Ireland is packed with breathtaking landscapes, medieval castles, charming towns and welcoming folk so to explore this Celtic land fully by car meant embarking on a ferry crossing.
Irish Ferries has been voted ‘Best Ferry Company’ more times than any other in Ireland so I was excited to embark on my adventures on the Emerald Isle with Irish Ferries Ulysses.
Here is my review of Irish Ferries Ulysses ferry ride from Holyhead to Dublin on Club Class. and why travelling to Ireland by ferry is better than flying.
About Irish Ferries
Irish Ferries is part of the Irish Continental Group owns a fleet of 8 passenger and RoRo freight vessels that travel between Ireland and Britain, Britain and France, and Ireland and France.
On the Irish Sea routes, Irish Ferries operates up to 16 sailings a day on various routes and vessels. There is a slow ferry between Pembroke and Rosslare on Blue Star 1, and between Holyhead to Dublin Port on the famous Ulysses and the Dublin Swift, the only fast craft on the Irish Sea.
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Review of Irish Ferries Ulysses on Holyhead Dublin route
So, what can you expect to find in Ulysses? The ferry is equipped with a plethora of facilities including restaurants, cinemas, TV lounges, arcades, a children’s play area, two large lounge bars, a shop, sleeping cabins, and a club class lounge.
Irish Ferries Club Class Lounge
I was delighted to be travelling Irish Ferries Club Class giving us access giving lots of benefits. Here are my experiences and observations of the Martello Lounge;
Priority Vehicle Boarding – Upon check-in, you get a voucher to display by hanging on the rear-view view so the crew could move you into the priority lane. Although the British are famously known for the ethics of queuing, with a long drive on either side, I was more than happy to be first on and first off making for a quicker getaway.
Complimentary refreshments – Wonderful selection of buffet-style food and nibbles with wraps, spring rolls, brie & cranberry tarts, crackers cheese, desserts, scones, crisps, and muffins. And of course, there are hot drinks and soda machines, and alcoholic drinks such as house wine. As the nominated driver, my consumption of the latter was impaired.
There are menus on the tables offering breakfasts, hot meals, appetisers, and kids’ meals but these are not complimentary.
Exclusive lounge access – Our boarding card detailed the keycode to access the lounge with comfortable seating, free newspapers, TV, free WiFi, and loads of power points making this super easy to catch up on some work. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful as I am sure they are across all restaurants on the vessel.
Best views on the boat – The Club Class lounge is located on the top deck giving panoramic views of the ocean journey. Obviously, that is weather permitting!
Is Club Class on Irish Ferries worth it?
Yes absolutely. Travelling in the Martello Club Class lounge really made the experience a special one. For only £18 / €21 per passenger, I think the benefits outweigh the cost of Club Class access especially if you are planning on eating onboard anyway.
Restaurants on Ulysses
As I was travelling Irish Ferries Club Class, I’d had my fill of food so didn’t get a chance to sample the restaurants on my tour of Ulysses, but I could see that there is a varied range of cuisine including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Here are the restaurant options on Ulysses;
Bloom’s Snack Bar is an Irish bar with sofas and extensive seating with tables. They serve snacks, traditional meals, and Irish craft beers and stout.
Café Lafayette is a self-service café offering stone-baked pizzas, freshly-made crepes & waffles, patisseries, baguettes, croissants, yogurts and more. This venue advertises multi-buy deals such as hot drink + muffin or pizza + beer.
Boylan’s Brasserie is also a self-service restaurant serving light bites, breakfast, salads, desserts, and hot main meals ranging from a rack of ribs to Thai veggie curry. They also have a great kids’ menu with more creative choices than standard nuggets!
Entertainment on Ulysses
There is plenty of things to do onboard Irish Ferries Ulysses to keep you entertained on the 3-hour crossing.
