Confusion continues over ferries – Blue Star appear to be one ship short for the services they are committed to, and are using the ANEK Lines Prevelis as a stopgap. Unfortunately the Prevelis, although reasonable inside, is far too slow to operate the Piraeus-Kos-Rhodes routes that also serve Symi. Indeed she seems to be far too slow for all Blue Star’s routes and every time she is timetabled for a route, complaints flood in, and as it is election season, these are actually listened to.
So this week the Prevelis is “serving” Symi on Wednesday and Friday, and can be confidently expected to run several hours late even on the specially extended schedule. Next week the equivalent sailings will be made by Diagoras, an old favourite on the route but no spring chicken and not much faster. This week the Monday sailings were made by Nissos Rodos, pretty much on time, next week they should have been the Blue Galaxy, but this seems to have disappeared from the Dodecanese routes without immediate replacement. As a result of all the complaints, there are a pair of Tuesday sailings, made by Blue Star 2
Supposedly Blue Galaxy will make her delayed appearance on 12 June and continue with the Monday sailings thereafter, with Blue Star 2 on Tuesdays and Diagoras on Wednesdays and Fridays up to 23 June and then the Wednesday and Friday sailings will be in the safe hands of Blue Star Patmos, fast, modern, and purpose built for the route.
On the positive side, Dodekanisos Seaways are now allowed to run the Kalymnos-Samos tendered route they won and were then stopped from doing,so Panagia Skiadeni only appears on Saturdays and Sundays while the additional stops by Pride and Express will continue. Sebeco Lines’ Sebeco 1 and Sebeco 2 are running as advertised (except during recent bad weather), so is the King Saron of Sea Dreams. That only leaves SAOS Ferries Stavros. She has been making here regular four calls a week (Northbound on Mondays and Thursdays, Southbound on Tuesdays and Fridays) but even there confusion reigns. The online booking system of SAOS ferries doesn’t seem to show her operating on all the days that the online schedule shows, including missing out dates when the ferry has actually appeared in Symi.
Puzzled? I certainly am, but here is my best guess at June’s combined timetable
People planning to travel to or from Symi in summer 2023 should take note of several ferry service changes.
First of all, Sebeco has been cloned. The sister ship Sebeco 2 which for the last couple of years has been sailing between Kamiros Skala and Chalki will be operating on the Rhodes- Symi route alongside the original Sebeco, now known as Sebeco 1. As a result there will be more sailings than last year, at least 3 a day during the tourist season From May.
Secondly, Dodekanisos Seaways has won a temporary contract to operate a route from Kalymnos to Leros, Lipsi, Patmos, Agathonisi and Samos (Pythagorio). This is the route that Nissos Kalymnos sailed for many years, until she ran onto rocks at the year end. It is a subsidised route, and the Nissos Kalymnos has been excluded from the contract renewal, which is due to be announced later this month. Dodekanisos Seaways are using the Panagia Skiadeni on this route, which means she now only appears at Symi on Saturdays and Sundays, they seem to expect this will continue all summer – so they must have been given the tip they they will get the contract. As part compensation there are more calls by the Dodekanisos Express.
Thirdly, during the winter, the quayside at the new port area in Symi has been modified to allow the Stavros and the Panagia Skiadeni to load and unload vehicles there, just as Blue Star have been able to do all along with their bigger ships. This modification came into use at the beginning of April, and now the Stavros uses the new port rather than the Clock Tower. Panagia Skiadeni will also load and unload vehicles there, but has been also calling at the Clock Tower to deliver and collect passengers on journeys that terminate at Symi.
I’ve started building the combined ferry timetables, May’s is linked below and the other months will appear shortly. May 2023 Ferry Timetable
June 2023 Ferry Timetable
Already the timetables are out of date. SAOS Ferries ship Stavros will be out of service in weeks commencing 22 May and 29 May, apparently for annual safety inspection and dry docking. There is a legal dispute over the award of a contract to Dodekanisos Seaways’ Panagia Skiadeni, which has now been resolved, so the sailings shown in the summary timetables will operate as advertised, having been suspended in the early part of May. It also seems likely that Blue Star will change their ships round yet again, which also affects the timetables as they have different speeds. More very shortly.
