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den herraghty

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Posts posted by den herraghty

  1. HHV

    Thanks for your comments.

    I have indeed got it wrong about the restaurant on Tycho Brahe (as well as her nationality!)

    I've just checked the FORSEA website and the restaurant I saw advertised in the terminal was LAT 56 (Hamlet). Really sorry about getting your hopes up that TB's restaurant had re-opened.

    As for Moby Corse, I'll remember that information for next year.

    Thanks again

    Yours Aye









    At the request of another member here's an expanded version of my recent post in Other Ferries

    I’m just finishing a week off work and, as usual, did some travelling. I didn’t have any “must do’s” on my list - apart from maybe travelling on Moby Corse. 

    I know she has a limited season so wasn’t too surprised when I couldn’t find her on the Moby timetable.


    Next idea was ferry hopping on the Konnigsee criss-crossing between Germany and Italy - but I couldn’t find flights that suited me so I decided to pursue my second favourite hobby flying!


    I’ve got enough points already this year to keep my status with British Airways so I could look around and fly something different. First up was LEVEL - one of the low cost IAG offshoots - to Vienna. This was thwarted as they decided to cancel the route from the end of August - meh!!

    As a result, some searching lead me to finding one of those offers which you have to look twice at and try to find out what the catch is. This was with Turkish Airlines from VIE to the Nordic capitals for £ 145 one way in economy (I know - I had to look up what that means) and worked the other way as well which was more suitable. Flying from Copenhagen offered the choice of two wide bodied aircraft and and a 2h30 minute transfer time in the new Istanbul airport which is why I found myself on a Norwegian Air International Boeing 738-800 conducting a bumpy landing into Copehagen Kastrup and the basis for this report.


    I had no firm plans for my afternoon and evening in Copenhagen but knew that this would be the only opportunity to get some ferries in. Quickly through border formalities and on to the rail station I found that I had missed the hourly Oresundtag through train to Helsingborg so made my way to Malmo Central to see what I could pick up there. Sweden has re-introduced border controls when travelling to the country and on-board announcements indicate this - although there were no checks carried out in my carriage.


    There was a Swedish Railways high speed train (SJ Snabbtag) departing 20 minutes after I arrived which gave me a chance to look round this rejuvenated station. The first time I was there it was very much run down and not a welcoming arrival into the country. Now it is thriving with several restaurants/shops and a lively vibrant feel. A comfortable journey ensued (aided by a beer from the Bistro) and I was soon alighting at Helsingborg transport interchange.


    FORSEA is the current operating name for the twenty minute crossing to Denmark. There are three passenger carrying ferries:- Aurora af Helsingborg/Tycho Brahe (Swedish Register) and Hamlet (Danish Register - not unsurprisingly). All three are near sisters and the two Swedish vessels have a battery capability as advertised by large decals on the hull. There was a fourth freight only ferry - one of the Superflex class. During my crossings the vehicle decks seemed to be full.


    For such a short crossing the vessels are very well equipped with a full service restaurant, cafe, truckers lounge, bar and duty free area. Tobacco sales are only permitted in the first ten minutes of sailing from Helsingborg; alcohol in the last ten (obviously the other way round on the return!). When I last travelled on the route (in the Scandline era) they advertised a lunch cruise so I enquired about this at the ticket office and was issued with a ticket costing 168 SEK. The normal return costs 95 SEK so its quite a good deal. Adjacent to the booking office in the terminal are notices indicating service times on board each of the vessels (although the one for Hamlet was missing). Midweek Aurora has ‘Waves’ restaurant open from 12.00 - with enhanced times on Tycho at the weekend. Fortunately Aurora was the next departure.


    Embarkation is via a dedicated Passenger Access system onto the main passenger deck. Paper tickets are clipped whilst regular travellers utilise a swipe card reader. ‘Waves’ is situated on the upper passenger deck at the ‘Danish’ end of the ship with a seperate bar adjacent to the entrance. Warmly welcomed I was shown to a table overlooking the ‘bow’ and introduced to my Italian born stewardess.


    I was offered the choice of the buffet or a la carte menu. When I explained that I had the buffet ticket and, presumably only one round trip to use it on, I was delighted to be told that I had as long as I wanted and to relax and enjoy the trip(s), So bottle of wine ordered  I settled down for two round trips by watching the passenger only ‘Perilla’ of Sundbusserne pitch her way across the sound. Both of my crossings were interspersed with heavy squalls and the occasional wave breaking over the harbour walls.


    As well as myself, there were three other parties in the restaurant. An extended family adjacent to me, a group of four senior citizens and a large group having a celebration. When I asked if it was worth having the restaurant open I was told that this had been an exceptionally quiet day and that at weekends they were normally full.


    The buffet itself seemed a little uninspiring - that may be because I joined the ship at 14.10 two hours into service and the other diners were using the a la carte service - but there was the usual Nordic selection of cold cuts; salmon and dill sauce; fried fillets of fish; a meat option - not entirely what it was though! - potatoes/veg; brie and a rather moreish cake. Two questions here:- Are you supposed to eat Brie with the ‘skin ‘ on and is three pieces of cake ‘just to make sure I like it’ too many?


    The ‘thumps’ of the ship meeting the waves on the departures from Denmark were more pronounced - enough to make the glassware and crockery rattle - and the movement gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling of being at home. (I spent 20 odd years on and off afloat and just love being in a ship in lumpy seas). 


