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Sebeco back in service, and the combined high season timetable

Sebeco back in service, and the combined high season timetable

Sebeco re-entered service yesterday after the crack in the hull had been repaired. Stories I’m hearing from passengers and from sources on Symi suggest that the cause of the crack may not be quite what the Rodiaki newspaper claimed. Let’s see what the Coastguard investigation discovers.

Here is the updated combined ferry schedule up to the 9th of September. Before anyone asks, no, I don’t know what the timetable is for the second half of September or for October. I’ve a pretty good idea, because Blue Star and Dodekanisos Seaways have released their timings, but ANES has not, so we don’t know if Sebeco will be running or not, and if she is, when. This is what the times for 10th to 30th September will look like if no Sebeco.

 

The photo is by H Rodiaki, the Rhodes based newspaper & website.

Sebeco part 5

Sebeco part 5

What a drawn out saga this is! Yesterday Sebeco left the harbour close to the shipyard she was built in, crossed the Aegean and arrived first of all at Panormitis, to be blessed, and then Yialos. She moored overnight at the location ANES always used in the past, by the bus terminus.

This morning she left Yialos about 15 minutes late, probably due to ceremonies, and arrived in Rhodes at the Tourist Port quay, at the very landward end, which as a shallow-draught vessel is possible. For those who aren’t sure precisely where this is, this is the quay in between Kolonna and Akandia that is used by ferries to Turkey and by the vast cruise ships (though they need to dock further along or run aground). Presumably this is where they intend to depart from as well, but the 10:00 departure is now 35 minutes late (more ceremonies, perhaps) and still hasn’t left.Update – I’m informed that the ship met some rocks while entering harbour and is now out of service for repairs until further notice.Later still update! The Rodiaki newspaper reports that Sebeco arrived safely, and the damage was actually caused while about to depart for Symi when a yacht “scratched” Sebeco, which in turn caused her to collide with the quayside. There are dents and scratches at the bow and on one side.

Sebeco moored at Tourist Port, Rhodes, after damage. Photo copyright Rodiaki.

At this location there is an octagonal wooden building that Sea Dreams has been using as a ticket office and the suggestion is that ANES will share the building for on the spot sales and collections of tickets booked on line. They have always had an office in Australias Street, but this has been more administrative than a sales point, even when they managed to operate 4 ships between Rhodes and Symi in the “good old days”.

Sebeco part 4 – on the move

Sebeco part 4 – on the move

Looks like tomorrow really is the day!

Sebeco is currently passing Syros at 20 knots on her way to Symi from the shipyard.

And while we now have:

a timetable for the next 8 weeks; online booking and the fares;

we STILL don’t know definitely the departure point in Rhodes, and where in Rhodes people are supposed to exchange online booking confirmations for actual tickets.

Sebeco Part 3 – at last the timetable and a start date.

Sebeco Part 3 – at last the timetable and a start date.

After successful sea trials on 3 July, and hopefully tidying up all the paperwork, ANES released the timetable for Sebeco for the period 11 July to 9 September today. It will be the same every day:

Dep.Port Departs Est.Duration Arrives Arr.Port
Symi 08:00 1 Hr 09:00 Rhodes
Rhodes 10:00 1 Hr 11:00 Symi
Symi 14:30 30 Min 15:00 Panormitis
Panormitis 16:00 30 Min 16:30 Symi
Symi 16:45 1 Hr 17:45 Rhodes
Rhodes 18:30 1 Hr 19:30 Symi

As you can see, there’s an evening sailing from Rhodes every day, and a morning sailing from Symi to Rhodes every day, along with a set of sailings in between targetting daytrippers but available to anyone.

On line booking is not yet available, but may well pop up any time soon since ANES does have online booking for all its other services. Updated 9 July – it’s available now at the ANES website

What don’t we know yet (but will hopefully find out in the next 24 hours)?

Fares   Updated 9 July – €13 one way Symi -Rhodes or Rhodes – Symi

Departure point in Rhodes

Departure point in Symi (I’m guessing near the bus terminus)

I’ve seen photos and video, and she appears to have a combination of airline-style seats in two air-conditioned cabin areas, plus open deck seating. Top speed looks good – will need to be given the timetable.

And no, I don’t know what happens from 10 September onwards, let’s get the service started first!

So tonight looks like the last Symi II Sunday evening sailing of the year.

 

Tripsta

Tripsta

Have you booked flights through the online bookers Tripsta or AirTickets? If you have, there is a potentially serious problem. Tripsta/AirTickets is a Greek-based company, but sold flights worldwide through the internet. They seem to have been very good at getting people to pay them for tickets, but much less effective at paying the airlines for them. As a result they ran up an airline debt of €59 million for May 2018 alone, with no funds available to meet this. They agreed a settlement plan with the airline trade association IATA, which would have meant the outstanding balance was paid off by 2020, and in the meantime new bookings were only allowed against company or customers own credit cards, so no further debt could accrue.

