(Teen) Family to Greece: Athens, Crete, Naxos — w/c ferries?
MemberAugust 1, 2019 at 10:56 am
I must be doing something wrong: I cannot seem to come up with the right string to search online to find out about Greek ferries’ wheelchair accessibility. I’ve read some horror stories and some “it’s fine” stories. However, because I am a Special Mama (otherwise known as a Barracuda Bitch) this is not the kind of thing I can leave until the last minute.
We won’t be going until July 2020, starting in Athens, then flying to Crete, then ferrying to Naxos, and from Naxos probably taking day trips to some of the other Cyclades Islands (Mykonos + Santorini are high on the list).
Any ideas where / how I should search?
I did reach out to Christianakis Travel which self identifies as focused on helping travelers with physical disabilities (haven’t heard back but it’s a busy time of year for them).
MemberAugust 1, 2019 at 4:45 pm
Hi! I am disabled (electric wheelchair user) and live in Athens. Even though I travel almost every month abroad, I have more than 5-6 years to travel out of Athens in Greece. Some of the reasons are lack of information, inaccessibility (for example you mentioned Santorini, but everyone says it’s not accessible – Naxos should be a bit better) and high costs (with companies such as Christianakis – you can check also this one, though also expensive).
Ferries can be both fine and problematic, but I am not an expert on that and I guess the only solution is to contact the ferry companies. As for Athens, it is definitely doable and not necessarily on high cost, but you must be prepared for some challenges. Metro is very accessible by the way.
MemberAugust 2, 2019 at 8:11 am
We’re a pretty amazing family and Athens looks like a piece of cake for us, but I do need to figure out the ferries and find the most appropriate lodging on Naxos, close to a beautiful, swimming beach.
I told my husband during dinner that I’m getting discouraged; at some point if things don’t get easier I’ll give up on Greece. Too many other places in the world to go which aren’t difficult … like Bora Bora or the Maldives. No joke — those are insanely easy for finding Accessible info.
Take care, and happy travels.
MemberAugust 11, 2019 at 10:05 am
Unfortunately, many summer destinations around Greece are not yet disabled-friendly…The roads in Rethymno and Heraklion (Crete) are somewhat wider than in the other major cities on the island, which makes getting around easier, and there are plenty of accessible accommodation options. Many parts of Rethymno’s famous Blue Flag-awarded sandy coastline are equipped for wheelchair users, and feature lifeguards and accessible bathrooms. And also If you are a person with limited mobility and need to travel on a Greek ferry, you are suggested to inform early your travel agency so that they advice you on the most convenient Greek ferry companies to travel with and also to arrange your traveling details. The companies especially ask for prior notice in case you need to book the cabin for disabled, as the number of such cabins is limited and differs for every ferry.
MemberAugust 11, 2019 at 1:40 pm
Thank you, skull! I really appreciate your feedback.
Any advice on how to get anybody anywhere affiliated with the ferries to help if you’re not using a travel agent? Or can you recommend a travel agent to help with just the ferries?
I did reach out a few times to Christianakis, which advertises itself as focusing on people with physical disabilities and never received a response; I also have sent emails / called the Greek National Tourism Organization and Ferry Hopper and … nothing. Not a single acknowledgment.
I met a woman who said, and I quote: “Greece hates disabled people!” which while harsh, has been borne by her unfortunate experience(s). In particular she was miserable on Rhodes which has an Accessible Tourism promotion. (Their website is great albeit evidently misleading.) Someone else told me that on (oooh, which?) side of Santorini is Accessible but to take a taxi to get to the caldera (inAccessible), and then back down to the flat section of the island. (We’re not going to Santorini so not an issue for us and why I am blanking on the particulars.)
I LOVE, I mean I adore planning our travel, but Greece has bitten me so hard that more than once I nearly said “I’m done, eff off Greece.” Getting the various hotels to respond has been like watching paint dry — slow and requiring the patience of a saint. And I am certainly no saint. Ha!
That being said, a few of the hotels / resorts have been remarkably kind, informative, helpful. With sweet help from a property manager I found a terrific Accessible short-term apartment in Plaka, Athens, although we’ll be staying in a hotel with stair chair and ramps. (Dimitris, its owner, has been one of those who’s been delightful in his help.) Maybe it’s the language barrier but another hotel which is highly rated in Plaka, Athens, let us know they really aren’t interested in accommodating a Special Needs family (they’ve a lift but no w/c is allowed on it — whatever). Got it. Not staying there and won’t help advertise it here (or anywhere). Have just begun researching transportation from the airport to Plaka.
Very nice, wanting to help owner of a hotel in Chania on Crete got back to me, but by that time my husband and I had nixed visiting Crete — too inAccessible.
I received a really friendly, upbeat, enthusiastic reply from a resort on Naxos but it was so outrageously expensive we cannot stay there. Another hotel from which I heard told me not to bother coming to Naxos, but from a few others they offered ground floor rooms / apartments, none of which are specifically designed for wheelchair users so do NOT have wheelchair-friendly bathrooms.
