A Trip to the Isle of Man

Our journey from my niece’s house in North Nibley to Heysham was a straight forward one. The camper was loaded up with surf ski, bikes and all of the other toys needed for a week away – including Morgan’s xBox and a large monitor to go with it. I guess I can’t complain too much, if I can’t leave home for a few days without my toys, I guess he’s allowed his as well!

We stopped off at a services for MacDonalds to break up the drive a little and then arrived at the ferry terminal in Heysham at around 9pm. The boat wasn’t due to leave until 1:30am so we had some time to snooze in the van before boarding. That was always the plan as we wouldn’t have a cabin for the overnight crossing. So, we now had to sleep as much as we could so that we could arrive on the Isle of Man first thing in Saturday morning ready to make the most of our first day on the island.

Ferry to the Isle of Man

We pulled the camper bed out and settled down. Morgan managed to fall asleep but I gave up after a while and sat in the front with Anna. Check in opened so I had to move the van and check in anyway and then we sat there chatting and just whiling away the time.

Waiting for the Boat

The boat arrived at around midnight and all of the passengers and cars disembarked. We then watched the dance of lorries as the freight was loaded onto the boat. Dock workers drive little cabs with rotating seats, collect artic trailers and then manouvre them onto the boat in a carefully choreographed dance by headlight. This takes ages but is usually followed by people clad in hi-vis indicating that we should drive onto the boat as well. 1:30am came and went. The boat should be off by now, but we still hadn’t got on.

After a while there was an announcement on the tannoy asking all vehicles drivers to report to the reception area. Off we all went wondering what was going on.


First obstacle was to actually get to the reception area. We had all already checked in so the security gates were closed and the security guards weren’t sure what was going on either. Usually they give individuals a re-entry ticket if they need to go to the toilet or reception for any other reason after checking in, but with so many of us there they didn’t quite know what to do.

Once we explained that we had been asked to all report to reception they decided to escort us in.

What’s Going On?

Once there we all kind of queued up at the ticket office. Being one of the first cars in the queue meant that I was parked furthest from reception and was therefore now last in the queue here. At first no one told us what was going one as they were only talking to the individuals at the front of the queue. Someone did shout up and ask for an announcement at which point the person behind the desk shouted to us all to say that there was an issue with getting the stern doors open so they couldn’t get the cars onto the boat. Quite why they had closed them after loading the freight I don’t know but I’m sure they had their reasons.

She continued to say that there was no way they could get the cars on so we could leave our cars here and go on as foot passengers instead. She seemed a bit surprised when most people there weren’t happy with that or weren’t prepared to do that and of course questions were asked.

  • When will we get our cars?
  • What do we do with the cars in the meantime?
  • Are there any other options?
  • What about dogs that are in the cars but aren’t allowed on the boat?
  • Etc etc…?

Clearly they had no answers to these questions and simply didn’t have a plan for such an eventuality! What a shambles! The answer to these questions was “hang on I’ll find out” and off she went, presumably to find some answers.

She came back with a few other options.

  1. Leave your cars here and go as foot passengers
  2. Get a boat from Liverpool tomorrow
  3. Get the boat tomorrow night from Heysham – assuming it has been fixed by then

More questions:

  • When will the cars get to the Isle of Man if we leave them here?
  • Where will we stay overnight?
  • What time does the boat from Liverpool go?
  • Will they pay for the fuel to get to Liverpool?
  • Will they pay for overnight accommodation?
  • Is there room on the Liverpool boat?
  • And such like

As before no answers were forthcoming as they just didn’t know.

Some people at the front of the queue were however trying to be dealt with. Those of us at the back of the queue didn’t really know what to do.

I headed back to the van to tell Anna what was going on and we then returned to the reception. Still there were very few answers coming our way, but they had said that they would organise accommodation in a Holiday Inn in lancaster for those who wanted to stay with their vehicles and we could get the boat from Liverpool on Saturday morning. We decided that would be the best option for us as we needed the van.

