We were on our road trip from Estonia to Sicily and we were looking for different route alternatives. We narrowed down to two options- to drive all the way to southern Italy with our car, and then take a ferry to Messina, or to take a ferry from Livorno straight to Palermo. Since taking a ferry from Northern Italy straight to Sicily sounded really tempting, we decided to choose Grimaldi Lines overnight ferry from Livorno to Palermo. This way we didn’t have to drive all this way and were able to relax a bit more during the journey.
To be honest- after reading Grimaldi Lines reviews on Tripadvisor, we were a little sceptical. Most of the reviews were quite negative. But since there weren’t many reviews about our ship Zeus Palace, we weren’t sure how accurate the reviews are. So we decided to check out by ourselves, is it really that bad?
Booking tickets: which seat to choose and how much will the ticket cost?
Since it was an overnight trip, we were sure that we would take a cabin. Besides the fact that it is better to sleep in a bed, you can also leave your luggage into the cabin when you want to walk on the ferry.
You can choose between several cabin options. There are male or female berths in quadruple cabins, 2-berth cabins, 3-berth cabins and 4-berth cabins. Also, you can choose between outside and inside cabins. The outside cabin is with a window and inside cabin is without a window. All Grimaldi Lines cabins are equipped with clean linen and towels and a private bathroom.
There is also an option named “exclusive use outside/inside cabin (max 3-4 persons)” but we are not sure what is the difference between “2/3/4-berth outside cabin” and “exclusive use outside cabin”. We booked for ourselves “2-berth outside cabin- suitable for disabled” and got a private cabin, with 2 separate beds and little bigger bathroom.
If you are on a tighter budget, then it is possible to book only a deck ticket or a Pullmann’s seat ticket.
Deck ticket means that you don’t get a numbered seat and you can pick your chair freely from unoccupied ones. The other option is to take a chair in the outside deck. The most popular choice seemed to be taking a sunbed and climbing into your sleeping bag. This way you are probably more able to get some sleep. On the other hand, all sunbeds are made from plastic, so they are not overly comfortable.
Pullmann seats are numbered seats in a separate room. Chair backrest can be laid down a little bit, but not all the way. To be honest, we tried out those chairs and they weren’t very comfortable. But the plus side is, those chairs are in a separate room and you can have more privacy than with deck ticket.
We booked our Livorno-Palermo trip quite early and got an advanced booking discount of 20%. In total, we paid 176.70€ (without food). Without a 20% discount, the prices are the following: person 30€, car (over 4.5 meters) 45€, cabin with a window 81€.
If we would have driven all the way with our car, instead of taking a ferry, it would have been more expensive. There would have been approximately 1260 km driving, majority of it in highway, which would cost approximately 70-80€ for toll and approximately 100€ of diesel, plus ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina 39€ and also we have had to book one extra night with Airbnb in Italy or in Sicily, which had cost at least 40-50€. In total, we would have spent 249-269€ when we have chosen driving instead of Grimaldi Lines ferry. So in addition to comfort, we also saved over 70€.
Arrival to Livorno port and boarding
Our ferry was scheduled to depart from Livorno at 23:30 and to arrive in Palermo at 18:50. We had read several reviews in cases where Grimaldi Lines ferry from Livorno to Palermo was terribly late. But luckily our ferry was on time.
Based on the information of Grimaldi Lines webpage, their ferry departures from Darsena Toscana Est in Livorno. But when you are using google maps or Waze, then you actually should go to “Imbarco Grimaldi”. That’s the entrance where you should go.
Our arrival at the Darsena Toscana port was a little chaotic- it was really dark outside and we were not quite sure we should go to “Darsena Toscana Est” or to “Imbarco Grimaldi”. Once we finally arrived at the “Imbarco Grimaldi”, we were surrounded by lots of trucks and absolutely no signs visible.
Luckily we found some harbour worker to ask from. So once you will arrive at the port to “Imbarco Grimaldi” in Livorno, you should turn left to enter the fence and then go straight. Don’t turn right, this is where the trucks come off from the ferry and you can get to the middle of them. Once you have arrived at the right place, you should see some tents and some harbour workers who will guide you from there.
We arrived at the port quite early, little after 9 PM, and we prepared ourselves to wait for hours. Especially because we had previously read several reviews where people had to wait until 00:00 before they got to ferry. But approximately after 5 minutes of waiting, they already let us on to the ferry.
