Saturday, August 05, 2017

New ferry service now taking bookings (Updated)

The new Benchi Express which will serve the 'interior line' of La Gomera (Image: Fred. Olsen)
The reestablishment of a ferry service between the three southern ports of La Gomera will become reality on Monday August 21st 2017 when the new purpose-built vessel will make its first scheduled sailing and bookings can now be made on the Fred. Olsen ferry company website.
The brand new 90 ft ferry which will cover the so-called interior ferry line connecting the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, and San Sebastian de La Gomera was launched in Barcelona recently and has a capacity for 150 passengers on the lower deck with an additional 100 passengers on the mostly-open upper deck. The vessel which was baptised Benchi Express has a cafeteria, and storage space for travelling pets, bicycles and light motorbikes. New floating jetties are being installed in the three ports to facilitate passengers which will also make the ferry wheelchair accessible.
The new service will run three times daily in both directions starting from Valle Gran Rey. Departure times are as follows:

Valle Gran Rey:                          06:30 am, 12:30 pm,  5 pm

San Sebastian de La Gomera:     10:45 am, 3 pm,   9 pm

Playa de Santiago (to San Seb.): 07:20 am, 01:20 pm, 05:50 pm
Playa de Santiago (to V.G.R.):    11:30 am, 03:40 pm, 09:40 pm

The new service operates seven days a week, but this is the initial timetable and I expect some changes once the winter season begins, so always check times again before booking. Prices: The basic single online fare is 10 Euros (or € 8 if you're over 60) for the journey between San Sebastian de La Gomera and Valle Gran Rey and 8 Euros from/to Playa de Santiago which comes down to only € 2.50 and € 2 respectively if you are a resident of La Gomera, according to the Fred. Olsen booking site. 

+UPDATE: There seem to be the 'customary' delays and it appears that the new service will now be running from Sept. 10th 2017, if it doesn't suffer another 'retraso'. 
Please also note that in order to make a booking you'll have to select 'La Gomera' in both the 'Origin' and the 'Destination' windows on the Fred. Olsen website, which then will lead to two further selection windows appearing where you can choose between the three ports served by 'Benchi Express'. As of now tickets on this service must be bought separately from the tickets you'll need to get from/to Los Cristianos if you're going from/to  Tenerife. This is all a bit cumbersome and should be made more convenient for intending passengers.
The new ferry's AIS tracking is now functional and her movements can be followed when they have it switched on (MMSI 225987686). She was still undergoing sea trials in the second week of August near the port where she was built and launched, but should soon make her way down to the Canary Islands.
Reduced ticket prices when booking the new service from/to Los Cristianos on Tenerife:
You can now book tickets from Los Cristianos through to Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey and vice versa at a much reduced rate on the Fred. Olsen website. Before selecting the main journey between Tenerife and La Gomera, which will give you times and prices, click on one of the two blue bars below that (one for Playa de Santiago, the other for Valle Gran Rey), and new times and prices for the combination of the two ferry trips will appear. This will give you the combined journey at a bargain price.
+++UPDATE 3:
Damage to new ferry delays schedule
The new Benchi Express ferry which was to begin regular service from the 10th of September 2017 sustained 'minor damage to the hull' during berthing trials in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera earlier today.
The Fred. Olsen ferry company has stated that this will delay the begin of scheduled services, and the presentation of the new vessel in the other two ports it will serve, by 'several days, maximum one week' until repairs have been carried out. 
The new vessel will however be open to the public in the port of San Sebastian over the weekend
++++UPDATE 4:
The damage to the new Benchi Express vessel reported yesterday has now been repaired with the help of specialists from the shipyard that built the ferry. The Fred. Olsen ferry line has announced that the vessel will begin scheduled services on the interior ferry line between San Sebastion de La Gomera, Playa de Santiago, and Valle Gran Rey from the middle of next week and tickets are on sale now.
The introduction ceremony for the purpose-built ferry in Valle Gran Rey will now go ahead as planned on Saturday.
The viewing times when the vessel will be open to the public have however been changed again and the vessel will now open its doors (and hatches, I suppose) on Sunday, September 10th 2017 as follows:
San Sebasti├ín:          from 09:00 to 11:00
Playa de Santiago:    from 12:00 to 15:00

Valle Gran Rey:         from 16:00 to 19:00

+++++UPDATE 5 see:

Fast car ferry to connect Valle Gran Rey with Tenerife


Old Book Mark said...

Its very slow though. 80 minutes from San Sebastian to VGR. It is faster to drive. The old Garajonay express service was a lot more zippy.

La Gomera said...

Hi Mark,
you're right, the travel times the Olsen site gives seem very long indeed.
I'm thinking (and hoping) they are wrong. The new ferry will make almost
20 knots, so why should it take that long ? Maybe the stopover in Playa de
Santiago is planned a lot longer than necessary, or they want to save fuel ?
Anyway, we'll soon find out how this will work in reality, but if these travel
times are correct it'll be more like a 'mini cruise' than rapid and reliable
public transport.