If you live in Australia and love to travel, you catch a lot of planes. Even when there is another option it’s usually not remotely practical. The country is just too big!
One of the things I have loved about travelling in Europe in the last two years is having so many options to get around. When I plan trips from the UK my internet browser is full of bus and train routes as well as my flight options.
Depending on where I’m going, there’s a fourth option in the mix – the ferry.
When I came to the UK for the first time in 2011, I took the Stena Line ferry from Scotland to Belfast on the recommendation of my parents who had taken it earlier in the year. At that stage I was travelling with quite a bit of luggage (I was in the process of moving to Canada) and doing my best to avoid budget airlines and their ridiculous baggage fees. The ferry seemed like a good alternative.
Earlier this year I travelled with Stena Line again, this time between Wales and Dublin. When I got back home I started looking at where else I could travel by ferry just because I could.
Why is catching the ferry such a good way to travel? Glad you asked.
1. Space to move
When weighing up my options for getting where I want to go, I always have my fingers crossed for the train because I like to be able to walk through the carriages on a long journey. There’s only so many times you can do this on a plane or bus before you’re sick of gripping seats in the aisle for support, told to sit down and put your seat belt on, or generally annoying other passengers by straddling them to get out of your seat. But when it comes to having space to stretch your legs the ferry tops the train. There’s even the chance to get fresh air. I appreciate this even on short journeys.
2. Hello leg room!
Is it just me or are planes getting smaller? My knees seems to be sitting closer to my chest every time I fly. And last time I checked I’m pretty sure there wasn’t an armchair on my flight. Or on my train. Getting from A to B is usually a necessity and most people dread it, partly because it’s exhausting. On the day I travelled from Holyhead to Dublin on the Stena Adventurer, I’d been up since 6am and already caught a bus and a train. Frankly, I was buggered when I got to the ferry terminal. But by the time we arrived in Ireland I actually felt refreshed, despite the extra travel. I put this down to being able to put my feet up. Literally.
Being comfortable while travelling is usually a luxury afforded to those you can, well, afford it – such as flying in business class. But on ferries I have more than enough room to relax in peace.
3. Less luggage woes
I said above that having lots of luggage was a big reason I avoided flying between the UK and Ireland a few years ago. Luggage restrictions have become such a headache when flying. Even when I take the train, if I have a big bag, I still have to find somewhere to put it. In a journal entry about the trip to Belfast I wrote how relieved I was when I found out I could check my luggage just like at the airport. I had expected to be dragging it behind me as I walked around the ferry. On my trip to Ireland this year I only had a small backpack, but I know the other bloggers on the trip appreciated being able to off load their bags. Of course if you’re taking a car (this was why my parents used the ferry), you’ll have even less to worry about on the luggage front.
4. On-board facilities (and WIFI)
On board The Stena Adventurer this year I had access to Stena Plus, a private lounge for passengers who purchase a Premium fare or decide to upgrade. We had barely left the dock in Wales when I was drinking a glass of wine and eating chocolate cake – on the house! But two years ago I was a penny-pinching budget traveller who’d even researched the cost of the public bus from the ferry terminal to the Belfast city centre because, yes, it mattered. On my trip from Stranraer to Belfast I wouldn’t have dreamed of sitting in an exclusive lounge, but I still had a great experience sitting in the café area and using the free on-board wifi to research my trip. When you’re on a long trip, this kind of downtime is priceless.
There are so many other facilities on the ferries that I’ve never used (I might have if the wifi failed though) including bars, more dining areas, play areas for kids and even a cinema.
5. The journey
When I’m travelling a lot, I get really sick of sitting on buses, or waiting in airports or anything to do with getting around. “Can I just be there already?” I feel like screaming. One way I’ve found to make the ordeal less frustrating is to make it part of the journey, like the time I took the Bernina Express from Italy to Switzerland. I could have flown or taken a bus and got to Zurich in half the time, but I would have missed out on a spectacular train trip. I feel the same about ferries. It’s hard to feel stressed when you can sit in a comfy chair, sip a glass of wine and enjoy a view like this:
I represented Travel With A Mate at the Stena Line Gathering 2013 hosted by Stena Line, Tourism Ireland and Paddywagon Tours. All opinions expressed on Pegs on the Line – and my friends will tell you I always have a lot – are my own.