Grimaldi Lines review for anyone looking to travel by ferry. As someone who doesn’t enjoy flying – I always look for alternative methods of travel. I found that I could travel from Barcelona to Italy (Civitavecchia) by ferry if I didn’t mind being at sea for 19 hours or more. While traveling by plane is quicker, it’s also more expensive and less fun. So here’s a quick summary of my experience on this particular ferry and my personal opinion on how it went.
What to Expect
Firstly the name ferry is a little misleading. The ferry is, in fact, a massive cargo ship ready to transport passengers and cars long distance. I found that it fits somewhere between a cargo ship and a cruise ship. It’s massive size makes it far bigger than any ferry I have ever taken before but its lack of facilities makes it far less comfortable than a cruise ship. I did quite a fair amount of research before deciding on taking the ferry but there wasn’t too much info available and definitely not all in the same place. That inspired to write something that could assist others in a similar situation. Hopefully you’ll find some answers here.
To save costs I decided to walk to the harbor from my hostel. My hostel was located not far from the Las Ramblas main area of Barcelona so the walk should have taken me less than 30 minutes. However, as I was traveling with lots of luggage – after working a grueling winter ski season – it took me considerably longer. According to their website, you’re advised to arrive 2 hours before departure to collect your boarding pass and get seated.
I believe my departure time was supposed to be around 22:15 that night but I received a text message informing me that we would depart at 00:30 first thing the next morning. It wasn’t a big deal departing a bit later but arriving later could possibly make me miss my train from Civitavecchia to Rome.
Regardless, I battled my way towards the harbor with my 3 bags in tow. Coming from the Las Ramblas area, I walked along a long road that had multiple vehicle entries entering the port. For some reason I assumed that I would just walk directly up to the ship. Instead, I had to pass all these entries until reaching a building, much further down, where I could collect my boarding pass and wait for the ship to arrive and unload.
Recommendation: There is an upper and lower area in this building. If you’ve arrived before the ship has unloaded, there are seats in the upper area where you can relax. If you’ve arrived after unloading, there may be lots of disembarking passengers in this upstairs area and you WILL be in the way. Should you see people coming down the escalator when arriving – stay downstairs for as long as possible.
When booking your place the website does not provide much info on what is allowed and what is not. I couldn’t find info on luggage allowance, if any. Neither could I find any info on what deck passage means. Now I’m not a representative of this company in any way or form but I’ll try break down their terms according to what I’ve researched and seen firsthand. As a savvy money-saver (a.ka. cheapskate) I opted for the deck passage. So the rest of my Grimaldi Lines review will be based on this method of accommodation in mind.
What is a Pullman Seat?
A pullman seat is basically an economy airline seat. It’s almost identical in size and shape though without the seatbelt. It can also recline ever so slightly. If you battle to sleep on planes, you’ll face a similar challenge with these seats. Booking a pullman seat will allow you to have an assigned seat during your journey – I suppose.
What is Deck Passage?
Deck passage, as I see it, basically means that you’re planning to wing it for the next 19+ hours. I assumed that I would locate a deckchair up top and sleep in the elements with my ski jacket on. This was not the case.
When boarding I asked the bloke checking tickets which way I should go and, after checking my ticket, gestured that I go to the pullman seat area. Basically, if you book deck passage, you can use pullman seats for as long as you like until someone else comes and tells you that that particular seat is reserved for them.
Now I can’t be certain of this but I did return to double-check if it was okay to sit in that area and all seemed fine. I expect it changes from trip to trip but of the possibly 100 pullman seats (I didn’t bother to count), there were about 6 to 10 of us sleeping there at any given time. Everyone else on-board had opted for cabins.
They probably had inside knowledge as you’ll find out…
What are Inside/Outside Cabins
This is a shot in the dark but I can only assume that outside cabins are at the extremes of the ship and allow for natural light to enter. And inside cabins would be based in the interior with no outside light. The outside cabins only cost a few euros more which would make sense if that was the only difference to speak of.
For most this isn’t an issue as you’ll probably just have a suitcase with you. However, for those that have multiple bags with them, this is important. I’ve read on a third party website that there are no luggage restrictions in place and you can bring as many bags as you like.
But when checking the general terms on the official Grimaldi Lines site, it said something completely different. It says that only personal items are allowed in your luggage and you cannot carry goods intended for resale. If you have cabin accommodation you can only carry a single suitcase with you. If you have an armchair (read: deck passage) seat, you are only allowed to bring a small carry-on bag. Anything in excess of this, except those left in your vehicle, must be places in the luggage compartment and you’ll have to pay the relative price. The relative price however cannot be found on the site…
Note: I came on-board with 1 large suitcase, 1 gym-sized bag, and 1 backpack. Nobody really cared.
