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Month: May 2018

More Blue Stars, more same day journeys

More Blue Stars, more same day journeys

Symi Tours, the Blue Star Ferries main agent for Symi, has announced that from Monday 21 May onwards the giant ferry Blue Star 1 will call at Symi every Monday, using the new quay area. Well, she couldn’t use the old quays as she wouldn’t fit.
Blue Star 1 will leave Piraeus on Sunday evenings travelling overnight via Santorini and Kos, calling at Symi at 08:20 Monday on the way to Rhodes. She leaves Rhodes again at 16:00 Monday calling at Symi at around 17:15 before continuing to Kos, Santorini, and Piraeus.
At the time of writing these journeys have not yet appeared on Blue Star’s website or booking system, and the website also suggests that Piraeus-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes is operated by sister ship Blue Star 2. Hopefully this will be clarified during today.
Once bookings open, I’ll publish the updated combined ferry timetables, and also the updated Same Day to Symi table for those who really want to avoid spending the first night of their holiday in Rhodes.

The general rearrangement of ferries in Greece following the takeover of Hellenic Seaways by Attica Enterprises, the parent company of Blue Star Ferries, has started this weekend. The extra service to Symi on Mondays has been loaded into Blue Star’s on line booking system and will be operated by Blue Star 1 and Blue Star 2 on alternate weeks. Blue Stars 1 and 2 will together operate the fast overnight Piraeus-Rhodes services, and Superfast XII leaves the area this weekend.

Harbour extension officially opened

Harbour extension officially opened

Yesterday was a special day for Symi. Firstly, it was the 73rd anniversary of the surrender of German forces in the Dodecanese in 1945, signed on Symi, celebrated  by a parade of  local schoolchildren, organisations, and the local army garrison. Secondly, the extension of Yialos harbour into the district of Petalo beyond the petrol station was officially opened, after two years work.

This year the parade was graced by the presence of the President of Greece, resulting in a larger than usual turnout of senior military and police personnel, and he went on to perform the opening ceremony for the harbour works.

A special visit had been arranged of the Superfast XII, the largest ferry operating in the Dodecanese area, to demonstrate how the extension can cope with far larger vessels than the traditional “big ferry” berth at the Clock Tower. As a guide, Superfast XII is 200 metres long. The Blue Star Patmos, the regular twice weekly visitor to the clock tower berth, is 146 metres long and almost blocks the mouth of the traditional harbour.

I’ve  been asked whether all ferries will relocate to the new extension, and I think the answer is no. The main purposes of the work are: to attract more long-distance ferry calls by making Symi accessible to every size of ferry in Greece; to remove the traffic chaos from the narrow roads surrounding the existing harbour; and to attract calls from more cruise ships. The extension has plenty of room for side-loading cruise ships to moor, but only one ramped area that vehicle-carrying ferries could use.

At the moment, the north (Mavrovouni) side of the harbour becomes one way every Wednesday and Friday morning and evening, because the volume of traffic loading and unloading from the Blue Star Patmos makes two way traffic impossible. There isn’t enough roadway to properly marshal vehicles waiting to board. But this isn’t a problem with the Dodekanisos Express and Pride, which carry mainly people and a very few cars and bikes. The Symi and the Panagia Skiadeni again carry lots of people but also cars and trucks and remain in port for several hours so there is no conflict between vehicles disembarking and boarding.

So I’d expect the Blue Star Patmos to move to Petalo, plus a third Blue Star a week (either the Blue Star 2 or the Superfast XII which belongs to the same group), and everything else to stay put.

Another question is “how will articulated lorries turn left out of the port extension to go up the hill”? Here I think the answer is that they won’t. At the moment the Patmos carries several artic trailers to and from Symi on each trip. These are dragged on and off by a Symi-based tractor unit, parked on the quayside, and taken one by one round the harbour to the big bend  above the new extension. Here they are parked on the roadside and unloaded before being returned on the next ferry. The idea now is that trailers will be parked and unloaded by forklift in the extension area with the goods being distributed on smaller trucks as today. Artics rarely venture beyond the big bend anyway because some of the corners, and the junction with the Pedi road, are too tight for longer trailers.

The final question is “when does it really open”? Here I just don’t know. Really a ticket hut, basic shelter  for foot passengers, and a means of getting foot passengers to the main part  of Yialos are  still missing. Watch this space!

Superfast XII makes a special visit to Symi – 8 May 2018
Iris Jet

Iris Jet

Iris Jet at Kos. Photos by KosVoice

This high speed catamaran was built in France in 2000 (so claims that it is brand new are somewhat exaggerated).

Most unusually it is made from glass fibre reinforced plastic, and as a result has suffered longer periods out of service due to the usual bumps and scrapes than a metal shell would have done.

The Kos-based high speed craft is intended to do same-day excursions to islands that are otherwise just too far away from Kos to get worthwhile time there using conventional day excursion boats, and where the ferry timetables don’t work for day trips. In this, she’s replacing the hydrofoil that the Laumzis travel company used to operate. Among the possible destinations from Kos is Symi, probably combined with Rhodes, along with Leros, Lipsi, and Patmos on different days of the week. Actual excursions are expected to start from 1 June.

Now in days gone by, you could travel on the Laumzis hydrofoil as a one way passenger to or from Symi, if they had room, if there were enough passengers to justify running it, and if you knew which days it operated. I actually caught it once from Symi to Rhodes when I had missed the Symi I. But in those days the companies holding actual ferry licences weren’t especially combative, indeed they’ve all disappeared or relocated (Dodecanese Hydrofoils, DANE, GA Ferries, ANES). I suspect Dodekanisos Seaways and Blue Star will object strongly to anyone extra selling ferry-type tickets. They can’t object to day excursions. So far nobody has  applied for ferry route licences for Iris Jet, and given the time it takes to issue them, they are unlikely to get them for 1 June if they applied now.

