Monday, 16 April 2018

Over the sea to ... Lewis

Having had some time resting up after the retirement thing, we decided it was time to start our post-retirement odyssey itself.  If you remember from the first post on this blog, one of our destinations was to be Stornorway.  More astute readers will have realised that we're already in the north-west of Scotland, so over the sea to Skye would seem reasonable ("Speed bonny boat ... over the sea to Skye"), hence the title of this entry - "over the sea to ... Lewis".

We took the ferry across to Lewis with our car – oddly it’s cheaper to take your own car than to hire one over there if you’re going for more than a day. The car park is a bit rustic, really - but that makes things so much more relaxed.

The whole experience really was first class and a welcome change from the hassle of the Channel ferries. Pleasant staff who sussed out whether you were a regular who needed no help of a newby who needed lots of instructions (that would be us!) Once checked in and parked up, one could go into the terminal building for loos and information, or even wander into Ullapool to get a coffee. We were told when boarding would start and when to be back – all very civilised. Boarding itself which began right on time was very efficient and easy. Clear and helpful instructions of where to stop and how to get to the lounges. There were even lifts for those who needed them.

Loading was really efficient.  The ship wasn't very full, so it was all very relaxed and unhassled.
Once in the ship, we found it a very clean, comfortable space. We think the ferry is about 5 years old, but it certainly doesn’t look it – it looks brand new and is clearly cared for. Plenty of space, designated for those with pets, a quiet area, observation lounge and so on; all clearly labelled and easy to find. We settled in the observation lounge both ways – a great view of where you’re going, comfortable seats and good wifi all the way across. We never can quite understand those people who go to an observation lounge, bag the front seats and then read their books all the way across. Odd to do that when there are wonderful views of the coastlines, the Summer Isles, the wildlife and so on if one just looks up and through the huge panoramic windows.
There were minimal announcements – the usual safety stuff and a personal welcome from the Captain which included the sea state and then just one about the catering offer. That was all until the announcement came through to go back to our cars. Having said that, if one needed to know anything there were plenty of notices about and people to help.

The catering was excellent. A good selection and good prices, nicely served. On the way over which was in the middle of the day, there was a full lunch available which looked very nice, although we just had coffee and sandwiches. The prices were a great surprise – we’d expected overpriced food and drink, but £1:80 for a large coffee is not bad, and it was nice coffee too. The food, too, was sensibly priced.

This was the view of Stornoway as we came in to dock.

Disembarkation was as efficient as getting on. The staff were Just as helpful and clear and
signage of where to go plentiful.

Overall, a really great experience and all credit to Calmac for making this a memorable and enjoyable experience.

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