    During the call in Helsingor the food had been cleared away and my stewardess enquired if I wanted another bottle of wine - stating that the buffet would be upgraded after 17.00. At 285 SEK a time I politely declined and settled my bill. As we arrived in to Helsingborg I noted that the Hamlet was still alongside when we should have met her in mid channel, the vessel being ten minutes late on a twenty minute frequency.


    Disembarkation was swift and the Border Control point was closed so it was another hassle free entry into Sweden. Twenty minutes later and the ticket machine had relieved me of 56 SEK for my final crossing of the day. Foot passenger wise this was rather quiet - but the vehicle deck was full. A sub one hour train trip and I was back in Copenhagen for a night stop and my eagerly anticipated Turkish Airlines flights.


    I hope you have enjoyed reading this, that it was not tooooo long and may have given you some travel ideas!




    • Thanks 1

  3. During a quick flying trip of Europe (LGW - CPH -IST -VIE [TRAIN] -BTS -LTN I  had time to sample the FORSEA service between Helsingborg and Helsingor. Having been there before I knew there was a Lunjss Kryss available.and after paying 168 SEK (less than £ 20) at the ticket office I was off on a double round trip on M/F Aurora af Helsingborg. The ticket allows you to have offerings from the buffet (in my case smoked salmon, dill sauce; double helpings of fried fish (I'm Scottish.....) potatoes and a dessert. Coffee and wine (extra) made a pleasant couple of hours out. 

    Happily (for me) all the crossings were a little bit bumpy😀

    The other vessels (Tycho Brahe/Hamlet) offer the same but on a limited - evening -basis.

    If you get the chance do it! You can spend (most of the day )sailing between the two with this ticket!




  4. Really sad to hear about this.

    Whilst serving in HMS Broadsword, taking part in the peace keeping operations off the Balkan Coast in 1993-94, he organised a variety show which visited all of the RN/RFA ships involved. Some of my younger colleagues didn't (initially) understand the ethos of it - but were all on their feet singing, dancing and thoroughly enjoying themselves at the end.

    A great loss to the Naval community


  5. Cabin Boy

    A quick update - I also post on the Ships of CalMac Forum and StewartM on there very kindly let me use these links which might give you a better idea of 'TEXELSTROOM':-



    In the video - when the reporter is interviewing by the tree - that is roughly half way down the vessel so lookng into the background might give you an idea how big she is.(Hope you're fluent in Dutch!)


    • Thanks 1


    22 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

    Thanks for the two reports Den. Do you have any photos of the vessels taken or ports visited so that those of us unfamiliar with the region can visualise what you have been describing? Ed. 


    22 hours ago, Gareth said:

    I agree they are two great reports.  The Friesian Islands are probably the most scenic part of The Netherlands and well worth a visit if you get the chance.  We sailed there a few years ago and had a great time.  Vlieland was our favourite - barbeque on the beach and cycle round the island.  As with all of the NL, a bike is a useful thing to have with you.

    Thanks for posting Dan.

    Thank you very much guys - I really appreciate both of you taking time to comment (and those who liked).

    Ed - unforunately not. I've yet to drag myself into the smart phone age. I've taken your very welcome comment onboard and future reports will have some.



    • Thanks 1

  7. Hi!

    As promised here is the follow up to my recent Ameland report:-

    I’m back in Leeuwarden ready to commence the second phase of this short break - the Texel ferry. At the start of planning for this section, I went for the lazy option and just looked on the Dutch Railways website (NS.nl) for the solution. The journey time to Den Helder would take about four and a half hours and require me to re-trace my steps all the way to Amsterdam Centraal for a connection. That’s not good – not good at all!

    Second choice then would be by bus - how long would that take? Not long is the answer! Arriva operate most of the local bus and trains in Noord Holland so I paid a visit to their site. With one change I could be in Den Helder in 1 hour 45 minutes…sounds good. I double checked on the 9292.nl website (the Dutch equivalent of Traveline) and it confirmed this. My only concern was the one minute advertised connection – miss this and I would have an hour to wait in a bus station in a town I have never heard off  - hmmm! The one thing in my favour is that I’m not travelling in the UK and The Netherlands do integrated transport really rather well.

    It nearly all went wrong much earlier than that – here in Leeuwaarden in fact!. Whilst topping up my OV-Chipkaart I noticed that my first bus – the 350 to Alkmaar – would leave in 20 minutes and not the 25 I expected. I checked the printed timetable at the stop and it said 16.15 also – not 16.10. My anticipated coffee and bite to eat was in jeopardy – further threatened by the festival crowd pouring out of the station as I was trying to get in. I made it though and we left on time - let the adventure begin.

    This journey involves taking the Arriva 350 service to Alkmaar along a dijk to Den Oevers where I join a Connexxion 135 service to Den Helder. My uneasiness begins almost immediately as I cannot see ‘Den Oevers’ mentioned on the onboard electronic route display. The feeling grows as we turn of the main road and down some single tracks until we reach the bus station at the head of the dijk. Here we wait several minutes until four other buses arrive before setting off at some pace. It goes up another notch when, with five minutes to the connection, we get held up in a traffic jam at the end of the dijk…….. then the welcome voice announcing ‘Den Oevers busstation ‘ is heard – but would we still make it?  The ‘bus station’ in question consists of an abandoned office/waiting room; five bus stops on a tear-drop shaped piece of concrete; an inbound service 350 and … nothing else. Happily a two tone green bus appears a few minutes later and speeds me to Den Helder. A lot of worrying for nothing!

