I travel regularly to Europe on business as wells as for holidays. Generally this means about 12 channel crossings a year. I tend to prefer the Eurotunnel service for my business trips when time is the most important factor but I have also used the Ferries frequently and over Easter 2001 used the new SeaCat service which has replaced the discontinued Hovercraft service. I thought I would take the opportunity to share my views on the different services.
The premise is this, if you are driving over to France or Belgium from the Dover area which is the best service. I am comparing the SeaCat service run by Hoverspeed, the le Shuttle service run by Eurotunnel and the Ferry as run by P&O Stena line. I will compare ease of booking in, ease of boarding and getting off, comfort on board during the journey, smoothness of the crossing, terminal facilities and overall value for money.
All the services are easy to use and booking in does not take very long. There can unfortunately be some delays with Eurotunnel due to the large numbers using the service and traffic backs up along the M20. For this part though I give the following marks out of 10 ;-
Hoverspeed : 8 P&O Stena Line : 8 Eurotunnel : 5
Easy of Boarding and Getting Off
The Eurotunnel trains are very easy to drive onto and off again. The P&O Ferry is also large enough to be a simple drive on at the stern and off at the bow (or vice versa). On both these services the cars are in almost straight lines whenever you get on or off. Alas this is not the case with the SeaCat. Cars seem to be jumbled in all directions and depending where you are on the car deck you may have to reverse. The loading and unloading takes somewhat longer as a result. A serious down side to the SeaCat. Marks out of 10 :-
Hoverspeed : 3 P&O Stena Line : 9 Eurotunnel : 9
Comfort On Board
Of course for the Eurotunnel this is a case of How comfortable is your car? As you remain with your car for the whole journey the trip is as comfy as your car lets you be. You can stretch your legs to go to the toilet or stand by your car but that's it. OK for a business trip but as part of the overall ambience of your holiday, perhaps not ideal. The Ferries nowadays are superb and have the quality of facilities which would not have shamed a cruise ship 10 years ago. Plenty of room to walk about, good food,
comfortable seats, the ferry companies have defended themselves against the tunnel with service quality. The on-board shopping always has a great choice with some good bargains in a spacious area.. The Hoverspeed service should also do the same but the crossings I had over Easter were very disappointing. The quality and choice of food was very poor. The number of seats is just about sufficient for the number on the ship. The on-board shopping area was abysmally small and had very little choice or stock. The staff in all areas of the ship were unhelpful and disinterested and have the silliest uniforms imaginable. I am sorry to say the service just invited ridicule and parody. Marks for comfort :-
Hoverspeed : 4 P&O Stena Line : 9 Eurotunnel : 7
Smoothness Of The Crossing
There are a couple of things to consider here. Firstly a lot depends on how rough the seas are for the Ferry and SeaCat and the second is it does matter how rough the seas are for the Eurotunnel as you won't see a wave. On the basis the train will always be smooth then it has to have top marks. I know for some people who wish to cross the Channel this is the only important issue for them, some people just hate sailing. The SeaCat was reasonably smooth and does skim over the water well. You do notice the vessel rock about when forward momentum is slowed near the destination port. The vessel is a lot smaller but a lot faster than the ferry and this has plus points and negative points. Marks for the smoothness :-
Hoverspeed : 6 P&O Stena Line : 6 Eurotunnel : 10
As the newest infrastructure the Eurotunnel terminal is by far the best. It has been spread over quite a wide area and access to it is very easy. There are plenty of eating places like McDonalds and Costa coffee and shops like W H Smith and the usual post-duty free type shops. The P&O ferries seem less well served and it all felt a bit dingy last time we went. Hoverspeed have obviously refurbished their terminal recently but it felt a little empty. However the prices at the Hoverspeed drink shop were the lowest I have seen recently and they do have an order and collect service which worked well. Hoverspeed and the Ferries attract a lot of passengers seeking to avoid duty on drink and tobacco and probably for them the SeaCat would be best for speed. Marks for the terminals ;-
Hoverspeed : 7 P&O Stena Line : 6 Eurotunnel : 9
Overall Value For Money
Quite often nowadays the actual cost of the channel crossing is hidden in the ticket costs as part of a package. There are also a number of offers and deals which can significantly reduce the cost if you are only planning to be away for one day or 5 days. Overall though, the prices, when compared on a like-for-like basis, are all quite similar. It is clear that each service provider monitors the others prices closely and whilst there is competition, it is not exactly cut throat. The extra cross-channel capacity which the Eurotunnel has brought has been filled with a substantial increase in cross-channel demand despite the ending of the duty-free arrangements. Eurotunnel is slightly the higher in price as it does attract the non-sailors among us. The Ferries and SeaCat are cheaper so if you book a break away which includes travel and accommodation it is likely you will be allocated a berth on these services.