On the October ferry timetable Monday mornings are extra busy in Yialos. First the Sebeco sneaks off to Rhodes at 07:45, then at 09:45 the Stavros appears to take her berth at the Clock Tower, loading and unloading before heading off to Kalymnos via Tilos, Nissyros and Kos at 10:00. In the meantime the Blue Star/Hellenic Seaways ship Ariadne appears over in the New Port area, arriving from Piraeus and leaving again for Rhodes 20 minutes later. As soon as the Stavros has gone, the Panagia Skiadeni needs to occupy the same space arriving at 10:00. Finally in this little burst of activity the King Saron appears from Rhodes at 10:15, and ties up by the bus terminus. Here are some views of the action.
The King Saron’s exact mooring point appears to vary by day of the week, probably depending on how many yachts and Rhodes daytrip boats are expected. She moor side-on so takes up far more space than her small size would suggest.
On a different topic, the yellow Symi Bus is unwell this week and until it recovers, a white Lakis Travel mini-coach is standing in, with occasional help from other Lakis Travel vehicles if the number of passengers is more than the white coach can take.
Finally, the gradual seasonal wind-down of the tourist infrastructure continues, the taxi boats are now reduced to just the 11:00 sailing from Yialos and the 16:00 sailings back from the beaches. Wet weather is forecast for Saturday which may cause more businesses to decide winter is here, but really, there are still lots and lots of bars, cafes, tavernas, shops etc, enough to keep anyone happy.
Here I am again on Sunny Symi. The island is gradually quietening down after a most successful summer, but there is still plenty of activity.
I arrived yesterday, Friday 8 October 2022)/ My flight into Rhodes arrived the previous evening and was actually 10 minutes early. In a splendid display of efficiency by Immigration, Baggage Handlers, Customs, and a friendly taxi driver, I was unpacking my bag in a room at the Plaza Hotel 1 hour after landing. This was helped because the Kremasti Bridge reconstruction which started 2 years ago was completed in July this year. The diversions have been removed, and the new, wider, bridge is available to traffic in both directions.
A reminder for those who still think they need to prebook a taxi from Rhodes Airport to Rhodes Town or to the ferry, no you don’t. Just as always, even at 11.00pm. there were still plenty of taxis available. The reverse direction can be different depending on which part of the port you arrive in.
Then in the morning the Sebeco was waiting at Kolonna for me to board her. I had wondered, because since she moors side on, she takes up the space both Dodekanisos Seaways catamarans fit into, so when with the October timetable there are nights when she stays in Rhodes, I thought there might be a conflict. In fact what happens is that if Sebeco is due to spend the night at Rhodes, she arrives at the Tourist Port and stays there overnight, shifting across to Kolonna in the morning. If she overnights in Symi, there’s no problem, except on Tuesday afternoons when she has to use the Tourist Port to depart back to Symi.
At last I am able to complete the tourist season ferry timetables because Sebeco Lines have decided to continue running, with reduced number of sailings, after the government contract period ends on 2 October. There will be a daily sailing from Rhodes to Symi each day, mid-morning, and a return each day mid-afternoon, timed to attract day trippers. On Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays there will be an early morning boat from Symi to Rhodes and on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays an early evening boat from Rhodes to Symi. All these will be charged at €17.00 one-way – the government subsidised fares on some sailings while the contract was in force, but for October the costs have to covered by the fares collected.
Then there’s the King Saron. which will continue to run using her new ferry licence to a Rhodes-based day-tripper style timetable every day, with additional midday and evening sailings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Now there are people who dislike the Sebeco because they find it too bouncy or they got wet by insisting on being “up top” in heavy seas, and have asked if the King Saron is a better alternative. Well, not really. she is just as bouncy/seasick inducing. On the plus side she is 15 minutes faster, on the minus side she costs €5.00 more! You really need to look at Dodekanisos Seaways, Blue Star or SAOS ferries to find more stable ships. Don’t forget that you can buy one-way tickets on two different ferry lines if you can’t find times on the same line that suit you for both outward and return journeys.
There are two changes to note about Symi’s ferry services (already).
Firstly, the Sebecco has now shifted departure point in Rhodes to Kolonna. It was always the intention to do this, and the website claimed all along that this was where she left from. However up to early June she was using the Tourist Port, until a ticket hut could be put in place at Kolonna and connected up to power, data and phone services. Indeed I used her in May and left from the Tourist Port, but now Kolonna is the place to go. One odd point – on Tuesday afternoons in June one the sailings (but not the morning ones) reverted to the Tourist Port. This was probably due to congestion in the port generally.
The other change is that the Stavros has returned to service after her annual dry-docking and inspection, using a changed timetable. Now she sails Rhodes-Symi-Tilos-Nissyros-Kos on Mondays and Wednesdays, continuing to Kalymnos on Mondays and Astypalea on Wednesdays. In the reverse direction she operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I’m sure she will continue to operate twice a week in each direction through September and October, the current timetable only goes up to 12 September and it would be unwise to assume that days of the week and times might not change again after that.
