Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

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adi
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Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by adi »

This is intended to supplement the information given on Black Sea Ferries

DIrections: The agent in Tiblisi is U&G Agency LLC (alas it says “LL Group” on the office and receipt) 12a Alexander Kazbegi Ave. (Map reference: ). 41.725542, 44.762155
Take the Metro to “Medical university” (exit at front end of train if coming from the city). A sign high up on the building shows the agency.

The office is on the 1st floor (2nd by Georgian reckoning) all the way down the hall, last door on the right. (The security guard will walk you there most likely). Office hours seem to be rather sporadic, Mo.-Fr. sometime after noon should be okay, or ring Levan Leonidze beforehand at 599 99 9092.
The whole process (bring passport and sufficient cash) of getting a ticket will take a good 45 minutes. In my case an English speaking fellow from next door helped. After establishing what kind of cabin/category is available, particulars are taken down, passport copied. The lady will then accompany you to the bank next door, arrange for a transfer at one counter (passport copied again) , take you to the cash desk (passport again!) get copies of the bank transfer documents and wish you a happy trip. BEWARE: You will not be given a ticket at this state, just the receipts and be told to show on the afternoon of departure at the office in Batumi (34 Kazbegi Ave).

Price: I was charged US$20 more than the advertised price bust since this also shows on the bank receipt it did not go into the agent's pocket, I suppose the website is just out of date.

In all a rather tedious affair, but until an efficient online booking system exists, perhaps the safest bet if one wants to book in advance -- specially as the low-price categories seem to go fast.
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adi
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Trip report suppl. to Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by adi »

I'd like to update my previous post with a trip report on board the MS Kaunas (which is not much different from the MS Greifswald) :

1) The US$ 20 extra are in fact commission for the agent in Tiflis, which makes her attentiveness more understandable, as this equals 50 Lari for 45 mins work -- this in a country where 900 L. are a good monthly salary.

2) The agent's office in Batumi is tucked away between Kebab-joints at 34 Kutaisi St. Central near the mosque, not too hard to find, but easy to walk past -- just a door with a sign above. Check-in in exchange for the bank receipt is from noon to 2 pm. Tickets issued, fast, efficient not overly friendly. Directions provided.

3) Do not bother to show up at the port gate earlier than the mentioned time. There are absolutely no facilities, apart from three very hard wooden benches. Port security will not let you into the port until crew is ready for passengers (thanks to a delay I spent six hours a the gate on a February night -- thank god for cha-cha, the local fire water). Port security will check your passport and name against a passenger list).

4) Walk on board, squeeze past the train (on starbord), till you reach the tiny elevator. Reception is on level 7. Show ticket and passport. A little sticker with a number will be affixed -- this is your number on the passenger list. Every time you do something official until the end of your trip your name will be ticked off. You will also be assigned a dining room table number (written on your ticket) remember it or the waitress will have fits ...

MS Kaunas approaching Batumi: Image

2berth cabin: Image
(Beware: Images will only be available until March 2018)

5) Receive your cabin key. After looking around I must say the US$ 25 extra for a two-berth cabin are well worth it. Unless you are on a really tight budget no need for the 4-berth cabins. All cabins have a shower/toilet cubicle. My check-in time was 2 am.

6) Georgian immigration check passports using tablets the next morning around 8 am. As always with their police friendly and no worries. Name checked against passenger list. Passports are retained by the ship's purser! Sailing time about one hour later.

7) Food is served at set times (half hour only) in the restaurant, announcements made. No buffet but plates already filled set at your place, which does not make for exactly hot food, which generally was adequate, student cafeteria quality and sufficient -- alas almost completely free of spices. The bread was stale, Obviously on a return trip from Ukraine. Tea bags and biscuits were counted -- one per passenger.

Breakfast: egg, sausage, kasha, tea
Lunch and dinner: full warm meals, e.g. chicken wings, mackerel with rice or pasta, every time a small bowl of salad and sweet. Lunch also with soup (borshtsch or solyanka).
Overall no reason to complain.