If you look beyond the fares and see what else the others provide then I think the Ferries have it for value but not by much.
Hoverspeed : 7 P&O Stena Line : 8 Eurotunnel : 7
The total scores out of 60 then give the following result :-
P&O Stena Line 46
On this showing the Hoverspeed SeaCat service will have to try harder. I was disappointed with the overall attitude of the staff and some problems like the lack of ease boarding are hard to overcome/ That being so they must try harder with the service on board which had a feeling of make-do about it. It is hard to think what more the Ferries can do. There is no doubt they are trying very hard and in the end they would have won but for the fact you can sometimes get a bad crossing. That is not their fault but of course it's not the passengers fault either and it is they who pay the fare and make the choice. Overall the convenience of Europtunnel gives it a marginal edge but not to the extent where you would not wish you could guarantee good weather and be on a ferry with some personal service and a holiday feeling.
Sea Cat has re appeared in Greece as Speedrunner One doing the run from Pireaus to Milos via Serifos and Sifnos.
I discovered this last week when stepping onto the ferry and sensing a strange sense of deja vu.
I havn't travelled on her since the early nineties but she is not easily forgotten.
Still going strong and nicer to travel on then the other high speed ferries which are more like planes with little connection to the outside which is a shame in the Aegean.
She follows a long tradition of cross channel ferries moving on to the Greek seaways
I understand that the ultimate fate is Senegal if they hold together long enough.
This is the message that greeted me on Sunday morning (19.02.2006) when I klicked onto the Hoverspeed website in order to research this particular review:
Hoverspeed ceased operations on the Dover - Calais route on the 7th November 2005
Click here for the press release
Existing bookings beyond this date will be honoured.
To ensure travel arrangements incur minimal disruption, Hoverspeed has arranged for existing bookings to be transferred to an alternative cross-Channel operator.
Notification of transfers will be advised by post or via your booking agent.
For further information and enquiries please contact Hoverspeed on:
00 44 (0)870 240 8070 (UK) or 00800 1211 1211 (Cont.)
What a thoroughly unconventional way to start a review!
If you are wishing to read the press release or contact Hoverspeed you will need to go to www.hoverspeed.co.uk where more information on the sad closure of this business is very well explained.
Not Helpful at all is it?
Such a pity, because they (Hoverspeed) were!
Well, looking for suitable subjects to review, I turned my mind to our travels over the past year, in fact the "Despatches" Ryanair programme the other week put me in mind of reviewing alternative ways to cross the channel, thanks to using the Channel Tunnel at Christmas for the first time, all of which we have now experienced on our twice yearly visits to Poland in the car.
We were very much aware of the closure of Hoverspeed's operation. Indeed we had booked to sail out on their wonderful 81 metre Seacat ferry from Dover on 19th December to Calais at 7.00am. They emailed us the cancellation news the very week after we booked it. The email informed us that we had been transferred onto a SeaFrance crossing; we contacted Hoverspeed and were granted a full refund. We re-booked with Eurotunnel the same day for exactly the cost of our tickets on Hoverspeed.
I was therefore amazed to find a fully functional product category for this, now regrettably defunct, company here on Dooyoo, so thought that an "R.I.P." review would be in order.
By the title of this company "Hoverspeed" you may well draw the correct conclusion that this was originally the, then rather trendy and glamorous, hovercraft operator of the 1960's era. As a child I well remember crossing the channel on a huge multi-engined hovercraft called Princess Margaret, now I believe being preserved in a museum at Lee on Solent. In actual fact that was not a particularly comfortable way to cross - it was comparatively fast compared to the much slower conventional ferries of the day though.
The thrill of travelling on that huge air cushioned and very noisy beast had far more to do with the technology of it all than the advertised "first class levels" of comfort and service. Those hovercraft were very sensitive to sea conditions and required a lot of maintenance, neither factor helping the reliability or in the end the popularity of the service.
Dover being the closest point in England to France, via Calais, there has always, throughout the centuries of history, been a demand there for a sea crossings. However, it was not until the mid 1960's that English people generally had the means or inclination to holiday abroad. The "jet-age" changed that, along with the dawning of better cars and roads to accommodate them. Fortunately, due to massive expansion of the port facilities, during the Second World War, Dover was more than able to cope with the increasing traffic. Just about anybody who is anybody in the transport business has operated some form of cross channel ferry service from here. In hindsight Hoverspeed, with over 30 years in business on this route, have proven to be one of the most enduring, which for me makes their departure all the more sad.
