Newest Review: ... 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 r... more
Costliest Ferry Journey in the World...?
Member Name: Goonerette89
Advantages: Transports you efficiently.
Disadvantages: Very expensive if you travel regularly.
...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.
Summary: No luxuries but efficient service albeit very overpriced.
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