I have never traveled with a vehicle and I did not on this occasion so I cannot contribute too much to this. All I can tell from reading the terms is that you will not have access to your vehicle for the entire journey. If you have anything important like medication in it, be sure to take it with you when boarding the ferry. You can find the terms here.
I did not spot any pets while I on the ferry. According to their Grimaldi Lines service page – pets are not allowed in cabins or in seating or common areas. They are, however, allowed to be walked around the external parts of the ship with their owners.
According to their terms page, there is special accommodation for dogs and cats. Birds, hamsters, rabbits, etc must travel in carriers provided by the pet’s owner. Be sure to check out the terms page for all necessary details before bringing your pet with you.
Note: Pets are not allowed on the shuttle buses.
There’s a section on their website below the pet section to choose an Agreement. This is equivalent to adding a coupon/discount code to your booking. There are many available options with no information about what each what is. You really have to be in-the-know already if you want to use this section.
I had been traveling by train using my Interrail Pass. This allowed me to get a discount on my booking. The website asked for an Interrail Pass Cover Number. I eventually found out that this refers to the number located on your Travel Diary near the right hand corner. By the time I figured this out, I had tried every number on my ticket and had almost given up hope.
Grimaldi Lines Review
Okay, let’s get down to the meat of the story. Upon arrival, you’ll need to obtain your boarding pass. Next you’ll wait for passengers to depart the ship before you can board. I’m not sure if it’s normal but there were an inordinate amount of teenagers departing. I believe it was some sort of school trip but they were everywhere and they were noisy.
Once they all eventually left the boarding area, I joined the other travelers on the ramp to enter the ship. This trip was in May, which is Spring in Europe, but it was incredibly cold on the way up and on the outside deck during the trip. I was wearing my ski jacket which proved to be useful throughout my ferry trip.
Upon boarding, I sat on a deck chair and awaited departure. As opposed to the set departure time of 00:30, we left over an hour later. With me I had a large suitcase, gym bag and backpack. I stored these on the racks behind the pullman chairs and hoped against hope that nothing would go missing from any of them. I then made my way up to the top of the ship to explore the facilities deck by deck.
Getting upstairs is a little more complicated when coming from the deck passage area. You’ll need to follow the hallways that lead to the cabins. Make your way past all the cabins and you’ll find stairs to get you to the upper decks. There’s also an elevator somewhere, but I could only locate it 30% of the time.
There are some stores on one of the decks that have a lot available. If you’re looking for a belt, sunglasses or a phone charger – you’ll be able to get it on-board.
I went out looking for a sandwich and found a few good options available. However, in order to purchase from a particular vendor – I had to go a sweets counter behind me and pay a guy there. He would then give me a receipt which I would use to collect my sandwich from the main vendor. I’m not sure if their till was broken or if this is how it’s normally managed but I found it quite odd. The sandwich was tasty though.
On the same deck as the shops and restaurants is an arcade gaming area. It had your usual mix of arcade games on display. I didn’t walk in to check it out on this occasion but it looked pretty decent.
On the upper exterior deck I walked along the long side leading towards the front of the ferry – and the bar.
Not many people are out at night and the area was quiet and peaceful. It’s very relaxing listening to the sound of the ocean and the view at night is amazing.
If you have the opportunity, try to up there when the ferry is leaving the port. The port is lit up by lights from the shore, other boats and the fuel tanker. Once you get out to sea, it’s pitch black out and you won’t have much need to be out until the suns up again. Be sure to have your jacket with you at this point. I was wearing my ski jacket and was just comfy enough.
I grabbed a quick gin and tonic and enjoyed a bit of the lights before calling it a day and retiring to a deck chair. At this point I was unaware whether the seating area would get full or not and was a little worried about where I would lay my head. I’d assumed that I could just sleep on the outside deck in my ski jacket but with the staff walking around and the freezing temperatures, I quickly realized that this was impossible.
Pullman chair are not comfy. There were rules about not sleeping on the floor and keeping to your seat, etc. More experiences travelers knew that no one enforces any rules on-board. One crafted a makeshift bed out of clothing on the floor in a corner. Another laid himself across a row of 3 pullman chairs. I, being the noob I was, decided to play it safe and stick to the one reclined pullman chair while sort of leaning onto another unreclined seat.
When you’ve been awake all day and most of the night, you eventually reach a state of pure exhaustion and a magical thing happens. Your bones begin to turn to rubber and you find yourself maneuvering into positions that weren’t possible just minutes ago. You find that wedging your head between a seat and wall, though painful a little while ago, is now kind of comfortable. Your dead bloodless leg isn’t as painful any more – just need to shift your weight a little to right and nod back off.
