A Ferry Good Journey | A Wheelchair User’s Experience

See what I did there? Ha I know cringe, sorry. So you probably know already if you follow me on social media, that I recently took a trip to Belfast from Liverpool via Ferry. You may also know that in the past I’ve had really bad travel anxiety. Taxis, trains, buses – you name it, I was petrified. But it wasn’t because of thoughts relating to crashes or things that could go wrong with the technical side of things. It was things to do with just getting on and off, people pushing my chair and breaking it, or strangers I would meet just being ignorant. All of these thoughts escalated so much that I would literally be up all night the night before a journey thinking of my worst nightmares happening the next day.

Even though I’ve really improved with travelling now, and some may say I’m a dab hand at it now *smiles*. There was one thing I’d never tried, a ferry. My anxious mind before this trip would think of SO many barriers of where this could go wrong but I decided this year was the year. So in this post I thought I would write the post answering all of the questions I had before getting the ferry because I literally had no clue…

How do you actually get on?

If you’re not driving, you basically get on by bus. I got on the ferry from Liverpool and when we went to Birkenhead docks, you wait in the lobby and the bus comes right to the door. The bus looked like a typical London bus and had the same set up ramp wise (in the middle of the bus with the electric ramp). The bus getting off, in Ireland was a little older and was an older bus where the ramp is at the front. This was fine but the driver forgot to lower the bus so the ramp was SO steep getting on that two men had to help lift my chair in. Getting back on the bus coming home was much easier as the driver lowered the bus and the ramp was great to get off.

Gem on ferry with her thumb up and smiling

Not the most flattering pic but, the image above is me looking very weary after finally making it onto the boat – it sets the scene, you know. Have I even got my eyes open!? Probably not…

Can you feel it rocking?

When the ship (is a ferry a ship or a boat?) sets off, you can definitely tell it’s moving. I suppose it depends on what the weather is like. For me, as an electric wheelchair user I wasn’t nervous. Being on a bus is much more rocky than this. When I got out of my chair I could definitely feel it more. I think that’s because my wheelchair would help me feel grounded (so to speak).

Can you get in the cabins?

I think a staff member said there are about 4 accessible rooms on Sten Line ferries, so it’s better to book earlier rather than later. I did also see a portable hoist in the corridor so I am guessing this could be booked too if you needed this to tranfer in your cabin/bathroom. This would need to be checked however, as I didn’t use this facility this time.

I’m not going to lie, the cabins aren’t massive. I think I just about had enough room to spin but it is cosy. The accessible bathrooms were a very generous size however. There was enough room to do a comfortable spin and position my chair to transfer to the loo. The bed was a bunk bed, and the top bed folded from the wall. So bear that in mind – if you will be travelling with someone else.

Can you drive your chair whilst it’s moving?

Yes. Again, I suppose it depends on the weather but when the water is calm, it is easy to drive around and you don’t really feel it rocking. However, that is me speaking as a wheelchair user and my chair is around 14 stone. It may be different for a manual wheelchair user. I did accidently get stuck at one point… We decided to go outside (which is great if you’re feeling a bit travel sick) and watch the water. It was all going well until I wanted to go back in. My wheels were slightly wet which meant they couldn’t quite grip the metal ramp and the small lip into back into the ferry. It took a very kind man to give me a little push. So just keep in mind that although it’s mainly level access, there may be a couple of steep metal ramps along the way.

Would I go again?

Absolutely! I honestly loved going on the ferry, it was such a new experience and I was genuinely surprised at how smooth it went.

So now I’ve tackled that… what shall I do next!?

Photo Credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

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