    Safely arrived it’s time to find my hotel – the Lands’ End – located at the ferry port. It’s a good 20 minute walk although I deviate via the floating bridge, through the rejuvenated quayside area – now full of restaurants/coffee shops etc. – and part of the Royal Netherlands Navy Museum. Along the way there are the impressive sights of the superstructure of a Dutch frigate on shore and a Dutch submarine appearing out of the side of a building. I bet the Navigating Officer got into a lot of trouble for that! 

    Carefully picking my way across the traffic lanes to the hotel I’m quickly checked in and find my room. As a single traveller I’m used to being allocated inferior rooms (overlooking air conditioning units/car parks etc) so I am extremely pleased to find I have a stunning view over the Texel Sound and, more importantly, can almost touch the TESO ferries as they sail!

    Saturday 18th August

    Following a very good nights sleep - and breakfast on a terrace looking out at a ferry seemingly steaming straight at you! - it’s a short walk past the double deck vehicle infrastructure to the terminal building and the automated passenger ticket machines. These pointedly refuse both my debit and credit card as payment – however there is a manned desk for groups and the friendly assistant there has no problem in relieving me of € 2.50 (return) for the 20 minute sailing. (My local ferry – Gosport Ferry now charge £ 3.60 return for a 4 minute sailing!)

    Texels Eigen Stoomboot Onderneming (thankfully shortened to TESO) was founded in 1907 by Dr. Adriaan Wagemaker the islands’ General Practitioner. The company has grown over the intervening years and now operate the ‘TEXELSTROOM’ (the current flagship) and ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER (2)’ on this short twenty minute crossing. The company has a third vessel ‘SCHULPENGAT’ which is currently laid up at ’t Horntje on the southern tip of the island where the vessels dock. ‘DW’ does not display the (2) suffix.

    During peak periods the company operates every thirty minutes at :00 and :30 from both ports, reverting to an hourly :30 ex Den Helder and :00 from Texel when quieter – these being operated, normally, by ‘TEXELSTROOM’. Today I’m looking forward to my first trip on ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER’ operating the 10.00 sailing. It’s  Saturday in high summer so naturally the sailing is busy but the vessel has no trouble in swallowing the mass of cars, cyclists and (not so many) footies in it’s ten minute turn round.

    Once on board, and up a set of stairs, to the main passenger lounge I find myself more excited than I should be. I mean – it’s not my first ferry for goodness sake – but it is my first revolving door on a ferry. YES you did read ‘revolving door’ and ‘ferry’ in one sentence! Actually there are four of them in all leading into the large passenger area which has plenty of natural light, provided by both the large windows and the glass atrium amidships. It’s here that the catering facilities for the 1700 possible passengers are located (port side on this crossing) consisting of two self service counters separated by a small shop area. Available here are the usual items – postcards, Texel mementos, confectionery and models of ‘TEXELSTROOM’ but not this ship.

    My departure beer became a post departure one – we had already sailed while I was looking at the shop – and I had exploring to do. Heading forward there’s ample seating around tables on both sides, with additional seating in the middle as you head towards the large panoramic windows at the front. The bench style seating here is thoughtfully staggered so everyone gets a view. By the time I had done all of this we were already approaching Texel and the thought struck me that “if it has taken me this long on the smaller vessel, would I have time to do everything on her bigger running mate?” The recorded announcement informed foot passengers to disembark via the right hand side if they required bus transportation – so I headed over to the exit which is when this happened: Dogs are freely allowed (on a leash) in the passenger lounge and I had witnessed several sniffing the decks during the crossing. One dog duly did so and, seemingly overcome with excitement, decided to do a wee as the door was in mid revolve! Cue one embarrassed owner and several passengers stepping carefully.

    Safely alongside the automatic doors open and it’s off down the stairs to the bus stance. Here Texelhopper offers two types of service – the scheduled line 28 (normal size bus) and the pre-bookable mini bus service. Line 28 serves Den Burg (the islands capital) and De Koog which is a popular holiday spot on the North coast of the island. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Den Burg bus stand and a few minutes walk in to the centre. This is much larger than Nes with a better selection of shops (including national chains) and a full range of restaurants/cafes. One of the most interesting things was some of the buildings had their build date in wrought iron on the outside- some of them dated back to the early 1600’s. It is also very busy but I eventually find somewhere to eat, have a beer and people watch. This is when I realise that there is something different here – hardly any of the men wear beards!  They’re everywhere in the UK – but here (and I continued my observations all the way to Schiphol) they are few and far between.

    I return to ’t Horntje in plenty of time for the arrival of the ‘TEXELSTROOM’ for her 15.00 sailing. It’s turned a little bit autumnal in the last hour or so and there’s a stiff breeze blowing. Despite this, and her size, she berths easily and I’m at the front of the queue for boarding as I reckon I’ll need every second on board to look round.