Once on the board, we were guided to deck 5 to get our cabin key. And after that, there were several crew members who showed us where to go. We were a little surprised about how organized everything was. Especially since it’s Italy 🙂 You don’t have to worry when you don’t speak Italian- all crew members spoke English quite well (at least those who we had contact).
Our 2-berth outside cabin
Our cabin was nothing special, but still, quite decant. Since it was also suitable for disabled people, it was probably a little larger than an average cabin. At least the bathroom was. The cabin was a little old, but quite clean. There were clean towels, shower gel, soap and of course sheets and blankets. A big plus was a full-sized mirror in the room.
The bathroom was not the prettiest but it fulfilled its purpose. Shower and toilet both worked well.
If you are deciding to take a cabin, then you should know, that you have to leave your room approximately 2 hours before arrival. That’s because they would have time to clean the rooms since they are starting a journey back to Livorno quite soon after docking. The problem is, that there aren’t any information brochures in the cabins. So you would hear it when it is already time to leave from your cabin. It would be good to have information brochures on cabins, where you could read information about this leaving your cabin earlier rule, meal times etc.
Onboard food options
Onboard food was one topic, where we were really struggling to find valid information. How many places there are and where to eat? What are the food options? When is the breakfast/lunch/dinner served? How much will a meal cost when not pre-booking it? How will we get our pre-booked meals? And so on. We try to answer all those questions we had unanswered, to make your life a little bit easier 🙂
Grimaldi Lines offers you a chance to buy your meals at the same time when booking ferry tickets. And meals should be cheaper when buying them ahead. There are 2 options- standard and business.
On the summer of 2019, the standard lunch and dinner cost both 10€ and business lunch and dinner cost both 15€. Breakfast was 3€, breakfast with 0.5 litres of bottled water cost 3.50€ and business breakfast was 5€.
We pre-booked breakfast and standard lunch and decided to take our own food for dinner. Especially because it was unclear for us on which day and when the pre-booked dinner is served.
If you have pre-booked some meals, then you are probably wondering if and where you will get the voucher for your meals. You won’t get it at all! You should take your cabin key with you to the dining area, and they will see it at the cash register that you have pre-booked meals and what’s included.
We are not quite sure when they started serving breakfast, but at least it was already served at 8:30 AM. Breakfast time ended at 10:00 AM. We pre-booked breakfast and it included one cup of coffee or tea, a cup of juice and a croissant or two pieces of bread with butter jam.
You can also buy additional eggs and bacon, yoghurt, bread and other food there. If you want to know the price of the food, then we suggest you check the prices before entering the food area. It’s because the price tags on the counter are quite confusing (like in many other places in Italy). The price list was on the wall next to the dining area.
We had pre-booked standard lunch, which includes a first course, a second course, 1 side dish, 1 bread, 1 seasonal fruit, a drink of ½ litre mineral water or national 33cl beer or 25cl wine or non-alcoholic drink. It would be useful to write down what you have paid for. We didn’t, and since there aren’t any information booklets in the Zeus Palace ferry, we had to ask it from the waiter at the dining area. In the end, we missed bread and fruit because we didn’t remember that they were also included. The food there was quite good. Nothing too special but the portions were big and the taste was also OK.
Dinner was served on the same evening you arrive on the ferry. Dinner service started already around 9 PM and ended little after departure. But probably it will depend on the time when the ferry arrives at the port.
There are 2 restaurants where you can eat on the board of Zeus Palace. One is a buffet and the other one is more like a restaurant. Plus there is a bar, where you can buy some drinks.
On the board of Grimaldi Lines Zeus Palace ferry, there is live music that you can enjoy at the bar, a pool, which was already closed in September, and a very small children’s playroom. So not too much to do. But you can listen to live music, dance, have a refreshing drink at the bar and then enjoy a romantic sunset (or sunrise) on a deck.
Was it as bad as we feared?
The short answer is: No! Although we have to admit that the ferry isn’t the newest one, meals are quite average and the onboard entertainment is also poor. So yes, they cannot compete with lots of other cruise ships. But if you will take this just as a way of transportation, then it is a comfortable way to get from Northern Italy to Sicily. We didn’t regret our choice and would definitely use Grimaldi Lines ferry from Livorno to Palermo again!5