Palermo to Cagliari Overnight Car Ferry

Old Aug 25th, 2004, 03:53 PM
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Palermo to Cagliari Overnight Car Ferry

With all air service between Palermo and Cagliari having been discontinued, the Tirrenia Lines overnight car ferry remains the only DIRECT method of transportation between the capital cities of Sicily and Sardinia.

Service is once per week, YEAR-ROUND, as follows: from Cagliari on Fridays at 19:00; from Palermo on Saturdays at 17:00. Travel time in either direction is 13.5 hours. [There is also a separate weekly run between Cagliari and Trapani year-round].

Fares are seasonal and vary considerably by the type of accommodation purchased: the most expensive cabins range (depending upon the season) from Euro 54.75 to 73.34 (per person); second class seats from Euro 28.92 to 38.21; deck passage (no seat) from Euro 24.01 to 30.20. Port taxes of Euro 4.28 are extra.

The ferry ship "Emilia" is 148 metres (485 feet) in length, 22 metres (72 feet) in width, displaces 12,500 tons, carries 2,000 passengers and 610 automobiles at a speed of 19.5 knots. Built in 1979, it is one of the oldest ships in the Tirrenia fleet and is one of the few which has not been modernized.

There are approximately 340 twin and quad cabins, 605 second class seats, and 34 first class reclining seats. The 2nd class cabins classified as "copertino" should be avoided (they are well below the water line and below the garage).

The ship has a restaurant, a cafeteria, two snack bars, a cinema, a solarium, and two television lounges.

Taking the overnight ferry avoids the cost of one hotel night.
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 05:06 PM
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We did that Friday night trip a couple years ago from Cagliari to Palermo. Not a very pleasant ship. You're right when you say it hasn't been modernized since 1979 -- in fact, it almost looked like they hadn't cleaned it or repaired anything either. Our cabin with bunks reminded me of the cells at Alcatraz. The food was actually not bad in the regular small dining room of about 40 seats. We enjoyed eating with a home builder who travels back and forth each week from his office in Sardinia to his home in Sicily. That was the highlight of the trip. There was no place anywhere to sit in a lounge or bar as the ship was absolutely packed, particularly with people who had no cabins and camped out on their luggage everywhere. When we went to breakfast before arrival in the morning they were out of almost everything including croissants.

We also made the mistake of lining up early for the ferry and being one of the first cars in. That meant we were one of the last cars out -- an operation which took nearly two hours!

Incidentally, they really jammed the cars in and we were almost against another car. We noted several days later a well "rubbed" place on the right fender and are sure it was from the two cars rubbing in the motion of the ferry.

These posts are very informative GAC. Thank you for doing them!
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 07:43 AM
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CORRECTION to my original posting: my count was a bit off. Here are corrected numbers for the "Emilia" class unmodernized ship, which travels between Cagliari and Naples, Palermo, Trapani and Tunis:

Reclining first class seats: 34 in two small areas on one deck only. They are adjacent to the sick ward;

Reclining second class seats: 666 in six areas on two decks;

(Total seats: 700)

First and second class cabins: 215 on three decks (only first class have private w/c, some also a shower; second class only have a sink)

"Copertino" cabins: 125 on lowermost deck. These have no w/c and no sink. They are at the water line and below the garage. Avoid them!!

(Total twin and quad cabins: 340)

If you want to see a diagram of the interior of the ship, see:

www.navitirrenia.org (private site)

Official website: www.tirrenia.it
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 08:50 AM
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Tirrenia runs one service a week between Cagliari and Palermo, and one a week between Cagliari and Trapani. They're about the only Tirrenia routes that have no competition from private companies, because they are obviously not profitable. Without Tirrenia's subsidized services, there would be no ferries between Sardinia and Sicily. That is why the ship is very basic. However, the connections are very useful and fares are reasonable - even the most expensive cabins are good value for a tourist.
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 09:07 AM
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Geoff: you are absolutely correct. In fact, Tirrenia Lines reportedly tried to eliminate the runs earlier this year. Thankfully, they did not. Let's hope that the services are retained well into the future.

Also bear in mind that while the ship is overcrowded in summer, this is not the case in winter (when the route really becomes unprofitable!).

Nevertheless, the service is indispensable for residents of Sardinia and Sicily who need to travel to the other island, particularly for business or family reasons. Without the route, they would need to fly via Rome, which is expensive and geographically counterintuitive.

For tourists, the route is also a Godsend. It's been around for a good long time. Indeed, it was the very same route taken by D.H. Lawrence for his famous trip to Sardinia (from Palermo) in 1921!!!!!! (It's informative to read his description of Cagliari as seen from the top deck of the ferry ship arriving from Palermo).

Fodorites should also be aware that most of the other Tirrenia ships (serving other routes) have either been extensively modernized and updated, or are nearly brand-new, so the ship "Emilia" is NOT representative of the company!
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Old Feb 8th, 2005, 11:00 AM
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To be precise, the Tirrenia ferry "Emilia" is utilized only from late June to early September.