The old hovercraft were some time ago pensioned off to be replaced by an assortment of "fast ferries", continuing similar routes. Latterly these ferries have taken the extraordinary form of huge, Italian or Australian built, "Seacats". Some of these were monohull designs, some were catamarans. All of them, using a form of water-jet propulsion were fast, having a cruising speed of 35 knots and a maximum of 40 knots, making them almost twice as fast as the modern conventional ferries plying the same route.
Whereas the traditional ferries have holds large enough to take a much more lucrative mix of freight, coach and private transport (i.e. motorcycles, cars and caravans etc) the Hoverspeed vessels were smaller. In some cases they were not roll on, roll off type ships which seriously restricted their carrying capacity allowing only the smaller, private vehicles to be carried.
Apart from the speed, and "experience" of travelling on these Seacats, a major factor as far as we were concerned, was the much 'smaller nature' of the whole operation on both sides of the English Channel. The customs, booking in and queuing to board was far simpler and more stress free on Hoverspeed, obviously with a smaller ship the actual loading times were reduced too.
When you drove into, or away from, the Hoverspeed terminals, both in Dover and Calais, you had direct access off the main road on both sides of the Channel. It is amazing how much time this saved, as both ports are huge and have confusing road systems and multiple lanes to follow, Hoverspeed avoided all that by being out off to one side of the main port on both sides.
We always paid an extra £15 per ticket in order to travel First Class - a real bargain I thought. Not only did that give you priority loading, first on, first off, but it also included a dedicated lounge where a complimentary meal and newspapers were served by an extremely efficient and polite staff. In our case this meal always took the form of an excellent breakfast - we fell into the habit of travelling out on Hoverspeed and back on the P & O Ferries ships, in order to dine in a more leisurely fashion in Langan's Brassiere on the way home. The general Hoverspeed service was always so much more personal than on P & O somehow though.
Our early morning, first of the day, sailings always left on time, the ships were clean and all staff encountered were polite and helpful. We crossed each year at Christmas, as well as in the summer and even in a fairly stiff breeze never felt uncomfortable on the Seacat.
Another benefit, and I cannot really understand why this should be so, was that we often met and struck up conversations with interesting people over breakfast. These people generally shared our own high opinion of this service, if not on a couple of occasions the food, which certainly never gave us any cause for complaint.
We must have crossed on a Hoverspeed Seacat six or seven times over the last five years and I enjoyed the last crossing as much as the first. The dramatic speed - all that white foaming wake from the back of the ship, the comfortable airline seating and civilised meal arrangements, for me it all added up to an unbeatable combination.
One wonderful "touch" always remembered from our days of travelling First Class on Hoverspeed will be the hot, moistened hand towels handed around at the end of the voyage. So very refreshing, especially if you had fingers blackened with newspaper print.
Hoverspeed did also run other routes apart from Dover to Calais, which obviously was the "big one". Its parent company Sea Containers may well resurrect some of these routes, under their own or another name as they do still own the 74 and 81 metre Seacat Vessels. Searching around on the net this morning, it would appear that these routes also have been closed, certainly the popular Newhaven to Dieppe one, which was seasonal, does not look as though it will be running during the summer of 2006. I could find no evidence of the Irish Sea crossings being maintained either.
Thank you Hoverspeed - it was great whilst it lasted. Your Seacats were my favourite way to cross the Channel. As a company you always made us feel valued as customers and I thank you for honouring our booking and returning the money on that last crossing this Christmas. Many companies would have declared bankruptcy leaving their customers high and dry under such circumstances.
Sorry folks, but for this particular, and excellent service, it is too late, you have all missed the boat!