But keep in mind, our youngest child (13 years-old) has moderate physical difficulties and is profoundly Developmentally Disabled (literally a silent infant in a teenage body), so we push him in his (lightweight) chair. He can sometimes walk on flat surfaces, no stairs, no steps, and with trusted, trained adult assistance for balance and to catch him if he has a seizure. He requires full personal care (diapering), and it takes both of us (2) parents to bathe him. So we’re never looking for Accessible bathrooms because that’s just not needed.
This is a great page for wheelchair users visiting the Acropolis / Parthenon; looking at that elevator has me scared, however!
I already purchased our air tickets (Lufthansa from Colorado, USA to Athens via Munich), and we have found Lufthansa to be terrifically helpful and accommodating; last year when boarding in Munich (coming home from Egypt) my sweet angel had a massive seizure as we were walking through First Class (on our way to Economy), and the attendants and some of the passengers could not have been kinder trying to help. Fingers crossed kind help continues.
MemberSeptember 30, 2019 at 11:18 am
I have been to Greece a few times and unfortunately you can’t rely on the local ferries. Last time we went to an island (Tinos) we rented from a boat rental platform (Click&Boat if I remember well) a motorboat that was listed as disabled-friendly. We called the company too just to be sure and indeed the captain was professional and knowledgeable of the relevant adjustments to make the trip easier.
MemberSeptember 30, 2019 at 11:35 am
I appreciate so much your feedback. I hope you enjoyed your visits to Greece.
After way too much time online I did come across this wonderful travel agency, Dolphin Hellas, who have been helping me (specifically Rafail).
Rafail told me a) November is when the summer ferry schedules are released, so we’ll (he’ll) look then to see what could work for my family, and b) he will also book us airplane tickets to fly from Athens to Naxos, because that may end up being our only Accessible way there.
Having Dolphin Hellas has seriously taken such a load off me because I don’t have to stress about it — someone who is there, boots on the ground, does this All The Time is going to also do it this time. For us. I’ve also asked them to get us lodging at the (Athens) airport our final night (our flight leaves at 6am), but my Greek teacher keeps telling me to have him make all our reservations because he’ll get the best price because he’s Greek. So maybe I’ll ask him as well. But if you (or others) have suggestions I would absolutely appreciate it!
Take care all.
MemberDecember 21, 2019 at 2:25 am
We are still a ways from this trip (will be summer 2020), but I have booked our ferry / plane to / from Naxos (and Athens). (I also have our lodging in both places.)
This is what I’ve learned:
Blue Star Ferries have elevators, have Special Needs cabins, and staff can be alerted beforehand about a w/c traveler so will be ready to offer assistance. Blue Star will NOT share photos of the Special Needs cabins (and I have thus far been able to find any photos online) but will share that the cabins are larger, their attached bathrooms are level (no step up as the other cabins have) and Accessible, and the Special Needs cabins are for 2 people, but even if you are traveling as a family (like us, let’s say) with one person in a w/c and the other their caregiver, they still only count as ONE; the other half of the cabin will be sold to another w/c user and potentially their caregiver, for potentially four people in the cabin.
Now, for *my* family and *our* particular needs (and Needs), I have booked a 2 person Lux Outside cabin (basically a first class cabin with windows) and 2 Business Class seats. The Lux, Pur, and standard cabins have attached bathrooms with a step up and are NOT w/c Accessible (Outside means with window, Inside means interior, now window). My Special Angel has no ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and requires personal care (diapering), so for us, this is fine. We will be able to use the bed(s) to lay him to change his diaper, give him any meds via his g-tube, let him have a rest if he’s had a seizure, for example. I purchased the 2 Business Class seats (which is basically large, quiet lobbies with armchairs, sofas, coffee tables spread apart) so that we parents can either wheel or help our son walk in there, not be trapped in the cabin. My older son likes to sit looking at the scenery while listening to his playlists (teens and their phones!), so he may also be in there or he may set himself outside on an Economy chair — he has options, and so do we (parents and our Special Angel).
To get to the exterior decks there is a significant “lip”, which makes a w/c impassible. This is obviously a case-by-case situation; for our son it’ll be fine because we can help him stand, help lift him over the lip, and lift his lightweight (24lbs) lightweight travel chair up and over. But for a power chair this won’t work. This is what I’ve seen on videos and what I was told by Blue Star: I will report back if there are ways to get outside without that “lip.”
I chose for us to take a daytime ferry, not an overnight, because for us being on the Aegean and seeing it is part of the trip, however there are overnight ferries so that might be better for others, especially for longer ferry rides.
To return to Athens we will fly back with Olympic Air. I was told that I will need to provide them a detailed med list, including milliliters of bottles and MDs’ prescriptions. This seems INSANE to me but whatever — they are called lifesaving meds for a reason. But if that’s required then that’s what I’ll do. (Dealing with Lufthansa’s Medical Desk was infinitely easier.)
I have rented a level apartment a block from Agios Prokopios on Naxos with one step to enter the apartment itself. It is NOT advertised as an Accessible accommodation but again, I am addressing my family’s very specific Needs and for us it should work. (I had a lot of back-and-forths with the owners.)
Needless to say I’ll have tons more to share after our trip, but I am encouraged by what I’ve thus far learned, specifically about the elevators on Blue Star ferries, their Special Needs cabins. We are off to Puerto Vallarta for the winter holidays so I’ll see you next year!
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