This Voyage Report has been lurking inside my palmtop for several months, somehow managing to be overlooked as other material has been downloaded, therefore it is rather late!
Though JONATHAN SWIFT has been in service since 1999, I had until August 13, 2002 never travelled on this vessel. At the time of delivery I followed the "Voyage Home" of the JONATHAN SWIFT on the Irish Ferries website and always intended to take a sail but just didn't manage to get around to it, though I did manage the maiden voyage of ULYSSES in 2001.
Thus over three years after JONATHAN SWIFT began regular crossings between Dublin and Holyhead I presented myself, along with Ships of Mann editor Adrian Sweeney at the Holyhead Terminal. Quite by chance we had chosen the day of a local rail strike, so there wouldn't be any passengers arriving for sailings by train. In fact one wonders just how many people still avail themselves of the rail-sea link at Holyhead Harbour?
Most passengers now come by car. The main car-park at Holyhead Port, is rather inconvenient, it is far better when making a short day trip to park in the short stay car-park at the terminal approach. It was discovered that on arrival the ticket machine was broken. After leaving a large note on the dashboard to ensure potential wheel clampers that I was not refusing to pay we proceeded into the terminal.
A swift check in followed and passengers were ushered through to a waiting coach which quickly took us around to the Salt Island berth where JONATHAN SWIFT was berthed bow in to the link-span. The coach running down the ramp to the open bow door of the vessel.
Passengers boarding via the bow door and car deck before making their way up to the passenger accommodation. For those used to first and second generation Incats and Fincantieri MDV1200 vessels the internal vehicle deck is very different. Sufficient headroom exits to accommodate coaches and medium sized trucks as well as the usual cars and small commercials one has become used to on fast craft sailings out of the Mersey.
Once in the passenger accommodation, those used to the interior fittings of the Sea Containers fast craft JONATHAN SWIFT is rather different. JONATHAN SWIFT's high quality interior makes the Sea Containers vessels feel rather basic.
The vessel boast a large servery across the bow area with the shop at the stern.
A "grand staircase" ascends to the upper passenger deck. The lower section of the staircase bifurcates around a small stage for musical performers. Further aft is a video wall which is a feature some operators feel is necessary to keep bored passengers occupied!
Adrian and I positioned ourselves on the open deck for departure. The open deck area on JONATHAN SWIFT gives the impression of being quite sheltered, but for some reason the aerodynamics of the vessel mean that areas that look as though they are sheltered apparently are not once the vessel is underway! Sea Containers SUPERSEACAT THREE and their Incat's are much better in this respect.
JONATHAN SWIFT departed Holyhead at 09:19 under the command of Captain Connor. HSS STENA EXPLORER departing some minutes before hand. As we ran out of the harbour a crewman ran down the tricolour on the stern.
With a strong wind blowing over the top of the superstructure and into the apparently sheltered areas Adrian and I ventured inside to try out the culinary delights. Though there was only a slight to moderate sea running the forward location of the servery did generate a fair amount of jolting and movement, which makes one wonder if this location is really the best place for a servery and perhaps the food servery and shop locations should be reversed?
The full Irish Breakfast on offer was very good and tasty - full marks! After dining a visit to the shop was in order. I have always found Irish Ferries shops to be well stocked with an excellent variety of quality gifts and other products and the shop onboard JONATHAN SWIFT is no exception. It may be smaller than the emporiums on board ULYSSES and ISLE OF INISHMORE but it is still well stocked. The selection of goods and the shopping environment offered by Sea Containers is lack-lustre by comparison.
Sat in the main passenger area of SWIFT one enjoys good views through the windows from the very comfortable seats. The slab sided nature of the vessel and good visibility from the main passenger deck makes one feel quite close to the sea, as does the fact that the vessel does not posses conventional shell doors into the passenger accommodation but only has conventional looking, though substantial doors, which are used to board passengers via the gangway at Dublin Port.
The open plan nature of JONATHAN SWIFT is interesting, but one I personally feel is only suited to short crossings such as Holyhead - Dublin. I would not like to undertake a journey longer than a couple of hours in such a large space, especially when busy or loaded with rowdy passengers.
As mentioned earlier there is a small central stage, whilst it was not used on this crossing, one had the impression that it would be difficult to escape the entertainment / noise generated from such a facility. JONATHAN SWIFT, lacks the cosy corners and nooks and crannies to be found on many other Irish Sea passenger ships both fast and conventional.
After a good wander around it was back outside for the run into Dublin. Kish lighthouse was passed at 10:45 and a good view of the departure of BRAVE MERCHANT bound for Liverpool was had in Dublin Bay.
Due to an oversight I managed to fail to record the arrival time at Dublin, but it was around the scheduled time.
For those who have not yet travelled on JONATHAN SWIFT, I would certainly recommend it as the vessel offers a different experience to the other fast craft operated on the Irish Sea. In some ways she appears to be a scaled down version of the HSS, boasting a similar slab-sided appearance which appears common with SWATH design vessels. However, unlike the HSS her interior fittings are much superior and are of the same excellent quality one has come to expect from Irish Ferries vessels.
The main improvement I would like to see is the provision of an upgradeable premium lounge which is separate from the main passenger areas for those who don't want to feel as though they are undertaking a crossing sat in a floating pub-restaurant!