Luxury Ferry Cruises: What You Should Know

Whether it’s a short jaunt to a series of offshore islands or a longer-haul sea crossing, ferries are a transportation option that can be found from Alaska to Greece to Asia. In general, ferries don’t get the credit they deserve. They’re green, scenic and affordable. Compared to flying, they’re generally more comfortable and less stressful. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be reviewing a longer-haul, overnight ferry in Europe.
Prepared By:

Shannon Lowery

Writer & Traveler

I recently set sail on one of the newest luxury ferries in Europe for a two-night voyage. Our experience was full of pleasant surprises and made us excited for the future of ferry travel. Here’s everything you need to know about the luxury ferry experience onboard Brittany Ferries’ Salamanca.

What are Luxury Ferries?

Ferries aren’t usually synonymous with luxury, but similar to trains, elevated onboard experiences are becoming more popular for ferry travel. Let’s be honest, the term “luxury” is generous, especially if you’re comparing first-class ferry travel to first-class flying. So don’t. Ferry travel is a unique way to travel all its own, and elevated experiences are like a basic mini-cruise. Our room was as nice and our experience as pleasant as some of our other not-to-be-named leisure cruise expereiences.

An important note: Normal low-fare tickets are still available on most ferry routes with options to upgrade your experiences onboard. No matter your route, vessel, or budget, expect to find comfort, practicality, and an enjoyable yet sustainable way to travel. 

Ferry Routes

Ferry travel exists all over the world. Elevated ferry experiences are probably most common in Europe, where Brittany Ferries is just one of many operators. Based in France, they run ferry routes between France, Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The routes run anywhere from once to several times per week. The schedules are often seasonal based on demand. Book your ferry ticket early to ensure the best prices and availability.

Ferry Travel can be an elevated experience

Are Luxury FerrY CRuises Eco-Friendly?

For our trip, we traveled from Rosslare Harbor, Ireland, to Bilbao, Spain. Rosslare is located about two hours south of Dublin, so we took a train to Wexford then hopped in a cab for the last few miles to the harbor. Using the Direct Ferries Carbon Calculator, this specific transit combination created 88% fewer carbon emissions than the short-haul flight option. 

Once we arrived at the port, we boarded one of the newest ships of the Brittany Ferries fleet, the Salamanca. This particular vessel is advertised as their greenest ship yet, running on liquified natural gas and featuring a hull design to reduce drag. Additionally, the ship is coated in a special paint and has ultrasonic transponders to prevent marine growth which can also increase drag.

Luxury ferries give an elevated travel experience

Are Cabins Worth It?

Since it was our first time sailing on an overnight ferry and happened to be the start of our honeymoon, we opted for a two-birth cabin with an outside porthole and commodore lounge access. I’d say a cabin is what makes the key difference between a standard ferry experience and an elevated experience. Otherwise, with a standard seat, you don’t have as much privacy or comfort. The room itself was immaculate and quite large, compared to what we were expecting based on our previous cruise ship experiences and the relative size of the boat. Our bathroom was also sizable, and the room even had a television with 20-30 local channels. Our tickets included a certain amount of free wifi, as well. 

A little privacy, cozy beds to sleep in, and a hot shower made it well-worth having a cabin for our two-night sail. I, personally, was not super keen on beginning our romantic honeymoon not having showered for 48 hours.  Cabins are also a great option if you’re traveling alone, with a family, or with pets (yes, they have pet-friendly cabins)! All in all, our total cost one-way, including the additional lounge access, was around 205 euros per person, versus 135 euros for a flight.

Food on ferries

Is There Food on Ferries?

As mentioned, we included commodore lounge access for our roughly 36-hour journey. With the lounge access, we were able to enjoy a lovely spread of light charcuterie, desserts and wine the night we arrived on the boat. For the next day at sea, a hot breakfast and light lunch were also served in the lounge, as well as afternoon tea and wine. For dinner, our lounge access ticket included a three-course meal served in the boat’s main dining hall, which was similar to cruise dining. The food was good, and the quality and variety of options were much better than airplane food. Guests that didn’t have lounge access could still purchase hot meals in the dining area throughout the sail or grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks from either the duty-free shop or the pub area’s deli case. The pub also served drinks from midday until late into the evening. You can also opt to bring your own food and snacks onboard, as well.

Ferry Travel is family-friendly

Overall Experience

Overall, we were incredibly impressed with our elevated ferry experience on the Salamanca. While we opted for some of the upgrades, there were plenty of other travelers with basic tickets who still enjoyed plenty of amenities onboard. Spaces like the children’s play area, exercise deck and pub deck are open to all to enjoy. The ship was clean and the staff was friendly.

Our trip was during the Six Nations Rugby series, so the boat even had a betting pot and streamed the games on the televisions in the lounges. One lucky guest went home with a bit of extra cash in their pocket and everyone had a great time socializing over a few pints and cheering on the teams.

We arrived in Spain well-rested and prepared to take on the two weeks of travel ahead. Our experience was definitely worth the time and money, and we would highly recommend a voyage aboard one of the luxury ferries in Europe.

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