“ Isle of Wight Ferry Service „
Beware of parking around Town Quay Red Funnel. Even with your engine running while waiting for people you will find a nasty surprise in teh post of £75 charge as there are cameras recording your entrance in and out of the carpark. Ferries are often late so don't be caught out. Its expensive to park.Use a different route such as Lymington as road into and out of Southampton often gets jammed with shopping and IKEA traffic as well as cruise ship traffic.AVOID
...well, not sure if it is entirely true as I've read it is both true and mythical but it IS one of the most expensive:
Of the two major Hampshire cities, I have always been a Southampton girl. I realise when we went on school trips to the mainland, we nearly always travelled by ferry via Portsmouth. Unless I really had to, I have always departed the island from East Cowes and (anachronistically speaking) West Cowes to Southampton personally but it seems that I am in the minority and islanders generally prefer Pompey as their get out destination in Hampshire. When I was a little girl, I would travel to Southampton to shop and generally take a break from the island nearly every single weekend with family members. So Red Funnel, the particular company that runs ferries between the north of the island in West and East Cowes and Southampton, became second nature to me and almost like a second home. I still recall running around the ferry madly and waving to all the small yachts sailing past through the window on the big ferry in the hope I would receive a little wave back! They did most of the time, much to my innocent delight. I also loved giving our ticket to the person clipping them at the entrance of the ferry but in all honesty they barely glance at your ticket when you board the ferry.
So if any Hampshire or island folk used to get the car ferry to Southampton or vice versa in those days, then I was the kid on it every week waving and running past you every two seconds and playing the arcade games! I even had a favourite ferry of the three or so that were consistently used - the Red Falcon - how sad is that?
I did take a lot of notice of the cleanliness because when I was a child I refused to sit at a table anywhere in the world with even one crumb on the table - other people's crumbs made me feel sick and I'd sulk until we moved to another one. I cannot recall any mess on the ferries at all; in fact, we often got something from the restaurant on the car ferry and the staff would, without fail, come around at the end of the trip to clear our tables. I recall how long it took to get off the thing though. Everyone would have to wait patiently whilst the ramp came down and we could all depart the ferry safely and walk off (be prepared to be stared at by waiting passengers!).
In those days of course, I didn't take an awful lot of notice of service or anything other than that. I just loved the boat and it was part of the island's charm.
However, looking at the ferry service between the island and UK mainland constructively and in my twenties, when you want to be travelling and enjoying places, the biggest problem is the pricing and overall hassle; not only with this company but with its rivals and this is what may not only put off many from visiting at peak season, in particular, but also puts those who commute off the island regularly at a major disadvantage. Transport and transport pricing in general is a problem on the island as the bus service is expensive as well, so if you're not a driver like myself, the likelihood is that you're much lower on cash by the time you've arrived at the ferry terminal. The terminals themselves are quite dull and old with little to do whilst you wait.
If you're planning a trip to the island (probably not off as I'm sure you know all this!), there is the Red Jet Hi-Speed which is fast and convenient, and the car passenger ferry which is slower but larger and obviously carries vehicles.
~ Red Jet Hi-Speed ~
The Red Jet is passenger only and takes about 23 minutes, approximately. The Red Jet departs from West Cowes, just near the high street which is an advantage as there is plenty to do prior to or after your journey if you're holidaying. There are buses that run to the terminal from Newport and elsewhere as well as taxis which I often prefer because it means I would have to get two buses to get to where I live because of the island's transport structure which revolves around the hub of Newport; every bus journey is at least £2.50 on the island as well.
The Southampton terminal is also linked with the city's free shuttle bus service which connect to the West Quay shopping centre in the city centre, the railway station, airport and universities but the city centre is also walk-able.
Seating is close together but there plenty of it and it is relatively comfortable with safety fliers and life-jackets at each seat. You're greeted with a safety video at the beginning of your journey (I cannot count how many times I have listened to this!). A member of staff offers hot and cold drinks to passengers about halfway through the journey at a reasonable price. There is room to put your luggage as you get on which is essential as there is little space between the seating.
