decent 4G signal during your voyage as there is almost always a Greek island with a mast close by. Of course, the exception here is the longer stretch between Rhodes and Kastellorizo!
Of course, the cabin has an en-suite bathroom as well. Again, do not expect to much, as it pretty much looks like a hospital or nursery home bathroom. There is a hairdryer and some very basic toiletries in the bathroom.
Even though especially the bathroom was showing its age, it was however perfectly clean just like the cabin itself. In the end, you are really paying for a night of sleep and a shower in the morning – and I certainly appreciated both.
I managed to have a good night sleep in my cabin and when I woke up in the morning and roamed the decks of the ship, I certainly felt noticeably fresher than the tired-looking passengers who roughed the night by sleeping on the sofas or seats on board.
After I had dropped off my luggage in the cabin, I went to the outdoor deck to get some fresh sea air and to drink a small night cap before going to sleep.
The bar on the Blue Star Chios had a wide variety of (alcoholic) drinks on offer. I went for an Odyssey red ale, which tasted much better than I expected.
Fortunately for me, the Blue Star Chios did not suffer a shipwreck just like Odysseus’ boat as we made our way from Astypalea to Kalymnos without any problems. Kalymnos would be the first of a couple of port calls before the Blue Star Chios would finally reach Kastellorizo the following morning.
When the ship arrived at Kalymnos, I was already back in my cabin checking some emails and chatting a bit with friends on my laptop.
As it was already pitch black outside at this late evening hour, there wasn’t much to see from my cabin window besides the harbour lights of Pothia, the name by which Kalymnos Town is also known.
Having never been to this part of the Dodecanese before, it was tempting to stay up a bit to try to get some glimpses of the islands of Kos, Nisyros and Tilos where the ship would call next, although in the end I smartly decided against it and went to sleep.
After a great night of sleep I woke up around 7.30am. At this hour, we had already sailed out of Rhodes and were well on our way on the final stage to Kastellorizo.
Having showered, it was time to explore the facilities on board the Blue Star Chios and look around a bit more.
There were relatively few remaining passengers on board the Blue Star Chios this morning compared to the evening before.
That did not come as much of a surprise, as many passengers probably disembarked at Kos and Rhodes, two popular holiday destinations. Rhodes has a big geographical and economic significance as well being the largest island and main regional hub of the Dodecanese.
My destination of Kastellorizo is by all means a very insignificant island in terms of tourism and commerce – its permanent population doesn’t even exceed 500 inhabitants!
Of the few passengers remaining on board, many seemed to be military personnel, both professional soldiers as well as younger draftees (Greece has mandatory military service for all men).
The military presence is no surprise if you look at the map. While Kastellorizo might be four hours away by ferry from Rhodes, it is only separated by a narrow straight of two kilometres wide from the Turkish mainland.
A month after my visit in July, there was even some sort of a stand-off between the Greek and Turkish navies in the waters around Kastellorizo, which might give you an idea how politically sensitive this territory is.
It is therefore not a surprise that Greece maintains an army garrison on the island and permanently has at least one ship patrolling the Greek territorial waters around Kastellorizo.
A tour of the ship
The Blue Star Chios basically has one main deck on which all indoor public areas and facilities are located, although the cabins can be found over multiple floors. There is also open deck space on multiple floors of the vessel.
If you just have a deck space ticket, you can try to find a couch or seat in one of the public areas to sit or lie down. This was not a problem now on the final stretch between Rhodes and Kastellorizo, but when I boarded the ship halfway on its route in Astypalea all good spots seemed to be taken.
Of course, you can always bring a sleeping bag and mattress and find a quiet corner somewhere, either inside or outside on the open deck.
Other facilities which you can find on board most Greek ferries are a small gift shop and an ATM, although it is not really needed to have any cash on you as contactless payments by card are possible at all shops and restaurants on board.
Airplane style seats
For a small surcharge (often between 1.5 and 5 EUR depending on the distance) you can add an airplane-style seat to your booking. These seats are fairly comfortable, but did not seem to recline very much.
