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In our article last week here on EuroCheapo, we explored how ferry routes allow for a little creative island hopping around the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean. This week, we take a look at a handful of new ferry services around Europe for summer 2013.
New link to Malta
International ferry routes to and from Malta have come and gone, with the Virtu Ferries link with Sicily being the only passenger shipping service from Malta to elsewhere in the European Union that has really stayed the course. But late last month, Grimaldi Lines launched a useful new link from the Italian mainland to Malta.
The MV Audacia will run thrice weekly from Salerno to Valletta and return until the end of August, with the frequency then slipping down to twice weekly. There is an en route stop at Augusta on the east coast of Sicily.
Seasonal Scottish routes
Scottish operator Caledonian MacBrayne is a company with schedules that have hardly changed from year-to-year. But the 2013 summer timetables show a spark of seasonal innovation with a new thrice-weekly service from Ardrossan (on the Ayrshire coast) with Campbeltown (on the Mull of Kintyre). An interesting quirk of the timetable is that the Saturday sailing from Campbeltown stops off along the way at Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
The summer direct service from Islay to Colonsay (both islands in the Inner Hebrides) doubles in frequency this year: up from once to twice weekly in each direction. 2013 also sees Sunday sailings from Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland to all four Small Isles: Eigg, Muck, Canna and Rhum.
By boat to Abkhazia and beyond
This year sees much-improved Black Sea routes from Sochi, the resort on the Russian Riviera that this coming winter will be much in the spotlight as the region hosts the Winter Olympics.
Russian operator Vodohod has introduced a summer-only ferry service along the coast from Sochi to Gagra in Abkhazia. Services run only on even-numbered dates – a timetabling custom which is very common on Russian trains where selected services run only on even or odd dates. The route will be served by fast catamarans, taking just 90 minutes for the run. The schedule is well-timed for those wanting to make a day trip to Abkhazia, allowing seven hours in Gagra. The resort town is a fading gem, many of its once-splendid buildings now in a sorry state of decay. But it’s worth a look. Don’t miss the Armenian church and the Greek cemetery.
The return fare from Sochi to Gagra is €50. The service is presently scheduled to run just until the end of October but the operator says that, if business is good, they could be minded to extend the season. Bookings by English-language customers can be made through the agency Olympia Line.
Another useful catamaran link across the Black Sea is that from Sochi to Trabzon. This route runs twice weekly until the end of October and then just once each week through the winter. A bus for Batumi meets the ferry at Trabzon to give a fast route from Sochi to Batumi in Georgia. It is a neat travel solution for those looking to get from the Russian Federation to Georgia – relations between Moscow and Tbilisi are still strained, so the route via Turkey neatly sidesteps the challenges of crossing a difficult frontier.