During the summer months there is the opportunity to sail on the Spirit of Tasmania during the day, allowing a different kind of crossing experience of Bass Straight.
When: day sails only happen during summer on certain days, check here.
Where: Melbourne to Devonport or Devonport to Melbourne
Cost: Look out for special deals, we traveled for $85 for one adult and two children as a promotional fare.
I have a dear friend who regularly makes this crossing and she’s been keen to try the day sail for ages – but given it’s only available on certain days in summer the timing has never worked out for her. When I went to book our Spirit of Tasmania trip it turned out that we had the option, so out of curiosity I booked our crossing to happen during the day.
There are some pluses to crossing during the day. One plus being financial – if you don’t need a bed to sleep in then you don’t need to book a cabin – which means you can choose to sail without a seat allocation (as we did). You also get to see where you are going. Sailing at night on the Spirit of Tasmania means that you spend pretty much all of the trip in darkness and so passing through the Heads and Bass Straight happens in the dark (but then for most of the trip you are asleep). The view out onto the water during the day was stunning and we even saw a pod of about 50 dolphins at one stage.
There are some downfalls – you are stuck on a boat all day.. the trip takes about 10 hours. We spent most of our day wandering about, watching movies in the ship’s theatre and working out our next meal. (Thankfully the Australian Open was also happening and we watched a bit of that on one of the many TVs dotted about the boat.)
Once you pass through the Heads you loose your mobile connection until you arrive in Devonport. The upside of this is you are forced to slow down, read a book, look out the window, talk to your family – it’s not all together a bad thing! But that said the decor of the Spirit (due for major refurbishment in mid 2015) is not that dissimilar to a daggy airport – so while the view out the window is breath-taking the inside lacks some charm.
The staff were lovely – I was told that our voyage was only half full compared to the previous sail and so we had double the staff required, meaning there were staff everywhere with time to help and chat. The food was okay – nothing to get excited about, but given it was only for the day I didn’t need to consider jumping overboard either.
You aren’t able to pack any kind of fruit or vegetables to take onto the ship (all our apples and cut up watermelon had to be left behind in a quarantine bin in Melbourne) but you can take other food – which if you were on a tight budget could be a good idea. However, for us, being able to visit the canteen for morning tea, lunch and dinner was a great way to fill in some time (afternoon tea was a soft drink and packet of chips at the bar upstairs).
Things to do on the Spirit of Tasmania with kids include: watch movies in the Theatre, check out the video arcade, play in the toddler play room, get your face painted and do a few craft activities, including a badge making workshop and a drawing class. There is a gift shop on the boat (which also sells icy poles and lollies) as well as a tourist information centre that you can visit to book tours and activities for your visit in either Tasmania or on the mainland.
There are power-points dotted around the ship so you can easily recharge your devices.
The most popular level is level 7 where the shops, cafe’s and theatre are – this level also has the more comfortable seating with couches and armchairs located throughout. Level 9 and 10 are other areas where you can find seating (as well as bars and activities like the kids craft and the arcade games room).
You can also go outside from levels 7 to 10 (with external stairs connecting them). The day we crossed it was incredibly windy outside and so other than it being a slightly quicker way of getting between the floors we didn’t really hang out there too much.
Sea sickness – we were fine and didn’t have any motion sickness. I have heard so many horror stories about crossing Bass Straight (mostly from my mum who travelled to Europe by ship a couple of times as a child and spent the first two weeks recovering from crossing Bass Straight) that I was a bit anxious about how the kids and I would fare. We all had some motion sickness medication before the ship departed in Melbourne – I figured prevention was better than cure – and if it was rough and we needed more then I had enough for us to have a second dose before we arrived in Tassie. It turns out we were fine, completely fine; and so was everyone else on board. Don’t get me wrong, the boat was rocking – you would sort of have a slightly drunken sway as you walked down a straight corridor – but not rocking to the point where you were bumping into things or needing to hold the walls to stop from stumbling. I had a good chat with the bar tender when we had our afternoon tea of lemonade and crisps and he said we were sailing on a medium (or average) kind of sea. He said on occasions it’s terrible, but not often.
Would I do it again? Hmmm probably not during the day – my curiosity has now been satisfied and for $85 (for the three of us) it was an economic way to travel to Tassie. We did loose a day of our holiday in transit – but for people who aren’t in a particular rush then this is a nice way to spend a day and enjoy the experience of travelling over sea and taking in the surroundings along the way. The view from the Spirit of Tasmania was amazing and the drive to Hobart from Devonport was very pretty.
At the end of the crossing we still had to get to Hobart (there are two bus companies who can transfer you to Hobart but they only depart in the morning so our day sail didn’t work for that scenario and we had to hire a car). Hobart is about a three hour drive from Devonport – the road is excellent and it was an easy drive (with hardly anyone else on the road). The car hire was directly outside the terminal (there are a few to choose from) and they stayed open late for us so we could collect it as we disembarked.
One last thing – we were foot passengers on the Spirit of Tasmania, but I have it on good authority that the process of getting your car on and off the ferry is a streamlined affair. When I booked the trip I didn’t have my own car – but if we did it again I would seriously consider travelling at night and taking our car as there is so much to explore around Tasmania. Also worth noting, as a foot passenger when you arrive at the ship to embark you check in your luggage and only take your carry on luggage with you for the day, so pack wisely as whatever you take you will have to carry it about all day (unless you have a private cabin) as there are no lockers.