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Winter Blue Star Ferries

Winter Blue Star Ferries

Blue Star have decided to continue the summer pattern of 3 ferries in each direction per week at least until after New Year. In the summer there were the now traditional calls on Wednesdays and Fridays each way, these continue, using the Blue Star Patmos, though times vary slightly. Also in summer one of the  Piraeus -Santorini-Kos-Rhodes ferries called in each direction on a Monday. As this service doesn’t run in winter, instead the third weekly set of Blue Star Patmos sailings will also call at Symi, southbound on Sundays,  northbound on Mondays.

For some unknown reason you can’t see this on the Blue Star website’s timetable page. It is visible on the online booking part though, and on various timetable sites such as www.gtp.gr.

It is excellent news that Blue Star are sticking with three sailings, as the government subsidy has only ever covered two per week, and the third must be at their own expense. The investment in the new harbour extension has paid off.

Note that the times/days of the week vary in the week before Christmas and the week after.

 

Winter ferries, Panormitis and after

Winter ferries, Panormitis and after

Dodekanisos Seaways have now released their timetable for the first half of the winter.  The period either side of the Panormitis Festival in early November sees the usual “how many times can three ships visit Panormitis in one day?” competition, and then things settle down to the standard calls on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays by Dodekanisos Pride. Friday and Sunday services continue to Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Lipsi and Patmos and return.

Saturday services go as far as Kos and Kalymnos, Monday boats visit Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Lipsi and Agathonisi.

Expect much the same between January and March, except that the Dodekanisos Express will take over at some
point.Edited to add – this timetable continues up to the end of March 2019. Periodically the ship used swaps between the Dodekanisos Express and the Pride to allow for annual maintenance, crew holidays etc. There will be minor variations around Christmas and the New Year due to public holidays etc.

Blue Star have an extra sailing from Piraeus to Kos, Symi, and Rhodes on Sunday 4 November (reaching Symi at 07:15 on Monday 5th) and returning from Rhodes on Monday 5th at 16:00. These use Nissos Rodos – note that there is no call at Santorini so Symi has possibly for the first time ever a sailing to Piraeus with only one stop.

The regular Wednesday and Friday boats will likely continue all winter, but the government is as usual being dilatory in approving contracts.

ANES have not said what if anything they will be doing after 31 October yet.

2018 bankrupt airline #3

2018 bankrupt airline #3

Well, there have been a lot more than that around the world, but Cobalt Air went bust last night. They were based in Cyprus and operated scheduled flights from there to several major European airports, including Athens, Heraklion, and Chania in Greece, and Frankfurt, London, Zurich, Manchester, Paris, and Copenhagen.

There are no arrangements to assist passengers so far. Claims on credit cards or travel insurance will be necessary.

Where’s my bag gone?

Where’s my bag gone?

Very occasionally people find themselves in the sad position of waiting in the baggage reclaim area at Rhodes Airport until the very last bag is loaded onto the belt by the baggage handlers, only to find their bag has not arrived.

Why does this happen, and what should you do if it happens to you?

The commonest reason is that it was never loaded on to your plane in the first place, and is either still at your starting point or has been loaded onto a plane to somewhere else by mistake. It is also possible that the Rhodes baggage handlers accidentally failed to unload your bag from the hold of the plane you arrived on, or it fell off the cart on its journey from plane to baggage reclaim area. Both these last are very rare,  and the extremely simple system for arriving baggage at Rhodes (one baggage reclaim area for all flights, just 4 reclaim belts) makes it highly unlikely that your bag has reached the reclaim area and you haven’t got it.

Now at the departure airport, you take your bag to a check-in or bag drop desk, or these days sometimes a machine. A long strip of paper is printed and stuck to the bag (called a bag tag), with a receipt for you. Look at the receipt. Does it have the correct code for your destination airport (RHO = Rhodes)? I once had my bag checked to HKG (Hong Kong) by mistake because that was where the previous traveller at the same desk was going. That meant the long strip of paper also said HKG, and so did the bar code printed on the bag tag. At most European airports, once the bag is tagged, it disappears off down a conveyor belt out of sight. This doesn’t happen yet at Rhodes itself though we’re promised it will within the next two to three years.

