IRELAND OF THE WELCOMES
With B and I and Sealink ferries revamped, travel to Ireland is easier and more comfortable than ever before
CROSSING THE Irish Sea by B and I ferries, the "Leinster" or the "Connacht", this summer will be a novel experience: the two vessels have been refitted at a cost of £6 million.
The refits provide new restaurants, cinemas, lounges, with TV and supervision, "to ensure maximum peace and comfort for the traveller". There are also new newspapers! and magazine and confectionery shops, large duty-free facilities, and a bakery to provide fresh bread!
According to the new chairman at the helm of the B and I ferries, Mr Alex Spain, an accountant charged by the Irish Government with making the services profitable once more, "a comprehensive companywide training programme to improve all aspects of customer service" has been embarked upon.
It is to be hoped that the results are clearly visible, and that "Ireland of the Welcomes" will be seen to start on the B and I ships.
B and I ships now operate only three services: Liverpool to Dublin, Holyhead to Dublin. and Fishguard to Rosslare. They no longer sail up the beautiful estuary of the River Lee to Cork city.
Another distinct advantage of travelling to Ireland via Fishguard this year is that British Rail, after years of using any old rolling stock on the London to Fishguard route, have now introduced the world's fastest diesel train, the Inter City 125 on the Paddington to Fishguard run.
There are excellent Irish rail linking services from Rosslare to Wexford, Waterford and Cork. The British Rail Summer daytime service leaves London at 0930 drawn by the "Hibernian" Inter City 125, returning from Fishguard at 1412.
The Inter City 125 also connects all-year round with the night service via Fishguard. This better deal by British Rail for travellers to Ireland also includes free seat reservations on all trains between London and Fishguard, and London and Holyhead.
There are also some fare reductions this year on the cost of many journeys to the West of Ireland. For example, off-peak return fares to Limerick, Cork and Killarney cost £58 compared with £64 in 1985. The peak Saver fare is cut from £74 to £70 return, and fares such as those from London to Tralee, via Dun Laoghaire or Dublin stay at last years prices.
For details of the new Inter City times and fares there is a brochure available from BR stations, from BR Travel Centres and appointed travel agents. If you have any difficulty in obtaining this brochure, contact British Railways at Rail House, Euston Square, PO Box 100, London NW1 (telephone 01-262-3232).
But to return to B and 1 routes, do you know that you can bring your dog with you to Ireland on holidays? The fact is seldom, if ever, publicised, although there must be thousands of dog (or cat) lovers in Britain who would go to Ireland on holidays if they knew their dog or cat could go too. It costs only £8 return for your dog or cat to travel on the B and I ferry. It travels either in your car, or in special kennels provided on the car deck.
The B and I line issue a splendid 32 page colour brochure on inclusive holidays. This can be had, free, from your local B and I appointed travel agent, or Irish Tourist Office.
For Sealink British Ferries, this is a year of change on their Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire and Fishguard-Rosslare routes. In addition to spending £1 million on improving passenger facilities on the "St Columba" on the Holyhead route, staff have been given newly designed uniforms and completed courses at the Scandinavian Service School Training programme to improve customer service. "St Brendan" plies on the Fishguard-Rosslare route.
The "St Brendan" has had a £600,000 refit and re-design to improve passenger facilities.
Sealink offer a number of holidays where children under 16 go free. In these holiday packages there are special arrangements with the Irish hotels group "Irish Welcome Hotels" which is a unique group of family owned hotels in Ireland.
Sealink British Ferries have joined forces this year with B and I Line. While there are a wide variety of special offers. A rough guide to pricing,, depending on the time of the year, is as follows: for a car with 2 adults and 2 children (age 5 and under 16), vary from a maximum of a single journey fare of £78 to £126. There are special Weekend Family Fares, a car and 2 adults return from £99 to £120, and midweek returns of £164 return.
Details of Sealink British Ferries can be had from your local travel agent, or Irish Tourist Office, or from Irish Ferry Line, Eversholt House, London NW1, telephone 01-387-1234.