I have been on this ferry once during a bad storm at the end of October a few years ago that felt like it was going to tip over; in fact it was so scary, Red Funnel probably should never have run that particular journey. I'm not saying it would have tipped over but it was enough to make other passengers cry with the requirement of being comforted by staff, which in fairness, they did.
Other than that, though, I've never had any problem with the Red Jet. It is (usually) quite efficient and the staff are friendly enough.
Single fares cost an adult £13, children* are priced at £6.50 and senior citizens tickets cost £8.70 to reach the Isle of Wight, as I write this.^
Adult day return ticket prices vary from about £7.80 (super off peak) to £27 (off peak family). Child fares range from about £3 to £10 and senior citizen tickets cost from £7.80 to £15. Dog tickets cost you £6.80 on any day return journey.
Period returns are obviously all slightly higher and last 90 days.
Season tickets go in 7 day, 30 day, 6 month and year time periods and cost between £67 to almost £1,500.
~ Car Passenger Ferry ~
This one is the one that runs between East Cowes and Southampton every hour, with the iconic funnel that gives it its name.
East Cowes is a little more obscure than West Cowes and offers less to do to the incoming visitor, although the popular Osborne House is just a few minutes away.
The terminal at the Southampton end is just opposite the Red Jet one and once again, is timed with the free shuttle buses.
Passengers must leave and are not allowed to return to their cars during the entire crossing and are briefed of when to return to their cars (via a lift or stairs) with about five or ten minutes to go.
The biggest problem with the car ferry is the pace of the ferry; it takes an hour to cross a small strip of water like the Solent and often feels like you are never going to reach the end. In fact it sometimes feels as though you're not even moving although you're going at about 12 knots. I used to get to know the 'landmarks' along the journey as a child, like you do on a motorway, just so I could work out when we were getting nearer Southampton - little things such as container ships or bulk carriers would determine whereabouts in the Solent we were geographically. This is more suited to holidaymakers who possibly see the ferry as part of their holiday than those who are regular travellers.
If you want to relax and perhaps enjoy the journey in the fresh air, this can be done on the outside deck, depending on climate and weather of course. Their is also the option of a café (at a price), the bar and a small shop offering newspapers and other items and there are machines and games outside. There are toilets on board which have always seemed clean.
A single adult fare costs £7.60 with senior citizens and children costing less.
A day return would range from £7.80 to £27 per adult and again, children and those over 60 paying less.
Season tickets go in time brackets of 7 days, 30 days, 6 months and a year again and range from £88 to £2,105. Student season tickets are available and range between £77 and just under £1,500.
This January however, these prices will be increasing slightly.
~ Overall ~
I haven't got a problem with the Red Funnel ferries themselves as such, but the price is a huge disadvantage to the island's economy and those who want to leave it, which I like to on a regular basis. Both ferries are quite efficient although the last Red Jet I got, en route to London, was about half an hour late which made me miss my train and arrive in the capital at 6pm rather than my intended time around lunch. In fairness, this is a rare occurrence. If it does happen you often get little help or updating from staff.
Red Funnel and their rivals know they can get away with charging what they like because they know people require transport in and out of the island and we are British, so as a rule we tend to shrug off high pricing. I wouldn't say that Red Funnel provide a better or worse experience than their rivals, on personal experience, but at the price it's just so overpriced. I think that you notice the price when you use it regularly rather than if you were using it once or twice every summer.
Red Funnel's website is excellent though as you can not only book your tickets there but can also use it to check the latest news and events of what is happening on the island and help with accommodation. Red Funnel itself is the longest operating ferry service on the island and has a rich history. Another look at their pricing would suffice though.
^ Fares are increasing on the 3rd January 2012.
*Children are classed between the ages of five and fifteen. Children under five go free.