For the remainder of the year, the hybrid freighter-passenger ferry "Toscana" is used on the two crossings between Sicily and Sardinia.

What's the difference? "Toscana" was built in 1994 and modernized in 2004 to the same interior standards of Tirrenia's most modern ferries. The ship measures 545 feet in length and 72 feet in width, and carries 600 passengers at a speed of 20 knots. It has a cafeteria, bar and television lounge. The passenger facilities are located at the stern of the ship. The front of the ship has a huge open deck for cargo containers and vehicles.

"Toscana" has 100 twin and quad cabins, as well as second class reclining seats.

The layout of the ship is such that there is very limited pedestrian area. The cabins, however are very modern, and all have private facilities (not true on the "Emilia").

"Emilia" is used when these crossings tend to get overcrowded, especially in July and August. During the slow winter months, the less capacious ship is nevertheless more than adequate to accommodate the limited passenger traffic between the two Islands. Much of the rationale for maintaining the crossing in winter is for cargo traffic, as well as to offer cheap and direct transportation for local residents. The cheapest deck passage in low season is only 25 Euros, less still for legal residents of Sardinia.
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Old Jul 5th, 2005, 05:18 PM
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Two of us are planning to take the car ferry from Palermo to Cagliari on Sept 10-11 and return on Sept 17 or 18-- which day does it come back? is it only one day a week?
Does the "Toscana" start running Sept 10, or when does it start?

Can we take the "Emilia" over to Cagliari and return on the "Toscana"?

What is the charge on the Toscana for the same category cabin (twin/quad)? do all Toscana cabins have a private toilet as well as sink?
is there extra charge for the car, or is that included in the cabin price?

The cheapest cabin would be OK, just a place to sleep--what is the price diff between "quad" and "twin"?
I understand you can have a quad cabin to yourselves as two people traveling with "twin" tickets, but what if the ship is full? do they stick 2 strangers in that tiny quad room with you?

The "copertino" gives me pause. Does it have dampness? or smell bad dank/sewage smell, or what? Car exhaust fumes?noise?
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Old Jul 6th, 2005, 02:35 PM
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The fares and schedules are listed on www.tirrenia.it.
The ships have changed since last year - the EMILIA now runs on the Adriatic - but I don't know which ships are on the Sardinia-Sicily routes.
If two people book a two-berth cabin, they'll have a cabin to themselves; if they book two berths in four-berth cabins, they'll be sharing with people of the same sex (four men in a cabin or four women in a cabin).
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Old Jul 27th, 2005, 07:10 AM
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"Toscana" should return on the Sicily to Cagliari routes in early to mid September. Toscana's 100 cabins all have private facilities (the ferry was very recently modernized), whereas only first class cabins on the unmodernized "Emilia" have private facilities.

The "Copertino" cabins on Emilia should be avoided, because they are extremely small (like broom closets), dark, can be musty and/or smelly, and are located BELOW the garage. "Copertino" cabins are no longer permitted on more modern ferries.

A twin cabin with private facilities would be your best choice. If you opt for a quad, you'll likely be sharing with strangers, unless you pay a 50% premium for the two unoccupied bunks with exclusive occupancy.

Also consider purchasing instead a reclining seat, which will save you a lot of money. The 13 hour crossing is comparable to a Malpensa to LAX trasatlantic air crossing, and you can walk about the ship (including multiple visits to the bar and cafeteria areas) to help pass the time.

I saw the Toscana in Trapani harbor last May. It looked very good from the outside (although the silhouette of the ship may not impress some people, as it's a hybrid freighter/passenger ship).

Taking the ferry between Sicily and Sardinia can be a very rewarding experience, EXCEPT when the ship is overcrowded during July and August.
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Old Jul 27th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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The TOSCANA is, I believe, on the Palermo-Cagliari and Trapani-Cagliari routes all year, including the peak summer. The EMILIA and her sisters now run on the Adriatic.
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Old Jul 27th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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The official Tirrenia website does indeed reflect that the "Emilia" is operated on Adriatic routes. What the website does NOT reveal is that Tirrenia Lines sometimes shifts ships amongst its subsidiaries to deal with seasonal passenger demands.

During the peak of the summer season, the 600-passenger "Toscana" is woefully inadequate to meet passenger loads between Sicily and Cagliari (and between Cagliari and Naples). This is why one of the 2000-passenger "Strade Romane" older ferries (amongst which "Emilia") is substituted. The substitution is only for a few weeks, then the modernized "Toscana" is placed back in service on these routes.

It does not matter much wheter you sail on the "Toscana" or on the "Emilia". Fares are nearly identical, and sailing times remain the same.

The primary difference is that "Emilia" is a traditional ferry, whereas "Toscana" is a hybrid ship (with very little room for strolling).
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Old Jul 28th, 2005, 06:47 PM
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how do you get TrenItalia fares on their website?
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Old Jul 29th, 2005, 01:51 AM
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Lee - If using the English version of trenitalia.com, for fares click on the 'Buy' symbol in the right-hand column.

If using the Italian version, click on 'Acquista'

Hope this helps ...

Steve
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