Food on board
There are several food outlets on board the Blue Star Chios. First of all, there were two Everest snack bars – one indoor, and one outdoor on the open deck. A Greek takeaway café chain, Everest mostly sells coffee, drinks, pastries and sandwiches.
The Blue Star Chios also has a self-serve restaurant, although it was closed in the morning when I checked.
Larger ferries in Greece might have some additional food outlets, such as a fast food (hamburger) restaurant or proper sit-down restaurant. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend relying too much on the food outlets on board for a full lunch or proper dinner.
You are almost always better off eating something in town before departure or after arrival as food quality and available options will be superior on land. Needless to say, prices will be lower too.
That said, Greek ferries are perfectly acceptable for a mid-day snack or breakfast in the morning. For breakfast, Greeks do not need much more than a fresh bakery pastry and an (iced) coffee – and you can easily get such on board any passenger boat in Greece.
Whenever I’m on a ferry in Greece, I love to spend as much time possible on the open deck. There is just nothing better than smelling the fresh sea air while slowly sipping your coffee in the warm morning sun.
Although there wasn’t much to see besides deep blue waters as far as the eye could see, I was thoroughly enjoying the views.
The quality freddo espresso and tasty piece of bougatsa for breakfast made the experience even better.
Land in sight
After a short while, the Turkish coastline could be seen in the far distance from the port side of the ship. From this moment on, we would sail parallel to the coastline all the way until we reached Kastellorizo.
About 45 minutes before arrival, we were already close enough to the coastline that you could clearly spot the Turkish seaside towns and the green mountains of mainland Turkey.
Island of Ro
There is one sight of interest during the crossing between Rhodes and Kastellorizo. Just before reaching Kastellorizo, the ship will pass by the uninhabited island of Ro, which you will see (most likely) on your starboard side.
If it weren’t for its geographical location close to mainland Turkey, Ro would be just be an insignificant, barren island.
For Greeks, it is however much more than that as the island runs deep in their national psyche. The reason? One elderly widow named Despina Achladiotou, who is better known as ‘The Lady of Ro’.
Despina is famous for raising the Greek flag on the island every single morning, no matter the weather or her own physical condition.
When her husband died in 1940, Despina continued living all alone on the uninhabited, barren island, still proudly displaying the Greek flag every single day.
Especially in those years this was quite special as back then the island did not yet formally belong to Greece. In the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, Ro was awarded to the Italians just like the neighbouring islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo – and this remained the case until the end of World War II.
After a brief British occupation, Ro was finally awarded to Greece in 1947 – but that did not stop Despina from continuing her tradition.
She managed to raise the flag every day until she passed away at in 1982 at the high age of 92 – having lived all the time as a hermit on Ro.
The Lady of Ro was buried with full military honours on her own island, on which the Greek army now has a few soldiers stationed to continue the flag-raising tradition.
As the ship slowly approaches Kastellorizo, the Turkish coastline will also come closer into view. After all, at its closest point, there is only two kilometres of sea separating Kastellorizo from Turkey!
The Turkish town opposite Kastellorizo is Kaş, a small but relatively popular holiday destination some 168 kilometres west of Antalya.
Just like many more places in Asia Minor, its population was majority Greek before the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, which saw the Greek Army being driven into the sea by a revigorated young Turkish republic under the command of Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatürk.
What followed was the Megáli Katastrofí (Great Catastrophy) as the Greeks call it, in which hundreds of thousands Greeks from Asia Minor were killed, with most of the survivors fleeing to the Greek mainland or islands or being forcefully expelled there.
In a similar way, many ethic Turks were forced to flee or were expelled from Greece in what was becoming a major population exchange. The rivalries and tensions which it caused can still be felt in the region.
Arriving at Kastellorizo
Kastellorizo has to be one of the most beautifully located harbours of all of Greece thanks to the mighty backdrop of its steep cliffs set against the aquamarine waters of the bay and the elegant, pastel-coloured waterfront mansions.
