A couple of weeks ago I took part in a twitter party for Discover Ferries. I heard about it by chance as one of my friends was helping to run the twitter party and as I’d just booked ferry tickets for us earlier that morning for a Easter holidays trip to the Isle of Wight it seemed appropriate to take part. Especially as there were prizes to be won. I always love a chance of winning something after all!
As it happens I didn’t win (damn!) but I did have the most amazing hour reminiscing about various ferry journeys that I have taken over the years. If you’d asked me before hand if I’d ever been on a ferry I’d probably have just mentioned Dover to Calais which I think most of us here in the UK have done at some point in our childhood as part of a school trip or similar. But then I started to think about it a bit more and realised that actually I’ve been on ferries all around the world. In fact I’ve probably been on more ferries that I have flights over the years. Slightly hard to believe, but I think true.
My first trip was when I was less than a year old and my parents took me to Sweden to visit some friends of there. Aboard the Tor Britannia I first found my sea legs and my mum tells me I spent hours and hours toddling around the desk pulling along a Fisher Price horse that I’d briefly stolen from the ship’s play room!
I can’t say that I remember that particular journey, but there are plenty of later trips that I do remember.
Apart from this early trip to Sweden I think the childhood holiday I remember most was taking the ferry over to Denmark to visit the original Legoland in Billund. All my school friends were jetting off to Spain and other hot sunny places where they got to lie on beaches, but instead I went to the home of Lego – and boy did I love it! I also have distinct (if not quite so happy) memories of the overnight ferry journey there and back which seemed to feature lots of games of cards and feeling very queasy.
As I’ve got older my ferry travels have taken me further afield. I spent my 18th birthday in Norway after taking the ferry from Newcastle to Bergen and then we took the Hurtigruten all the way up the Norwegian coast to Kirkenes just before you get to the Russian boarder. There’s nothing quite like seeing a place from the water and I still remember fondly the beautiful scenery and amazing sights of that trip. It’s certainly a journey that I’d love to do again.
Further adventures in Scandinavia took me on the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and back. The most amazing part of this trip though has to be the fact that the ferry was actually the venue for an engineering conference that I went to. Yep – a conference on the ferry! It was as mad as it sounds. The sight of the sunset as we came out of Helsinki through lots of small islands on a June evening is one that will always stay with me.
Whilst up in Helsinki I also decided that it would be rude not to take advantage of our location and pop over to Talinn for a couple of nights. The ferry makes it an easy trip and as this was before Estonia joined the EU, it was actually quite an eye opener of a trip. It was the first time I’d been to Eastern Europe and wow it was quite an experience. One that probably deserves its own blog post one day. Years later Mr C and I returned to Helsinki together and took that same ferry journey over to Talinn. A totally different city to the one I had visited before. So much modernisation had taken place and suddenly there were all these tall shiny hotels where before we stayed in an incredibly run down youth hostel.
My ferry travels haven’t just been restricted to Europe though. Over in Canada we were again treated to the beautiful views (see a common theme yet?) of the journey from Vancouver over to Vancouver Island.
If that wasn’t enough excitement we also hired a car and had our first ferry on car experience with a couple of tiny little ferries that take you from one bit of the island to another. If you were ever in any doubt that journeys could be exciting then surely a trip on a ferry like this will convince you otherwise.
Hong Kong was a whole different story. The famous Star Ferry there is unlike any other ferry that I’ve been on. Taking you from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (and back) you sail along looking up at skyscrapers this ferry journey has even been voted number one in the world’s top ten ferry rides! The Star Ferry is just such a key part of the Hong Kong public transport system and we loved the fact that you could use your Octopus card (just like an Oyster card here in London) on the ferries as well as the underground there. We used several different ferries during our week long stay to get visit several of the islands.
Further round the world we also used the ferry to take us between North and South Islands when we spent our honeymoon travelling round New Zealand in a camper van. I seem to recall that it was raining rather a lot when we left Wellington to cross the Cook Strait to Picton, but even in miserable weather there’s something rather exciting about boarding a ferry – even if Iw as busy having a mild panic about whether we’d remembered the height of our camper van correctly!
It’s been quite a while since my last ferry journey – in fact I think a quick trip on the Star Ferry whilst spending a 36 hour stop over in Hong Kong on the way back from New Zealand may have been the last time. There’s not much longer to wait though as in just over a week we’ll be taking the kids on their first ferry trip as we cross over the Solent to the Isle of Wight. It may only be a short crossing, but I’m hoping that it could be the star of a love for ferry travel. In the meantime though I’m off to research how possible it is to travel round the world mainly by ferry. Or, on a slightly closer to home, see if I can plan a holiday making use of ferries to explore the Scottish Islands a bit more.