Apr 16th, 2019
To Ireland by Sea - Part 1
The Story of the Stena Media Masters
Words: David Adair
The call came through: “Can you play in the Masters?” Thoughts like ‘is the Pope Catholic?’ came to mind as they followed up with the “Media Masters – Stella is inviting you.” Panic sets in as I wonder if I know a Stella and what the wife might say. “No, the Stena Line Media Masters” and so began the adventure..
Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, offering the biggest fleet and the widest choice of routes between Britain and Ireland including Holyhead to Dublin, Fishguard to Rosslare, Liverpool to Belfast, Heysham to Belfast, and Cairnryan to Belfast, a total of 232 weekly sailing options apparently.
We were to be taking the Holyhead to Dublin crossing to reach the venue for the Inaugural Stena Line Media Masters. Two teams, of the finest journalistic talent Great Britain and Ireland has to offer, were to take part in a Ryder Cup style match. The venue was to be two of Ireland’s finest inland courses, Druids Glen and Powerscourt, and team GB were to travel to Ireland by sea. Yes, by sea.
I must confess I was somewhat sceptical as I set off for the drive to Holyhead. Surely there is only one way to get to Ireland, you fly right? I then started thinking about the last time I passed through Heathrow with my clubs. I had to get there a couple of hours ahead of my flight time, stood in the security line for 45 minutes before having to nearly strip down to my trolleys to convince the burly security guy I was not carrying something illicit about my person.
Of course, I also had had to lug my big travel bag, which safely cushioned my pride and joy set of Mizuno irons and motley selection of woods and rescue clubs, along with a large suitcase. I had tried to keep my luggage to a minimum but there is always that chance of rain so waterproofs and extra kit was a must. I lovingly waved my clubs off down the oversized baggage conveyor praying they would arrive safely at the other end.
Arriving at Holyhead it is all rather simpler. You have your own car and so you can carry as much gear as you like. Monsoon rain, hurricane, heat wave, whatever the weather you will have the outfit to suit and of course you can take your supercharged 8 speed trolley ‘er indoors bought you for your last birthday! You can even bring your prized pooch, Tricky Woo, if you wish – don’t forget to leave the windows open a touch though.
On board there are plenty of places to sit and relax and to grab a meal or refreshment. No legs up around your ears and overpriced airline snacks here. You can get up and walk around and even watch a film in the on-board cinema. I was lucky enough to sample the Stena Plus lounge which is akin to an airport business lounge but you can sit and relax for the entire journey.
I did go for a wander and discovered the Stena ‘Chill out zone’ or as they call it the Hygge Lounge. Of course, I googled Hygge and it is Danish for fun. The lounge had a lovely ambience with very comfortable looking reclining seats. I passed on the lounge (you do have to pay a bit extra) and headed back for more hygge, watching Johnny English in the on-board cinema.
The crossing time is three hours and fifteen minutes which seems a long time but it didn’t seem that long as I availed myself of the free wi-fi on board and caught up on emails and other bits of admin. However, more importantly I met up with my fellow team mates from Team GB.
As the team sat around the lunch table the discussion turned to tactics and the appointment of a captain. In a scene akin to that of the TV show ‘The Apprentice’ much discussion ensued with no decisions being made until ultimately the question was asked “Would anyone like to be the captain”. Step forward yours truly, seeing my 5 minutes of fame being tantalising dangled in front of me I grabbed it with both hands, “I’ll do it” I said and the rest is history.
Revelling in my new found status I decided on the running order for the first day matches just as we glided in to the Port of Dublin. It was raining but we cared not a jot as we drove off the ferry and headed out of Dublin by road. No standing in a queue with driving licence in hand waiting to get our hands on the key to our Vauxhall Corsa and no scratching of heads as to whether we actually need that extra collision damage waiver?
Arriving some 40 minutes later at the excellent Druids Glen hotel I reflected on the journey. Clearly it does somewhat depend where in the UK you live as you may decide that drive to Holyhead, Rosslare etc. is too long but I think I might be sold on the idea of Ireland by Sea. More to come on the Stena Line Media Masters in part 2 but if you work out the math on both the time taken and the costs of sea versus air I think you may be pleasantly surprised.
And so to the slightly more boring bit - the costs:
Stena Line prices for a car plus driver start at £89 single. Additional passengers cost £32 per person single. So…
- A car plus 2 travel for £121 single (just £60.50 per person)
- A car plus 3 travel for £153 single (just £51 per person)
- A car plus 4 travel for £185 single (just £46.25 per person)
Overnighters (up to 36hrs) for car plus 2 start at just £169 return. Additional passengers cost £20 per person return. So…
- An overnighter car plus 2 travel for £169 return (just £84.50 pp return)
- An overnighter car plus 3 travel for £189 return (just £63 pp return)
- An overnighter car plus 4 travel for £209 return (just £52.25 pp return)
Rail and Sail single fares start at £36 per person