I travel to Ireland quite a bit, and although I love the place it’s frankly a pain in the arse if you want to get to anywhere other than Dublin.
At the moment I mostly travel to a place about an hour south-east of Limerick. There are three airport options – Shannon, which isn’t well served; Dublin, which has dozens of flights per day but is a three-hour drive away or Cork, which isn’t well served, is 2 hours away but has a very nice hotel in the airport. So day-trips aren’t possible and there is always hassle with hire cars (Ireland seems to have mostly broken hire cars in my experience).
My normal route is an 90 minute drive to the airport (including parking time), 90 minutes wasted in check-in, an hour flying then 3 hours drive to the client. That means setting off at 4.30am and arriving, exhausted, at about noon. We then get half a day’s work done and stay in a hotel. Half a day’s work the following day then a dash back to Dublin to fly home, exhausted, arriving at about 11pm. In total we get about 9 hours with the client at the expense of 2 very long days.
I have accidentally found an alternative. Instead of the flying I am writing this from the Plus lounge of the Stena Adventurer. It takes a bit longer for sure – the drive to Holyhead is 3 hours and I still need to leave an hour for check-in. The crossing takes 2-3 hours depending on the exact ferry you catch. However, there are some serious upsides…
i) I haven’t had to lug my bags across a car park, onto a bus and through an airport. They are in the boot of my car.
ii) Check-in was a matter of reading out my reference number and hanging a card from the rear-view mirror
iii) At no point have I been frisked, had my shoes removed or had to place my laptop in a plastic tray
iv) There are three (yes, three) separate first-class lounges – one with leather-ish swivel chairs and plasma TV’s, one with meeting tables and one with just chairs. All have free drinks, snacks and waitress-service for full meals, reasonably priced.
v) The wi-fi is not just free, it also works. I don’t have to put my laptop away or fold up my table while we set off.
vi) the nearest person to me in the lounge at present is about 40 feet away. I can’t hear his conversation or smell his feet
vii) if the ferry is late (and it won’t be) it doesn’t matter. My car is downstairs, and when we arrive I’ll drive home.
viii) when I’m bored writing this blog I am going to go to my private cabin and have 3 hours sleep
ix) when I booked, I saw the price and that is what i paid. No ‘ferry terminal’ tax, extra charge for my golf clubs or a hidden fee for booking online / not booking online etc etc.
The price of the trip is £125 each way, plus £25 for the cabin (which I didn’t bother with on the day sailing out). It’s fully flexible – if you are late, just get the next one. If you are early, get the earlier one. Last time I flew it was about £150 plus the cost of the hire car.
So it’s half the price, 100% less hassle and Ryanair don’t get any of my money.
What’s not to like?