The Isle of Wight is a famous and popular holiday destination in the UK, a small island visible from mainland England just of the coast of Southampton.
It can be reached by ferry and many companies offer connections from several English ports such as Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington to the island.
I decided to go from Southampton with the ferry company Red Funnel as this port is closer to where I live and is easily reachable for me.
I have never been on a car ferry with my own car before. This was a first for me and I was very nervous and had a more or less sleepless night before the crossing. I was worrying about getting on the ferry with the car. I watched a few documentaries on TV and some YouTube videos and it always looks very complicated and tight how the cars and lorries get into and on the ferries.
All my worries were for nothing though. It must have been the most organised and smooth check-in and “boarding” process I have ever experienced.
When you get to Southampton there are signs guiding you where you have to go for the Red Funnel ferry connection from Southampton to East Cowes. Check-in is between 60 min to 30 min before departure.
You drive up to a little house, like the once for border check-ins and someone already knows who you are, without you speaking to anyone! It is like magic 🙂 When you make a booking, you of course provide your car registration details, number of passengers etc. So, when you enter the terminal, your number plate is scanned and all they do is ask for your name and check how many passengers are travelling. That is all.
Then you are being told where to park. You are given a lane number and all you have to do is park in that lane until you are being called forward to drive into the ferry. There are plenty of people along the way guiding you where to drive and where to park. Once in the ferry, you need to put your car into gear for the crossing.
You have enough time to gather all your belongings you might need in the ferry. Therefore, there is no need to hurry collecting your belongings and stressing.
The ferry has two decks for the vehicles. Normally, when it is not busy you park on the lower deck. However, when the ferry is full or when lorries get on the ferry, cars have to park on the second deck. To access the second car deck, in Southampton you will have to get up a ramp with a curve. The ramp is wide enough though and maneuverable, even with a slightly bigger car. In East Cowes, the ramp is straight.
Inside is spacious and there are plenty of seats for people to sit and relax. You can face the front and back. There is also a small outside deck. However, seating outside is limited. Onboard, you can find a small shop, a cafe to buy some snacks and drinks and even a small restaurant where they serve hot food.
Of course during Covid times, there are some restrictions. The restaurant was closed as people were not allowed to eat and drink inside. However, the shop as well as the small cafe was open.
Once you approach the island, an announcement is made for all passengers to get back to their cars. Again, there is enough time to get back to your car even if you are the first car to get off. There is no need to run or rush back.
You get back to your car, sit and wait for the ferry doors to open. There are people on the deck once more guiding you and indicating who should go first and which cars need to follow next.
And of you are to explore the island!
FINAL THOUGHTS …
The ferry crossing to the Isle of Wight was smooth and frankly simple. The check-in and boarding was very organised and straight forward with Red Funnel. If you are like me and worry about using car ferries, do not be.
There are people telling you and showing you constantly where to go. You cannot miss anything.
The ferry itself was clean, but a bit old and run down. I liked that they had a small shop and cafe on board for people to purchase a few items and some snacks and drinks. The seating was comfortable and the time passed quickly.
Going to the island for a few days with your car is great as you can explore the island on your own and can reach everything easily. The price was also reasonable.