I did manage to get some sleep in. Not good sleep, not peaceful sleep, but sleep nevertheless.
But, by god, the staff are noisy. I mean by any standard you can think of, they were brutal. Each time they walked out of the deck chair area through the doors towards the toilet, they would let it bang shut behind them. They moved between these doors constantly throughout the day and night, and proceeded to let the doors bang loudly each and every time. It was like a mini explosion going off every few minutes. I can honestly say that I have never slept worse than that night – taking into account that I spent the following night sleeping on the floor of a train station.
The Next Day
At some point the next day after waking up from an exceptionally loud door bang, I decided to quit trying to sleep and get some food. I had a sandwich packed in my bag so ate that and followed it with a can of warm beer. I’m pretty sure eating or drinking in that area is prohibited in that area but at this point all rules and regulations were out the window. I spent the next few hours watching movies on my laptop, then tablet. As each battery quickly depleted, I finally realized why people carry power banks with them. There wasn’t a plug point in sight in the deck seated area.
If you’re traveling long distances, check out these tips on things to do before your trip!
It’s not all doom and gloom. You have to move past bad experiences and look to create better one’s. Once my laptop and tablet died, I headed up to get a bit of sun. The upper deck was quite busy at this point. Lots of families were seated and the many tables surrounding the bar – eating, drinking and having a good time.
There was little paddling pool close to the bar area but it had no water in it. It would really only have been useful for toddlers, so no big loss on my part. I spent a bit of time along the side of the boat where it was quieter and enjoyed the sounds the water caressing the side of the ferry as we sped along.
Besides the bar area, the ferry was very lacking in chairs. I read about some deck chairs somewhere but I couldn’t spot any. For a ferry that size and with that many people on-board, they really should have more seats available along the rest of the ship.
I did, however, find that the best place to hang out was at the rear of the ferry. From here there were a couple levels going down that each had a small bench on either end. When you’re staring at open sea in every direction, watching the waves being created by the propellers at the back of the ferry becomes a lot more exciting.
I sat with some music playing from my phone (my last surviving gadget) and watched the newly-created waves dance off the back of the ferry. It was a nice, sunny day out so I was soon joined by a few others. Although the sun was out, it still wasn’t possible to walk the decks without a jacket. The wind was quite strong as well – as expected.
We proceeded to Porto Torres where we stopped for a couple hours. Unless you’re arriving or departing, you cannot leave the ferry during this time.
After hours of looking at the sea, it was nice to have a different view. More people gathered around the back of boat to look at the shore and I was lucky enough to spot a ship with Batman and Joker painted across its side.
Not much else happened after we left Porto Torres. The ferry sped along and we eventually reached our destination. As the ferry was delayed by 2 hours, I expected us to arrive 2 hours later at Civitavecchia. But due to the extra delayed departure and probably other factors as well, we reached Civitavecchia at the end of the day, close to midnight.
At this point I had missed every train going from Civitavecchia to Rome and would be stranded for the night. I headed over to the reception desk for ideas but they had no ideas.
Upon departing the ferry, there’s a bus parked immediately outside the ramp that will shuttle you out of the port and into the city (not to the train station). There are no markings on the shuttle bus to inform you of this but luckily another bloke getting on waved me over. There is no charge for this service – just throw you bags on and wait for the bus to stop.
I wish I could recall where the bus stopped so I could add a map on how to get to Civitavecchia train station but my memory has failed me. I followed some other tourists who asked directions to locals in Italians. This eventually led me to the train station.
Recommendation: I’d recommend downloading a Google local map of Civitavecchia to your phone before arriving. You can learn how to do that here.
Grimaldi Lines Review: Final Words
So, would I recommend traveling from Barcelona to Italy (Civitavecchia)?
My experience was subpar. I didn’t have to fly and I got to try out a different way of traveling which was interesting. I would have enjoyed myself more if the staff gave a damn.
Let’s break it down this way. If you book a cabin and there are few or no delays – I think this could be a decent way to travel. The experience is designed around having more people around to share the experience with.
As a solo traveler on a budget, I would think twice. If you don’t mind “sleeping” in a deck chair, never knowing when someone else will come to claim it, go for it. It can be cheaper than flying and prices vary throughout the year.
If you need a peaceful nights sleep and want a little more piece of mind, I’d recommend looking at traveling by plane or rail. I’d recommend Interrail for European residents and Eurail for non-European residents, if you’re planning to visit multiple countries. For cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner for a quick comparison between different airlines.
Best of luck on your travels 🙂