The original plan was to arrive in Dublin overnight, then have some lunch at a pub and show up at the Dublin docks for an Irish Ferry to Holyhead, on a ship called the Swift. As the saying goes, in order to make God laugh, make a plan.
The day we were leaving, we receive an email from Irish Ferries saying due to rough weather tomorrow, the Swift would not be sailing the afternoon of our arrival. Our options, according to Irish Ferries were twofold: Take the late sailing on the Ulysses, or go fuck yourself. We chose the late sailing (2055 hrs) on the Ulysses. Irish Ferries, to their credit, did upgrade us from Club Class to a free room for the crossing.
The problem became evident when we showed up at the Dublin Dock terminal for Irish Ferries five hours before our sailing, the objective being a little lunch, perhaps a pint, maybe a snooze on a waiting room bench for a little bit with our luggage stowed safely around us. This was the plan and it was a good one to kill five hours waiting for our ship.
For those of who don’t know, the Dublin Ferry Terminal is set up like a prefabricated air terminal for a city of 2500 people. Everything is shiny and new, stainless steel and indestructible plastic designed to handle the wear and tear of thousands of ferry passengers every year for the next 75 years. There are ticketing kiosks and clearance kiosks, with the requisite veal-pen straps to guide the hordes to the right counter at the right time in as seamless a process as can be designed by bureaucrats taking common-sense suppressants. There are restrooms for the usual genders and levels of ability, clean and aseptic, untouched by vandals, or footy hooligans. The Men’s sported two Dyson hand driers that could blow a 747 off the runway and we suspect the Women’s is the same. Although we did have five hours to burn, we considered investigating the Women’s bathroom as not on.
You will notice that there is no note of foodservice or other creature comforts before the ticketing and clearance kiosks.
This means you are now trapped in an industrial wasteland on the docks, next to the Bitumen plant, across the road from the oil terminal and next to the transport truck ferry with its happy load of placarded hazardous cargo being kept away from any boat that also serves regular citizens. There was a sign that said “Nowhere At All 2 kms” with the arrow pointing at the Dublin Ferry terminal.
There were staff. Two as best we could see, one in a high-visibility vest with an impressive ring of keys and one lone damsel behind the Ticketing counter. We asked if we could check in early for a ship. She bashed the computer for a moment and said “No. Preboarding does not commence until 7 pm” Is there some place we could get a coffee? More keyboarding and suddenly she burst out, “There’s vending machines over there!” as if it was the first time she had been asked about any customer services. We rolled out luggage ‘over there’ and discovered that unless you had Euro coinage, you were shit out of luck. The fine damsel could not make change.
The lack of coffee was not that bad, but what was hideous was the actual structure of the furniture. Humans sitting tend to correspond to a few positions, mostly within a few degrees of each other.
The designer of the chairs and tables was given a specific remit: Make the position of the back be exactly wrong. Make the seat precisely too small for an average arse. Make the furniture out of artificial stainless steel, as the real stuff is too expensive, but we still have to be able to pressure-wash everything in the interests of Health and Safety. Make sure that there is no possible way anyone can stretch out, even slightly, under any circumstances, by positioning he back support exactly where the Irish Chiropractic Association (Eire dir Achinback) says one should never put undue pressure. Make everyone want to avoid actually using the seating under any circumstances.
This remit was fulfilled in every way.
By the third hour the ostensible Manager of the Terminal allowed us to pass unescorted up past security to the ‘restaurant’ on the second floor, handing over a dog-eared “Unescorted Visitor – Not for Ship Access” pass which allowed us to get a coffee and a bacon sandwich from the sole person on the second floor, complete with hair net and white ‘chef’s’ coat. She ably reheated the sandwich. Rob had something to eat that was so exciting he has absolutely no recollection of what it might have been except that it wasn’t vegan.
An hour later we descended and awaited the opening of preboarding.
Precisely ten minutes late the kiosk was opened for preboarding and we were duly cleared through to wait on the second floor. The number of foot passengers crowding around was astonishing. There were six of us total, penned into more of the ghastly furniture, waiting for someone to come down from the ship and let us in. About ten minutes before sailing, a ship person beckoned us to ramble through a labyrinth of ramps and stairs to the check-in desk. We will give Irish Ferries their due, as the service was quick and efficient: They live and die by commercial truck traffic and automobiles, so those who want a room get one promptly. As did we, somewhere on deck 10, a twin bed with a shower and toilet that was clean and serviceable.
However we did require food and drink, which meant a hike back towards the center of the ship where the various food service options reside. A quick reconnoiter and it was decided that beer was more important than food. Following beer, a quick pass through the Pizza Bistro confirmed that the Irish do not know what a pizza is. The quick service restaurant at least offered sausage and chips, which were consumed with gusto. Then, back to the room for a couple of hours of blessed sleep, the first horizontal sleep since Montreal, more than 24 hours previous. Were there astonishing views of the Irish Sea while we were underway? No, it was a dark and rainy night, rain lashing the windows. Plus, it was blacker than a well-diggers arse at midnight, so there was nothing to see, as the Irish Sea does not have streetlights.
Things improved on the Ferry.