    I know she is big – but wow! If I peer hard enough I can just about see the windows at the other end. Okay just a little bit of exaggeration – but honestly just a little. The cafes are to starboard this time and are larger than on ‘DOKTER WAGEMAKER’. There’s no dedicated shop here but the customary items are displayed along the divider between the servery area and the main lounge. Yet again my beer is a post departure one as we’ve loaded and sailed in the length of time it’s taken me to get halfway along the ship. As before there is a light and airy feel on board – but I didn’t notice an atrium. Before long we’re approaching Den Helder and the free bus to the station and my onward train to Schiphol

    My only disappointment of the day was at Schiphol where I discovered that my eagerly anticipated flight on a PrivatAir aircraft would not happen as it had gone technical and been substituted by a BA one – meh!


    All in all it’s been a good trip. Four new ferries, one new island, lots of postcards, good food and weather. With hindsight, whilst writing this report, I think I should have done a round trip on each of the vessels so that a better overview could have been given. It does give you an excuse, however, to go and try the ships for yourself. If you do stay at the Lands’ End make sure you take a camera as there are some fantastic photo opportunities to be had.

    Travel Information

    The easiest way to travel is using an OV-Chipkaart, which is a nationwide touch in/out card (think  Oyster but on a larger scale) and available at any NS station for a cost of € 7.50. Most buses don’t accept cash – but will take debit/credit cards. On that subject I had some refusals with my Visa card in a couple of places so take a back up.

    I used the following sites for planning:-

    NS.nl;  Arriva,nl;  9292.nl; wpd.nl; teso.nl

    They all have pages in English but I found the Arriva site didn’t function as it should.

    I hope you have enjoyed this bit of rambling on! As always – comments and questions are welcome




    • Like 3

  8. 21 hours ago, Gardian said:

    Well,  nobody else has said it, but really interesting.  Thanks.




    20 hours ago, Tumnus2010 said:

    Did this route a few years back. Only a day trip and would like to go back! Thanks for the report.

    Thanks guys - it means a lot!

    Tumnus - did you travel on the older twins or these two?



  9. Mods - if this is in the wrong place please move.

    I've just completed some trips on the ferries of Wadenborg (Waddensea) and TESO (Texel). Here's the first report:-

    My line manager has a somewhat ‘relaxed’ approach in producing our six weekly shift rota which is why, for the second time this year, I find my self making last minute plans. As I like to combine both of my passions (ferrying and flying) whenever I can it’s a bit more challenging this time as my week off is in the middle of August – height of the school holiday season.

    The flying part is to the forefront this time as I only need one return Club Class flight with British Airways to keep my silver status for another year and, as some of their Gatwick flights are being operated by leased in aircraft, this is where my search begins. A reasonably priced Amsterdam flight is chosen as the outbound on the thursday will be operated by Titan Airways with the return on saturday evening operated by PrivatAir – both on Boeing 737’s.

    Flying sorted – now for the ferrying. The island of Texel was the obvious choice (as it was the closest to Schiphol) but I needed something more challenging. The islands of the Wadden Sea in North Holland beckoned as I knew they were reasonably easy to get to – I had a trip to Terschelling last year – and some research revealed that Ameland was served by two vessels from Holwerd. Sorted!

    Thursday 16th August

    After a good night’s sleep in the Travelodge Central close to Gatwick, I had one of my quickest ever transits through check-in, security and in to the Lounge. (Luckily it wasn’t a week later when the departure screen system crashed causing chaos). My reward was a glass of ‘good’ champagne, rather than the normal offering of Castelnau, along with my breakfast.

    En route to the departure gate my heart sank a little as I couldn’t see a Titan Airways plane. I think they have one of the more interesting liveries around (see here) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. Further investigation revealed an all white aircraft parked by the stand – yep its mine.  It’s a relatively short flight today which makes the service a little hurried for the CSM who’s looking after the eight of us in Club.

    At Schiphol it’s a loooong walk from the ‘D’ gate arrival area to immigration – where the automatic gates are firmly tensa barriered off – and through to the railway station for my onward travel to Leeuwaarden and Holwerd.  For a mid afternoon departure the train seems to be very busy – this was not the advice that the NS.nl website had displayed when I checked the times – and only got busier as we headed north. I found out on arrival that there was a ‘Cultural Festival’ taking place over the next few days which would also explain the high prices/lack of availability of hotels in the town.

    Arriva route 66 provides the connection to the Ameland ferry at Holwerd and is advertised s a ‘schnelldienst’ (fast service). The driver tonight certainly took this to heart and as a challenge! About half an hour later we arrived at the ferry terminal and this is where I discovered that I should have got off 4 km earlier when the vehicle had circled into a bus stop…….kindly the driver let me travel back once the ferry had arrived – which was running 30 mins late. A common occurrence judging by his obvious disgust!

    Holwerd Provinciaalweg is the stop for the town. It is eerily quiet as I try to find my hotel. I get the feeling that, if it was a village in Britain, curtains would be most certainly be twitching! I’m fortunate to arrive just before the kitchen closes (20.00) or it would have been a hungry night.


