Stena Line’s new Holyhead to Belfast ferry route has finished its first week of sailings. The temporary weekend-only route has been started due to high demand on the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) and Belfast – Cairnryan routes according to Stena. The Dublin – Holyhead route is currently suffering a significant downturn in tourist traffic due to the travel restrictions on travellers from Britain imposed by the Irish Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Direct ferry routes from Northern Ireland to Great Britain have also proven more attractive to hauliers after the U.K. left the EU due to the need to complete less paperwork. This has led to increased freight demand on services into Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint, putting more pressure on space on the key routes from Cairnryan and Birkenhead.
Travelling Direct Between Belfast and Holyhead
At the invitation of Stena Line, I completed a round-trip from Belfast to Holyhead on Saturday June 26. The service uses Stena Line’s Victoria Terminal 4 in Belfast, with the arrival and departure from Holyhead timed to slot in between the 07:30 Superfast departure to Cairnryan and the 09:45 arrival from Scotland. At Holyhead, arrival and departure is timed to slot in between the departure and arrival of STENA ADVENTURER on the Holyhead to Dublin route.
The result of these timings is a six and a half hour crossing time to North Wales and a leisurely eight-hour fifteen minute overnight sailing from Holyhead to Belfast. The longer night-time crossing allows passengers to get a good night’s sleep before arrival in Belfast.
All sailings on the route are made at a service speed less than what the ferry, STENA ESTRID, would sail at on her regular Holyhead – Dublin route. This has the added benefit of reducing fuel burn and the environmental impact of the already very efficient and environmentally friendly vessel.
STENA ESTRID is one of Stena’s newest ferries. She was the lead vessel in the Stena-designed E-Flexer class, a series of ferries designed to be more environmentally friendly, efficient and more flexible than previous generations. ‘Estrid’ herself has already demonstrated this flexibility since her introduction to service last year, having sailed on the Belfast – Cairnryan, Rosslare- Cherbourg, Dublin – Cherbourg, and now Belfast – Holyhead routes in addition to her regular Dublin – Holyhead route. Identical sister ships STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA are allocated to the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route.
While ‘Estrid’ and her sisters are already spacious ships for their capacity, passenger numbers are currently limited for social distancing purposes. Automatic hand sanitiser dispensers are placed at regular intervals and all passengers and crew are required to wear face masks when indoors ans not seated or in their cabin. In queuing areas stickers have been placed on the deck to assist social distancing. All areas of the ferry have a notice displaying the maximum number of people allowed in the area.
The E-Flexer class of ferries was designed for both short and overnight routes, and so have a number of passenger facilities. These include a large restaurant overlooking the bow, a ‘Sky Bar’, a Barista shared with the Guest Services desk, two separate multi-screen cinemas, and spacious lounge areas.
For an additional fee, passengers can also access the Stena Plus premium lounge and/or the Hygge recline lounge. In Stena Plus (£20 per person) passengers have access to a range of different comfortable seating, complimentary hot and cold drinks and a selection of snacks. Table service meals from a special menu are also available for an extra payment. Children under the age of eight are not permitted in “order to maintain a relaxed ambience”.
The Hygge relaxation lounge (from £8 per person) has both fixed reclined seats and reclining chairs available, all with personal power sockets and reading lights. Again, children under the age of eight are not permitted.
Cabin accommodation is also available. It can be included at the time of booking or purchased whilst onboard if there are cabins remaining. A range up cabins is available right up to spacious deluxe suites which have their own direct outside deck access.
All cabins have UK plug sockets, usb charging points, free WiFi, and a TV with free movies and live TV programming. For more detail on the passenger facilities onboard STENA ESTRID and her sisters, see our dedicated feature here.
Facilities for Children
All of the facilities were available on both the daytime and overnight return Holyhead – Belfast crossing during my visit, with the sole exception of the two children’s play areas (as a result of Covid-19 prevention measures). Instead, children were catered for with children’s movies available in the two free multi-screen cinema lounges. Passengers with cabins also have a selection of movies and live TV programming included in the price of their cabin.
In a time when we all appreciate fresh air, ‘Estrid’ and her sister ferries have an abundance of outside space. There are public outside decks on deck 7 (port and starboard) decks 8 and 9 (aft), and a large sun deck on deck 10. There is also a dog exercise area on deck 7.
This is adjacent to the purpose-built dog kennels which are heated, fully enclosed, and monitored via CCTV. Owners are able to access their pets during the voyage using a keycode on the door.
Stena Line’s Belfast – Holyhead ferry runs every weekend until July 18. Departures from Belfast are offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings, leaving at 07:45. Holyhead to Belfast sailings are offered on Friday and Saturday nights with a 23:30 departure time. However, car passengers were boarded early just before 21:00 on our crossing, allowing ample time to have a late dinner and settle in before departure.
NI Ferry Site would like to thank Ian at Stena Line Belfast for arranging this trip. We’d also like to thank the crew of STENA ESTRID, especially Marc and Kayleigh, for their hospitality.
Belfast – Holyhead ferry questions and answers
Fares on the Holyhead – Belfast service start at £130 for a car and driver single. Foot passenger fares start at £22 single.
The daytime sailing from Belfast take 6.5 hours and the overnight sailing from Holyhead takes about 8 hours 15 minutes.
Yes! Heated and ventilated enclosed dog kennels are available onboard, and passengers can access their pets during the sailing.
According to Stena Line, the last sailing on the route will be the morning departure from Belfast on July 18, 2021. Two sailings in each direction will be offered every weekend until that date.
Stena Line are taking bookings here via their website.
Yes. Cabins can either be booked and paid for in advance or paid for while onboard (if spare cabins are available). STENA ESTRID has 175 cabins.