My Laumzis journey was also before the great crack-down on ferries that brought about the national computerised booking system. You may ask what prevents someone buying a day excursion ticket and simply not showing up for the return journey. The answer of course is that there’s nothing to stop you doing this. However, the Coastguard/Port Police aren’t stupid. They supervise departures, and watch for people with baggage. Nobody takes a wheeled suitcase on a day trip, after all. Smallish backpacks on the other hand might pass un-noticed

There’s meant to be a trial trip to Symi in mid-May. Hopefully the additional day visitors she brings to Symi over the summer will help the island’s prosperity, but if you are looking for a ferry to/from Kos or Rhodes, well, we’ll see.

An update from Kos for travellers to/from Symi

An update from Kos for travellers to/from Symi

 

Kos Airport is due for complete reconstruction. How far this process has got I’m unsure as I’ve not been there this year. So this posting is based on 2017 airport information.
The airport is small, much too small for the volume of traffic that uses it. As a survival technique, the staff have developed a very slick baggage return system and travellers get their bags back surprisingly quickly. There’s no room in baggage reclaim for anything but the conveyor belts and a tiny customs area for non-EU flights, and as soon as you go through the exit door, you are standing outside the terminal.

From there, taxis are straight ahead, across the dropoff zone, and buses are to the left, using a very small bright orange bus shelter.
Taxis are reasonably plentiful, and in season there is a taxi controller on site, who can radio call for extra cars as needed. There are often more taxis parked round a corner out of sight, which move forward as necessary. Fare to Kos Town was €35-38 in 2017, depending on where you want to be dropped off. These taxis take up to 4 passengers.

Buses are not frequent, at least officially, the timetable shows up to 9 a day in absolute peak season. You’ll always see the current timetable at www.ktel-kos.gr and the single fare is €3. But there are two quirks of the Kos bus system that you need to be aware of. One is that the bus stop at the airport doesn’t just serve buses to Kos Town, but also those to Kardamena and Kefalos – so ask the driver! The other is that at busy periods, instead of increasing the frequency of the buses, several buses depart Kos Town on the same advertised departure time. At least one bus will follow the official route which is via Mastichari, others may go direct to the airport and points beyond via the main road to save time. These extra buses then need to return to Kos Town, and quite often they simply depart when ready, without waiting for one of the advertised times. So you’ll find not just the timetabled departures to Kos Town, but unscheduled extras as well. The buses take you to the Bus Station in Kleopatras Street, a few hundred metres inland from the harbour, far enough to be irritating if you have bags to carry.

Assuming your flight time gets you to Kos in time to catch one of the afternoon Dodekanisos Seaways sailings to Symi (check your date – these don’t go every day) or arrive very late on a Tuesday or Thursday so you can use the overnight Blue Star sailings which leave Kos in the early hours of Wednesdays and Fridays, you can go direct to the port. The ferries you want leave from a point alongside the castle. A taxi will take you directly there, if you are walking, simply walk up the left hand side of the castle, next to the harbour. Watch out for the uneven and cracked ground surfaces, caused by last year’s earthquake. You will pass the earthquake-damaged port terminal building, fenced off due to structural damage, then a set of temporary toilets, before coming to the replacement ticket hut. This is operated by Exas Travel, who are port agents for both Blue Star and Dodekanisos Seaways. You can purchase tickets for immediate travel, or collect tickets booked on line (bring your booking confirmation). Right next to the ticket hut is a cafe with a shaded outdoor seating area, and a large temporary building used as a waitig shelter for passengers. This has seating,and is airconditioned.
In fact these temporary facilities are rather better than the permanent ones they replace. The port terminal building had a cafe and toilets, there were ticket huts, but the waiting shelter was airconditioned only by having no sides…

For those who are island hopping or even countryhopping, ferries to and from Turkey now use facilities on the opposite (north) side of the harbour, by the Costa Palace Hotel. Walk along the harbour side keeping the Costa Palace hotel on your left, until you see a street on the left, the hotel frontage continues along this street. Follow it, and immediately before you arrive at the Achilleas Hotel on the right, also on the right is a car park entrance. Walk through it to reach the ticket booths for boats to Turkey, and Passport Control.

The Panagia Spiliani, which shuttles between Kos Town and Nissyros, and Kardamena and Nissyros, uses a mooring point directly outside the Costa Palace Hotel.

Kos’s fleet of day trip boats moor along the town side of the inner harbour. You’ll probably find that one of these will take you to Nissyros as well, but they only go if there are sufficient passengers, so can’t be relied on. Finally, there’s the new boy in town, the Iris Jet. On my visit to Kos yesterday, she was moored at the old hydrofoil pier, about 300 metres south of the castle, off the shore road.

Derelict Kos Sea Terminal building
Ticket office and cafe – Kos Port
Earthquake damage to Kos quayside
Symi Bus latest

Symi Bus latest

Lakis Travel have now added a later evening departure. 22:00 from Yialos, 22:30 from Pedi, as the timetable starts building up for summer

So buses leave Yialos every hour, on the hour, for Chorio and Pedi, (except 15:00) from 08:00 to 22:00, and leave Pedi every hour on the half hour,  for Chorio and Yialos (except 15:30) from 08:30 to 22:30. The fare continues to be €1.50 each way. Fare increased to €1.70 each way from 7 May 2018.

As the number of visitors increases, the mid-afternoon gap will get filled, and late evening journeys added.