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Author: Andy Ward

Summer Ferries – now the 2021 timetables are here.

Summer Ferries – now the 2021 timetables are here.

Panagia Skiadeni in 2019, she’ll look at lot less orange by the time she gets to Symi this year.

This week has seen the timetable announcements by SAOS Ferries and most importantly ANES Ferries for this summer. We now have times from now right through to late October, and I’ve started compiling the summary timetables. Basically for July, August and September there will be at least 3 ferries every day between Rhodes and Symi, and between Symi and Rhodes. On some days there will be 4 or even 5 sailings.

Here is the summary timetable for July August and September

I’m working on May, June and October and will add these to this post when they are ready.

For those who do not know Symi well, Blue Star use the new quay by the petrol station, SAOS and Dodekanisos Seaways use moorings at the Clock Tower, and ANES moor near the bus terminus. The Rhodes mooring points are shown in the summary timetables.

Summer getting closer

Summer getting closer

Dodekanisos Express in new livery. Photo Dodekanisos Seaways

Dodekanisos Seaways have now released their timetable through to late October and it is bookable up to late September. As predicted, once Panagia Skiadeni resumes service (now on 1 July), the two catamarans avoid Symi altogether. Until then there will be three catamaran sailings a week. Both have now been repainted in the new livery with more blue and white, and a lot less orange. Panagia Skiadeni is now away at Piraeus for annual overhaul and will be repainted at the same time.
July, August, and September will see a daily service between Rhodes and Symi, operating direct both ways, northbound in the morning, southbound in the evening, Panormitis will be visited in the slack time in the middle of the day on 5 days a week.

SAOS Ferries usual terrible communications policy continues. While we would expect Stavros to resume service soon with much the same timetable as the last two years (because they have a 3 year contract with the government), there is no indication as to when this might happen, nor does their online booking system work, even after 2 years. The ship itself is fine, though.

The word on the street is that ANES ferries has won the contract for daily morning departures from Symi with evening departures from Rhodes, and the Sebecco will reappear in Yialos soon to run them. I’m waiting for confirmation of this.

Finally, there’s Blue Star. They released their summer timetables months ago and online booking is possible. Much the same as in previous years, though watch out for odd gaps in the Monday sailings.

Once the ANES and SAOS details are firmed up, I’ll produce the usual combined timetable.
There seems little point in doing this for flights to Rhodes as short notice Covid-19 regulation changes in the many different countries served mean that the timetables would be obsolete by the time I’d done them. Maybe 2022?

Where are the summer ferries?

Where are the summer ferries?

What with COVID-19 and the usual government-induced confusion, we still don’t have any idea what services will operate through Symi in summer 2021. Blue Star have published their timetables and for most of the summer the usual Monday, Wednesday and Friday calls are maintained, using either Blue Star Patmos or Blue Star Chios. But during May the Monday sailings are missing, for no clear reason, maybe due to various ships in the fleet being due their visits to the drydock for annual inspection and overhaul.

The government has put a new route out to tender – Symi-Rhodes, 7 days a week, May to the end of September, with the boat overnighting in Symi (so there will be a morning sailing from Symi, and an evening sailing from Rhodes). Now this is very similar to the timetable Sebeco ran in 2019. Whether Sebeco or some other ANES vessel will be put forward for this tender remains to be seen. But in a typical retaliatory move, Dodekanisos Seaways have loaded a timetable for the period up to the end of September which has removed all of their catamarans from Symi between June and September, though Panagia Skiadeni will reappear doing Rhodes-Symi-Panormitis-Symi-Rhodes every day. Note that this timetable is not bookable, so they’ve plenty of time to alter it if they get concessions from somewhere, without having to make refunds.

Then there’s the Stavros. This should continue, maybe with tweaks to the timetable, as it is on a 3 year contract, and this is only year 2.

So, assuming the COVID level in Rhodes is brought back under control, and a combination of vaccinations or tests allow tourists to visit Symi safely, it should be possible to get there on some sort of ferry, but do not make plans that cannot be altered just yet.

Once we have the results of the tender, and Dodekanisos Seaways actually open their summer service for booking, I will produce the usual summary timetable.

An end to 2020

An end to 2020

I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers. 2020 has been a terrible year for so many, and a nightmare for travellers and transport operators.

People may wonder why there are no details of 2021 flights here yet – simply because I don’t believe that many of those flights advertised are actually going to operate, and if they do, that everyone who wants to fly will be allowed to do so. As more certainty, and more vaccinations, arrives, I’ll start listing the flights.

As far as ferries are concerned, about now is when the first details of summer sailings usually begin to appear. but not this time. Again when the details emerge you’ll see them here almost immediately. At the moment, with Greece in national lockdown, it is difficult for ferry companies to plan timetables and for government to grant approval.

So here’s to a successful summer season for Symi, and lots of happy virus free tourists.

SAOS in November

SAOS in November

In a very late addition to the winter ferries serving Symi, SAOS Ferries ship Stavros will continue on her October timetable until at least the end of November. This means the combined November timetable, even after the Panormitis celebrations are over, will be better than that operating during much of the tourist season (9 sailings each way a week on the Rhodes-Symi- Kos main line spread between 3 ferry companies, compared to 7 for part of the summer). Typically, SAOS have failed to update their website to show November sailings – they obviously don’t regard the website as any kind of selling tool, since although they advertise online booking on it, this has never been possible for Dodecanese routes.