Now Tripsta/Air Tickets has claimed that its main supplier, the Global Distribution System (GDS) company Travelport has pulled the plug on it. Most Tripsta staff have been fired, and a subsidiary Travelplanet24 is now only selling ferry tickets.

Greek travel agency news and information service GTP reports on the issue here and here

Despite public statements that some staff have been retained to deal with refunds and rebookings, internet discussion groups are full of passengers complaining that they cannot contact the company at all.

What’s my advice?

  1. If you have a confirmed booking though one of the Tripsta companies, check that it still exists and that you can access it through the airline website. Keep checking every day or so as sometimes what appears to be a firm booking is actually an unconfirmed reservation, and at some point the airline computer system will come along and clean up unconfirmed reservations. Check in on line at the earliest time possible.
  2. Don’t even think about trying to change or cancel a confirmed booking made through this company. Just live with what you’ve got, or write it off to experience, unless the airline is willing to do this directly for you (and many will not be).
  3. If you have paid Tripsta for a flight and it isn’t confirmed, contact your credit card company or bank and ask them to charge the amount back. This may or may not be possible depending on regulations in your country of residence. You’ve little or no chance of getting anything back from Tripsta.
  4. Don’t make ferry bookings through Travelplanet24 – there’s no guarantee that this subsidiary will be able to meet its obligations to ferry companies – though I’m not saying that it can’t, why take the risk?
  5. Don’t make flight or ferry bookings through online resellers at all in future. Book directly with the airline or shipping line if you want to do it on line, or if you need agency services, call in and talk to a real live travel agent. That way you log out or walk out with a confirmed booking, terms and conditions are explained, you don’t end up paying for things you don’t want, or not getting things you do want (like baggage allowances, or seat reservations).
  6. If you think online resellers are cheaper – think again. Tripsta didn’t buy blocks of seats cheaply from airlines and resell them to eager travellers, they waited until someone had spotted a price on their website and asked them to make a booking, and then logged on to Travelport to make the actual booking. Often the price on Tripsta’s website was out of date, or didn’t include hold baggage, and the customer ended up paying more than they expected, indeed more than they would have paid if they’d gone direct in the first place.
  7. If you still insist on ignoring this advice, at least look to see the registered address of the online reseller and work out how you could get redress if things go wrong, before using them. Some countries have historically poor consumer protection and/or financial conduct rules. On this front, exactly the same situation occurred in 2014 when another Greek online ticket seller, airfasttickets, failed to meet its obligations due to lack of liquidity.
Sebeco Part Two

Sebeco Part Two

The Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy has granted Sebeco a ferry route licence for Rhodes-Symi for the period 8 July to 30 September, for daily service. What we have yet to discover is:

What’s the timetable?

What’s the fare?

Where in Rhodes will it leave from?

Will the ferry be ready to enter service on 8 July?

How many people does the ferry hold?

Thanks to fellow-blogger Adriana we know that the ticket agent for this ferry on Symi will be Lakis Travel.

I’ve been asked about the technical specification of Sebeco, and all I can say is that I have absolutely no idea, and ANES have yet to release any details at all, which is surprising, you’d expect a series of information releases to gain press coverage and build up interest.

 

Sebeco?

Sebeco?

The new high-speed craft for ANES has been photographed actually in the water, and carrying the name Sebeco.

Greek shipping enthusiasts say the name is derived from a type of light, fast and manoeuvrable vessel used by pirates in the Aegean in past centuries. However, I hope ANES are not expecting to stop and seize ships at sea this summer.

Now according to leaks (oh, not a great choice of phrase when discussing boats, sorry) the Sebeco, if this is her final name, would enter service this weekend. As far as I can tell, she has yet to complete sea trials and her safety inspection so this seems highly unlikely.

The advisory commission on coastal shipping has approved both Sebeco and Symi II to operate as scheduled ferries on the Rhodes to Symi route, but final approval from the Minister has yet to be announced, nor has a timetable been published.

Symi II did indeed perform the Sunday evening extra trip from Rhodes to Symi and back last week, but there’s no available information about whether it will operate again on Sunday 1 July. In the meantime she is keeping busy on her traditional Rhodes-Symi-Panormitis-Rhodes day trip duties every day.

Only on a Sunday

Only on a Sunday

The Symi II has now received a licence to operate as a ferry between Rhodes and Symi, but only on a Sunday evening! The actual ship has always met ferry standards and was used as a ferry in the Sporades last year, it is the route licence that was missing. As the Sunday evening (19:30 Rhodes to Symi, 21:30 Symi to Rhodes) sailings don’t compete with any other operator, they’ve been approved without any issues, so far just for this weekend. Note that the Symi to Rhodes departure time is 45 minutes earlier than when the  bigger “Symi” operated the route earlier this month. This is because the Symi II is purely a passenger ferry so no time is needed to unload vehicles, and it has always been quicker at unloading passengers than the “Symi” because the main saloon area is level with the exit ramp – no stairs involved.