Some people were going as foot passengers and leaving their vehicles there. They were told to put their vehicles in the car park, pop the keys in an envelope and write a note on the envelope saying that the Isle of Man Steam Packet accepted no responsibility for the vehicles or its contents and then hand that over to the Steam packet so that they could transport their vehicles to the Isle of Man when they could. They then boarded the boat as foot passengers!

None of this was quick or well organised though and no one really knew what was going on. It was about 3:30am that they eventually sorted this out and the foot passengers waved goodbye to their vehicles and boarded the boat.

Meanwhile those of us staying overnight and heading to Liverpool the next day (actually later today) were very slowly being dealt with one by one as well. At one point a guy behind the desk who was phoning the Holiday Inn to book rooms obviously needed to check with the Holiday Inn that they had enough rooms. He therefore shouted to the crowd of now tired and disgruntled passengers asking how many would need rooms for the night. There must have been about 30 of us who put our hands up to which he then said “are you all together?”. What sort of a question was that? Of course we weren’t!

Still no real information was forthcoming though and he went back to dealing with each person individually. The only information we could glean was that from people at the front of the queue who had been dealt with and were now leaving.

Eventually we made it to the front of they queue and checked our options. We were told that we could get onto the morning boat from Liverpool and could stay at the Holiday Inn. However, the Steam Packet couldn’t pay for the hotel upfront so we would have to pay for it and then claim it back. We should also be able to claim for the fuel to get us to Liverpool as well. We had of course been checking the booking Terms and Conditions and also knew that we should be able to claim for 50% of the ticket cost and also expenses such as breakfast. We would still have to pay for all of this ourselves though and then claim it back after the fact.

We decided that this was still our best option as there was no point going on the boat tonight as foot passengers and I was too tired to drive to Liverpool. So, that’s what we opted for. The receptionist booked a room in the Holiday Inn for us and then tried to change our ticket for the boat.

This is where we hit another problem. As we were towards the back of the queue the morning boat from Liverpool was now fully booked. We’d have to wait for the evening boat at 7:30pm instead. Again, nothing we could do so that was our only option.

Eventually, we headed off to find the Holiday Inn in nearby Lancaster.

Holiday Inn

It took ages to book in the the hotel as well. They were off making up beds for us and seemed to have to go through loads of admin to get us into our room. It was now gone 4am in the morning, we were tired and grumpy and just wanted to go to bed.

Finally we settled down for a few hours sleep. Not much though as breakfast was from 6:30am-9am so we didn’t want to miss that. It wasn’t the best breakfast though. There was nothing wrong with the food but with the sudden influx of unexpected guests from the Steam Packet they soon ran out of pastries and such like. We were still tired and not really in the mood either.


A day in Liverpool

We packed up and headed off to Liverpool. It wasn’t the most relaxing of drives as the wind was howling and the surf ski looked a little exposed on the roof at motorway speeds.

We parked in Liverpool on the docks and then headed off to explore. We had most of a day to waste so wandered around museums and the dockyard and then had dinner at a restaurant on the docks.

Anna checked the ferry crossings and the boat we were due to be on was already delayed by an hour.

Once check-in for the boat opened we headed off to the ferry terminal and joined the queue for the boat. At least this time once the boat arrived and everyone got off we were able to get on.

It had been blowing a hoolie all day and was still quite windy. Thankfully though once we finally got going some 20 hours later than expected the crossing wasn’t too rough. It was a tailwind all the way and we arrived on the Isle of Man sometime around 11pm. Yep, we were tired and looking forward to a good sleep. Hopefully we would be able to start our holiday properly tomorrow – Although it would have to include a trip to the Steam Packet offices armed with all of our receipts so that we could claim for all of the additional expenses and compensation we were due.

I’ll tell you about that and the rest of our Isle of Man trip in a subsequent blog post. You’ll be pleased to hear that things did get better.

1 Response

  1. Avatar forComment Author Emily says:

    What a nightmare. Not a good start to your holiday – relieved to hear it didn’t get worse at least.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.