Another option which is now increasingly possible is to arrive by ship; with the completion of new docks, train-ferry services were introduced in 1999 from Varna (Bulgaria) and Ilichevsk (Ukraine) to Batumi and Poti, also carrying cars, trucks and passengers. The route from Ilichevsk in Ukraine to Batumi is served by the Greifswald, a large and comfortable ferry; built in Germany in 1988, it carries trucks and railway wagons and has a restaurant, non-smoking lounge, playroom and conference room as well as a swimming pool and sauna. Leaving roughly weekly (check in at the office of Euro-Asian Transport Company by the ferry terminal entrance), it takes around 40 hours to Batumi, returning in principle on the following evening, although this can be delayed until noon on the next day. Tickets can be booked through Ukrferry-Tour in Odessa (+380 482 347663, 348296; [email protected]; www.ukrferry.com). A two-bed cabin costs from US$150 per passenger, including three meals; a car costs US$375.
Ferries run from Sochi (in Russia, near the border with Abkhazia) to Batumi but at the present time non-CIS passport holders are not allowed use this service. Those wishing to reach Batumi from Sochi need first to go to Trabzon in Turkey and then enter Georgia by land from there. There are also weekly ferries from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Poti (www.intershipping.net) and an occasional service from Istanbul (and perhaps soon Trabzon) in Turkey to Batumi. These are all a bit haphazard, so you'll probably have to see what's available at the time; contact Blasco (Black Sea Shipping Company; 212 252 4600) or Bumerang Travel (2I2 215 7373), both in Istanbul.