    Friday 17th August

    The small hotel I stayed in offered a simple breakfast and ‘let yourself out’ policy this morning.  With half an hour to spare before the bus, I wandered around the very quiet town providing some excitement for a bored small child – who ran to get his dad to look at the stranger!  I stopped at the church where I discovered a small Commonwealth War Graves plot containing five graves. One is clearly marked with the RAF insignia, the other four were unfamiliar. Not wishing to walk across other peoples resting places I duly paid my respects from the path.  An internet search on my return revealed that the four were RNZAF crew (all aged 23) and, along with the RAF crewman, were from bombers shot down over the Wadden Zee. There is also a monument to a resistance fighter.

    A gentler bus ride takes me down to the ferry terminal. This is reasonably well appointed with a large shop (marketed as Wagenborg Plaza) and an adjacent panoramic restaurant. Tickets are only issued on the mainland and cost € 15 return. Access to the ship is by electronic gate – but – there’s no need to hurry as the vessel is late again. This gives me the opportunity to monitor her progress from Ameland. A twisting buoyed channel is evident and she can be seen slowly moving her way along it, the shallow water not assisting her progress. The vessel is due to depart at 09.30 but she doesn’t get alongside until then which is when the efficient disembarkation/embarkation comes into play. Footies have separate gangways onto the main passenger deck, situated below the car deck in true Wadden Sea style. Cyclists join along with the vehicles. There are a lot of us today – but nothing the ships’ 1200 capacity can’t handle and we sail 20 minutes late at 09.50.

    I’m on the ‘OERD’ for this sailing which, along with her near sister ‘SIER’, provide an hourly service in the high season. Operated by Rederij Wagenborg she is the younger of the two coming into service in 2003 – her sister predating her by eight years. Both replace ships of the same name, these being moved eastwards to the company’s Lauwersoog – Schiermonnikoog service. They are augmented by a schnelldienst  (MS Fostaborg – 44 seats) and a bookable water taxi . Crossing times are advertised as 50/25/15 mins respectively with a supplement payable for the hi-speed craft.

    I forego my traditional departure beer on this occasion as both of the café counters have long queues and make my way up to the small side deck above the car deck. The loading is just being completed with freight vehicles occupying one of the middle lanes and some smart positioning by the deck crew allows a couple of extra cars on board. As we leave, ‘Fostaborg’ arrives and ‘SIER’ has made good progress on her journey to the mainland. I’ve moved up to the sun deck which gives a greater appreciation of how much the channel meanders and indeed the depth of water is quite shallow. As we twist our way along, ‘SIER’ passes slowly on our starboard side whilst ‘Fostaborg’ does a very close high speed pass to port. A photographer does a very good job of capturing both craft!

    Time to explore. As well as outdoor seating the Sun Deck has a functional lounge, directly under the bridge, offering a variety of vending machines. The ice cream one is doing good trade today.  Descending three sets of stairs brings me to the main passenger accommodation which, although below the car deck, is still above the waterline. It looks quite modern and has natural light from large windows. To starboard, on this particular sailing, is the mirror image café counters. The large queues have now dissipated and only the after section is open for service. A good selection of drinks is supplemented with hot snacks and main dishes and - more importantly – beer! Okay – it’s only Heineken and not one of the island brews but it does the job. The steward who serves me is probably the tallest I’ve ever seen on a ship.

    Although the lounge is fairly busy there are still some seats free and, of course, there’s always the lower deck to try out. There are some stylish and quirky round tables (with toadstool style seating) adjacent to the counters with traditional style seating throughout the rest of the area. To one side are the clearly marked entry and exit points for both ports and the whole deck has an airy, open plan style as the toilets are located at either end of the lounge on the deck below. The lighting down there is an odd mixture of white and ultra violet fluorescent which gives it a calming/soothing – but slightly weird –ambience. The deckheads above the stairwells to this lounge feature a ‘starlit night’ effect and provide an additional opulent touch.

     A look at my watch tells me that we should be approaching the end of our journey however the view out of the windows show that we are still some way away. In all it takes us 1 hr 10 mins to complete the journey and ‘OERD’ berths in Nes at 11.00 – when she should have been halfway back to Holwerd.  She discharges reasonably quickly and sets sail again at 11.20, a delay she won’t make up later in the day. Indeed ‘SIER’ is already on her approach as she sails.

    Nes is the main port on the island and it is an easy 15 min stroll to the town. As well as the ferry terminal (a very much simpler affair than Holwerd) there are three different companies offering sightseeing cruises, a marina with a large variety of vessels and a workboat pontoon. There are bus services– operated by full size electrically powered vehicles –to take you to other parts of the island.  The walk takes you past the ubiquitous bike hire facility, the VVV (tourist office) and then into the town.  Like most island capitals, it’s quite small and compact but with just the right amount of shops/restaurants to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Which it did!

    I made my way back to the port to catch the 14.00 sailing of ‘SIER’ (the departure times change in the afternoon) via the VVV office so that I could pick up a couple of fridge magnets for colleagues at work (Honest!!!!). The assistant was intrigued by my Scottish accent and was pleased that someone had come that far to see her island. I admitted that I had only travelled from Hampshire – but she was still impressed.

    By the time I reached the ferry terminal, ‘OERD’ was just completing loading for her 13.00 sailing, still a hefty 40 odd minutes late. I have a seat in the ‘no frills’ terminal and await the arrival of my vessel. There’s not a great deal of footies for this sailing – but still a healthy load for the car deck. Familiar with the layout I head straight for the café and my departure beer. This safely in hand it’s off to the sun deck which is now living up to its name (it was a bit overcast on the outward). A short blast on the ships’ siren indicates that we are about to depart and gets a startled dog barking for Britain The Netherlands. We leave the island in brilliant sunshine soon beginning our elongated weave back to the mainland.

