New Belfast – Holyhead ferry ends first weekend – we were on board
Stena Line’s new Holyhead – Belfast route has completed its first week of crossings. The temporary weekend route was launched due to high demand on the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) and Belfast – Cairnryan routes according to Sténa. The Dublin – Holyhead route is currently experiencing a significant drop in tourist traffic due to the travel restrictions for travelers from Great Britain imposed by the Irish government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Direct links between Northern Ireland and Britain have also proven to be more attractive to carriers after UK leaves the EU due to the need to fill out less paperwork. This has resulted in increased demand for freight on services to Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint, putting increased pressure on space on key Cairnryan and Birkenhead routes.
Travel directly between Belfast and Holyhead
At the invitation of Stena Line, I made a round trip from Belfast to Holyhead on Saturday June 26th. The service uses Stena Line’s Terminal 4 Victoria in Belfast, with arrival and departure from Holyhead scheduled between Superfast at 7:30 am. departure for Cairnryan and arrival at 9.45am from Scotland. At Holyhead, arrival and departure are scheduled between the departure and arrival of STENA ADVENTURER on the Holyhead-Dublin route.
The result of these schedules is a six and a half hour crossing time to North Wales and an eight hour and fifteen minute leisurely cruise from Holyhead to Belfast. The longer night crossing allows passengers to get a good night’s sleep before arriving in Belfast.
All crossings on the route are made at a slower service speed than the ferry, STENA ESTRID, would navigate on its regular Holyhead – Dublin route. This has the added benefit of reducing fuel consumption and the environmental impact of the already highly efficient and environmentally friendly vessel.
STENA ESTRID is one of the newer ferries from Stena. She was the lead ship in the E-Flexer class designed by Stena, a series of ferries designed to be more environmentally friendly, efficient and flexible than previous generations. ‘Estrid’ itself has already demonstrated this flexibility since entering service last year, having sailed the Belfast – Cairnryan, Rosslare-Cherbourg, Dublin – Cherbourg and now Belfast – Holyhead routes in addition to its regular Dublin route – Holyhead. The identical twin ships STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA are assigned to the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route.
While “Estrid” and her sisters are already spacious ships for their capacity, passenger numbers are currently limited for social distancing purposes. Hand sanitizer vending machines are placed at regular intervals and all passengers and crew are required to wear face masks when not seated or in their cabin. In the queue areas, stickers have been placed on the bridge to promote social distancing. All zones have a notice indicating the maximum number of people allowed in the zone.
The E-Flexer class was designed for short and overnight journeys, and therefore has a number of facilities for passengers. These include a large restaurant overlooking the bow, a ‘Sky Bar’, a barista shared with the guest services office, two separate multi-screen cinemas and spacious lounges.
For an additional fee, passengers can also access the premium Stena Plus lounge and / or the Hygge reclining lounge. At Stena Plus (£ 20 per person), passengers have access to a range of comfortable seats, free hot and cold drinks and a selection of snacks. Table-served meals from a special menu are also available at an additional charge. Children under the age of eight are not allowed “in order to maintain a relaxed atmosphere”.
The Hygge Relaxation Lounge (from £ 8 per person) offers both fixed reclining seats and reclining chairs, all with personal sockets and reading lights. Again, children under the age of eight are not allowed.
Cabin accommodation is also available. It can be included at the time of booking or purchased on board if there are any cabins left. A range of cabins are available up to the spacious luxury suites which have their own direct access to the outer deck. For more details on the passenger facilities on board STENA ESTRID and its sisters, see our dedicated file here.
Facilities for children
All facilities were available on the Holyhead – Belfast round trip day and night crossing when I visited, with the sole exception of the two children’s play areas (due to Covid-19 prevention measures). Instead, the kids were taken care of with kids’ movies available in the two free multi-screen movie theaters. Passengers with cabins also have a selection of live movies and TV programs included in their cabin price.
In an age when we all appreciate the fresh air, “Estrid” and her sisters have plenty of outdoor space. There are public outdoor decks on deck 7 (port and starboard), decks 8 and 9 (aft) and a large sundeck on deck 10. There is also a dog exercise area on deck 7.
This is adjacent to the kennels specially designed for dogs which are heated, fully enclosed and monitored by video surveillance. Owners can access their pets during the trip by using a code on the door.
Stena Line Belfast – Holyhead Route operates every weekend until July 18. Departures from Belfast are available on Saturday and Sunday mornings, departing at 7.45am. Holyhead – Belfast crossings are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings with a departure time at 11.30pm. However, the car passengers boarded early just before 9:00 p.m. on our crossing, giving them plenty of time to have a late dinner and get settled before departure.
NI Ferry Site would like to thank Ian from Stena Line Belfast for arranging this trip. We also thank the crew of STENA ESTRID, in particular Marc and Kayleigh, for their hospitality.
Belfast – Holyhead Ferry Questions & Answers
Fares on the Holyhead – Belfast service start at £ 130 for a single car and driver. Foot passenger fares start at £ 22 one way.
Daytime sailing from Belfast takes 6.5 hours and nighttime sailing from Holyhead takes approximately 8 hours 15 minutes.
Yes! Heated and ventilated enclosed dog kennels are available on board, and passengers can access their pets while sailing.
According to Stena Line, the last crossing of the route will be the early morning departure from Belfast on July 18, 2021. Two crossings in each direction will be offered each weekend until that date.
Stena Line takes reservations here via their website.
Yes. Cabins can be booked and paid for in advance or paid for on board (if spare cabins are available). STENA ESTRID has 175 cabins.