Plus one insisted that he didn’t like planes and somehow forced upon me the idea that it would be better to travel by train and then ferry rather than fly to Europe. Personally although I part see his logic, I also think it is part demented because you are now limited to places the ferry goes to and from for holidays. And YES you can get all the way to Bilbao, Spain like this but it takes a bloody long time and my holiday time is over by then. And then you’d probably rather be on a proper cruise ship known for luxury rather than practicality like a ferry.
It was the most surreal experience getting the overnight ferry from England to France. The one other time I did it before I was part of a massive youth group and we all jumped excitedly from a coach to run around the ship for a few hours before sinking into an exhausted heap somewhere like a litter of puppies. I have no recollection of actually eating anything or doing anything particularly constructive on the boat or indeed that it took that long, which it must have.
This time around there was just the two of us as foot passengers on an overnight journey. We had a rudimentary little cabin with two bunk beds, pale pink duvets and a teeny bathroom pod with toilet and a shower with surprisingly hot water at strong force. It was exactly luxury but it wasn’t slumming it either.
A lot of people had chosen to skimp on the cabins (there are, to be fair, also more people than cabins) and had taken the ‘sleeper seats’ instead. You could see some were seasoned travellers at this. They came on board with cooler bags of supper, their own blankets and pillows, tracksuit bottoms and the determined look of people ready to camp it out in public. I’m pretty sure they also had a car to return all these belongings to having said that.
To be fair, the ‘sleeper seats’ have more – much more – room than economy cabin class in an airplane. But the seats still don’t recline all the way down and you still land up napping with the hope that noone nicks your bag while you are asleep. (This is probably just ME being paranoid as a South African thinking like that having said that.) I did think however it probably wasn’t too bad when, on the return journey, I could feel the boat moving and in the windowless cabin had to lie very very still or risk feeling very very ill because I am one of those fools prone to motion sickness and highly confined spaces with artificial air blown into them don’t really help.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the ferry. It had a proper sit down restaurant and a canteen fast food one and some random cafe up top plus a bar with horrendous live evening entertainment. Not to mention a whole duty free shop, two tiny cinemas in a basement somewhere and a games arcade for the kids. I’ve always thought of ferries as highly practical big boats like buses on water that just tote you from one side of the harbour to another, not something that had actual facilities on board.
Am I totally sold on this being the way to travel every time? I’m not so sure. But I think I could be biased by the slight sea sickness and the fact that it is really hard to see the world from a boat like that. If, indeed, you manage to get a window at all.