Once on the conveyor belt the bag is mixed in with all the other bags for all the other airlines using the same terminal, and first goes to central hold baggage scanning. Here the bag is x-rayed to check for bombs and other illegal items, and may be opened if something iffy shows up on the x-ray. Maybe your bag contains something that looks suspicious on an x-ray and it has been held back for manual inspection, causing it to miss the flight. If not the bag carries on along the conveyor system to the sorting area. Here bags are sorted either by humans looking at the destination airport code on the bag tag, or machines reading the bar code, and in either case the bag is directed onto another conveyor or chute to a holding area dedicated to your flight. Now humans can make mistakes, and machines can mis-read. Even more seriously, all those conveyor belts. scanners, and chutes sometimes tear off the bag tag. Then nobody knows where the bag is supposed to be going, which airline is in charge of it, and who owns it.

So you’ve arrived at Rhodes and your bag hasn’t. The first thing to do is to report this to the ground handling company that looks after your airline. There are three ground handling companies at Rhodes – Goldair, Skyserv, and Swissport. Which one to report to? A clue – their name will have been painted on the side of the stairs you used to get off the plane. Where’s their office? One is in the baggage reclaim area itself, the other two are in the check-in hall (desks 1 to 14 area). See the person on duty, report what has happened, describe your bag. They may already know about it if the bag has been left behind at your starting point but still has all its tags. Either way, get a Property Irregularity Report sheet and number from them.

Now you wait. If the bag was simply left behind, the baggage desk may well know when it will arrive, if you’re flying from an airport which has several flights a week by your airline to Rhodes, the bag could reach there within a day or so. If the desk staff don’t know when it is expected, they will give you details of the World Tracer website. Unidentified bags found at airports are entered into this, and a computer tries to match missing bags to unidentified ones. That’s why it is important to give as good a description of your bag as possible, and if possible put contact details in a side pocket or inside.Taking a photo using your  phone is a good idea too – some baggage desks can upload this.

Keep an eye on the World Tracer website. That’s where updates will appear as your bag is found and makes its way towards you. Ringing the airline or the airport is pointless until the bag is found.

 

Autumn Symi

Autumn Symi

Well, it seems to be autumn now, even on warm, sunny  Symi, so I’m back for my second fix of 2018.It is a lovely time to visit the island, things are gradually winding down but most places of tourist interest are still open, though the owners take each day as it comes to decide when/if they will close.

So in this post I’ll describe my journey to Symi, with lots more to come.

My regular 05:30 London Gatwick flight to Rhodes operated as scheduled but rather lightly loaded. For those interested, the plane actually belonged to Easyjet Europe (their Austrian hedge against being damaged by Brexit) but the crew were from the regular Gatwick base..

At Rhodes airport the rebuilding work was continuing, with attention being given to the arrivals area – two baggage reclaim belts were walled off  behind temporary partitions, so things in this area were rather crowded.

A trip to Rhodes Town on the island’s one and only bendy-bus followed, as I was in no hurry. That was because there were nearly 7 hours between plane arrival and ferry departure. I was trying out the Sebeco for the first time.

When departure time (18:30 on the day I was travelling) was getting closer I strolled along to the Tourist Port quay – that’s the one used by ferries to Turkey and by cruise liners). Tucked in near the landward end are two berths used by the Symi II and Sebeco. Opposite the mooring points is a hexagonal building. Each side is a separate ticket window for different ferry operations, mostly the Turkish services.

Ticket offices at Rhodes Tourist Port quay – Sebeco’s window is open, with people buying tickets.

The ticket office opens about an hour before each scheduled departure.

Eventually Sebeco appeared – late. However as an ambulance also appeared to collect a passenger who was being medically evacuated from Symi to Rhodes hospital, this is understandable. Once the regular passengers had got off, the ambulance crew transferred their patient, and a long hose was led on board from a waiting fuel tanker. Finally, refuelling completed, boarding took only seconds as there were just 8 passengers, and we were away 10 minutes late,through great curtains of spray as she tackled the rough seas at the north end of Rhodes Island. Don’t sit outside on the open upper deck on evening sailings unless you want a free seawater shower.

Inside there was ample room! The journey was somewhat bouncy, with much rattling from some of the cabin fittings, not a lot else to say as it was dark by then. Yialos was reached still late, but safe and sound.  My photo below shows a daylight arrival.

