In ten days, on July 29, the Larnaca - Piraeus ferry line is set to launch, and the demand has surged, with the Daleela ferry already fully booked. According to Deputy Minister of Shipping, Marina Hadjimanoli, who spoke on the show "Διασπορά Ειδήσεων" on SPOR FM, there has been a tremendous response since day one, with bookings surpassing 11,000 and showing significant improvement compared to last year. The public's enthusiasm for this year's service is immense, especially for the Larnaca routes. However, this is likely influenced by the timing of the routes during the popular holiday months of July and August, in contrast to the quieter period in May and June.
Deputy Minister Hadjimanoli commented that this indicates the necessity of the service and expressed the hope for its continuation beyond the current contract. It is worth mentioning that last year, a total of 7,412 passengers, 205 pets, and 1,946 vehicles/motorcycles were transported."
Better in the Summer
The high demand during the months of July and August has already prompted the Deputy Ministry to consider whether there should be a change in the start dates of the routes, to begin amidst the peak tourist season and capitalize on the frenzy for summer vacations. Therefore, next year, we may possibly see more trips in July and August and fewer at the start of the season.
In total, there will be eight departures from Larnaca and the corresponding returns from the port of Piraeus. The last departure from Larnaca is scheduled for August 31, and the final departure from Piraeus is on September 1. Apart from the increased demand, there are changes in relation to the trip from Limassol, particularly regarding its duration. Specifically, the journey from Larnaca takes 30 hours, while from Limassol, it takes 32 hours.
Additionally, the cost of tickets differs for the Larnaca routes. For a one-way trip from Larnaca to Piraeus, the cost is 69.3 euros per person for a cabin of the first category, while the cost for a round trip is 138.6 euros. Last year, for a similar trip from Limassol, the ticket cost 72.99 euros for a one-way trip and 145.98 euros for a round trip. The ticket cost for an airline seat on the ship is 68.6 euros for a round trip and 34.3 euros for a one-way trip. Similarly, for the port of Limassol, the cost for this type of seat is 37.99 euros for a one-way trip and 75.98 euros for a round trip. The price difference is due to lower taxes at the port of Larnaca compared to Limassol.
As for children aged 4-12 years, the cost for round-trip tickets starts from 49.3 euros for an airline seat and goes up to 84.3 euros for a cabin of Class A. The ticket cost for children under 4 years old is 15 euros for a one-way trip and 30 euros for a round trip, for all seat categories. For transporting a vehicle, the cost is 106.49 euros for a one-way trip and 212.98 euros for a round trip. The price for transporting a motorcycle is 70.47 euros for a one-way trip and 140.94 euros for a round trip. The charge for transporting a bicycle is half and 1 euro, respectively. The cost for transporting a pet in a cabin is 50 euros for a one-way trip, 100 euros for a round trip, and 35 and 70 euros for a one-way and round trip, respectively.
The sea journey seems to be a popular choice for many families and motorcyclists, mainly from Cyprus and Greece. In both cases, they transport their vehicles - cars or motorcycles - with them. This is the competitive advantage offered by choosing the ferry over air travel, which is much shorter. As described by Antonis Orthodoxou of Orthodoxou Travel, a company that collaborates with Scandro Holding Ltd in Cyprus and with bbtair in Greece, a four-member family that usually travels takes their car along to save money on renting a car in Greece. In such cases, their stay in Greece is of longer duration.
At the moment, there are sporadic vacancies left for all routes. "Anyone who searches now won't find a spot or won't be fully satisfied, perhaps due to date availability or airline seat preferences." Many, of course, opt for the ferry to transport their pets, especially if they are large, due to the limitations on airplanes.
The increased demand for tickets is connected to the enhanced amenities on the ship. This year, there was ample time for necessary preparations. As Mr. Soulis recalled, last year it was decided to commence the project, and within 30 days, everything had to be ready. This year, with a full year at hand, better organization was achieved, both by the government, the ship's managing company, and the reservation system. Mr. Soulis mentioned that renovations were also made on the ship, including equipment, furnishings, and an upgraded casino area. Additionally, the cafeteria/restaurant offers more choices, and undoubtedly, the service is significantly improved. "We hope that next year, we will be even better for the benefit of our passengers," he added.
The company is contemplating scenarios to add more routes, potentially including Rhodes and Israel, in addition to Piraeus. As the Deputy Minister pointed out, if these routes are added while the current contract is in place, they will not be subsidized. On the company's side, Elias Soulis, the director and spokesperson for Scandro Holdings, mentioned to "K" newspaper that there are considerations, but nothing can be announced at the moment. He also emphasized that the ship will be upgraded every year. Moreover, the company's plans involve acquiring another ship (Daleela is currently leased). "We are working on this aspect, and we might have an announcement soon, with the new year."
During the previous season, which was the first for the Cyprus - Piraeus routes, there were officially recorded 15 complaints/negative comments, two suggestions, and 21 requests for informational material. This year, the negative comments and complaints are much fewer, which is attributed to the improved services provided, as stated by the involved parties. These improvements encompass both the reservation system and the boarding process, as well as the amenities offered on the ship.
[This article first appeared in the printed Oikonomiki edition and was translated from its Greek original]