    As already mentioned, ‘SIER’ is the elder sister although she certainly doesn’t show it. The main lounge has a less opulent feel about it – but is still very smart. The lights above the stairwells are simpler – but still eye-catching.  The biggest difference is in the lower lounge which has subtle lighting, partitions dividing the space up and a better ambience than that on ‘OERD’. Back up one deck and the light load lets me get a better impression of the main deck. It’s all about getting large number of people through catering (if desired) quickly, plenty of seating and quick ingress/egress at ports.

    We’re now approaching Holwerd and the end of this part of the report. ‘SIER’ has completed this trip in her allocated 50 minutes so I’m not sure why ‘OERD’ has difficulty in doing so. Once alongside it’s a quick disembarkation and on to the bus to Leeuwaarden. Arriva is possibly a bit over optimistic about the number of passengers travelling – it’s a bendy bus and there are three of us!

    Summary and Suggestions

    It’s been a good day. Two new ferries/ports, one new island and several new ferry postcards for my collection. The buses ran to time/waited for ferries.

    For a hastily arranged trip it’s gone pretty much to plan. If this has inspired you, I would recommend staying in Leeuwaarden where there is a greater choice of hotels and things to do of an evening. It’s also easy to get to the islands of Terschelling and Vlieland via Harlingen from here.

    As always comments.observations are more than welcome.



    • Like 4

  10. I know this is just a little bit far away from home...but I thought it might be of interest,,,,,,,

    I’ve just returned from a short trip to Catania which included a side trip to Messina to hopefully ‘get’ some new ferries.

    My last visits to Catania were about ten years ago when I worked in Naples with NATO. These included a mix of flying, TrenItalia IC, TrenaNotta (Night trains) and the TTT Line service using a Visentinti between the two cities. I had hoped to use the Caronte&Touriste service from Salerno to Messina – but it never worked out. During these trips I managed to travel on ‘Scilla’, ‘Regina’ and ‘Villa’ in both train and foot passenger modes so I was hoping to get either ‘Logudora’ or ‘Messina’ on this occasion.

    Having had a pleasant couple of nights stay in an intriguing small hotel close to the centre, I arrived at Catania Centrale just after 11.00 allowing plenty of time to buy a through ticket to Villa S. Giovanni on the IC 724 (Siracuse – Roma Terminii) departing at 11.39. The ticket machines allow you to select a seat for the journey, although it advises that the seating plan might not match the actual configuration of the carriage!. The cost of a through ticket is more than double that of a ticket to Messina Centrale (€ 15.50 compared to € 7.25) however it doesn’t tell you that the RFI monocareno fare is extra.

    Departure is on time and there is only a slight delay on the journey along the stunning South Eastern Sicilian coastline. Once at Messina Cle. there’s a bit of a wait until the Palermo section arrives which becomes slightly uncomfortable as there’s no air conditioning. After lots of shouting, hand waving, forefinger and thumb circling (I do miss that!) we get shunted aboard what looks like a modern ferry.  Yes! It’s MESSINA ( Her name is displayed considerably larger than on her fleet mates)  Our carriage hits the buffer stops with a jolt – which prompts the Australian couple sitting behind me to enquire ‘do they know what they’re doing? (don’t forget the inflection at the end of doing…..)

    Once it’s safe to disembark I’m off to explore and it’s really quite pleasant. As we’re at the aft end of the vessel, there is quite a lot of open deck space, a small saloon, what would normally be an entrance hall – but actually leads to the MES, then a large saloon with a café/bar.  All very clean, light, airy and pleasant – but none of the charm of the older vessels. Messina also has side loading ramps for vehicles and instructions for using the garage decks. Happily our handbrakes remained on and the alarms did not go off J

    On arrival at the mainland, it appears that ‘Villa’ has followed us across and is ready for traffic. Whether this is planned – or is a special departure for the heavily delayed (3h20) ICN from the North – I don’t know but it seemed strange that both should sail so close together.

    Now it’s time to savour the delights of the RFI Bluferries passenger service. Signs direct you to the ticket office and embarkation point. The ticket office is a portacabin situated behind the buffet. A mere € 2.50 allows you to forego the experience of escalators and passenger walkways (firmly closed off) and enjoy a circuitous, uncovered route to your vessel. This is where unsuspecting passengers (4 on my trip) are made aware that TrenItalia tickets are not valid and have to purchase additional ones. My vessel today is ‘Tindari Jet’ which I embark on the upper deck and through a stripped out saloon.  Downstairs is not much better but, as its only a twenty minute crossing I shouldn’t expect too much. The vessel does look very down at heel though. The crossing consists of ten minutes of ‘high speed’ with the remainder pootling along due to, I imagine, harbour speed limits.

    My intention was to walk around the harbour to catch an attractive vessel I had seen from the deck of the ‘Messina’ however another portacabin ticket office belonging to Liberty Lines caught my attention.  Offering a new port (Reggio Calabria), a new company and two new high speed craft how could I refuse….so € 6.50 later and I’m off to …well...somewhere new for 30 minutes!