For the first time since 2019 I am on Symi in May. I had forgotten just how good the island is in this month. Very green still – the winter was wet, and even saw some snow for the first time in 20 years. Most of the bars, cafes, tavernas and shops are open, trying to make the most of this first “normal” tourist season in 3 years. Some have changed hands or rebranded of course. The beach tavernas aren’t open yet (except Nimborio, and Katsaras at Pedi) but most could open literally any day now – until they do there won’t be any taxi boats though these are ready at their moorings and being carefully polished up by the crews. The Poseidon has started her round the island trips, the Symi Bus is operating though not quite at full frequency yet.
Day trippers are arriving in quantity each day, mostly on the scheduled ferries and the Nikolaos X. More day boats should start running this week, and the ferries are back to normal- with Panagia Skiadeni doing one round trip each day, Sebeco two trips, Blue Star three times a week, and Stavros two times. What is different is that the Dodekanisos Seaways fast catamarans only call on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and then only northbound. They are providing a fast service from Rhodes to Symi on the three days that the Panagia Skiadeni goes via Panormitis.
First of all, many thanks to Hans Gsottbauer who managed to get hold of a draft timetable for Sebeco for 2022 and post it on social media. He also found that there is a new website which will show the timetable from next week (at the moment it only shows a picture of Yialos.
Assuming that the draft timetable is unaltered, there will be a daily service leaving Symi at 07:45 and 1530 for Rhodes and leaving Rhodes at 10:30 and 17:30 for Symi starting 27 April, up to 2 October. In high season there will be a third round trip in the middle of the day.
Once the definitive timetable appears, I’ll produce summary ferry times showing all operators, as we’re only otherwise waiting for SAOS Ferries, and they have only two sailings per week in each direction.
Some notes on booking:
There’s no need to book weeks or months in advance unless you feel making interest-free loans to Greek ferry companies is the best way to use your available funds. Greeks certainly don’t work this way. Now if you are travelling with a vehicle, it might be a good idea to book ahead as space can be limited, if you want a cabin on one of the overnight services to and from Athens/Piraeus the same applies. But just travelling locally in the Dodecanese (so Rhodes-Symi; Symi-Kos etc) you will be fine booking just a few days ahead, or even on the day itself (except in August when things can fill up fast). Blue Star and Dodekanisos Seaways have online booking systems and can accept tickets on mobile phones this year. We should know next week what Sebeco will do. Port ticket agents such as Symi Tours (support Symi businesses if you can) can also do online bookings. What I’d avoid is booking on line with companies who don’t operate ferries themselves and don’t have a physical office in any of the ports you’re using. Events of the past few years have shown that it can be difficult to get rebooked or refunded if you’re putting a third party between yourself and the ferry company, and that is one you can only contact by email and not by phone or in person. The official port agents on each island are well able to do this for you, as well as the ferry company itself.
Dodekanisos Seaways have a “frequent sailor” plan called Bonusways. You can join this on line before you book, and then use the membership number to get discounts right away. Blue Star have a slightly different system called Sea Smiles – here you buy the first ticket at the normal price, enter the details into a special kiosk onboard ship as you are sailing, and the kiosk issues a membership card you can use for discounts on future bookings. Both well worth joining, and you also accrue points that eventually entitle you to free travel – I got a free ticket to Kos from Dodekanisos Seaways in 2020.
Dodekanisos Seaways have published their summer 2022 timetable, and even opened bookings right up to the end of October. However with COVID-19 still behaving unpredictably there’s no guarantee the services will operate as advertised, they certainly didn’t in 2020 or 2021.
I’d avoid booking this early, if you are one of those who feel they absolutely must have every loose end tied up, book directly with Dodekanisos Seaways, or use a reputable travel agency (such as Symi Tours – other Symi-based agencies such as Lakis Travel or Panormitis Travel are available). If you choose an on-line only booking agency, and the timetable changes due to unforeseen circumstances, you may find difficulties in contacting them and getting your booking altered, and this or refunds may be a chargeable service.
Blue Star Ferries have their all-year-round Wednesday and Friday calls at Symi throughout the summer, and this increases between mid-June and mid-September with ships calling on Mondays and Tuesdays too. Booking advice is the same for Blue Star.
Once SAOS Ferries qnd ANES Ferries release their summer timetables I’ll be able to produce a summary timetable.