The following has been received from correspondent Kevin Bennett, a long time traveller with the Isle of Man Steam Packet and relates the recent experience of friends who travelled to the Isle of Man in May 2006.
Two friends had the misfortune to travel to the Isle of Man for a short break via Liverpool on SUPERSEACAT TWO during May 2006. The experience did not leave them with a favourable impression of the vessel:
They were scheduled to travel out on Monday May 22 and returning on Thursday May 26.
My friends are not regular Steam Packet travellers and neither are they shipping enthusiasts. Their comments are more likely to represent those of an average holiday maker travelling with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Prevailing weather conditions on their outward day of travel were poor, with gale force winds, heavy rain and rough seas at best marginal conditions for fast craft operation.
SUPERSEACAT TWO arrived at Liverpool at 10:00. Before boarding my friends had to pass through the Liverpool security check which they considered over the top when compared to that at Douglas on the return trip which was just plain tedious!
When my friends boarded SUPERSEACAT TWO the first thing that hit them was the smell from the servery but then this appeared to be mingled with the eau de vomit.
After negotiating around puddles of sick on the floor they also noted evidence of vomit up seat backs and had a job finding seats which were clean, dry and not broken.
For the whole sailing they were trapped inside the vessel as the open deck space was closed to passengers. Any passengers that did manage to escape the smell of vomit were soon chased back inside by the crew. Obviously all in the name of health and safety!
Once clear of the Liverpool Bar – all hell let loose, things were flying of tables and shelves and the sound of breaking glass and crockery could be heard – passengers and crew were being thrown around violently.
From what I have been told - in these conditions I personally don’t think the vessel should have sailed. The prevailing conditions made the crossing unpleasant for both passengers and crew and which obviously put stress on the vessel. I think passengers deserve some degree of comfort and safety over schedule keeping. If that means cancelling a sailing due to the weather – so be it – or perhaps better still get a more suitable vessel!
Many people who my friends spoke to said they would not have travelled had they been warned of the sea conditions at check – in. During the voyage all the crew appeared to be doing was running around frantically with sick bags or cleaning up vomit. Due to the conditions most of the retail outlets remained closed. My friend was sick a number of times and found the crew unhelpful and unsympathetic. [Not surprising when he appears to have been one of many! - JHL] This was understandable as they were being run ragged. On board there were 23 crew looking after 269 poorly passengers.
The air conditioning was apparently working overtime probably trying to reduce the stomach churning stench. [Keeping the cabin cool / cold should reduce the incidence of mal-de-mer. People often become ill when they become too warm - JHL]
My friend visited the aft toilets to be confronted by unmentionables mixed with vomit sloshing around the floor. Opting for the forward toilets conditions were little better – so much for the money well spent upgrading the toilets during the refit!
The sight of water seeping into the vessel from numerous panels as well as through some of the window seals was a further un-nerving aspect of the crossing.
By the time Douglas was reached my friends had never been so pleased to disembark on to dry land and a breath fresh air!
I would hate to think what things would have been like on board had there been 400+ passengers travelling.
Part of the problem with SUPERSEACAT TWO since the refit, has in my opinion, been the loss of the availability of the upper quiet lounge to “steerage” passengers in favour of first class. This appears to put pressure on the main deck seating. [On very busy sailings 1st Class now appear to be placed in part of the Blue Riband Club Lounge - which isn't fair to members who pay a significant annual fee - and who were promised more space following the refit and relocation of 1st Class! - JHL]
When my friends returned from Douglas on May 26 conditions were much calmer, though SUPERSEACAT TWO appeared to have a full load. They still found it difficult to find clean, unstained seats for the return sailing.
SUPERSEACAT TWO departed Douglas on time and she was secure on Prince’s Landing Stage at 16:23. However, they did not emerge from the terminal building until 16:55 after enduring chaos in the baggage reclaim area.
Over the years my friends have travelled to the Isle of Man on a succession of ships LADY OF MANN, KING ORRY, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, SUPERSEACAT TWO and SUPERSEACAT THREE. As fast craft go they preferred SEACAT ISLE OF MAN over either of the SUPERSEACATs and the KING ORRY over the LADY OF MANN when it came to conventional ships.
- Kevin Bennett