Volta Picture Theatre shows films for kids and adults. The twin cinema is named after Ireland’s first cinema, opened by James Joyce on Mary Street, Dublin, in December 1909. Prices start at 10 Euros for adults and they offer family tickets too. The Irish Ferries has a brilliant list of the latest releases that can be found online but you can check onboard to find out what two films will be showing. Unfortunately, the film I was keeping my fingers crossed for wasn’t on the list.
If you fancy a flutter to pass the time, there are a couple of amusement arcades on the ship.
The duty-free shop onboard stocks a great selection of world-leading beauty brands, perfumes, and alcohol. I love that they also stock locally-sourced beauty brands that use seaweed ingredients from the Emerald Isle. If you forget your Ireland-inspired souvenirs, don’t panic, there is a wall full of them!
I’m child-free but the parents out there will be interested to know Irish Ferries Ulysses has a children’s play area with a kid’s playroom and an indoor soft-play area with games and toys.
Reasons why taking Irish Ferries is better than flying to Ireland
No limit on the baggage allowance
Pack up the car or wheel on your case without having to worry about the dimensions of your bags, what it weighs, and quivering at check-in wondering if you will be slapped with a crazy excess baggage charge.
If you are planning a cycling holiday in Ireland, or any other adventures where you need more gear, taking the ferry is ideal.
Free to roam
There are no issues with paying fees for extra leg room, you can stretch your legs and wander around the shop, or get some fresh air on the outside deck.
You are not confined to one seat struggling to go to the toilet if your fellow passenger has nodded off and snored on your shoulder. Travelling by ferry to Ireland you can easily move around to find a window seat and move to a quieter spot. Check out the James Joyce Balcony Lounge with reclining Pullman seats and tables, they are luxury seating in economy class.
Take your pets on holiday
Passengers with a pooch can bring their much-loved pets on their trip. Kennels are free to prebook before departure on the Irish Sea route.
Road trips are cheaper
Being able to take your own car removes the expensive cost of car rental, just need to check you have the right breakdown cover and insurance for Ireland.
First-class upgrade not as costly
Treating yourself to premium class doesn’t come with the same hefty price tag as it does on a plane.
Upgrades can be more costly to the environment too. Business-class emissions 3 times higher than the economy class, whereas on a ferry, the floor space taken up by each premium passenger does not change.
Ferries have a lower carbon footprint than flying
Taking the ferry as a foot passenger is a greener travel choice than taking a short-haul economy flight. Adding a car to the ferry trip will increase that footprint but still be greener than flying.
Irish Ferries have been playing their part in reducing their environmental impact, from improving fuel efficiency and lowering emissions to using renewable energy. To lessen marine damage, Irish Ferries are reducing the sulphur content in fuels, using non-toxic paints on hulls, and minimising wave generation.
To inform yourself about Irish Ferries’ sustainability practices before you book your trip, check the Irish Ferries website.
Choosing your ferry on the Holyhead Dublin route
Irish Ferries Ulysses is a hardy vessel that will sail in almost any weather. Our outgoing journey was a smooth ride, and bang on schedule. For the return journey, we were booked onto the Dublin Swift which takes 2 hours. Unfortunately, due to adverse conditions, this ferry was cancelled and was communicated well via SMS and email.
Irish Ferries offered us to sail on Ulysses at either 8 am or 9 pm or to contact them if neither were acceptable. As we were driving from Limerick the morning of our sail, we opted for 9 pm. So, as the Dublin Swift is prone to cancellation in rough waters if you are a traveller that has a long drive at the other end, select the robust option of Ulysses, the largest car ferry in the world.
The fares are well-priced in my opinion, starting from £119 each way for a car and driver. It’s awesome that pets can travel for free too, just make sure you pre-booked. To book, visit www.irishferries.com
NOTE: Prices can change depending on demand for space on the designated departure, as well as how long in advance of travel the booking is being made. It goes without saying but fares would increase for additional passengers and upgrades.
Disclaimer: This post has been created in partnership with Irish Ferries. All opinions are my own.