Long before kids arrived into the Mamma Fairy house we used to travel quite a bit to Holyhead from Dublin. My sister attended University in Bangor in North Wales so we loved popping over for the weekend. We hadn’t taken the kids on a ferry so there was mega excitement when I told them Stena Line were very kindly taking us and our car to Wales. One of the things that stresses me most about holidays is the airport, the volume of people, the queues, getting myself and the kids through security! The stress levels until we are sitting at the gate are usually pretty high!! Having taken our car on the ferry many times I knew what to expect! Much less stress – literally drive on drive off!
Our Ferry journey with kids
We were on the 8.10 Stena Adventurer heading over from Dublin to Holyhead on a lovely bright Friday morning in June. Being a Dublin resident I knew how bad Dublin traffic could be so we allowed ourselves extra time just to be sure and I am very glad we did. An incident at Port Tunnel saw the tunnel temporarily closed so thankfully we had time to go the alternative route. Check in closed 30 mins before departure but my advice is to get there early especially if you are travelling in peak work day traffic.
Check in was smooth, we had our boarding passes printed off, we were told which number queue to join and there we were in line to board the Stena Line Adventurer. The absolute squeals out of the kids as we drove onto the boat!!! Once we boarded we were guided into position, we parked up and took the hyper gang up to the passenger decks. Another tip is to make sure you take everything you need with you as you can’t return to your vehicle when the ferry departs until the ferry docks again.
I think one of the first thing you will notice is just how big the ferry is! We had taken the Superfast ferry in the past and the Adventurer is noticeably bigger. On board the Adventurer there are:
- En-suite cabins available from €30, might be handy if you have very young kids, for us with older (hyper with excitement) kids it really wasn’t necessary for the short 3 hour crossing. I believe the cabins go up to 4 berth which could be very handy for families.
- A Hygge Lounge which is a relaxing, peaceful environment if you want a total chill in a large comfy reclining chair as you gaze over the Irish Sea. The cost is €9 per person but you must be over 16 years. If we didn’t have the kids id be in there in a heartbeat. Right up my street!!!
- There was a restaurant, bar and coffee dock on each passenger deck serving hot and cold snacks and the usual beers and spirits. It was really busy initially on both legs of our trip but the staff were very efficient and the waiting time was short and a lot less busy once the initial rush was finished.
- There is also the Stena Plus Lounge where for €20 you can avail of complimentary drinks, snacks, newspapers & magazines as well as free wifi, waiter service and comfy seating. We didn’t do it this trip but in the pre kids days we always frequented the lounge, it is really good value and nice and relaxing, a good option for the 3 hours ferry. The was a ‘Family Meal Deal’ on board 2 adults and 2 kids for £23 really good value and you can pay in either € or £.
- For kids there really is plenty to do; located on each passenger deck is a small play space, for older kids there is “Teen Town” with some arcade games. Much to the kids excitement there is a cinema with free entry. This is a really good option to pass an hour or so especially with younger kids.
Our ship departed on time, boarding was smooth, the sail itself was smooth and the disembarkation was efficient. What more could you ask for?! To keep the kids entertained I took sketch pads and their trusty twistables! While there is plenty on board to keep them entertained the play centres can get busy so worth having a few of their favourites to keep them occupied. We took some of their own snacks with us while we ordered coffees, toast and scrambled egg to go with them. Thumbs up for Stena’s scrambled egg.
As our trip was so short I had done lots of research before hand to maximise the time we had in North Wales. Full blog post on our activities but for now a very sneak peak…..
Day 1 -We drove to the picturesque town of Llanberis were we stayed on night after our journey on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. We reached the top of Snowdown Mountain literally surrounded by clouds which they kids thought was “epic” the last bit is a little steep but oh so worth it. Be warned even in summer it can get cold up there so our trusty Reima winter gear came in useful again.
Day 2 – We drove further into Snowdonia to Llechwedd near Blaenau Ffestiniog. Llechwedd is an old slate mine where you can go 50o metres below ground into a deep mine. I’ll keep you in suspense a little longer for my full review but suffice to say this place left a lasting impression on both us and the kids. Rich our guide a 7th generation miner himself was what made this tour for us. His unique insights, his respect for the heritage of the area and the contribution to mining brought a tear to my eye more than once.
Day 3 – Before heading back to Holyhead we spent a day and night in Llandudno, an old school sea side holiday resort. While here we also took a quick visit to the Copper mines for a unique self guided tour of 4000 year old mines!!! We loved our chilled out day here, kids will forever remember playing football at the beach at 10pm then running back to the b&b soaked, tired but happy.
Mamma F top tips:
Having taken the ferry a number of times both with and without kids I thought id compile a list of tips for people who may be booking for the first time and are unsure as to what to expect:
- There is no currency exchange on board. Not a major issue as they take card
- Remember where you parked your car!!! Take a note or photograph both the colour of the stair case (red or green -denoting the side of the ship) and the floor number. We were stuck behind a car where it appeared the owner must not have remembered where they parked and the crew were quick to assist our line in passing around the vehicle. Therefore ensure you note both!
- Take some of their favourite little toys if or when the novelty wears off. We love colouring books and sketch pads. A quick trip to Dealz or €2 shop and I picked up a few of them for trips like this.
- Get there in good time especially if you are trying to locate Dublin Port in rush hour traffic. Too many variables to cut it fine!!!
- The queue for the toilets is naturally very busy as you come into land so if you are travelling with kids it is worth keeping an eye on the time and popping in before the rush.
- Likewise are it comes close to time to disembark, keep an listen for the announcements, particularly if you travelling with your car as car passengers are called to their vehicles first.
- I was a little worried about the kids being seasick!! It was so smooth you would hardly have known you were moving, the fast ferry probably does require some sea legs so if you are travelling with young kids the larger Adventurer is a good option.
- Book early for the best deal – do sign up to be the first to hear about the latest deal or offers. For example the current offer is Kids Go Free (note: Economy or Flexi motorist fares on any Irish Sea routes up until January 5.) which offers families the opportunity to save on trips across the Irish Sea via the Belfast – Cairnryan, Belfast – Liverpool, Dublin – Holyhead and Rosslare – Fishguard routes. In other words children up to 15 years of age travel free when booked online. Brilliant deal. We are looking at the Belfast – Cairnryan trip before the summer is out!