Many sailors will tell you that the Port of Kastellorizo is a great natural anchorage. In fact, some would even say that Kastellorizo is the best natural harbour between Piraeus and the Middle East!
On deck, people are in full anticipation of the moment when the ship finally rounds the island’s western cape and sails into the bay in which Kastellorizo Town is located. After rounding the cape on your starboard side, you are well advised to head to the port side on deck for the best arrival views.
As the ship sails into the bay, look out for the old mosque and minaret on the waterfront as well as the ruins of the hilltop castle right above it!
At this point, you will likely hear some loud disembarkation calls from the ship’s loudspeakers.
However, given that Kastellorizo is the final stop of the ferry route and thus the intermediate turning point before the long voyage back to Rhodes (and Piraeus), there is plenty of time to disembark at a leisurely pace.
You are well-advised to stay on deck until the ship has properly docked as the views are just absolutely stunning and you really don’t want to miss even a minute of it.
You certainly do not want to miss the moment when the ship makes a 45 degree turn to its starboard side in order for the rear cargo doors to align with the dock, as at this moment you will have a full panorama view of Kastellorizo Town.
Again, remain standing on the port side for the best views of Kastellorizo’s drop-dead gorgeous waterfront.
After making some last pictures of the beautiful waterfront from the deck of the ferry, I took my luggage and headed a few floors down to the car garage in order to disembark the ferry.
Kastellorizo is small, which means that you can easily walk to whatever place in town you are staying for the night.
I simply had to walk for five minutes down the waterfront to my accommodation, although I couldn’t help but stop a few times to make some more snaps of the cute houses.
When you look back at the anchored ship, you suddenly start to respect the fine steering skills required by the captain to dock such a large vessel like the Blue Star Chios.
Once turned to its docking position, the bow of the ship almost reaches the other side of the harbour!
I had a perfectly comfortable overnight voyage on the Blue Star Chios. If you travel on a night boat in Greece, I would highly suggest to add a cabin during your booking as you will certainly appreciate the good night of sleep and the shower in the morning.
Although it is certainly possible to opt for an airline-style seat or to sleep on the deck or one of the couches in the public areas (if you are lucky enough to snatch one in time!), it isn’t the most comfortable way to travel and I would only recommend it if you’re on a budget.
After all, on holiday you do not want to arrive completely tired at your destination, basically losing a full day just having to recover from the journey!
If you book a cabin, you however should not expect any luxury as most night boats in Greece are a bit basic when it comes to on-board facilities, especially when comparing them for example to the huge mega ferries you can find in Scandinavia or the British Isles which all have a larger choice of cabins, restaurants and entertainment options.
However, this personally doesn’t matter much to me. In the end, island hopping in Greece is all about the voyage and arriving at a new, gorgeous island.
And how beautiful is the arrival in Kastellorizo! I’ve seen plenty of great views from ships, trains or planes – but the gorgeous view on arrival in Kastellorizo is something which I will certainly never forget.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘A Dodecanese Dream: Summer Island Hopping in Greece‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Back in the Skies – My First International Flight in the Age of Corona
2. Review: Kimon Hotel, Athens, Greece
3. Exploring Plaka: Through the Winding Streets of the Old Town of Athens
4. Climbing up the Acropolis: Visiting Athens’ Most Famous Sight
5. Review: Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge Athens Airport
6. Review: Sky Express Athens to Naxos (ATR 42)
7. Review: Studios Zafiri, Naxos Town, Greece
8. Naxos Town: The Gorgeous Historic Heart of the Cyclades
9. Review: Blue Star Ferries Naxos to Astypalaia
10. Review: Belvedere Studios, Astypalaia Town, Greece
11. Astypalea Town: The Unknown Crown Jewel of the Aegean Sea
12. Astypalea Island Guide: Exploring the Butterfly of the Aegean
13. On a Night Boat in Greece – Astypalea to Kastellorizo With Blue Star Ferries (current chapter)
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **