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  • mykesickler409

Stena Europe - the one and only

With fine weather forecast and a long weekend available, I took the opportunity to sample the Stena Line product from Fishguard (Wales) to Rosslare (Republic of Ireland) aboard Stena Europe.


Stena Europe is the only vessel operating this route and the oldest in their UK fleet having been built in the early 1980's, hence the title of this blog "the one and only". This is also a nod to the fact her identical sister 'Normandy' of Irish Ferries, which operated between Ireland and France, has been scrapped meaning Stena Europe is the last survivor of this class.


Would you like to come along? Grab a cuppa, curl up and get comfy.......this is a good one!



Firstly getting to Fishguard.

Located in south west Wales, Fishguard benefits from having two railway stations.

Fishguard & Goodwick station is literally across the road from Fishguard Bay - cross the road and walk along the pavement adjacent to the perimeter road of the port towards the ferry (you cannot go wrong) and you will be there in around +/-20 minutes.


Below - Fishguard & Goodwick railway station (left) and the ferry port (right)


Alternatively there is a train station actually within the ferry terminal - the platform shares the entrance to the terminal building-you cannot get much closer!




Regrettably after looking at all options no trains would be suitable for my travel requirements (all arrive too late for check-in for my ferry to Ireland or do not connect for my return arrival back into Fishguard) essentially leaving me stranded.


If you travel on this route please look into using the train as it may suit your needs, but bare in mind the time it takes to disembark the ferry upon your return as I do not want you to miss your connection - I will come back to this later.


So, for me the car it is!


Being based around thirty miles east of London the journey by car to Fishguard took around six hours with breaks. Leaving at 0330hrs the most convenient route for me was M25 (south), M4, A483, A48 and A40 - a pretty straight forward journey with regular service stations and some attractive scenery.


If you do decide to drive, to give you an approximate benchmark the journey from Magor Services (the first service station on the M4 after crossing the Severn Bridge) the journey to Fishguard is around two and a half hours and from St Clears roundabout (located on the A40 where you can essentially turn left and head towards Pembroke Dock where Irish Ferries operate to Rosslare, or turn right and head towards Fishguard) is around an hour.


Please bare in mind that from St Clears the road to Fishguard narrows to one lane. There are (very occasional) overtaking points but if you get stuck behind a lorry or tractor....... well you may be uttering a few choice words like I did!


Access to the port from the A40 is excellent - it's at the bottom of the hill.



I had plenty of time to catch Stena Europe as her departure was not until 1300hrs however, I wanted to photograph her arrival from Ireland which was due to be around 1045hrs.


I took these pictures from Harbour Village on New Hill, literally overlooking the ferry terminal - the views from here are spectacular!









If you do venture up here please be aware the road is very steep, narrow and there are no public facilities such as WC or café. If you do require any of these then I suggest going to one of the supermarkets or cafes at the bottom of the hill just opposite the port / next to Fishguard and Goodwick train station.







Let's head back to the ferry terminal as I cannot wait to get aboard Stena Europe.





The long stay car park is located within the port complex around a five minute walk from the terminal.


Enter the port off the A40, follow the road around to the left following the 'foot passenger' signage - you will drive along the perimeter road and the car park is on the left at the end of the road at the bottom of the cliff opposite the ferry berth..


Below - the long term car park accessed by crossing the railway line. The perimeter road can be seen to the left.






The ferry terminal is essentially a large waiting room with vending machines at one end - some out of order and others non operational (no cups for the hot beverages) and the embarkation area at the other.





The advertised latest check-in for foot passengers is 60miin before sailing however, the embarkation gates were not opened until 35min before sailing so I had more time then I thought, but best to be ready and waiting as per the Stena Line terms and conditions - just bring your own refreshments if you are going to be here for any length of time, again the supermarket near the port entrance is a good place to stop off.


After having your documentation checked (don't forget your passport as this asked for) foot passengers ascend a gentle slope which connects to the vehicle bridge which foot passengers walk along to board via the ships' vehicle deck - something I was not anticipating as there used to be a dedicated foot passenger gangway into the the ships' accommodation.





Below - mouth open! The bow doors giving access to the lower vehicle deck



Below - the former foot passenger walkway linking the vessel to the terminal (right) and the vehicle bridge we actually used (left)


Crew are at hand to direct foot passengers across the vehicle deck - welcoming us aboard and telling us to mind our step as the painted deck was slippery in places.




We then ascend the stairs to the first of several passenger decks (an elevator is available if you have walking difficulties).



The main passenger decks are located on decks 7 through to 10.

Let's have an explore.


Deck 7


We arrive on Deck 7 within the forward hall.

When built back in 1981 this vessel had cabin accommodation forward and passenger facilities aft, a design which has not altered to this day.


Below - cabin windows at the forward end and passenger facilities aft.


The cabins on this deck are accessed by a corridor on the port and starboard sides through brown coloured metal doors with a glass panel - I would be very interested to know if these are the original doors from the 1980's (they look it) - I love a bit of history..



I will come back to these cabins later.


On the opposite side of this hall looking aft are the main passenger facilities.

On the port side is a large children's playroom with soft padded play equipment, family lounge and gaming arcade. Having a family lounge within this area is a great idea as it allows parents/guardians to watch their children whilst they relax in comfort and enjoy the voyage. This area however was closed off behind securely locked doors owing to Covid-19 during the time of my crossing.




Next door on the ships starboard side is a wide window lined corridor with a comfortable full length 'wave effect' upholstered sofa on hard flooring opposite the ships' large shopping centre which benefits from having a selection of wines, beers and spirits together with fragrances, confectionary and souvenirs. This shop is filled with natural light owing to the full height glass windows which separate it from the adjacent corridor.








Continuing aft we come to the main reception hall which is where the Fishguard Port foot passenger gangway used to connect too.



We have the the ships' main reception desk to one side facing aft, which is open throughout the voyage. All members of staff I encountered here were exceptionally friendly, polite and courteous and were able to effectively help with any queries I had.



Localised seating, pamphlets on tourist attractions and, what I was particularly impressed with, a wall mounted monitor with a live CCTV feed to the dog kennels are available. If you are travelling with your dog, then you will appreciate this as you can keep an eye on him/her during the voyage and as they cannot see you they will not be distressed by not being able to have a cuddle.



Access to the Commercial Drivers Restaurant up on Deck 8 is via a doorway and a dedicated flight of stairs on the ships starboard side (left of the picture).



At the aft end of Deck 7 is the 'famous' terraced bar - well famous in my eyes!

This facility is a huge terraced double height facility which, when introduced in the early 1980's was something never seen before and quite frankly despite modern day ferries having magnificent features themselves, this one aboard Stena Europe still has the wow factor..




Overhauled many times over the decades the décor has obviously changed to suit the needs of the route, operator, corporate identity and consumer tastes. Today this area is home to a Barista Coffee Lounge, News Room and Living Room.


As you enter this vast area the first thing that you notice is the surround sound system for the various large wall mounted TV monitors - it is phenomenal!

BBC sport was being shown at the time of my arrival and as the crowd cheered I genuinely quickly looked around as I thought coach loads of passengers were behind me!


Although the Barista Bar and the lower terraces were closed owing to low passenger numbers / Covid-19, we are more than welcome to use the seating on the upper tier overlooking the rest of the facility and watch the TV monitors. The seating within consists of free standing over sized seats, stools and large sofas and is a fabulous place to enjoy the crossing.







My eye is drawn to the stage taking prime position on the lower tier - a legacy from her previous guises. Although, I understand, there are no immediate plans to reintroduce mini cruises / show cruises; something that was once common place aboard Stena Europe's sister ship Normandy, it is comforting to know that after all the refits over the decades this area still remains so let's hope one day these cruises will return.




Below - publicity material from Stena Europe's sister ship 'Normandy' showing the entertainment cruises available.


'Normandy' operated the long haul voyage from Ireland to France for Irish Ferries with their entertainment cruises called 'Normandy Nights'. Prior to that she too operated for Stena, well Sealink Stena Line, from Southampton and Harwich and was called St Nicholas and Stena Normandy. Unfortunately she was scrapped in 2012.






Back aboard Stena Europe, at the far end of the terraced bar tucked away behind the stage, up a flight of stairs and hidden behind a frosted glass door is the Hygge Lounge.


A dedicated quiet area which benefits from aft facing reclined seats with superb views of the ships' wake, individual lighting, tables, three pin power sockets, USB port and reading material are available within.





Entry can be obtained at the cost of £8 (per person) if booked in advance or £10 per person on the day and baring in mid the journey across the Irish Sea is around three and a half hours, it is excellent value for money. But please note, refreshments are not included unlike the Stena Plus Lounge upstairs.

Let's check that out.


Deck 8




Stena Plus, Stena Line's premium facility, is located amid ships on Deck 8 on the port side. Accessed via a four digit pin code this area really is the ultimate in terms of comfort ..........






.........there are quiet zones, areas for groups, TV room, News Room, complimentary daily papers and complimentary snacks and beverages - you can literally help yourself from the well presented counter.