Taking the direct ferry to Ireland is not a new experience for me, in fact it brings back many memories of my childhood. In the 1970s and 80s I would often sail on a direct ferry to Ireland.
In fact crossing the Irish Sea and coming home with a direct ferry from Dublin was my only experience of going abroad as a child. My parents originate from Ireland so we often took between one to three trips a year. Plus my mother hated flying so we never did fly. It was only when I reached my 20s that I took my first flight and I’ve more than made up for it since!
Why we took the direct ferry to Ireland
In September 2013 we had a big family event in County Wicklow so this was a great time to cross. It was also very exciting for my bride. She’s never been to Ireland before. She also loves ferries and hates flying so it was a win win. In addition with the direct ferry to Ireland we had freedom of movement by taking the car.
Your choice of ferry companies to Ireland
There are 2 companies operating direct ferries to Ireland from Holyhead in North Wales. They are Stena Line and Irish Ferries (used to be known as B+I Ferries). The ferry to Ireland from Holyhead can either go to Dublin Port or Dun Laoghaire (pronounced as Dun Leary). As it turns out the ferry to Dun Laoghaire is seasonal (summer time) and we just missed out on the season to catch it. So we had to take the ferry Dublin Holyhead.
After comparing the two companies I opted for Stena Line since it was marginally the cheapest ferry to Ireland.
We sailed across on the Stena Adventurer and came back on the Stena Nordic. To be honest the Adventurer seemed to be a little larger than the Nordic however facilities were actually very similar. I had my camera at the ready for the car ferry from Dublin so my experiences below relate to the Stena Nordic.
Arriving at the Port in plenty of time we registered at the gate. The great thing about catching the direct ferry to Ireland is that they rarely ask to see your passport or ID. I just confirmed my booking number and car registration and we were through.
Waiting to board the car ferry did not have to be such a bind. In the port waiting area they have free wifi which was a pretty decent signal. Kids don’t have to be bored in cars now as they can browse the internet on computers, tablets and phones. Come to think of it that will stop adults getting bored too!
I opted for the Premium Service called Stena Plus. Starting at around £12 per person (prices per route vary) this was like going Business Class on the ferry. This also meant that we had priority boarding and disembarking from the car ferry. This is great if you hate queues.
On board the direct car ferry to Ireland
Quick to board we soon went up the stairs to the main decks. The Stena Plus lounge was quick to find. Once we registered with the staff member there we were able to find our seats for the sailing. The Dublin to Holyhead ferry takes around 3 hours 15 minutes each way.
The Stena Plus Lounge had comfy seats, free teas and coffees (self service) and some light snacks (crisps and biscuits etc). There was also hot food to order but you had to pay for this. Prices were quite reasonable. There was also a selection of alcoholic drinks but I was driving so never ventured that far.
The lounge also had a large screen TV broadcasting Sky News, a selection of newspapers (free for us as lounge customers) and free wifi. To be honest there is free wifi throughout the ship. This is a real plus and I think a great move by Stena on their direct ferries.
Although the Stena Nordic is one of the car ferries direct to and from Ireland it did strike us as a bit smaller than the Adventurer. In fact, based on my memories as a child all these ferries seemed smaller than I remember, mind you I was a lot smaller then.
The car ferry is well equipped for all types of travellers, foot passenger, car passenger and lorry driver. There is even a dedicated trucker’s lounge!
We explored the main decks of the direct ferry to Ireland ship which included a main lounge area for everybody, a popular bar plus restaurant. There is a free cinema on board, a games room plus a children’s play room.
There is also the obligatory shop which had some very cheap smellies on offer.
We also took advantage of going out on deck as we like to watch the boat pulling out of port and into port. To be honest on the direct ferry to Ireland (Stena Adventurer) we thought the experience of going out on deck was pretty rubbish. You were only allowed on deck towards the back of the boat and had quite a restricted view.
Going on deck was a better experience on the Stena Nordic. We could move a fair way up the sides of the deck. Even so access was restricted in many areas and you could not go on deck at the very front of the boat. We did get some great views though of pulling away from Dublin Port.
We enjoyed the whole car ferry experience, although to be honest I always do. I love the direct ferry to Ireland.
Things have changed a fair bit since the 1980s. I used to remember the direct ferry to Ireland often being a very unpleasant ride. The Irish Sea takes no prisoners and can be very rough at times. However it seems that now the direct ferries to Ireland have advanced stabilisers. The ride was very smooth. In fact at times you’d hardly sense any movement at all, you had to look out of a window to see we were moving.
We both enjoyed taking the direct ferry to Ireland and hope to do so again soon.