The most recent review of Hoverspeed was from 2001 so I decided to perpare one that recounts a slightly more recent experience... We were traveling to Poland for the Easter week and as the whole trip was to be for about 10 days; we needed a cheap ferry crossing. While it is very easy to find one for a day or weekend trip; standard prices for over 5 days stay is in the region of 220 GBP. Eventually, we used a voucher from a local paper which allowed us to purchase a return crossing on the Hoverspeed seacat (fast catamaran that regretably replaced the hovercraft around 2001) from Dover to Calais for 110 GBP. We travelled on the smaller one (Seacat Scotland). HOW IT WENT... On the way out the boat was packed chock-a-block with cars and they were all really, really squashed. As a result we lost left front indicator cover and didn't realise it until the middle of Belgium. The Channel was very choppy that day and the main disadvantage of the craft was clear: it is much more suspectible to sea-roll with resulting sea-sickness. A lot of people seemed to feel quite queasy but my 3 year old daughter was the only one who was spectacularly sick - all over herself and me; unfortunatelly. The staff were really very kind and helpfull, taking my husband to the car deck during the journey to bring us a change of clothes and supplying us with piles of wet and dry wipes. The return journey was entirly different, in a thick fog and on very calm waters. Our dughter enjoyed herself immensly running around the empty space called "child play area" and as the boat was quite empty the cars had enough room without a terrible squash. TERMINALS The Dover terminal in Western Docks was recently - appar
ently - refurbished and it shows as it is quite shiny and has a new look about it. The toilet facilities are nice and clean, you can have a drink and a snack, there is a shop counter where you can order stuff at French prices and a Travelex money exchange desk. The biggest single problem is in my opinion lack of a cash machine (ATM) at the terminal. I tend to withdraw money in British currency at the last minute to have some hard cash with me when I travel to non-Euro destinations and to avoid commision charges on withdrawls from foreign machines; so it was quite annoying that there was no ATM available. Calais terminal has a shop which sells basic selcetion of goods that cross-channell shoppers might be interested in (booze, ciggarettes, booze, sweets, booze, two kinds of Camembert, booze etc.). THE CRAFT As I said we travelled on the smaller of the catamarans and I would attribute most of the problems with the craft to its size: the cars were squashed terribly tightly; there was very limited shopping, eating and money exchange facilities on board and the effects of choppy sea were noticable. The seating area comprises of airline-style seats on two lower levells (presumably inside the hulls of the craft). These are leather covered and very comfortable. The centre of the craft is taken by banquette-style seating round tables and this is the best area to place yourself during rougher weather as its near the boat's centre of gravity. There is outside deck in the back of the boat and glass windows to the sides and the front, so plenty of opportunity for watching the outside world. The so-called play area for children comprises of some floor space decorated with oversized snakes-and-ladders board and a flat-screen TV showing cartoons; all surrounded by red leather seating. Ov
erall, considering the short lenght of the journey it is probably sufficient; providing the area for a toddler to run around in - my daughter did it with gusto on the return leg of the journey; accompanied by another little passanger. She seemed excited by the sheer fact that is was area specifically designed for children. However, The Simpsons are hardly a small childrens' cartoon so this wasn't terribly appropriate. THE SERVICE Staff were very helpfull, attentive, professional and prompt - also faced with a mild disaster (see above). SUMMARY (1) The best thing about the journey was that it really is fast: about an hour or less; (2) it usually should be cheaper than the Chunnel and in our case offered the best value longer-term ticket (3) in nice weather - it is infinitely nicer way to travel that sitting in your car in a box on The Shuttle. (4) The staff were also both nice and efficient. If you are after the experience or fun of crossing, however; you should go for one of the "proper" ferries - I suspect SeaFrance and especially their flagship newest ferry 'Rodin' is the nicest one although cannot vouch as have not yet personally been on one of theirs. The other danger with Hoverspeed is that they are cancelled when the weather gets *really* bad; so reliability is not their strongest point.
Whilst travelling about on an Interrail ticket last October, I decided to travel from Dieppe to Newhaven, to visit a mate in Brighton. I didn't have a ferry ticket, so when I arrived at Dieppe Train Station from Paris, I was eager to get to the ferry terminal asap, in case there was no space left. As there was a bus outside marked 'ferry terminal', I got in, expecting a complementary shuttle, like in Calais. However, it was a public bus, and ths was it's terminus, so after paying my 2 French Franc fare, I sat back. We weren't moving, I asked the driver, the bus wasn't leaving for half an hour. Ah... well, the ferry's only about 20 minutes walk from teh station, but the driver insisted there wouldn't be a problem, so I sat back down. Anyway, at the terminal, I bought my ticket, which didn't cost much, as the Interrail got me a 50% discount. As it was the off season, the seacat wasn't operating, and instead we got an Italian vessel, probably about 400 capacity, but there were only about 80 people on board. The crew were all Italian, and din't speak much French, or, as far as I could ascertain, any English. There was nothing to do for teh four and a half hour trip, except either sit in the Lounge Bar at the front (which I duly did), or about three machines in teh amusemnet arcade (I didn't look, but I have a feeling they would have required lire, the way everything was going... of course, with the euro zone, that wouldn't matter now.) Anyway, as it wasn't the fast Seacat, it was a 4 hour crossing, so a lot of my fellow passengers used it to catch up on some shut eye, as most of them were truckers. About an hour before arrival, the Restaurant opened, so I grabed some pasta there, but apart from visiting the bar, and popping out on deck once or twice, there was very little else to do on board. There was no duty free shop, although I had visited
the duty free shop at the terminal in Dieppe, so I wasn't to bothered. But if I hadn't had time after all, I wouldn't have been best pleased. Newhaven harbour is right beside the train station, so it was just a short walk across the car park to catch the train onto Brighton once we had docked. All in all, it was a decent crossing, but I can't help feeling anyone much younger than myself would have been bored senseless.