    ‘Vittoria E’ took me on my second, rather soporific, trip to Italy today. A short walk uphill leads to a war memorial dedicated to the Italian Air Force during the battle of Reggio Calabria in 1943. Carefully stepping around the broken bottles and other detritus, the statue atop the monument  shone brightly in the sun which has encouraged me to find out more about this. 

    My return was on board ‘Gabriele M’ and a protracted arrival at her lay-by berth. Onwards to Fontanarossa Airport and my flight home was by a SAIS coach which was advertised as non stop. However we came off the Autostrade to pick up a passenger high above Tremestriere ferry which afforded a good view of ‘Fata Morgana’ now providing the RFI Bluferries service to the mainland.

    So – 1 day (afternoon really) – 1 new port – 4 new ferries - € 9.00 +IC train fare € 15.50 –not bad.

    I hope this helps anyone intending to try this trip. Fares for the TrenaNotte services are quite reasonable. You can do Catania to Napoli for € 50 in a shared couchette.







    • Like 3

  11. Just now, Gareth said:

    I'm sure the 24 hour cruise on Pont Aven was worth it in its own right......and in the circumstances, pity you had to get off.  A non-landing cruise, like of old, admiring the scenery into and out of Brittany and being able to relax in your cabin in between, would have been very pleasant.  Sadly, though, I believe non-landing is a thing of the dim and distant past!


    Not cabin wise, I'm sure P+O still do lunch cruises from Dover to Calais. Return trip, Club Class one way, Three course meal all for about £ 30


  12. Just now, neilcvx said:

    @den herraghty how do the Ponts cabins compare to the Bretagnes equivalent ones?

    To be honest my first impression when I entered cabin 5331 on PA was "wow - an actual single cabin" then I remembered this site and the fact that extra berths are in the deckhead rather than just folded up as in Bretagne. It really does make a difference. I don't know why there is a gap between the berth and the bulkhead in this particulr cabin - the pillow doesn't really fit it but I got  a good sleep! Breintagne's outside cabins  I seem to remember as being quite good - however the 'outside-inside' cabin in your post and mine facinates me. As an aside - the last time I was on PA I had a port side balcony cabin....


  13. Just now, Gareth said:

    Key question - was the menu in Le Flora the same or different on the two passages?

    Sorry Gareth - i'm not sure. Ex Portsmouth I only had cursory glance at the menu and it seemed that the right hand side was titled 'Quatre des Saisons' or something like that.   I wasn't paying too much attention as I was intending to eat on the return. (Plus the piano was spooking me out - I don't spook easily. Stupid - I know)


  14. Just now, cvabishop said:

    Glad you enjoyed the trip but going all that way and not getting any further than the terminal sounds awful when the delights of the Intra Muros are so close.


    Just now, Gareth said:

    Yes, with overnight out and overnight back being an option that is easily available out of season (unlike, at present, in-season), it was probably an unfortunate choice of day to sail out.  Any other day of the week, apart from Sunday, on which there is a sailing from Portsmouth would have enabled the full day in St Malo that Colin referred to, before sailing back the following night.  As Ed hinted at, though, I don't know how much of the intra muros is open in the middle of February.

    CVA - Thanks for reading. I agree however my disappointment was offset a bit by being on PA. It's one of life's travel curveballs - didn't mange to dodge this one!

    Gareth - Only informed by my line manager (insert several ?????????) just before I finished my shift on Friday at 14.00 that I was off on monday as well (it was my normal w/e off). I've only done the trip on Bretagne before and always been to get  coffee - but then again that's a bit later in the season.

    Thanks for your comments and feedback


    • Like 1

  15. I had an unexpected long weekend last week (Feb 3/4/5) and decided to do something ‘constructive’ rather than sit in watching television. My last proper sea trip was back in the spring of 2017 to Cherbourg/Guernsey so it was obviously time to rectify that. Accordingly a short trip to St Malo was booked (via BFE of course!) on ‘Pont Aven’ – a ship I have not been on for quite some time.

    I’ve done this trip a few times before on ‘Bretagne’ and know that there is enough time to walk into the walled city, have a quick coffee, search for any new ship related postcards and get back in time for boarding so I wasn’t too concerned when I received texts and e-mails advising me that the gangway would be unavailable and that footies would disembark via the car deck obviously taking longer than normal.

    Late Sunday afternoon and I take the ‘long way’ round from my flat (near Gosport) to Portsmouth International Port using First Solent E1/X4 services arriving just before 18.00. I am checked in reasonably quickly although the staff seem to be having ‘one of those nights’. One has a long discussion with a group of four; her colleague has difficulty in persuading all members of another party to be at the desk whilst presenting their passports. The third agent warmly welcomes me, sorts out my boarding card, advises me again the ‘the gangway etc….’ and informs me that boarding will commence at 18.15. WOW! (My reservation did indicate this but I always understood this to be for cars – not footies. Nice little surprise.)

    Once on board it was a little disappointing to find out that both of the lifts in the main foyer were out of order – not that it really mattered as my cabin was only one deck down on 5 deck, an inside two berth rigged for one. After enjoying its welcoming warmth for a little while, I complete my ritual of checking escape/muster station routes before re-acquainting myself with PA. On 7 deck ‘Le Café Festival’ is closed and the temperature difference is quite remarkable compared to the adjacent ‘La Belle Angele’. Back aft, the piano plays away to itself, with only the restaurant staff for an audience. Up to 8 deck, where I buy my customary departure pint, then onwards to 9 deck to witness our slightly early departure at 20.00. The transit of the dockyard and out to OSB is accompanied by the protests of canine friends being left in an unfamiliar surroundings and, on return to my cabin, an ever changing litany of car alarms.

