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Public Transportation Ferries to Sardinia

A Few Introductory Observations

1. There are five "ports of call" on Sardinia which have passenger car ferry service from the Italian mainland: Porto Torres (useful for Sassari and Alghero), Golfo Aranci, Olbia (these two useful for the Costa Smeralda and La Maddalena Archipelago), Arbatax, and Cagliari.

2. The MOST BEAUTIFUL entry port is Cagliari (making a morning arrival exceedingly worthwhile).

3. There are both overnight and (during the tourist season) daylight crossings to Golfo Aranci and Olbia. There are only overnight crossings to Porto Torres, Cagliari and Arbatax. The CHEAPEST transportation is to take "deck passage" ("passaggio ponte") on one of the daylight crossings.

4. The FASTEST crossings are: Piombino/Olbia 4 hrs. 30 mins. and Civitatacchia/Olbia (5 hrs.). These are both daylight crossings.

5. Schedules are extremely seasonal, and they peak during July and August, when there are as many as four daily ferries between Civitavecchia and Olbia and between Livorno and Olbia. During the winter, schedules are significantly reduced, and some crossings are suspended. Daily crossings continue nevertheless on Tirrenia (Porto Torres/Genova and Olbia/Civitavecchia), on Moby and Grimaldi (Livorno/Olbia), and on Corsica Ferries (Livorno/Golfo Aranci).

6. Solo travellers on overnight crossings wishing to save money should consider accepting an airline-type reclining seat instead of a cabin. The FIRST class recliners on the Tirrenia ships are supposed to be quite comfortable (second class recliners less so, resembling airline coach class). There is usually a steep supplement for the exclusive use of a cabin, although it is also usually possible to book a bunk in a quad cabin shared with strangers of the same gender. The ship operator websites have photos of the cabins and recliners offered. The cabins all have private facilities.

7. All ships have cafeteria and bar service, as well as at least one public lounge, often with satellite television reception. Most of the ships also have a formal restaurant with tablecloth service, a movie theatre, a shopping arcade, and other public facilities. Not all amenities and/or facilities are open during the winter months.

8. If you have limited time and/or don't like ferries, FLY to Sardinia from mainland Italy! You can fly to Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia. In some cases, you'll find low-cost flights for less than or around the same fare as a recliner on the ferry. And the flight will take under 60 minutes! However, in some cases, you may save money by booking "deck passage" on a daylight ferry.

9. Remember that these are FERRY SHIPS and not cruise ships! Even though some of the larger vessels are "luxurious" ferries, they are ferries nonetheless. Don't expect a cruise ship!

10. Most of the ferries are quite large and seaworthy. The largest are the twin Grimaldi ferries between Civitavecchia and Porto Torres, which displace 55,000 tons and are 738 feet in length (larger than WWII battleships and many transatlantic ships of the 1950s). The Tirrenia ferries (seven ships displace 36,000 tons or more and are 702 feet in length) carry up to 3000 passengers and 1000 automobiles.

11. Advance reservations for cabins on OVERNIGHT crossings are ESSENTIAL during the SUMMER, although almost never needed from mid-September through late May. During the winter, there are very few passengers on most of the ferries, which cater primarily to freight operators, big-rigs, and truck drivers.

12. Due to the financial crisis and lower passenger demand, the number of ferry crossings has declined significantly compared to five years ago. Only Tirrenia Lines operates year-round on all its routes, utilizing seven or eight ships. Moby, Grimaldi and Corsica Ferries run ferries year-round on select routes, while GNV does not operate during the winter.

The Crossings for each Port of Call

1. TO CAGLIARI (Tirrenia only, overnight, all year-round)
  • From Civitavecchia: (13 hrs.): THREE WEEKLY (winter) TO ONCE DAILY (twice weekly calling at Arbatax: 15 hrs)
  • From Napoli (13.5 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY
  • From Palermo (11.5 hrs.): ONCE WEEKLY
  • From Trapani (9.5 hrs.): SERVICE SUSPENDED
  • From Civitavecchia (5 to 7.5 hrs.): ONE to FOUR DAILY on Tirrenia and Grimaldi. Tirrenia operates year-round. Daylight crossings summer only.
  • From Livorno (6.5 to 9.5 hrs.): TWO to FOUR DAILY on Moby and Grimaldi, year-round. Daylight crossings during spring and summer.
  • From Piombino (4.5 to 8.5 hrs.): UP TO ONCE DAILY on Moby, spring and summer only (daylight and overnight).
  • From Genova (10 to 12 hrs.): THREE WEEKLY (winter) to TWO DAILY (summer) on Tirrenia and Moby. Tirrenia operates year-round. There are a few daylight crossings in summer only.

  • From Livorno (6.5 to 11 hrs.): ONE to TWO DAILY on Corsica Ferries year-round. Daylight crossings primarily in spring and summer.
  • From Civitavecchia (7 hrs.): TWO to FIVE WEEKLY on Grimaldi Lines, year-round. RETURN crossing is by daylight.
  • From Genova (10-11.5 hrs.): ONE to TWO DAILY on Tirrenia and Grandi Navi Veloci. Tirrenia operates year-round.

  • From Civitavecchia (10 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY, year-round on Tirrenia
  • From Genova (18 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY, peak summer only on Tirrenia

The Ferry Operators


NOTE: The summer-only daylight fast ferry between Fiumicino and Arbatax, operated by Tirrenia, was discontinued years ago.
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