A few weeks ago, I opened an e mail to find a lovely invitation from Stena Line to travel on one of their ferries as part of their National Ferry Fortnight celebrations.
We hope you’ll agree that for families with children, ferry travel can turn a typically stressful journey into a fun and pleasurable one for all involved. With lots of room to roam and plenty of distractions (including the amazing view of the open sea!), travelling on Stena Line is fun for the entire family.
How could I not say yes to a promise like that?
The only weekend we could all get time off together was the weekend of Master Frugal’s birthday so the morning after his birthday, we packed up the car (taking absolutely everything but the kitchen sink) and set off on our journey to Holyhead where we were due to get the HSS Explorer ferry to Ireland.
At this point, I should share my top tip for travelling on long journeys – Don’t leave the sat nav in the glove box with a bottle of pop while you pop into the first service station you get to unless you are certain that the lid is on the bottle properly. Otherwise, you may end up driving to the to the other side of the country with only the AA routefinder app on your iphone to get you there 😉
We were really impressed when we got a text message from Stena Line a few hours before our sailing time letting us know that our sailing was on time. How helpful is that?
Holyhead was really well signposted and we found our way to the port itself with no problems (lucky for us considering the above sat nav incident). We checked in, which took about two minutes, took our place in the express boarding queue that’s part of the premium service and got our first view of the HSS Explorer.
I think the kids were a little nervous at this point as they’ve never been on a ferry before but as soon as we drove on to the ferry all nerves disappeared as they realised how much there was for them to see and do. As part of the premium service, we were given access to the Stena Plus lounge which was amazing, especially looking at it through the kids’ eyes. There were touch screen computers for them to play on, plugs for them to charge their games consoles and a selection of snacks and drinks that you can help yourself to.
They were desperate to explore the ship though but I was a bit wary of letting them go on their own so I had a wander with them and was reassured that they were safe wherever they were on the ship. There’s just a small deck area so you can go outside and it’s fully secured to ensure there’s no chance of anyone going over and inside, there was a small children’s area, a games arcade and a lovely shop where the gifts weren’t all astronomically priced! There was even a magician wandering around entertaining the younger passengers so I was more than happy for them to spend the two hour crossing exploring on their own while we relaxed in the big comfy chairs, read the free newspapers and relaxed – there may have even been a little wine involved.
The food and drink included in the Stena Plus package was lovely as well, going out the snacks were breakfasty and they kept bringing out warm croissants and pan au chocolats to tempt me along with just about any variety of tea, coffee, pop and water. On the way back there was lots of cake, biscuits, fruit and crisps and some bottles of wine to pour yourself a cheeky glass! There’s also a full menu you can order from if you want something more substantial.
Master Frugal found a little place where he could sit on a ledge and just watched the sea for a lot of the journey and half way through our return journey he wrote a little note for the lady who brought our meals over to tell her that he loved the ferry. He was fascinated by everything about the journey. Miss Frugal was more impressed by the sense of independence that she got from being able to go off on her own and explore but she has decided that she wants to work on a ferry when she’s older!
We really enjoyed our ferry experience but what do we think of Stena Line’s promise that the journey would be stress free. Their website does make some pretty big promises that make ferry travel sound like the way forward….
- No excess baggage and tax charges that you normally incur when flying Agreed – you should see how much I managed to squeeze into our car. I’ve never been so well prepared for a trip.
- No lengthy security queues Agreed – no queueing at all for us and even the people who weren’t on the Stena Plus service were quickly boarded and we were through security very quickly on both sides of the Irish Sea.
- No two hour pre-departure check-in times Agreed – much easier to not have to stress about getting there so early.
- Plenty of space onboard to relax and unwind in Agreed – The Stena Plus lounge was amazing but throughout the rest of the ship there was comfortable seating in different areas, it wasn’t crowded and there was plenty of choices of places to eat, drink and sit.
- Great facilities to entertain you throughout your journey Agreed – As a family travelling, I want to be able to relax while the kids have fun and the ferry was amazing for this.
- A stress-free journey AGREED