GTW takes to the waters to explore ferry crossings from the UK that are ideal for group passengers
Whether it’s a quick sail over the English Channel for a day out in Boulogne or a jaunt to the western isles of Scotland, ferries are the easy, affordable option for group travel organisers looking to transport their group further afield.
As several of the UK’s leading ferry companies launch new ships and announce upgrades to their fleet, there’s never been a better time to drive on board, settle down for the ride and let the ferry take the strain. Fully equipped to accommodate groups, with offers aimed at coach parties, hen and stag parties, youth and school trips, DFDS Seaways sails to France, Holland and further afield, departing from a number of ports around the UK coastline including Dover, Newcastle and Newhaven.
Within the past five years, the awardwinning company has been crowned the ‘World’s Leading Ferry Operator’ and ‘Europe’s Leading Ferry Operator’ at the World Travel Awards and offers mini cruises in addition to its regular crossings. The website will guide you towards its special offers and group travel options (www.dfdsseaways.co.uk).
EXPLORE FOREIGN SOIL
Sailing from the South Coast – namely Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to France and Spain - Brittany Ferries offers GTOs a smooth sailing to the Continent, whether they’re planning a day trip, mini cruise or ‘cruise and stay’ hotel break.
Brittany Ferries also runs trips to various overseas events including Fest Jazz, which takes place from July 24-26, 2015 on the banks of the River Aulne in the Breton town of Châteauneuf-du-Faou. Like previous years, Fest Jazz has teamed up with event organisers to offer a special weekend ferry offer plus reduced entry to the festival. Find out more at www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
P&O Ferries boasts the largest fleet of ships, with routes including Dover to Calais and Hull to Rotterdam, including free children’s travel on selected routes throughout 2015. In addition to France, Holland and Belgium, P&O Ferries sail to Northern and Southern Ireland with crossings from Liverpool to Dublin (with free onboard meals) and Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, with Belfast located less than an hour away once you dock. Find out more about P&O Ferries at www.poferries.com.
ShannonFerry is your port of call if you fancy taking a group to the stunning west coast of Southern Ireland. Its vehicle ferries take groups on a memorable 20minute journey across the Shannon Estuary, linking the iconic tourist destinations of the Banner County of Clare to the Kingdom of Kerry.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Estuary’s dolphins, which sometimes swim alongside during the summer months. Find out more at www.shannonferries.com
StenaLine also has regular sailings to Ireland with routes between Cairnryan and Belfast, Liverpool and Belfast, Holyhead and Dublin Port and Fishguard and Rosslare. It boasts 28 daily sailings between Britain and Ireland, as well as crossings to Holland, France and further afield.
Discounts are available for early and online bookings and offers on coach travel are also available through StenaLine’s association with Ulsterbus Express. Find out more at www.stenaline.co.uk
GO ISLAND HOPPING
Channel Island specialist Condor Ferries will soon launch its brand new, state-of-the-art ferry - Condor Liberation - that will transport groups to the picturesque islands in hightech comfort. The title recognises the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Channel Islands and was chosen by Clive Davies following a competition to name the ship.
The vessel joins the Condor Ferries fleet, which includes the Condor Vitesse, Condor Express and Condor Rapide fast-cat ferries, taking groups to/from and between Guernsey, Jersey, St Malo, Cherbourg, Western France, Poole and Portsmouth.
Plan your group trip by visiting www.condorferries.com. Further north, Caledonian MacBrayne shuttles holidaymakers and day-trippers to Arran, Barra, Benbecula, Bute and Harris, amongst others. More than just a ferry company, Caledonian MacBrayne organises day trips, including a visit to the spectacular Ardtornish Estate And Gardens on the Morvern Peninsula. With its gardens sculpted from a rocky hillside and great views along Loch Aline to the northern hills of the Isle of Mull, it’s well worth including in your group’s itinerary. Find out more at www.calmac.co.uk.
Taking you on a voyage of discovery to the Orkney and Shetland islands, NorthLink Ferries runs up to three sailings a day from Scrabster (near Thurso) to Stromness in Orkney, in addition to nightly sailings from Aberdeen to Lerwick in Shetland – with four sailings crossing via Orkney’s capital, Kirkwall. Visit the website www.northlinkferries.co.uk for a full timetable and fare details, as well as an online tour of the ferries’ on board facilities including bars, shops and cinema.
TAKE A TRIP TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT
Transporting thousands of holidaymakers and day-trippers to the Isle of Wight every year, WightLink travels between Lymington and the historic harbour town of Yarmouth, Portsmouth and Fishbourne, alongside Portsmouth and Ryde Pier Head. Look online for the latest special offers – some linked to special events and festivals held on the Isle of Wight - many of which are perfect for groups (see www.wightlink.co.uk).
Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more foot passengers and 15 or more cars boarding can also benefit from discounted rates on certain sailings to and from the island. The WightLink website has details of group-friendly attractions on the island and the South Coast mainland to help you plan your trip. Well-known tourist destinations near ferry terminals include Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (www.historicdockyard.co.uk). ■