Blue Star have started loading their timetables from February onwards. This is obviously a work in progress, as there are gaps in the operating dates and occasionally the same ferry appears in two different places at the same time. but hopefully the whole timetable will appear soon.
What appears likely is that the Blue Star Paros will disappear off the route through Symi after 13 January for annual overhaul, being replaced by the Blue Star Delos until the end of January. The Delos is the only ship Blue Star has that can fit into Symi Harbour but hasn’t yet done so, and local ship enthusiasts will no doubt be happy to see her. From February 1 everyone will be delighted by the return of the Blue Star Patmos fresh from the repair yard (if the work is finished on time), and she should stay on the route
at least until 22nd June all summer. Less popular will be the continuation of the winter times on Wednesday mornings allowing the ship to continue to Karpathos up to the end of May and for October. People may appreciate the Wednesday sailing from Rhodes to Symi being at 18:00 rather more! Between late June and the beginning of September the Wednesday morning sailing from Symi to Rhodes will be at 06:40, otherwise it is 05:45.
Then at the beginning of September, the Paros returns for a couple of months, still on the winter Wednesday times (but also appears to operate daily between Piraeus and Mykonos, so both timetables can’t be right).
We don’t yet know which ship will appear from 23 June, and whether the 3 ferries a week we saw in high season 2017 will reappear in 2018.
In high season 2017 Blue Star had three sailings a week in each direction through Symi. Apparently this was in part an experiment and in part due to the use of the Paros, which wouldn’t otherwise have been able to handle all the vehicle traffic on offer. Things return to the usual 2 sailings in each direction for summer 2018, but the Patmos has much greater vehicle carrying capacity.
The Rhodes-Piraeus fast services are very much up in the air at the moment. There are strong rumours of the return of Diagoras (which has spent the last year or so shuttling between Spain and Morocco) to cover the annual overhaul periods of Blue Star 1 and 2, and something (probably not Diagoras) will need to appear in the Dodecanese to replace Superfast XII which has been operating alongside Blue Star 2 for the last couple of years, but will leave the fleet if the merger with Hellenic Seaways goes ahead.
To my complete amazement, the winner of the “First Ferry Operator to Release Summer 2018 Symi Timetable” award is – Sea Dreams. In previous years we’ve been lucky to find out when they expected to start up for the summer a week before they actually did. But they’ve actually managed to announce their plans while it is still 2017!
Admittedly the service plan is very simple and very predictable. The ferry “Symi” will start operations on 9th April, sailing on Mondays. Fridays, and Sundays at 09:00 from Rhodes to Symi direct and at 14:35 from Symi to Rhodes via Panormitis.
From 1st May the full summer service begins, with daily sailings at the same times (except on Sundays when the ship departs Rhodes at 10:00 via Panormitis to Symi, returning at 17:30 direct to Rhodes. This service is planned to continue until 31st October.
Note, no early morning or evening extras, just the basic round trips.
One tip – don’t rush off and book because you simply must have a booking. No you don’t. Firstly there’s no guarantee the timetable will remain unchanged – it certainly changed in 2017, secondly there are other operators (Dodekanisos Seaways and Blue Star, and maybe more) whose times might suit you better once you know them, and thirdly none of the ferries to Symi ever gets remotely full until 3 weeks or so before travel, and often not until the day before, if then. Why make an interest free loan for many months to a ferry company?
Another casualty of the Air Berlin collapse. Niki, Air Berlin’s “leisure flight” subsidiary that in summer flew between Germany/Austria and Rhodes/Kos was going to be sold to Lufthansa. EU competition regulators ruled that having it owned by Lufthansa would concentrate flights in too few hands. As all the other bidders for Niki had withdrawn, the airline closed down this morning, leaving tourists stranded in various places, mostly the Canary Islands.
Nobody is stranded in Greece, of course, as there were no flights to Greece at this time of year. However if you had already booked with Niki for summer 2018, you ought to get your money back eventually (unless you made your booking before mid-August 2017, in which case you’re out of luck unless you can claim against your credit card company instead).
This is likely to lead to a seat shortage for summer 2018, as it will take time for other airlines to arrange slots, lease planes, and hire crews, and not all of this is likely to be in place in time, as opposed to the orderly transition proposed by Lufthansa. Strange that a ruling designed to increase competition and so keep fares down is likely to have the opposite effect.