Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Travel -

Fresh air. Fog ma­chines. Face masks... and lots of space for so­cial dis­tanc­ing. It’s not just air­lines ring­ing the changes for post-lock­down trips. Fer­ries are sail­ing into a brave new world, too. So as Euro­pean travel ap­proaches again, and when book­ings tick back up, what’s in store? Ir­ish Fer­ries, Stena Line and Brit­tany Fer­ries are high­light­ing three ob­vi­ous USPs — “fresh sea air”, am­ple space and pri­vate cab­ins. “Ferry travel is the only mode of trans­port where you can so­cial dis­tance,” Stena’s CEO Ni­clas Martens­son says. “No air is re-cir­cu­lated,” Ir­ish Fer­ries adds. Sani­ti­sa­tion is en­hanced (hence Stena’s fog ma­chines), and you can ex­pect dis­tanc­ing stick­ers, Per­spex screens and hand sani­tiser at ev­ery turn.

On board, most pas­sen­gers are asked to wear face masks, and ship ca­pac­i­ties will be re­duced by up to 50pc. Buf­fets have been re­placed with plate ser­vice or pack­aged food. Ex­pect cash­less pay­ments, and cin­e­mas and play­rooms to be closed. Iso­la­tion ar­eas are ready for sus­pect cases; Brit­tany has ded­i­cated nurses on board.

In ter­mi­nals, stag­gered board­ing and dis­em­bark­ing will help avoid queues in stair­wells and lifts. Pre­pare to face health ques­tions (if there are in­di­ca­tions of sus­pected Covid-19, pas­sen­gers “will be de­nied board­ing,” Stena says). Brit­tany, which re­sumed sail­ing from Cork to France this week, says cab­ins or re­served seats are com­pul­sory. “It won’t be the same ex­pe­ri­ence on board, at least to start with,” CEO Christophe Mathieu ex­plains. “How­ever, it will still be a re­lax­ing sea bridge to take you to the beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tions you have been dreaming of.”

Fer­ries haven’t been without their Covid-19 con­tro­ver­sies, of course. Dur­ing the cri­sis, pas­sen­gers com­plained about dif­fi­cul­ties con­tact­ing cus­tomer ser­vice, and out­stand­ing pay­ments be­ing de­ducted for trips they couldn’t take due to travel re­stric­tions (ferry com­pa­nies say they were trans­par­ent and of­fered “en­hanced flex­i­bil­ity” in an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion). Un­like air­lines, many routes con­tin­ued dur­ing lock­down to main­tain sup­plies and pro­vide for es­sen­tial travel.

If France or the UK ap­pear on Ire­land’s ‘Green List’ for overseas travel things will pick up. It won’t be hol­i­days as usual, but the hope is that some leisure busi­ness can be re­cov­ered this sum­mer... not least among hol­i­day­mak­ers.

As with any kind of travel in the new nor­mal, my ad­vice is to in­form your­self be­fore book­ings. Read the Covid-19 Q&As and can­cel­la­tion poli­cies, pre­pare ac­cord­ingly, read up on what to ex­pect at your des­ti­na­tion as well as on board, and plan for what to do if any­one feels sick.

‘It won’t be the same ex­pe­ri­ence on board, at least to start with, but it will still be a re­lax­ing sea bridge’

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