Once Upon a Time, my husband and I decided to forego airline travel in favour of an older mode of transport… travel by boat. Here’s our story.
“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.”
– Joseph Conrad
It was a school holiday and our daughter was off having adventures in France and Germany. My husband and I decided, without our usual mountains of research and with not too much advance notice, to take a trip to mainland Spain. In all the years I have lived in Europe, I only ever managed to visit Madrid and Barcelona on the peninsula, and it was high time to change that. So we booked a passage to Denia on the ferry. A few weeks later, we headed out on an incredibly blustery and rainy morning.
Chapter 1: Outbound #
The day was not terribly promising. The rain had been coming down for days, and we anticipated a rough crossing. But nevertheless, we took our spot in the car queue to board at 6h30 for the 8h00 Balearia Ferry out of the Port of Palma. The process of boarding by car has clearly been streamlined and the people on the ground filed us on quickly and efficiently. Passengers travelling without cars were allowed on as the cars were being boarded, so there was no lag time between the two. So far, so good.
From there, we followed the stream of half-asleep passengers to the upper decks, where the seating was. There are several “classes” of seating, and cabins for those who wish for more privacy or a quiet place to sleep. With regard to the seating, there are three choices, all at differing price points.
The least expensive option is to take your chances and grab a seat in one of the lobby bars. The seating is actually quite plentiful in these areas, but it is not assigned, so it is first come first served - - not ideal if traveling with a large group or small children.
The second option is in a cordoned-off area with seats I would akin to older business class seating on airplanes. They’re quite wide and recline back about 2/3 of the way. This is a decent and comfortable option if you want the convenience of knowing you have a seat but aren’t fussed about sleeping.
The third option is a smaller section with seats like first class on an airplane that recline back all the way. They are slightly bigger than the ones in the other section, but only marginally, and also quite comfortable. The difference in price was negligible, so we took this option.
Once we chose seats (they are not assigned, but a coat on a seat is marker enough to show other passengers it already taken), we were free to roam around the ship, grab a coffee and a snack, use the toilets, or just explore. You aren’t required to sit as the boat leaves the docks, or to watch the safety video, though there was one played on every TV in all the seating areas.
Despite the shocking weather and sea conditions, the crossing was very smooth. At no point did it feel frightening or even slightly uncomfortable. The one surprise, for me at least, was that this ferry was not “non-stop”. There was a stop roughly halfway through the 7.5 hour trip at Ibiza. There, passengers and cars disembarked as new ones came aboard. This process was rather longer than in Palma, but also more complicated with people coming and going.
Once in Denia, the disembarking process was fairly painless, though not exactly speedy, and we went on our way to our next destination and our week of fun!
Chapter 2: Return #
The return was interesting. The process on the Denia side was more confusing and hectic. Perhaps it was due to the large number of passengers, but it didn’t go half so smoothly, despite the weather being vastly improved. It took forever to load both cars and people, and as a result we left 30 minutes late. Not a huge deal, but it’s not like on a plane where they make up time, on a boat, it is what it is, so it meant we would be late arriving back, and the scheduled arrival time was already late.
Things deteriorated on Ibiza. There were several freight trucks from the mainland that came off and the layover time was increased as a result, meaning an even later arrival back. This is something to remember when deciding on this mode of travel. It can be a little unpredictable. But, as we had seats and books, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and we found ourselves rather relaxed, and even able to doze off for a while. The late arrival into Palma wasn’t the end of the world, and we were safely tucked up in bed before we knew it.
Chapter 3: Practicalities #
Now for the practical side.
Pets- If you’re travelling with pets, this is a good choice. Despite them being required to stay in cages in a special section, there is access to them. Owners drop them off and pick them up, alleviating a lot of stress on them and you.
Food and Drink- There are few options, one is a café/bar that is open the duration of the trip. They serve sandwiches, pastries, and other snack foods. There is a selection of soft drinks, coffee, tea and water, as well as a bar for cocktails, wine and beer. There is also a restaurant that is only open part of the trip, serving hot meals. Prices aren’t extortionate, and it saves bringing a picnic from home, though you are allowed to do so if you wish.
Price- Balearic Island residents are entitled to a discount of 75%, babies under 1 free, 50% off kids under 13, and there are special rates for large families.
Other services- There is a small shop onboard where one can buy chocolate, perfume and other little things, handy if you need a last minute gift. Some of the ferries have swimming pools and the Bahama Mama, the ferry to Denia is one, so if you’re travelling in summer, you can enjoy a bit of fun in the sun before you even hit the mainland. Entertainment for kids is available during holidays and include things like magic shows and workshops.
Schedule- 8h-15.30 Mallorca-Denia / 17h-00.30 Denia-Mallorca
The experience of taking the ferry, on the whole, was less stressful than air travel. And with the deep discounts received as residents of the Balearics, it is definitely one we’d consider again. It’s not practical for weekend getaways, but if you’ve got a few days, and prefer to skip the expense or hiring a car, this is a pretty good way to go!
#balearia #ferry #mallorca #food #pets #denia #ibiza
By Stephanie Horsman
16 May, 2019