It was about 18 months ago, my husband and I decided that we were spending far too much on cigarettes and tobacco. As he is a shift worker he has quite a few days off during the week, dependant on what shift he is on, so we decided we would abscond to the continent for duty free stuff every couple of months. We saw an advert in our local paper advertising Hoverspeed. They had a special deal going to Ostend, so we decided to use them. Dover is about 1½ hrs drive from where we live so we set of about 6am. Our “flight” as they call it, was at 8.30am. You have to be there ½ hr before departure so we gave ourselves plenty of time to find the place. We found the terminal very easily. It is the first one you come across when driving to the port. There were ample parking facilities and the charges were not extortionate. Booking in was a doddle, and they had a Thomas Cook Bureau De Change in the lobby for us to change our money over to Belgium Francs. (BIG MISTAKE!). We went through customs into the departure lounge, which was very well equipped. There were places to get food, a duty free shop for perfumes etc., and a large area where you could purchase beers, wines and cigarettes at unbelievable prices. The bonus was you could buy all the goods you wanted for collection on the return journey. They had special offers on multi cases of wines and beers, which of course you could not carry with you during the trip so this was very accommodating. When our time came to embark, we were ferried to the Sea Cat by bus. It was walking distance away and I can only assume they do this to cover themselves from any personal injury claims. The vessel was very comfortable and clean. There was a Cafeteria, Bar, clean Toilets, Bureau de Change and another small duty free shop. The hostesses were helpful but I thought their uniforms were a bit shabby and outdated. The hats they have to wear are a bit of an
abomination! They have since changed the vessels to the Super Sea Cat, (but not the uniforms), which I find not a patch on the previous ships. They may be bigger and faster, but they are tattered and obviously well used. Instead of an airy, open plan feel, they are more like an aircraft. The facilities are still all there but not as comfortable. The crossing took around two hours and was very pleasant. There were outside decks to sit on if you so wished. We arrived at Ostend on schedule and the only complaint I had was the walk you had to exit the port. It seemed like miles. They must have facilities for disabled people, as it would be impossible for someone with walking difficulties to manage the distance. On leaving the port through the Railway Station, you find yourself in the heart of Osteen. You are within walking distance of the town centre, bus terminal and seafront. You can visit Bruges, as it is only 15 minutes and one stop away on the train or a twenty-minute drive. The big mistake we made was changing our money into Belgium Francs. We bought our purchases in Ostend Town Centre and discovered most of the shops take English money. On working out the exchange rate etc., we found we had paid well over the odds. English prices were displayed in almost all shops and we had paid approximately 10% more by paying in Francs. The same goes for Calais, most shops there take English pounds. We also discovered that the cheapest place to buy duty free wines, beers and tobacco was actually at the Hoverspeed port. We learned by our mistakes and always purchase at the port now. We have travelled with Hoverspeed many times now and the service has always been consistent. We have tried P & O, but find Hover speed more convenient and less hassle. One thing Hoverspeed do not advertise is the fact they do a Frequent User Loyalty Scheme. We found this out by chance whilst talking to a
nother passenger. You must have done at least three trips in the previous six months to qualify. You phone up and give them your booking numbers and they send you a number to quote when making further bookings. You then receive a 20% discount on the cost of your travel. This only applies to regular priced bookings and not to their offers. We find that not only do we have a lovely day out, especially in the summer months, but also we are saving a fortune on our duty free purchases. Thanks Hoverspeed
I haven't used Hoverspeed yet, but will be doing shortly. As a driver of a Smart Car I can travel for the price of a motorbike and two people. Up to half the price of an ordinary car apparently. Smart themselves have negociated this deal with Hoverspeed. The logic backs up the offer, a Smart Car is half the length of an ordinary car (about the length of a motorbike!). So far as I know no such offer exists with other crossing options, to date we have used the tunnel.
