I must admit I was never particularly enamoured with flying and only ever saw it as a means to an end, so making a list of things I like about ferry crossings could easily be renamed “why I prefer a boat to a plane”. After an almost 10 year hiatus from starting every holiday with the drudgery that is plane hopping, I bit the bullet and last year together with my Ban-Cheile, Marian, my youngest child and her boyfriend, I embarked on a two week trip to Thailand with the very nice people from Etihad Airlines. I can’t in any way fault the Etihad people, they were everything I didn’t remember from previous holidays – friendly, courteous and most importantly on time and the planes themselves were about as comfortable as an economy class flight can provide to a man who is 183cm tall and weighing in at an impressive 118kg! But the experience was overshadowed by the memory of numerous ferry trips and the fact that,as the advertisement for Brittany Ferries chirps, “the holiday begins the minute you step onboard”.
So this week SWMBO and I took off on another ferry trip to France, but instead of our preferred travel company – Brittany Ferries – we opted for Irish Ferries (the why of that is another story entirely). When we disembarked and began the 8 hour drive to Bordeaux the conversation got around to why we prefer the sea bound to the airways and so I decided It might be a good idea to share that conversation with you my constant reader (both of you).
So here are my 9 Things I like About Ferries-
1. You Get To Queue Sitting Down.
No dragging luggage like a pack mule up and down roped off check in areas and standing behind the yellow line while a camera takes a mug shot of you to share with every security and intelligence gathering agency across the known world. You queue in a comfortable seat in a car with as much leg room as you felt necessary when you bought it and with your luggage tucked away in the back or in one of those aerodynamic shell-like boxes on your roof rack.
2. They Don’t Treat You Like a Suspected Terrorist.
Imagine this – you get to go onboard with your shoes and belt still on and without being scanned and x-rayed. Oh and you can have as much liquid with you as your vehicle can carry, so fears of that lovely bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier perfume you forgot you had in your hand luggage being confiscated are a thing of the past. Travelling by sea you pull up to the booth and the smiling person asks you for your ticket and passports. Seconds later you have your passports back, your cabin keys in hand and off you drive onto the ferry.
3. You Don’t Have To Stay Strapped Into Your Seat.
That’s right you can actually walk around and at no point are you told by a little light and an irritating bing-bong that you must sit down and fasten your seat belt. In fact you can walk around on deck and even watch the sunset – now that’s civilised.
4. You Get To Choose What Food You Eat and Where.
Okay so food in the air and food at sea will never win any Michelin awards but the microwaved ‘food’ that appears from out of those little foil containers presented to you as a meal onboard most airlines would under most other circumstances be consigned to the bin as not for human consumption. Ferry food however is varied – sit down restaurant type meals to cafeteria style self service to snacks – and scattered around the boat so another excuse to have a wander around.
5. The Bar Awaits
A proper bar with draught beers and stouts and spirits galore. Need I say more?
6. No Trolley Dollies
The onboard shop stocks all sorts of unnecessary plastic objects (as Nanci Griffith tells us about In her song Love at the Five and Dime) as well as booze and perfumes. The difference is you can browse at will without almost losing that stray knee that wandered into the track of the Duty Free Trolley or, wait for it, stay in the bar and pass up the whole experience. Sweet.
7. Laugh At The “Entertainment”.
Movies on the plane? Yes. Movies on the ferry? Yes, but e ferry also has live entertainment! Like singers and dancers and really bad magicians. Okay it’s painful to watch if you were fooled into thinking it really was a cabaret and not so bad it wouldn’t even make the standard for a Butlin’s holiday camp, but you are guaranteed a laugh if only at the expense of the poor entertainers. Did I mention the bar?
Okay so some of those first class flights have seats that actually fold back flat and they give you a little blanket but even the humble “below the waterline” cabins on a ferry have proper beds in real cabins with toilets and showers. So after you’ve lowered all those pints and laughed at the entertainers you can retreat to your cabin and sleep the rest of the journey away.
9. Arrive Rested (Hungover) and Ready For The Road Ahead.
No stiff queue to leave the plane followed by a two mile hike to the baggage area and a 30 minute wait for the scramble to rescue your luggage from the carousel of death, before facing a whole new battery of tests and running the gauntlet of customs officers all eyeing you as if you were a drugs mule. You simply reacquaint yourself with you vehicle of choice and flash your EU passport to the mostly bored Gendarme before pointing your car south and the adventure begins in earnest.
Okay if I’m to be fair the number of kids racing up and down the decks and the potential for a rough voyage are added drawbacks to sailing but come on did I mention I get to keep my shoes on?