|View from the bridge - 'I'm flying Jack', (and all that)|
- The whole layout of the ferries is much more comfortable and stylish than I had expected, or remembered.The seating areas are lounge style, movies play on plasma TVs and there are Curious George playrooms for younger children. It all just felt clean, calm and relaxing.
- There is free Wi-Fi access and of course you can use your phone as much as you want.
- You can take as much luggage as you want in your car, and leave everything - other than essentials - in the car during the crossing. Spare coats, wellies, hats - throw it all in without worrying about the weight.
- To be able to get back into your car and drive off towards your hotel at the other side is infinitely more appealing than baggage carousels, passport control, bus/taxi transfers from the airport, or the prospect of queuing at the car hire desk with tired, fidgety children.
- The crossing from Dublin Port to Holyhead took about 3 and a half hours. Although it seems a long time when compared to a flight, it was all very relaxing and there was plenty to do to keep the kids entertained both out on deck spotting land ahoy and on the ferry itself.
|Driving onto the ferry (the ferry is the BIG boat)|
The added extras
|The private family cabin - swanky|
As guests of Stena Line we were given upgrades to StenaPlus (usually costs €18 per person to upgrade) which gives access to a private lounge, complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers. We were also given use of a private family cabin which comes complete with plasma TV, Playstation, ensuite bathroom with shower, more drinks and snacks and a nifty coffee machine. Although great fun, I'm not sure the additional charge (up to £50) for the private cabin would be worth it for this short crossing, but for a longer one it could be money well spent. We also got to go up to the bridge to meet the Captain, which was a great experience for the boys!
|Plenty of space to run on the decks|
Our hotel, Seoint Manor, in Snowdonia was a Stena Line recommended hotel. It was absolutely lovely. The staff were friendly and helpful, the breakfasts and evening meals were delicious and the accommodation and facilities were ideal. Although we were only there for one and a half days, there is plenty in the area to keep young children entertained. Caernarfon Castle was fantastic and a drive through the stunning Snowdonia National Park has us tempted to go back with our walking gear.
Having flown regularly with the children between Ireland and the UK, I can honestly say that taking the ferry was definitely the most stress-free journey we've had for a long time. I do think the StenaPlus lounge* helped - particularly on the return trip which was quite a rough crossing. The use of a portable DVD player for the kids, the novelty factor of helping themselves to drinks from the fridges and that little bit of extra privacy, definitely took their minds off the old heave ho! *The StenaPlus lounge on the Stena Adventurer was a lot larger than on the Stena Nordica and could, if very busy, take away a little from the 'VIP' factor.
All in all, I was very impressed with Stena Line - in terms of the ferry itself, the staff, the facilities on board and quality of refreshments - there was really nothing to find fault with. If we are planning a holiday to the UK or France in future, we will definitely look at the ferry as a viable travel option. As Dom Joly says in the new Stena Line ad campaign: take a Car-cation. You might be pleasantly surprised!
We travelled out on the Stena Nordica and back on the Stena Adventurer. For a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children under 16), plus our car, our trip would have cost around €300 for economy fare. At the moment, Stena Line have a 'Bring a friend for free' offer - book by 8th May and travel before 30th May. Details about this offer can be found on the website. For more information, visit www.stenaline.ie
Disclaimer: Our return ferry crossing, StenaPlus upgrade and accommodation at the Seoint Manor hotel were provided by Stena Line. All opinions about the trip are my own.