Many of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the childhood memories of our first-ever ferry trip.
It was almost certainly with our parents on a week’s holiday to the Isle of Wight, with small open ferries crossing the Solent with sailing boats all around. Or it could have been on the classic route out of Dover, leaving the White Cliffs majestically behind in the wake, and then getting your first glimpse of France approaching, through the mist, the ports of either Calais or Dunkirk.
As a child now, however, your first major travel memory, having graduated past buses and trains, could be of that pencil of aluminium, the aeroplane. The first take-off, granted, either excited you, or scared the wits out you… but the rest of the journey is likely to be remembered as rather tedious and boring. You are strapped into your seat, with no room to move and a large stranger next to you blocking the aisle. You are told to sit still and be quiet, sometimes for hours, giving time to reflect on the airport terminal delays, queues and long walks pre-boarding before getting off and having to face it all over again at the other end.
So, despite nearly 39 million passengers travelling by ferry in 2015, many youngsters may still be waiting for their first iconic ferry moment, when their parents to drive them in the family car straight from home to the seaside ferry port, drive up to embark on the ship with the minimum of hassle, and then drive straight on board, scattering the odd seagull on the way. You can take what you want with you in the car, from bikes to footballs and even a doll’s house, and then you, wonderfully, seem to have the freedom of the whole ferry. There’s the chance to make new friends, play the latest electronic games or go on deck to scan the seas for dolphins (and even whales) before enjoying a leisurely lunch and then anticipating docking, and driving down the ferry ramp into in an exciting new country or island to explore.
Whether you are planning your very first ferry trip, or maybe your first ferry trip to a new port, or maybe taking your bike or caravan on a the high seas for the first time, your virgin status has been recognised this year by industry body, Discover Ferries, in theme of “Be a Ferry First Timer” for its annual National Ferry Fortnight, which runs this year from 5 – 19 March. You might also not be a young family at all, but a more mature couple taking life in the slower lane, but still seeking a ferry-first time adventure, new companions, and maybe gourmet, golf and other cultural experiences in new climes.
All twelve UK ferry member operators, running some 75 routes out of the UK to Continental, Irish and domestic destinations, have enterprisingly come together to promote their often unsung travel sector, and have come up with a series of Ferry Fortnight special offers that you can find from 5 March on this website. All you need to do to take advantage of them is to book during Ferry Fortnight, for travel during 2016.
“With many ferry routes, kids can go free as the pricing is per car, regardless of the number of (legal) passengers your car can carry, so for families with kids and loads of luggage, ferry travel is a no brainer” said Bill Gibbons, director of Discover Ferries, “above all, ferry travel offers freedom and fun, and your holiday break starts the moment you get aboard. What are you waiting for?”