I’m in the process of updating the ferry summaries and these will appear as an update later today.

Don’t panic if you can’t book this ferry on line with Sea Dreams yet, they seem a little slow at changing their website, but the sailings are loaded into the national booking system used by travel agents.

UPDATE – Symi II operated the Sunday evening sailing again on 1 July – still no on line booking, no website information, no visibility on agency sites. Unless someone is paying them to run this service, it won’t last long as it is clearly aimed at foreign tourists coming to Symi, who won’t know it exists.

Symi Beaches and how to get there

Symi Beaches and how to get there

Here’s a brief guide to beaches on Symi and the transport options you have to get there:

Within Yialos:

Nos/Paradise – fine shingle – taverna, beach-bar, sunbeds – easy walk around the north side of the harbour

Petalo – concrete – taverna and sunbeds – walk around south side of the harbour.

Then the slightly more distant ones:

Yiali – fine shingle, cantina for light refreshments. Walk around north side of harbour, then about 10 minutes walk beyond on coast road. May be able to get a lift on tourist train.

Nimborio – mostly concrete – taverna, sunbeds. Extended this year. Attractive village atmosphere. Waterbus from Yialos, walk along coast road, or more strenuous walk over the ridge from the back of the square in Yialos. Path is surfaced.

Pedi – fine shingle – two separate serviced areas each with sunbeds and taverna. Shops. Lots of small boats to look at. Symi Bus every hour from Yialos and Chorio. Also walkable from Chorio.

Agia Marina – concrete – sunbeds, beachbar and rather upmarket taverna. Waterbuses from both Yialos and Pedi. There’s a roughish track from Pedi for walkers.

Agia Nikolaos – sand and fine shingle – sunbeds, beachbar and taverna. Waterbuses from both Yialos and Pedi. Much improved track from Pedi for walkers.

Agios Yiorgos – shingle. No facilities. Cliff bound – access by sea only, with waterbuses from Yialos and Pedi

Nanou – medium shingle – sunbeds and taverna. Waterbuses from Yialos and Pedi, path suitable only for fit and experienced walkers.

Marathounda – large shingle – sunbeds and taverna specialising in locally grown organic food. Waterbus from Yialos. Driveable unsurfaced track from main Panormitis road, walkable from the road junction (catch the Panormitis bus to get there). Minibus excursions from Yialos/Chorio.

Toli – medium shingle – sunbeds and taverna. Theoretically has waterbus service from Yialos but sea conditions round the north end of the island often make this impossible. Road access (partly unsurfaced). Minibus excursions from Yialos/Chorio – transfer to truck for the unsurfaced bit.

Then there are the remote west coast beaches accessible only to hikers and passengers on the Round The Island boat excursions – Agios Emilianos; Maroni; Agios Vassilios. None of these have any beach facilities.

Finally comes the beach on Sesklia Island, large shingle, used as the barbeque stop on Round the Island boat excursions.

You’ll also find a few tiny coves accessible by scrambling down from the Yialos-Nimborio coast road,  a short stretch of sand at Panormitis Monastery, and a cove on Nimos Island. Panormitis has daily bus service from Yialos and Chorio, Nimos is rarely visited and requires a boat.

Ferry departure points

Ferry departure points

Thanks to Melanie for a reminder that this week Lakis Travel started operating services using the Symi Bus to connect the new “big ferry” quay with the Clock Tower and with Chorio and Pedi at times to suit the Blue Star 1 or 2 and the Nissos Chios. All these ferries use the new quayside, indeed the Blue Star 1 and 2 couldn’t possibly fit anywhere else.

Melanie says that passengers numbers on the new bus services were initially disappointing and I hope that Lakis persists for long enough to allow people travelling from elsewhere to Symi to find out that there is a bus connection off their ferries and use it.

The Dodekanisos Seaways ferries continue to use the Clock Tower as their departure point, and of course Sea Dreams don’t currently have a ferry service at all. For those who missed the news, the Symi has gone off to the Sporades for the summer, and the Symi II has returned to her home island instead, but as yet she has no ferry licence so can only carry day excursion passengers. She uses the same berth Symi used  by the bus terminal, which indeed was used by Symi II for many years. The Rhodes departure point of Symi II is not Akandia (because she doesn’t carry vehicles) but instead is at the landward end of the Tourist Port quay, just before the area used by ferries to Turkey. This saves Sea Dreams from staffing two separate ticket offices and makes provision of transfer coaches easier as they can be shared with the Marmaris excursions.