Sebeco in Symi

Note that as from 15 October the Sebeco’s timetable has altered and the short runs to Panormitis andback have stopped for the season. This enables the afternoon trip to Rhodes toleave at 14:30 and the evening boat I caught from Rhodes now leaves at 16:15 instead.

2018 bankrupt airlines #2 – Primera

2018 bankrupt airlines #2 – Primera

And the breaking news is – goodbye Primera Air as of tonight. They’d been a successful holiday charter flight operator operating from Scandanavia, and have taken bookings for scheduled flights between various Danish airports and Rhodes for dates up to the end of this month, which will now not happen. We don’t know yet what arrangements will be made for passengers in resort.

They’d successfully made the transition from charter to leisure scheduled airline, but ambition got the better of them and they started transatlantic flights, including from the UK. Poor choices of airport on both sides of the Atlantic, and late delivery of new aircraft (or rather the engines to power the planes – the aircraft themselves were sitting completed but engineless) used up their working capital.

I fear this may not be the last European airline to fail this autumn.

If it’s September, an airline will have gone bust.

If it’s September, an airline will have gone bust.

Regular readers will remember this feature from previous versions of my blog. This year’s first candidate is Small Planet Germany, which has filed for bankruptcy this week. Now German bankruptcy law allows companies to continue operating under court-approved supervision in these circumstances, so nobody will get stranded.

The Small Planet group is structured with separate companies based in several different countries, and there is no suggestion that any of the other group companies are insolvent.

At the same time there may be an element of inter-group trading (there usually is) which might adversely affect the rest of the group. I would make sure I had airline failure insurance were I to book a ticket with any Small Planet airline, until the dust settles.

Lets hope there are no more airlines on the list this year.

Shoulder-season starts

Shoulder-season starts

What the travel trade calls the shoulder season is now well under way for Symi, with a mainly older, Northern European, selection of tourists arriving, since all over Europe children are now back at school. Some say that September tourists are trying to avoid the extreme heat of July and August – not much hope this year, the temperature is well in the 30s. Cynics say that they hope to avoid holidaying children and teachers, or benefit from slightly lower airfares.

Apart from this visible change in clientele, things remain much the same. Blue Star Ferries have their autumn timetable in force, this has been known about for many months and there’s no effect on bookings, but the island’s favourite Blue Star Patmos is back from this week onwards on Wednesdays and Fridays, replacing the Nissos Chios.

For the poster who asked about the technical specification of Sebeco, the Greek shipping enthusiast website www.shipfriends.gr has produced this (auto-translated so not perfect):

The Sebeco boat has a total length of 35m and a total width of 7.6m. It has two main Cummins 1350hp propulsion engines each and has Max. Speed ​​25kn and service speed of 22kn, speeds that were stable and fully loaded. Its total unladen weight is 76t while the laden 109t has a 220-passenger protocol. The boat has two comfortable decks. The interior lounge is divided into the main and the prive and can accommodate 112 people in luxurious coach seats while plastic seats are placed on the outside of the boat and on the sun deck. Sebeco qualifies for short boat (80Nm) as it has 5 crew cabins for 12 people, 1 passenger cabin for 2 persons and 7 WCs with comfortable antechambers. It is equipped with state-of-the-art electronic, electrical and mechanical equipment. Characteristics that highlight it in the largest Greek shipbuilding craft made of GRP.

No doubt it is the light weight enabled by the glass-fibre construction that makes her so bouncy and seasickness is far from unknown. It isn’t unknown either for the open deck seats to be closed off on the evening sailings due to excessive spray coming aboard

 

Late summer and autumn ferries

Late summer and autumn ferries

Alert readers will have noticed that the High Season timetable for ferries effectively ends on 9 September. Today ANES has announced that their ferry Sebeco will continue in operation until 31 October – previously ending on 9 September.

The timetable up to 14 October is very much the same as today, except that journeys between Symi and Rhodes each way now take an hour and 10 minutes, in the light of experience. Departure times haven’t changed.

Between 15 and 31 October the timetable changes significantly. The morning departures are still at 08:00 from Symi and 10:00 from Rhodes, but the trip to Panormitis and back doesn’t happen and she leaves for Rhodes at 13:30, returning from Rhodes to Symi at 15:15. Sunday 28 October has a one-off timetable all its own.

Here is the combined ferry timetable for 10-30 September

and here for October