Experiencing the Victoria of Wight with Wightlink Ferries: A Family Perspective
I’ve always loved the idea of a family holiday on the Isle of Wight…with it’s typically English bucket and spade beaches, stunning cliffs and thatched houses it’s been on my list of places to visit for some time. I couldn’t believe it when during the Autumn I was contacted by Wightlink Ferries to see if I’d be interested in writing a review for one of their crossings. Would I!? I jumped at the chance. So in the post-Christmas period between festive celebrations and the New Year we headed to Portsmouth in preparation for our trip across the Solent. Here’s the lowdown on our crossing..
Route: Portmouth to Fishbourne
Crossing time: approx 50 mins
Price: Car ferry prices start from £67.25 when booked in advance
Before the crossing
We live in East Sussex so Portsmouth is at least a 1.5 hour drive. With our crossing booked for 12pm we decided to stay in a budget hotel the night before so that we could enjoy a more relaxed lead up to our holiday. We stayed in the Ibis Budget Hotel where rooms were priced around £55 / night including continental breakfast. We spent the morning before the crossing exploring the promenade at Southsea….and watching the Wightlink Ferries come and go.
Arriving at the Port
Passengers are advised to arrive 30 minutes before departure. Playing it safe we rocked up with 40 minutes to spare. The car ferry is clearly marked on signposts throughout the city making it an easy journey from the hotel to the port itself. Checking-in was a very simple procedure with our e-tickets being scanned on arrival and the car being guided through to a row of orderly vehicles waiting to embark. At the front of the queue a big screen reassured us that we were all waiting for the right ferry with the words ‘Next crossing at 12pm’ illuminated in red.
With a short wait ahead we took the opportunity to explore the port and it’s facilities. Clearly marked pedestrian areas all led to a small building at the front of the port where passengers can watch the ferries dock and unload, grab a bite to eat or visit the loo. We found the waiting area to be a really clean, bright and welcoming space with a good range of hot drinks and snacks available. Logan loved watching the ferry workers preparing the boat for departure through the large window…and when he’s occupied we’re very happy parents…especially when we’re travelling!
Victoria of Wight
We were fortunate to travel on Wightlink’s newest ferry, Victoria of Wight. Having come into service in August 2018 she is not only the biggest vessel in the fleet but as a hybrid energy ship she also runs partly on electricity marking a greener era of travel.
Once onboard it was obvious that we were on a new, well thought out ship. Seating throughout the boat is well spaced, smart and comfortable. There are sofa areas for families wanting to relax, office style recliner chairs with foot stalls for drivers needing a quick forty winks, plenty of dining areas and wide seating in rows for those happy to sit back and enjoy the panoramic views. Dogs are welcome in the pet friendly areas on the lower level. There are also two large external decking areas. The views leaving port were particularly impressive which, due to the size of the decking could be enjoyed with plenty of personal space.
Fun for the kids
As a family with children ranging in ages from toddler to teen it came as a very welcome surprise to find not only a soft play….but also a movie room onboard. The soft play is positioned on the upper level of the ship near the Costa cafe and next to the movie room. This meant that we could position ourselves on a table near all three amenities allowing everyone (even the adults!) to do their own thing. Our three year old played happily in the soft play for the most of the crossing. Our older 3 children enjoyed watching ‘Big Hero 6’ whilst dipping in and out of exploring other aspects of the ship. My husband and I could carry out runs to the coffee shop whilst staying in ear-shot of the rest of the family. A brilliantly practical and enjoyable family space.
Food and drink
The main refuelling point is the Costa Coffee near the kids play areas on the upper level. There was a bit of a rush to buy lunch when we first boarded, although efficient staff ensured queues cleared quickly. There’s also Wight Taste, where passengers can indulge in an assortment of Isle of Wight-sourced food and drinks such as The Isle of Wight Biscuit Company, The Garlic Farm or Island Ales.
Arrival at Fishbourne
The crossing took around 50 minutes in total. As we came into port at Fishbourne we were told to return to our car and wait to disembark. This was straightforward and we were off the ship within minutes of waiting in the car. Fishbourne is a small port but with clear signage it was easy to find our way into town and towards our holiday destination.
I won’t go into details as the return journey was very much the same and the initial crossing. I’d just like to highlight that arrival and waiting at Fishbourne Port was organised and efficient. Again, there is a shop and waiting area where passengers can buy hot drinks and snacks or use public conveniences. We also enjoyed looking out from the decking area and watching smaller boats come and go as we waited.
We enjoyed both crossings with Wightlink and were very impressed but the standard of facilities on the ship. The kids were all accommodated and entertained whilst us adults could relax in our own space. We’ve loved exploring the Isle of Wight and found that using the ferry to reach our destination really does add an element of adventure for the children. We’d love to return this Summer and will certainly be looking at offers on crossings with Wightlink when we plan our trip!
We received a complementary ferry crossing in exchange for this review.