17 April 2017

Holyhead and Dublin ferry offloading

When flight prices between London and Dublin and nearby airports (and not so nearby airports) become unreasonably expensive, I quite often revert to the old fashioned Sail Rail connection - since the standardised fares mean that (as long as they don't sell out) your fare is capped at a regulated price, even over holiday weekends.

So London to Dublin Port (you need to get a bus into Dublin city centre) fares start from 41 gbp with most tickets selling for 46 gbp.  When last minute flight prices can easily reach 300 gbp for a single during busy periods - if you have the time, taking the ferry and the train becomes an appealing option.

The Seat61.com website has a huge amount of detail on travelling this route.  One issue (which Seat61 briefly mentions) taking the ferry as a foot passenger is how quickly you can get off the ferry once you arrive into port.


Holyhead - Dublin offloading

Stena - Adventurer
I've used this ship a few times, and have always had to wait at least 20 minutes for most of the cars / trucks to off load, before Stena bring the buses on board the ship, to get you into the ferry terminal.  One time we had to queue up (in the rain) to have our passports/IDs checked as we left the buses and before they let us into the terminal building.  Seriously unimpressed !

Irish Ferries - Jonathan Swift (fast ferry)
Sometimes they give you the main berth with passenger gangway, but if the Ulysses is in berth, then the Swift gets relegated to a crappy berth around the corner, where you have to wait for the cars to disembark.  However, since the Swift isn't very big, it should only take about 15 minutes before you get to walk off.

Irish Ferries - Ulysses
The Ulysses gives you the best chance of speedy offloading - you almost always get to use a dedicated foot passenger gangway, so no waiting for the cars.  One time there was a vehicle parked on the quay wall which blocked the passenger gangway, so we had to wait for the cars to off load, and then get a bus to the terminal building - but that was highly unusual.
This is my preferred option for Holyhead - Dublin route.


Dublin - Holyhead offloading

Irish Ferries - Jonathan Swift (fast ferry)
You have to wait for the cars to off load, before you walk off the ferry, and board a bus to the terminal building.  Since the Swift isn't very big, it only takes about 15 minutes for the cars to drive off.  Just make sure you get on the first bus, as the second/last bus will wait for the old and infirm to slowly exit the boat - no point wasting good Coop/Lidl shopping time waiting for the OAPs !

Irish Ferries - Ulysses
I haven't done this routing in ages (for morning trips the Ulysses departs Dublin at 08:05 and may not connect with the 11:27 train from Holyhead, so the Swift is much more attractive) ... but considering the arrangements for loading Ulysses at Holyhead, I assume you have to board a bus on the Ulysses to transport you to the ferry terminal ... so you presumably have to wait for most of the cars and trucks to offload before Stena drive the buses onto the ship.  I suspect this may take a while.

Stena - Adventurer
I haven't done this routing in ages (for morning trips the Adventurer departs Dublin at 08:20 and is unlikely to connect with the 11:27 train from Holyhead, so the Swift is much more attractive) ... but considering the arrangements for loading Adventurer at Holyhead, I assume you have to wait for most of the cars and trucks to offload before you get to walk off the ship (possibly to the funny little staging building where you catch a bus to the ferry terminal), or Stena brings buses onto the ship.


The different disembarkation options need to be considered when working out which train you are likely to catch (or timings for friends/family pickups) and which ferry to choose.  My choice for afternoon departures from Holyhead is the Ulysses.  For morning departures from Dublin my choice is the Swift (despite the slightly higher Sail Rail fare) as it also gives you some extra sleep time!


One other thing to bear in mind is that booking tickets in Ireland doesn't allow you to reserve a seat on your trains in the UK, so if you're booking a return from Dublin to London, you might want to book two singles, so you get to reserve seats on the trains from London.


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