The most exhilarating way to cross the Irish Sea is definitely by ferry. It’s also easy to get to, easy to buy tickets and affordable. Don’t be surprised if it’s standing room only, because the ferry is a popular way to travel.
Ferries run daily throughout the day. There are several companies who specialize in transporting pedestrians and drivers. Once onboard there’s a myriad of things to keep you and anyone else in tow entertained, from movies, shopping, dining or just enjoying the scenery. Ferries like Stenaline run from Holyhead to Dublin, but they also do other runs, like from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and to the continent.
Flying into Dublin is a lot cheaper than Heathrow or Edinburgh. For a foot passenger the ferry costs about 40 Euros, or $45 roundtrip. It scales up for a car. If you are going by foot getting there is easy. In Dublin you can get on the bus route that takes you to the front door of the building. It costs a few dollars or less, depending on where you jump on. From Wales to the ferry port you can get there by train. The train takes you right to the ferry building.
Like flying, you can purchase tickets ahead of time. You’ll need to be there about an hour early. You’ll have to go through security, which has been stepped up recently. Then you’ll wait in a nice lobby until your ferry is called. Announcements and directions are very clear and there are always other people going, so it’s not too easy to get lost or confused. For small ferries, you’ll walk to the ferry with your luggage and board. With bigger ferries, such as the one from Dublin to Holyhead, you’ll get on a bus (sometimes it’s pretty crowded) and leave your luggage on the bus. At first it’s a little hard to part with you belongings, but they do lock the bus, which frees you up to explore, without dragging luggage around.
You’ll have to do some steps to get from the vehicle area to the passenger area. Once there you’ll find a restaurant, snack bar, games, movie theater (sometimes enclosed, sometimes right out with the seating), and a gift shop. There are different classes of fare, but the higher classes don’t seem to get much better treatment or anything too special, in my opinion. They get a separate lounge, that in my experience is a floor level up. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see any reason to spend the money. You can also exchange money to the currency or currencies you’ll need. All money exchange comes with a price though, so I suggest limiting your frequency to such things.
I like to head right out to the viewing deck. I like to see the land I’ve been to disappearing into the horizon and the land I’m about to embark on appearing on the other side. It’s quite brisk and can be wet, but it is glorious and actually one of my favorite things to do. The ferry doesn’t rock much so even for those of us who don’t live by the sea, it doesn’t seem to make anyone seasick. You might want to check out what other people have to say if you are prone to feeling sick. The deck is never very crowded and often there are laughing children and wanderlust adults. You will have a smoker or two, how they use a lighter successfully in the wind is beyond me. And you just get a hint of smoke because the wind is so bracing.
When it’s time to go, you’ll be called by an overhead announcer. Passengers with vehicles are called first and foot passengers make their way back to the bus. You’ll be driven back to the ferry station. Loading and unloading of passengers does take a bit of time, so if you are deciding on a bus or train time, you’ll want to give yourself at least 30 minutes to 45 minutes, especially if you have to wait on luggage or unloading takes longer than usual. Staff are friendly and helpful, but they can’t give out special privileges to passengers.
Ferries offer flexible dates. You pay a little extra, but you can change your dates without penalties. They also offer discounts and offers for different things like weekend trips, holidays and other useful items, like ferry to train pass or ferry to bus pass deals. There are discount for different age groups, so check those out. Sometimes they offer free rides for kids.
It’s defiantly something worth checking out. I’ve gone solo on the ferry and had no problems. You’re also more likely to met people from the countries you are visiting, as not a lot of tourists travel this way.