SAILING THE SOLENT
We recently travelled to the Isle of Wight for a three day family break and were offered the option of booking the ferry crossing with our hotel. Never one to shun the easy life, I took an executive decision and opted, there and then, to let the hotel take the strain. We were offered a return crossing from Southampton to East Cowes for £45 on Red Funnel Ferries. Shortly after we made our hotel booking, we received an e-mailed "e-ticket" direct from Red Funnel confirming our sailing times on both legs of the journey.
Given our hotel was in Shanklin, technically, as the crow flies, the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route via WightLink car ferry would have been shorter. However, there wasn't much in it - in terms of both distance and cost - and, in any event, I was already familiar with the Southampton seafront, having spent over a year working on secondment at the Ordnance Survey.
ARRIVAL & BOARDING
The routes in to Red Funnel's terminus at both ends of the journey are clearly signposted from all major routes. In any event, the e-mail we had received thoughtfully provided the SatNav postcodes for both terminals, so we let the TomTom guide us in. On arrival, you check-in via a toll booth type kiosk, present your e-ticket, confirm the number of passengers and then drive your car to the appropriate lane number.
Drivers are expected to report to their cars at least 30m before the scheduled sailing time, but in the meanwhile, you are free to get out and walk around. In Southampton, there is a coffee shop and waiting area next to the ticket office (East Cowes has a coffee shack, ticket office and little else - but there is a Somerfield around the corner). Given we had arrived 45 minutes before the sailing, we decamped to the Steam café for coffee and snacks.
With a plethora of brochures and magazines available on the sights and attractions on the Isle of Wight, there was plenty to keep us busy while we waited. Engrossed in the literature, we hadn't noticed the café had emptied and as such, had to make a mad dash for our car, which was sitting - lonely and forlorn - on the tarmac.
Fortunately, the bemused staff waited patiently for us to strap the kids in before waving us on to the lower deck. To be frank, it was a little odd not to have given customers in the café any kind of boarding call. I thought we'd simply missed it, but the staff on board the ferry confirmed that they don't do one.
The crossing takes about an hour and you have to vacate your car. You can't return to it during the voyage, so you have to be organised and take what you need for the journey. On the outbound journey, we were parked on the lowest deck. There is a lift, but we didn't know about it, so we ended up carrying the baby and helping our daughter up the three very step flights of stairs to the main deck.
There are two distinct areas on the main deck separated by the Cafeteria and the toilet block. One end has tables and benches for those buying food from the cafeteria, and the other end has a bar and coffee stand, with a number of booths and benches. I was delighted to discover that Red Funnel offer free WiFi during the crossing, and having recently acquired a nifty new netbook, I took full advantage of a solid and reliable connection on both legs of the journey.
Staff on board were courteous and helpful and the facilities are clean and well maintained. Prices for the coffee stand and the café were relatively expensive but hardly extortionate. For example, two sandwiches, a packet of crisps, a Pepsi Max, Strawberry Ribena and a bag of Mini-Cheddars cost us around £11, a medium Americano set me back £2.40 and a small pot of local IOW Minghella Rum & Raisin ice cream was £1.50.
Above the main passenger deck is an open air viewing deck that has plenty of seating and, although a touch windy, is very pleasant in good weather. This level also has a dedicated and covered pet area with water bowls set out for four-legged passengers. There are also a number of canopied and protected areas where passengers can take shelter from the wind.
The crossing was entirely uneventful. The weather was brilliant, giving us some great views across the Solent and the River Test on both legs of the journey. About ten minutes out from port, drivers are instructed to return the car decks and make ready to disembark. After the ferry docks, the staff direct traffic off the ferry. They were very well-versed in their job, which is more than I can say for the SatNav. As soon as I switched it on so we could resume our journey, it blithely informed me to "turn around when possible..."
Red Funnel operate three ferries across the Solent as well as a passenger only "Red Jet" service (which takes around 25 minutes to cross as opposed to the 55 minutes on the Ro-Ro ferries). They have been around for close on 150 years under various names. We boarded the MV Red Opsrey from Southampton and the MV Red Eagle from Cowes, and both had a remarkably similar layout.
