TRAVEL BY TIM HEDGLEY
YOU may have seen the recent undercover boss programme on Channel 4 where the head of Stena line Gunnar Blomdahl, traveled on a the Belfast-Liverpool ferry and then the Harwich to Hook of Holland route.
I decided to retrace his steps to see if the ferry company had taken on board some of Gunnar’s findings.
In the programme, Gunnar found that there was some work ongoing the Belfast Liverpool ferry and I am delighted to say it was all completed very soon after his visit and that the ships on that route are in tip top condition.
The public areas were great and Stena do provide excellent facilities for their passengers on the ship. I had been on the ship quite some time ago and there is a marked improvement on the general look and feel of the boat and in particular the quality of the food.
Loading was a very simple process and the added assistance of staff giving a small note to let you which stairs you came up is a great idea as it prevents the old problem of people heading for the wrong side of the car deck when getting ready to disembark at the other end.
An addition to the new look boat is the StenaPlus lounge, where for a small extra payment passengers can sit in a dedicated lounge area and receive table service and complementary refreshments.
So if you wish to live it up a little, try Stena Plus next time you sail. After leaving Liverpool, I drove down to Harwich to sail toHollandon the Stena Britannica one of the two largest Superferries in the world.
Launched on 9th October 2010 she sails to the Hook of Holland daily.
The Stena Britannica measures 240 metres in length and has a capacity of 230 cars, 300 freight vehicles and 1200 passengers. And wow this is certainly a super ferry.
When you’re sitting at Harwich just watching the arrival of the Stena Britannic a is an experience in itself. The ship is ginormous and towers over the quayside like a skyscraper. Once inside you immediately get the feeling you are on a luxury cruise liner.
The onboard ferry entertainment aims to keep kids and teenagers entertained with fun activities, while at the same time letting adults relax on their journey. There’s a children’s area with toys and games, a teenager area with video games. Bars, restaurants, a cinema, shop and even a casino and its all washed down with free Wi-Fi throughout the ship.
As this is an overnight sailing I had a cabin, I went for the cheapest type which is one without a window. I can tell you I was amazed at the quality and layout of it. I am claustrophobic and generally try to get a cabin with a window as that reduces my fear of being enclosed, but the cabin was roomy, bright and delightfully presented, furnished and equipped and I had no issues whatsoever.
The level of comfort on this boat was exceptional and anyone who travels on it will I am sure, be thrilled. As a lot of people travel with pets these days I was delighted to see the “pet palace” even had cameras trained on the kennels so you can see your pet from the TV in your cabin, how clever is that?
What better way to begin your trip than by tucking into a delicious meal at the Metropolitan restaurant where you can enjoy an excellent “at seat service”. If you book early, and you’ll be able to reserve a view over the sea where you’ll be able watch the ship depart. After your meal, retire to the Riva Bar where you can enjoy an after dinner drink or perhaps try your luck at the Casino. My meal was nothing short of excellent.
The following morning I started my 48 hours on mainlandEuropewith a buffet breakfast before I disembarked. I was able to choose from a mouth-watering range including full English breakfast, fresh pastries, cereal, yoghurt and fruit.
On arrival in HollandI was swiftly onto the main motorway down towards Dunkirkand Calais. I stayed in Calaisfor two nights at the Accor Hotels Novatel Suites. (www.suitenovotel.com)
Novatel suites are a new concept, which integrates the Novotel brand, and the Suitehotel concept. Staying at Suite Novotel gives you the chance to recreate a “home” easily, while enjoying services you can call on whenever you like. You get a stunning 323 sq. ft. (30 m²)Suite which has Internet, music and movies on demand and national telephone calls… all free and unlimited, a kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator.
There is no restaurant but guests can dine with the “Boutique Gourmande” the suites provide a clever pre prepared food offering at any time of day (24/7). There are some other exciting possibilities from this clever product, which includes loan of a Smart car and free massages on Thursday evenings etc. (conditions apply) Novatel suites can be booked for a little as €69 per night check out www.suitenovotel.com for prices and conditions.
All in all, my 48 hour carcation to Francewith Stena was not the traditional way to cross into France, as the majority of travelers will go via Cork, or Dover, but this was a really enjoyable route and one that I can highly recommend. I think Stena Line came out well from the programme and it did provide the management with a clever insight into how good the service they provide is being delivered. Best ticket to get is the “land bridge”with cabins on the Hook of Holland route and a Dublin to Holyhead crossing without cabin, this comes in at €679, it will be even cheaper if you do day sailings and no cabins, check www.stenaline.ie for more information.