Star-Child really does provide a heightened customer experience on Irish routes
With the most recent addition to its fleet Irish Ferries promised customers the OSCAR WILDE would provide an enhanced journey on board an Irish Sea ship featuring the very best in terms of comfort, speed, and amenities. I previously sailed onboard the ship when she was the STAR in 2018 on Tallink's service between Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland. Before returning to Australia in October 2023 I was therefore very keen to experience the ship in her new colours with a round-trip between the Welsh port of Pembroke Dock and Rosslare in the southeast of Ireland.
Setting off from our Isle of Wight base we arrived at the Pembrokeshire port five hours later to find the ship already loading with copious amounts of freight for the afternoon crossing to Ireland. And how striking she looked in her fresh green, white and blue livery!
Brands can make a lasting impression and just as the Qantas "flying kangaroo" is always a welcome sight when arriving in Australian airports at the end of a long overseas trip so too the iconic Irish Ferries shamrock upon green funnel warmed my heart as it towered above her berth. Australia has been my home for over 20 years, but Ireland still pulls the heartstrings!
The second Irish Ferries ship to carry this name, OSCAR WILDE honours the celebrated author, amongst whose works include The Star-Child, published in 1891 in his second collection of fairy tales for children, A House of Pomegranates. It is an attractive policy of naming its ships to reflect Irish literary figures and most apt for the ship built as STAR in 2007 by the same yard that built Irish Ferries ULYSSES, Aker Finnyards.
Vehicle decks © Justin Merrigan
Driving aboard the OSCAR WILDE was by way of the 11.0m x 18.0m stern ramp onto Deck 3, the main vehicle deck. From here it was up and around onto the Upper Deck 5. Leaving our car we were greeted by an Able Seaman, "Welcome onboard," he said warmly as we made our way to the passenger access door. A nice touch and the first taste of the hospitality that awaited up top! With over 2,380 lane metres of vehicle deck space, the ship can carry up to 120 trucks/freight units or 450 cars. There is also a 18.0m x 4.7m bow ramp but due to operational requirements at Rosslare Europort, the ship was operating as a stern-loader.
At 186 metres long, the 11-Deck OSCAR WILDE has an impressive capacity for 2,080 passengers in an interior which has a classic, modern feel. There are facilities for all with comfortable cabins, a Club Class lounge, no shortage of choices for food and beverages including the self-service Boylan's Brasserie, the Café Lafayette, the Sea Pub bar, and for truck drivers the impressive Freight Drivers Club. Passengers can enjoy sea views and fresh air on three sun decks, and there are also pet facilities, family-friendly features such as a children's play area, and an extensive shopping space.
I was delighted to be shown over the ship by OSCAR WILDE'S Chief Purser Magdalena Mieroslawska. What better place to start the walkthrough than at the Information Desk on Deck 7, flanked on both sides by some 1,500m2 of shopping space. There is a large supermarket for alcohol, tobacco, toys, souvenirs and food. A dedicated Perfume Shop, and what was in Tallink service a Trend Shop selling fashion accessories from well known brands. This latter space was not in use during my visit but will no doubt have a new role after the ship's first refit under the Irish Ferries flag.
The cosy Sea Pub bar © Justin Merrigan
Aft of the shopping area is the attractive Sea Pub which can seat more than 400 passengers. Unusual for a ship hailing from the Baltic, the pub has a very Scottish feel with its tartan carpet and soft lighting. Facing the wide bar counter is a small dance floor which no doubt will feature live traditional music at some future time. Either side of the bar is access to the lower of three sun decks providing a grandstand view overlooking the stern of the ship. Here too is a outside "sun bar", which is open on busy summer sailings.
Also located on Deck 7 is the Freight Drivers Club, possibly the smartest truck drivers lounge I have experienced in all my years of sea travel. On the Baltic, this space was in fact a classy Business lounge where up to 122 passengers could prepare for a meeting or simply relax in luxurious surroundings. I am sure this level of comfort will be enjoyed by Irish Ferries' freight customers.