Do you like riding on Rollercoasters? If not, the SeaCat might not be for you – unless you take a travel tablet first! I recently travelled to France via the SeaCat, which sails between Folkstone and Boulogne. I have travelled on the large Sea France ferries before, but as they are now charging extortionate ticket fares this year, due to the stoppage of duty free sales apparently, the Sea Cat is a much cheaper alternative. We travelled with a car and 3 passengers on a 10 day ticket for £180, which was the cheapest deal we could find. There were quite a few good offers on alcohol, perfume and cigarettes which you could order in Folkestone and then collect when you arrived in Boulogne and we could buy a half bottle of gin, vodka etc plus 4 small mixer cans for £4.99 on board. There was also an offer of a pack of 20 cigarettes for only £1.50 for use on board, though as it was a non-smoking vessel I assume smokers took them home! The outward crossing was very smooth, but the homeward bound was quite rough and not good for the queasy minded sitting by the windows. It was definitely less rough sitting in the middle of the Seacat. Fortunately the whole journey only took 50 minutes, so was faster than the ferry trips. If you are looking for a cheap way to cross the Channel, it is worth trying the SeaCat and look for your free copy of the Daily Mirror in the small duty free shop in Folkestone. It could be the last English paper you see for days!
Having just returned from a week’s trip to France, I thought that some of you might be interested in one of the slightly more unusual ways to cross the channel – the SeaCat. Like most people taking their car to the continent, I usually use one of the ferry services but have also been on the hovercraft and via the channel tunnel (the last being by far the most civilized way to go, albeit the most expensive). This time, however, money being one of the major considerations - especially as most cross channel fares have risen by over 50% in the last year – I got a good deal on the SeaCat crossing from Folkestone to Boulogne, paying about £180 return for car and three passengers. The outward crossing at 7:30 am was fine. The sea was smooth and, although the harbour at Folkestone is a fairly grotty and miserable sort of place, overall the trip was pretty quick and comfortable. During the sailing there are the usual drink and cigarette offers – including an amazing single packet of B&H per customer for abut £1.50 “for use on board” – a good deal but a little tricky when you realize that the Cat is a strictly ‘no smoking’ vessel! When we set off for the return trip (8pm u.k. time), the captain casually remarked that there was some wind in the channel and the sea would be “a little choppy”. Oh boy!With waves of around 6-8 feet a normal ferry would barely roll at all – but not this baby!Remember all those films of small fishing boats being tossed around like corks? It probably wasn’t quite that bad and it did feel perfectly safe, but with the queues for the loos lengthening by the minute, peoples’ drinks refusing to stay in their glasses and the sound of breaking glass from behind the bar, it was at least exciting! Thankfully, with a speed of some 35 knots, the trip doesn’t last long and I’d still recommend it – but if you don’t enjoy
fair rides or just don’t travel well – make sure you take a travel sickness pill before you start!!
I decided to go to Calais. So I rang Hoverspeed and booked a day ticket for the next day (3 people & car for £75). We arrived at the terminal, waited around for a bit and then the hovercraft arrived. What an impressive sight that is! Shortly after arriving we could board. Since the craft is not that big it did not last long for everyone to get on. We sat down and it was just like a plane really. The seats are not meant for big people and do not provide much leg space but that is like a plane too :) The craft we were on was a bit old and run down and there was a very musty smell around. The crossing only took 35 minutes and a few minutes after arriving we were out of the craft and on our way to the shops. The way back was very similar. This was a different craft and did not smell so that was good. Boarding and getting off was very fast too. I have never seen a 'ferry' company as efficient as this. It is a shame that they are discontinuing the service from 1/10
I wanted to go shopping one Saturday and didn`t fancy spending £40 to take my car from The Isle of Wight just to end up parking it it the other side so I decided to try the hovercraft. What an experience! The crossing time was around 13 minutes as opposed to 40 by ferry and the cost was much cheaper than too. Boarding the vessel is a little dodgy - rickety stairs precariously balanced on the side. Once aboard, it was comfortable enough, if a little cramped - a bit like a London bus I suppose. Crossing the Solent was bumpy to say the least! the hovercraft is that much smaller than most of the other traffic out there and suffers from the wake of other ships etc. For speed though, you can`t beat it - quicker than the CAT and much quicker than Wightlink could ever hope to be in their ferries. For my purposes though, this was the ideal means by which to travel. I saved about thirty quid and didn`t have the hassle of parking my car the other side.