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  • Writer's pictureJustin Merrigan

I Saw Three Ships a Sailing!

Dover via Calais with Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries Isle of Innisfree on the Dover Strait © Justin Merrigan
Irish Ferries Isle of Innisfree on the Dover Strait © Justin Merrigan

Building on a proud heritage of connecting Ireland to Britain and Ireland to France, Irish Ferries last year added a new connection from Britain to France to its network offering sailings between Dover and Calais.

It is nothing short of a most remarkable achievement that in its first year on the Dover Strait Irish Ferries has progressed its new route from a standing start to a three ship service with up to 30 sailings a day. In doing so, it has grown its fleet by three ships and made its presence strongly felt by becoming an integral part of the vital supply chain between the EU and the UK.

Irish Ferries
Board the Isle of Innisfree at Calais © Justin Merrigan

Irish Ferries’ services on the short-sea route started on 29th June 2021 with the introduction at Dover of the popular Irish Sea ship Isle of Inishmore. She was joined by a second ship in December, the newly purchased Isle of Innisfree. The Isle of Inisheer followed on 26th April 2022 having been bought from Spain's Trasmediterranea for whom she sailed as Ciudad de Mahon. The purchase of these two vessels, represented a total investment of €35.5 million and enabled Irish Ferries to offer an important three ship service with vital increased frequency and a sailing from either Dover or Calais every 90 minutes.

I had the pleasure of sailing from the French port in the Isle of Innisfree on 3rd June and was not disappointed. The ship was well presented and a happy and courteous crew brimming with enthusiasm to develop the new operation bodes well for the future.

Isle of Innisfree © Justin Merrigan

Despite the shortest of times between purchase and entry into service for her new owners, those brands so familiar to passengers on the Irish services have been successfully introduced onboard. Club Class, where for a supplement passengers can upgrade to a premium lounge is on Deck 9. Below, on Deck 8 is O'Flaherty's Bar, which is open on peak sailings. On Deck 7 Boylan's Brasserie and Café Lafayette offer a wide range of food and snacks and beverages. There is also The Shop where duty free purchases are back in vogue. Of course for the valued freight customers the Freight Drivers Club is the lounge and restaurant reserved exclusively for truck Drivers and was busy during my sailing.

Built as Prins Filip in 1991 for Belgian state-owned operator Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT), she entered service the following year between Ostend and Dover. She remained in service with until RMT operations ceased in 1997. More recently, the ship served DFDS as Calais Seaways, until purchased by Irish Ferries' parent company Irish Continental Group and renamed Isle of Innisfree. She takes her name from the poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree, penned by Irish poet, dramatist and prose writer William Butler Yeats. Isle of Innisfree has a gross tonnage of 28,833 tonne, passenger capacity of 1,140 and a freight unit carrying capacity of 83 units.

Isle of Innisfree
Café Lafayette on Irish Ferries' Isle of Innisfree © Justin Merrigan

Even one year on it still feels quite surreal to see Irish Ferries' ships coming on going at Dover and Calais. There can however be no doubt, Irish Ferries is in a very strong position on the Dover Strait and is most definitely a credible alternative to the incumbent operators.

Irish Ferries, Dover - Calais.
The Isle of Inisheer, Calais-bound from Dover. © Justin Merrigan

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