    Dinner was taken in ‘La Belle Angele’ and was good value at £ 10 for a main (ok-ish cod and fresh cooked chips) and dessert (large slice of chocolate and cream cake which had a surprise layer of pears!) accompanied by a bottle of red and overhearing a very interesting discussion by a group of NHS workers at the table beside me. I also learned (from the chef) that there were only 300 pax on board. Bed follows and it is a more than welcome feeling to be asleep at sea again.

    The best sleep I’ve had in a long time is interrupted by the wake up music doing its intended job. Dawn is still trying to make its presence felt as we dock on time. Announcements are made for car passengers on 3 deck to proceed there and ‘passagers pietons’ to assemble at reception on 6 deck. We are advised (again) that the gangway cannot be used due to tidal conditions and there will be a delay. At 8.45 we are informed that we can now disembark and proceed to 3 deck. At ‘C’ lift, several passengers are advised that they can use the stairs for this, however both ladies in front of me individually ask which deck they have to go to……..

    The bus has an abortive attempt to reach the terminal building as some more footies arrive. Once there immigration is quite swift and I am checking in for the return journey just before 09.00. My suspicion that the only part of St Malo I will see today is the terminal building is confirmed by the (now familiar) information that ‘the gangway…..’ and boarding will commence at 09.30 – hence the title! Thirty minutes is obviously not enough time considering the lock is in demand (I had observed the movements of vessels during the wait on 6 deck). I wander outside into the car park to watch the sun make its presence felt on this cold morning.

    One coffee in the bar later and it’s the earlier process in reverse! My cabin this time is 6164 which is an outside cabin on the inside! Confused? – I was a little bit initially but quickly liked the idea. The cabin is situated port side forward with a window looking out onto the wrap-round walkway which is a feature of the ship. The window, in turn, marries a corresponding one on the ships side. Simples!

    I just have enough time to get my pint and onto the open deck to witness the ropes coming off and our departure. A beautiful morning quickly changes as a squall comes through and it’s back into the warmth of the bar. In daylight this area is transformed from the gloominess of last night with the full glory of this two deck high space displayed – even though it is a bit grey outside. Although the marshalling area seemed quite busy, there are less people on board now (250) than last night.

    A quick snooze and it’s time to think about lunch. I dally with treating myself to ‘Le Flora’ but the only option that appeals is the Burger…..which I feel is cheating a bit on fine dining. (A quick question for any ‘La Flora’ regulars out there – why does a buffet/main course selection cost more than buffet/main/buffet selection?). Needless to say I had a delicious salmon main/lemon meringue combination from the self service and a pleasant afternoon drinking wine/book reading/(very few) people watching.

    I noticed some signs adjacent to ‘le Grand Pavois’ bar advising that “Alcohol/Tobacco sales are not permitted within 20 mins after departure/before arrival into Plymouth” but there seems to be no restrictions at Portsmouth. Does anyone know why?

     A couple of lumps and bumps/short,fierce squalls during the crossing and all too soon we’re back in Portsmouth. Disembarkation and Border formalities are quickly done and then it’s off home.

    I’ve enjoyed this unexpected trip – even though I didn’t achieve my initial aim. Being on PA was a nice little treat. The daytime element of the journey certainly showed how light and airy she is. The crew were wonderful and the information flow regarding the gangway situation cannot be faulted. Cabin 6164 I would happily have again – even to Spain.

    Thanks BFE for the offer and, as always, comments are welcome






    • Like 5

  16. Day off today and getting up for 06.00 ish was infinitely harder than my usual 04.45 alarm >:( Bus journey down to Gosport was a little fractious as regulars were keen to get the ferry before it stopped and additiional pax were delaying the service. Lots of people lining the shoreline plus an armed police presence (first time I've seen that in Gosport). Some pyrotechnics from the Southsea side then a burst of applause and cheering as she passed Falkland Gardens.

    A (very early) good day out!

  17. d2frs and Jim. Thanks for the comments. It's due to this site that I was aware of C Lib's track record and planned accordingly. Many Thanks BFE!!!

    Cabin-boy. By the time I walked to the railway station there was only one more scheduled train left (21.54 just under an hours wait). The information boards were stating that 'no real time information was available etc' and SWT were having a bad night due to problems at Micheldever. I could have carried on to the bus station but after the delay and long walk I just wanted to have a pint/lie down. They say 'Every cloud has a silver lining' and this turned out to be the taxi ride as, when we got to the hotel, it wasn't where I had worked it out to be (if you know what I mean).

    Thanks for reading/commenting


  18. Wortley,

    WOW! You're almost spot on!.

    I've just added all the transport/HOTAC costs up and it came to £ 204.25. The bus travel in/around Portsmouth was covered by my monthly pass; cross harbour travel was on the return half of a ticket. It would have been under that figure if I hadn't had to take a taxi from Poole station to my hotel (£ 15). I can provide a more detailed breakdown if you're bored!


    Yours Aye



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