Along with the MV Red Falcon, these three, fifteen year old Raptor class diesels average 15 knots and have a capacity of around 200 cars and 800 passengers per journey. Sailings from Southampton depart on the hour, every hour from April to October (and at 90 minute intervals at other times of year). Services from East Cowes leave on the half hour every hour.
Red Funnel do not publish a set tariff, but instead, operate a demand -based pricing system, so the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. Details of prices and sailings can be found on www.redfunnel.co.uk. The price of the ferry is a common topic of discussion (we overheard grips and complaints about the expense on the ferry, on a queue at the Needles Park and in an Indian restaurant in Shanklin) and it is often said that it is the Solent crossing is - mile for mile - the most expensive ferry trip in Europe.
This is the second time I have used Red Funnel for return Solent crossings and both times the service has been smooth, reliable, punctual and hassle-free. The on-board facilities are clean and comfortable and Red Funnel seem to take good care of their customers. For example, when we decided at 3:30pm to shift our 4:30pm return to a few hours later so we could take advantage of the good weather and take the kids to the beach at Ryde, all it took was a simple phone call to change the time of our sailing. Simples.
Red Funnel Travel Centre
12 Bugle Street
Southampton SO14 2JY
0844 844 9988 (0800-1945 Mon-Fri & 0800-1745 Sat-Sun)
© Hishyeness 2010
Red Funnel Ferries - one of the worlds biggest rip offsHi Speed:UnreliableOverpricedFood and drinks available only to the richFerry:OverpricedErratic serviceThey cannot unload it quickly so you spend ages sat doing nothingFilthy saloon and toliets - its a germ havenToilets are disgustingFood overpriced
The Red Funnel is a passenger and vehicle ferry service that links the Isle of Wight with the mainland at Southampton. A quick glance at their website tells us that they have been operating this service for almost 150 years, and that they carry over 3 millions people across the Solent each year.
For anyone who is familiar with the Isle of Wight, you have doubtless used the services of the Red Funnel company, named after the infamous red funnels of its fleet. It is something that is synonymous with the Island and, as a result, you'll find it features on everything from tea towels to postcards.
Since my mum and her family all hail from the Isle of Wight, I have been a regular visitor over the years and have come to love the Red Funnel ferries for what they mean to me - a trip to visit my family.
The ships themselves are new and well equipped with everything you could possibly need in a one-hour ferry journey, including:
There is plenty of seating onboard, so much so that I have never had trouble finding somewhere to sit. The top deck is outside and gives you the best views as you are approaching / leaving the island. Dogs are also allowed on the top deck as long as they are kept on a lead (otherwise they have to stay in the car deck on the lower level).
Through the summer, the ferries operate every hour (every 90 mintues in winter) and you book the ferry for the time you estimate to arrive. They are quite flexible about changing your sailing time if you arrive earlier or later. Usually you have to pay a charge to change times, but a couple of times I've arrived early or late and been allowed to travel without paying for the change - I think it's just a case of wether or not you catch the staff in a good mood!
The price varies depending on the time of day and year - be aware that the price increases massively during Cowes week and when the festivals are on and you have to book well in advance. Last time we travelled was in August and it cost £35 for a week return ticket for the car and three passengers, which is really good value.
The only bad point is the price of the food onboard, but we don't generally bother since it's such a short journey.
Overall, it's great value for money, punctual and fast, so I would definitely recommend it if you're ever visiting (or escaping from!) the Isle of Wight.
As most of my family live in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, I'm a frequent user of Red Funnel, which runs between Southampton and West Cowes (Foot passengers) and Southampton and East Cowes (Car Ferry).
Because I live quite close to the terminal in Southampton and my parents live close to terminal on the Island I tend to get the Redjet as a foot passenger. I have one main complaint about the service and that is the price. It currently costs me £17.60 for a day return which I think is pretty steep for a journey that takes little over 20 minutes each way.
The service is frequent- every half an hour throughout the day, and redjets run until around 11pm most nights. However another grumble from me is that there are no boats on Christmas Day, meaning that I haven't been able to visit my family on Christmas Day since we moved to Southampton. Having said that it also means that the mother in law can't get overe here Christmas Day so 'every cloud...' and all that (joke)!
