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Ferry travel on the up, study finds, with “floating hotels” offering a remarkable 15,000 beds at sea

By 31/07/2017November 20th, 2019News, Press Release


The number of people taking a ferry to UK islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland has increased in the first months of this year according to the latest FerryStat* figures released today by Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry operators.  Passenger journeys between islands including Scottish Islands, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight to the end of June was 5.69million – a 4.2 percentage point increase on last year’s 5.46 million.  The number of cars carried on domestic routes also increased by 4.7 points to 1.4 million. Travel between Britain and Ireland was similarly strong with 1.58million passengers and 386,000 cars – a 3 percentage point year-on-year increase.

The sustained growth is good news for the ferry sector and coincides with the release of new data into the volume of ‘floating accommodation’ available at sea by the ferry industry. A Discover Ferries audit reports that more than 15,000 beds are available every night operating in each direction across the North Sea to Holland and Belgium, the Western English Channel to France and Spain and the Irish Sea. Individual ferry companies are also seeing strong increases in demand – Brittany Ferries reports it has seen a 37 per cent increase in cabin bookings on crossings to France and Spain since 2012. Cabin bookings between the UK and the Isle of Man with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company are 10% up already for 2017 compared to 2016. In addition since the launch of StenaLine Superferries on the Harwich to Holland route there has been a 20% increase in the number of cabins sold for overnight sailings.

Bill Gibbons, director of Discover Ferries, said: “2016 was our fifth successive year of growth in the number of people taking their car on holiday by sea. The latest data indicates that 2017 could be set to continue that great record. Ferry companies are continuing to invest in ships and our new audit shows that there are now 15,000 cabins on ferry routes within and from the UK so travellers can effectively begin to unwind right from the outset of their holiday, travelling in comfort, enjoying a meal and a drink on board and getting a good night’s sleep whilst travelling to their destination. Travellers booking a cabin will arrive early at their port the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to drive on to their holiday destination. Passengers can also upgrade to travel in luxury cabins on many routes and enjoy discounted cabins on day cabins. Sleeping overnight on a ferry will often replace the need to book a hotel near to the departure or destination port.”

Discover Ferries member ferry operators include Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink.  The audit of cabins at sea found:

  • On the North Sea over 9,000 beds are available each way for routes from Harwich, Hull and Newcastle to Holland and Belgium.
  • There are nearly 4,000 beds available on Western channel routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to France and 1,000 beds on the Irish Sea on overnight routes from Liverpool to Belfast and Dublin.
  • On routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Spain, nearly 8,000 beds are available on a weekly basis, the equivalent of 1,140 a night.

Cabin types vary from standard to premium accommodation in which passengers might enjoy enhanced facilities including larger rooms, windows with sea views, double beds, flat-screen televisions and complimentary breakfast. All cabins are en suite with toilet and shower facilities. Passengers can upgrade to enjoy the comfort and privacy of a cabin starting at just £32.

Sample cabin prices which are in addition to the fare paid* for the crossing include:

  • Portsmouth – Caen with Brittany Ferries £55 one way, £110 return cabin only
  • Newcastle – Amsterdam with DFDS £79 per person each way for two people (£45 pp for four people) *Price includes cabin and crossing
  • Holyhead – Dublin with Irish Ferries cabin from £36 for two-berth cabin only
  • Fishguard – Rosslare with Stena Line £32 overnight cabin only
  • Heysham – Isle of Man with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company from £67 for four-berth cabin
  • Hull – Rotterdam with P&O Ferries £317 for a car and two people includes two-berth cabin
  • Liverpool – Belfast with Stena Line £55 overnight cabin only
  • Harwich – Hook of Holland with Stena Line £34 overnight cabin only

Cabins available on day sailings are sometimes half price and with this facility the family has a base and a place to rest on the journey. Cabins are also available on shorter crossings of just over two hours to five hours such as Newhaven to Dieppe, Poole to Cherbourg and Isle of Man to Heysham.

On the Irish Sea there are also cabins available on the shorter day and night crossings from Holyhead to Dublin and Fishguard/Pembroke Dock to Rosslare with crossing times of between 3.5 and to 4 hours including Superfast Suites on the shorter crossing from Cairnryan to Belfast route.