Lunch, Day 1: Image

Breakfast, Day 2: Image

Dinner, Day 2: Image

8) The “duty free shop” sells only grog and chocolate, preferred currency is the Euro. Since most passengers are truck drivers not too much serious boozing going on. A small “captains bar” opens for a few hours each time.

9) Arrival in Odessa for the rail-ferrries is not at Rubny port, but a nearby dock (Map reference: 46.344774 N, 30.651353 E) . We arrived late in the evening, after a significant delay, although the sailing was very smooth.

Ukrainian immigration sorts between passengers and drivers, the latter having to complete much more paperwork. Passports returned oe may leave the ship. Alas there is another checkpoint at the dock (passport and passenger list number). One has to wait for a bus to be taken the 300 m to customs. No point in walking, these guys only start to work once the bus arrives.
Luggage is run through a scanner, one than explains to the customs officials what he can see on the screen (I learned that having a laptop in the bag pretty much greys out everything ;) ) Bottles are automatically highlighted. In all not a really serious check.
There is also a window in the customs building for an exchange office, advertised opening hours are 8.00-17.00. So no change for me at 22.00.
To leave the glorified shack (and thus the restricted inner port area) one has once present the passport again and the name is ticked off one more time.

10) You are no free to go in the middle of nowhere, 25 km out of town, no facilities, waiting room or toilet. If you do not speak any of native languages, like me, and it's a winter (night) too, good luck. You'll be there without Ukrainian cash (and no means of of obtaining any), no transportation, and no SIM card. A few taxi drivers have scribbled their numbers on the wall -- but how talk to them? Therefore make friends on board to share a ride! (And try to change some cash from one of the drivers 10 Euro/US$ should do.)
The one English speaker there took pity on me and offered to share his cab -- alas the driver could not find the customs office (46.346856 N, 30.647938 E) so we had to walk a few hundred meters to the main road.
The turn off is located at 46.350891 N, 30.644900 E, just beyond a bridge, signposted by a dinner-plate size sign with a ship on it. Coming from town it is the bridge just beyond the Socar petrol station.

Off topic: One thing I am curious about is the profit margin of DFDS running their Baltic Sea ferries, where on similary appointed ships for shorter trips one has to pay four to five times as much. This can not really be explained just with the higher wages bill in those parts, especially as food is there is not included in the price.
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steven
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Re: Trip report suppl. to Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by steven »

Thanks so much for the great report, adi. I hope you don't mind I used your pictures in the article.
adi wrote: Off topic: One thing I am curious about is the profit margin of DFDS running their Baltic Sea ferries, where on similary appointed ships for shorter trips one has to pay four to five times as much. This can not really be explained just with the higher wages bill in those parts, especially as food is there is not included in the price.
I think this is one reason for the flakiness of these routes - they tend to come and go - profitability is not a given. But I feel they look exclusively at the cargo to make money, and the foot passengers are just a little extra.
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jack2
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Re: Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by jack2 »

As I see, you have been screwed like me!
Like You, I paid 130 usd intead of 110 because I bought the ticket at the wrong place.
The office in Tbilissi is not at the second floor, but at the 4th!
I met the same lady who spoke not English and the same guy who translated. I think it's this guy who lead me to this lady instead of the office on 4th floor.
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Onurbicycle
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Re: Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by Onurbicycle »

I did this a few days ago at the office, 4th floor for us Brits (number 5 in the lift). Cost was 125 dollars. The woman who saw me was professional and to-the-point, said "I'm listening" and spoke very good English. Whole process was straightforward - Go to the bank, pay the shipping company, return with the receipt, etc. - and actually much easier than I expected. I've been given a number to call for updates about embarkation time (and location), and she also gave me her mobile number in case of any problems. Hopefully the process of actually finding and getting on the boat will be as easy!
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demko
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Re: Buying a "Ukraine Ferry" Ticket in Tbilisi

Post by demko »

Has someone actually tried the online booking recently? It wants you to pay online so just to know whether it is reliable or not.
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