The Freight Drivers Club © Justin Merrigan
Deck 8 is where Boylan's Brasserie can be found, offering a good selection of hot and cold food in a pleasant and spacious area for over 300 passengers. Thoughtfully decorated in browns, creams and greys, with much use of planters, Boylan's is laid out in an attractive way such that there are several smaller intimate areas for those who prefer a relaxing meal. On our return crossing we enjoyed an excellent full breakfast here, served piping hot by two welcoming and attentive crew members. It was just what was needed ahead of our five-hours drive back to the Isle of Wight via Southampton.
Located at the forward end of Deck 8 is a large 450-seat buffet restaurant This area is not in use currently but no doubt Irish Ferries will have plans for a use more suited in a ship already bursting with eating options. So too, a lovely 100-seat à la carte restaurant midships on the port side of the vessel, still adorned with full size black and white pictures of Tallinn old town.
Boylan's Brasserie Photos © Justin Merrigan & Sara Merrigan
Up to Deck 9 and it must be said the main staircases between decks are impressive. Nicely carpeted and wide with mirrored walls and chrome rails combining to give a modern, spacious feel. What was a Burger King outlet when I sailed in 2018, is now Café Lafayette, and I'm glad to say the Java Republic coffee served here is just as good, if not better, than that I enjoyed on Dublin Swift a few months earlier! With a son in the coffee business in Tasmania, Chief Purser Magdalena was particularly enthusiastic that I try a flat white. She was not disappointed by my reaction!
Café Lafayette serves sandwiches, pastries and a range of hot and cold beverages. With seating for around 400 passengers, it is a great family space, especially with a kids' playroom nearby. Again, its colour scheme gives a truly modern vibe. Tastefully finished in reds and creams it offers a range of seating, from booths, to tables and counters. Something for everyone!
Café Lafayette © Justin Merrigan
Club Class © Justin Merrigan
Club Class on all Irish Ferries ships is superb. For a supplement, passengers can enjoy some extra comfort to while away their journey. Always enjoyable across the fleet, Club Class on OSCAR WILDE is the epitome of comfort and buffet with a host of nibbles and snacks available.
Around the ship © Justin Merrigan
The OSCAR WILDE has 131 cabins, comprising: 64 x four-berth outside cabins; 65 x four-berth inside cabins; and 2 x two-berth outside cabins. Our outside cabin was suitably comfortable, clean and inviting.
No sooner had we left Milford Haven in our wake than dense fog descended upon the ship. With speed reduced I decided to not take up a kind invitation to visit the bridge and engine room - Captain Simon Maple and his watchkeepers would have enough on their hands. Instead, I could devote our return sailing from Rosslare two days later to the ship's technical aspects.
With a possible top speed of 27.5 knots, OSCAR WILDE is certainly the fastest cruise ferry on the Irish Sea. Whilst such speeds are not usually required, the ability to "open her up" is certainly useful in the event of weather delays. Providing that ability are four MaK 12M43C medium-speed main engines, each with an output of 12,000kW at 514 rpm. These are coupled through reduction gearboxes to drive two Wärtsilä controllable pitch propellers turning at 145 rpm. Chief Engineer Daniil Vosu took me through the machinery spaces from the two 1,500kW Wärtsilä bow thrusters right forward, aft to the 1,000kW stern thruster from the same manufacturer. Manoeuvrability is enhanced by Becker rudders turned by Rolls-Royce steering gear, and a set of Blohm +Voss stabilisers enhances passenger comfort in rough weather.
Whilst not the newest tonnage on the Irish ferry network the OSCAR WILDE is without question one of most stylish and best appointed. Her modern feel makes her a perfect companion for Irish Ferries impressive W.B. YEATS on the cruise link between Dublin and France as well as the popular Dublin-Holyhead ship ULYSSES.
My thanks to Irish Ferries' Andrew Sheen and the ship's officers and crew for warmly welcoming us onboard OSCAR WILDE - she is a pleasure to sail in.