I'm currently researching a trip where we aim to island hop as much as possible. We're going to fly out to our destination and I feel bad enough about that but I suppose it's okay as I haven't been on a long haul flight since 2006.
Initially, the plan was to travel around Taiwan and Okinawa but the shipping service has been cancelled as of 2008 (officially the firm went bankrupt but I know that Japan and Taiwan have border disputes round there and that fishing boats sometimes go missing in the area)
Next plan was to go to Borneo from Malaysia and guess what, there's no boat route between these two places (there is however, a route from Java in Indonesia to the Indonesian part of Borneo and from there you can crposs over into Malaysian Borneo which is a bit like saying that you can't go from England to Northern Ireland by boat but you can catch a boat from the south of France to to west coast of Ireland)
There are also a few routes I travelled when I was younger that no longer exist and I feel that in this age of global warming, it's completely ridiculous to insist so much on air travel.
I have often studied the ferry schedules of Indonesia and dreamed about some of those trips. Since there are so many islands and such a big population, the boats are everywhere.
However, I have only taken the ferry from Java to Bali twice, and that is a very short trip. Even though the trip was always around 2 a.m. I always left the bus down below and stayed up on the deck during the crossing, because I have seen too many news reports about ferries sinking and 500 passengers drowning in those seas.
The Japan-Taiwan ferry is something to do with coral reefs round there that are quite far off the coast of the islands (Okinawa and Taiwan being part of the same range...do we say a range of islands???) and both countries are fighting over them because of the massive increase in maritime territory covered by ioncluding these reefs in the surface area of one of these countries.
I'd agree with you re the Taiwan/Japan ferry but down south in Borneo I think it's just commercial thinking. Everybody flies since tickets can be had for 5USD from Air Asia and the trip just takes 2 hours?
There are a couple of domestic ferries connecting Kuching to towns up the rivers in Sarawak and also connecting Brunei to Kota Kinabalu via Labuan.
I love ferries. If they didn't overstuff the damn things, then maybe they wouldn't be such a problem. The ferry system that traverses the Bosphorus is particularly enjoyable -- you can sit outside, feel the wind and spray on your face, and watch all the traffic passing through the strait. It doesn't hurt that it costs roughly .25 cents. Compare that to the ferry between Oakland-Alameda & San Francisco: that costs $7.25 one-way.
If there's anything as exciting as seeing the Golden Horn (or Venice) on the horizon, I don't know. But then, I love port cities so I could be biased.
On a related note, there used to be a daily ferry operating between New Orleans and Havana. Not many people seem to remember, and it ran right up until the embargo. I'd love to see it return.