Winter ferries

Winter ferries

The first details of the winter ferry services are beginning to appear. Dodekanisos Seaways have released timetables up to the end of the year. but these may be subject to alteration as they are only bookable up to 8 November. Basically the normal 4 sailings a week winter timetable reappears once the celebrations at Panormitis are over. This provides sailings on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays leaving Rhodes for Symi and points north in the morning, returning through Symi in late afternoon. The main change is where the sailings go to once north of Kos, all the usual places get a boat, but not necessarily on the same day they did last year.UPDATE: following the national lockdown in Greece, this service is reduced to just Saturdays and Mondays for the rest of the year, we don’t know what will happen in January yet.

Blue Star will continue with the timetable that is currently operating (calling at Symi on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in both directions)

No word yet on whether SAOS Ferries have a winter timetable, and if so, what it is. UPDATE – appears to be the same as the summer./autumn timetable, sailings from Rhodes to Symi and beyond on Mondays and Thursdays, southbound on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Watch out in the period either side of Christmas – there may be extra sailings, altered days of operation, etc, and no sailings on Christmas Day.

Symi – what’s happening?

Symi – what’s happening?

And the answer to the question in the post title is – not a lot. As is always the case at this time of year, tourist – related activity is slowing down and some places are packing up for the winter. Of course in this COVID year a few never opened, though most did. Adriana’s blog lists several places as closing for the winter this week, while some others (Taverna Dafni at Toli) intend to carry on longer if they can as they have local trade as well as tourists.
Today is the last 2020 trip of the Poseidon, and taxi-boats are unlikely to continue past the weekend, with the beaches at Nanou and Marathounda having already shut. But the bus services are still running to a late – season timetable. Confusingly neither of the regular buses are running the services though – The Yialos-Chorio-Pedi bus is currently a white Lakis Travel minibus, and the Yialos -Panormitis turquoise bus went off to Rhodes on Tuesday,with a silver Panormitis Travel minibus standing in for it.

Symi City Bus standin

Day trippers are getting fewer, and I haven’t seen the train running round the harbour. Correction it was running today. No shortage of taxis, yet though.
Dodekanisos Seaways have released their timetable for early November, covering the period of the Panormitis festival, the other ferry operators have not,though Blue Star, at least, probably won’t change much from this month. Rumour has it that the festival will be almost entirely religious this year,the market and fairground type activities being cut right back on public health grounds.

Symi at last

Symi at last

I finally reached Symi this year on Wednesday 7 October, just 5 months later than I had planned.Not the most straightforward journey – Easyjet flight from an almost deserted London Gatwick Airport into Rhodes.Plane arrived early, despite having 184 passengers on a 186 seat plane – no social distancing possibilities there!
Assuming you’re allowed to travel at all, you now need to complete an on-line Passenger Locator Form at least 24 hours before departure. You get a response from Greece at midnight Greek time, with a scannable QR code and a number. No code, no flight (unless your flight is overnight when there are other arrangements made) On arrival in Greece, the number is checked. People with numbers beginning with an even digit (2,4,6,or 8) go to baggage reclaim. An odd first digit (1,3,5.7.9) means you have to take a COVID test, at which point they scan the QR code,and then take a throat swab, after which you can carry on and collect your bags. Guess whose number began with 7! It didn’t cause any delay, my bag still wasn’t on the belt. Some things never change.
If you are tested, you are free to go on your way (using commonsense) for up to 24 hours. Then, people who tested positive are taken away to special quarantine centres for 14 days (at Greek government expense). If you hear nothing, you’re in the clear – and Greek track and trace actually works. Still an anxious 24 hours. So I was COVID-less and caught the Blue Star Patmos to Symi. I can’t claim to have deliberately planned the 24 hours in Rhodes as a break point to keep Symi COVID-free, but it did help.

September and October ferries

September and October ferries

We now have the timetables for sailings in September and October 2020. As expected September is much the same as August with just some minor tweaks in departure times for Blue Star and SAOS Ferries. After the first week in September Blue Star Chios is replaced by the Symi regular Blue Star Patmos.
Now October is frankly pretty sparse. If the Greek government is serious in wanting to extend the tourist season in order to make up for the earlier lost weeks, they will have to come up with some incentives to get the ferry companies to do better than this.
A new operator may appear – SYMI LINKS SHIPPING. They have a fast ferry, just overhauled and renamed Agia Sofia, and we are told it will be launched in mid-October. The trouble is that “launched” as translated from Greek, could mean either “put into the water” or “commence operations” . It certainly doesn’t mean launched in the sense of newbuilt as she was built in Sweden in 1992. It also could just be another daytrip boat – the King Saron’s season appears to end on 15 October, and there are various cross-shareholdings between Symi Links, Sea Dreams, Dodecanese Flying Dolphins and ANES. More will follow as I find out what is happening.

Update: it has been announced that Agia Sofia is a true ferry and will spend each night in Symi, she will also operate year round. All we need now is the timetable and the start date. I suspect that the operator is waiting for official approval, which may take longer than usual as the government minister concerned is self-isolating after coming into contact with a COVID-19 carrier.

September timetables

October timetables

Park and Rhodes

Park and Rhodes

The Rhodes-based newspaper Rodiaki has reported that the Municipality of Rhodes has started a park-and-ride service using parking space at Akandia with a shuttle bus taking people to Symi Square at the north end of the Old Town. This is the area you reach from the Mandraki area by crossing the stone bridge over the dry moat.

The bus will run between 9am and midnight, every 15 minutes. It occurs to me that it could be useful for people needing to get to Akandia for sailings departing late morning and afternoon/early evening. Unfortunately it doesn’t help those who stagger off the Blue Star at 6.20am, having arrived from Symi. It could help arriving passengers of the Stavros, though.
There is also an electric buggy service within the Old Town, using airport special assistance type vehicles.

Park and Ride bus at Akandia, photo by Rodiaki.