I think I've been lucky with the service received when travelling by Redjet as I've found that they are almost always running on time. I've been less lucky with the car ferries, which are quite often running late, over crowded or cancelled. I guess that getting hundreds of cars, passengers, numerous coaches and lorries etc onto a ferry in a short turnaround must be a logistical nightmare, but when you've paid a high fare you expect things to run on time.
Getting to the Isle of Wight can be a costly journey, and 'The Solent' (which is the short stretch of water between the Island and mainland UK) is often quoted as being the most expensive ferry journey per mile in the world.
I've already reviewed the two other transport companies who offer travel to the Island (Wightlink and Hovertravel), so all that's left for me to do is to review 'Red Funnel'.
Red Funnel, which used to be called 'The Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited'... phew!... was formed in 1861. Its name was shortened in 1935 when all the ferries in the fleet were painted with a red funnel.
Today, the company operates two main services from East Cowes on the Island to Southampton on the mainland. The first is the Car Ferry - which for a car and one passenger costs:
£35.50 for the 'saver' service - single.
£48.50 for the 'Flexible' service - single.
£52.50 for the 'Premium' service - single.
The car ferry takes around an hour to cross the Solent, but there is a bar / cafe on board, and the vessel is comfortable. It can hold over 200 cars, and is wheelchair friendly with lifts from the car deck to the lounges.
The second Red Funnel option is the 'Red Jet', which is a passenger ferry only. This is a much quicker choice (23 minutes), and a single journey to Southampton costs £6.
I don't often use Red Funnel - as I live near the Wightlink teminal on the Island, so my main port of call on the mainland is usually Portsmouth. However, when I have used Red Funnel in the past they have run an efficient and trouble free service. The boats run all year round and are comfortable. Highly Recommended.
For more information on timetables and fares, see: http://www2.redfunnel.co.uk/, or alternatively call 0844 844 9988 to book.
Red Funnel prides itself in being the "original Isle of Wight ferry company" and have been operating since the early 1800's! Their ferries operate every day of the year apart from Christmas day.
Red Funnel operates two ferry services:
1. Car ferry from Southampton to East Cowes, Isle of Wight
2. Passenger ferry from Southampton to West Cowes, Isle of Wight (the Redjet)
Both terminals are easy to access in Southampton and there is plenty of parking for the passenger ferry. The car ferry can get extremely busy at peak times such as bank holidays and as a consequence tends to cause problems on the main roads to the terminal.
Parking in Cowes is restricted for the passenger ferry but there is a park and ride scheme in place a couple of miles up the road. Again in East Cowes for the car ferry traffic can be very busy at peak times.
The Redjet is the passenger catamaran ferry that takes approximately 23 minutes. I show my age when I recall the flimsy old hydrofoils that preceeded these super modern boats! An adult day return from Southampton will cost you £17.60 and a child £8.80. Island residents do get cheaper tickets and the adult day return costing £12.00 and the child £6.00.
The car ferry is very spacious and has onboard facilities for hot meals and drinks. the crossing time is approximately 60 minutes. Prices vary greatly according to the time of year. At this time of year (October) you can get a day return from Southampton for about £32 but expect pay at least half this amount again in the sumer holidays.
Booking is easy, you can either call the ticket office on 0844 844 9988 or book online at their website www.redfunnel.co.uk.
I can highly recommend the website for booking. It is easy to use and you can alter your travel times to get a cheaper fare. There is also lots of information about places to stay on the Isle of Wight and attractions to visit.
The only time I have ever had problems with Redfunnel is at peak times and feries can be delayed for up to an hour. Despite this I have always found the staff polite and helpful. Delays can also be expected in bad weather conditions however this cannot be helped. I am happy to add a further fifteen minutes to my journey if it means I get there safely!
It is worth my mentioning though that if you are planning a trip to the Isle of Wight check out Redfunnels competitor Wightlink (www.wightlink.co.uk) as they are not always (but mostly!) the cheapest!