Take The Ferry To Newfoundland Two Different Ways
We took the the ferry to Newfoundland and back with Marine Atlantic on our road trip to Eastern Canada. Getting to Newfoundland we did the shorter 6 hour ferry on MV Highlander. On the way back we booked the overnight ferry on MV Atlantic. We were on the only night ferry with a cabin available. And were definitely glad we booked our travel to Newfoundland this way.
The ferries were a great way to travel across to Newfoundland with our car and for several other transits on our trip. Advance reservations really were necessary when we travelled in the summer. Limited availability meant we ultimately planned our entire trip around ferry availability.
None of the ferries were luxurious ways to travel. But they were generally okay for the time we spent on board. We will definitely do the ferry routes again.
Lots Of Experience At Sea
We loved cruising in areas all around the world. We typically cruised with Oceania Cruises and enjoyed a luxury experience on our cruises. Our shortest cruise was 3 days cruising the Yangtze River in China with Viking Cruises. Caribbean cruises were generally 7 to 10 days. But our longest cruise was about 57 days as we travelled from Greece to Cape Town.
But not every cruising experience was a luxury trip. We took a ferry from Barcelona to the Civitavecchia port outside of Rome in Italy. It was a one night crossing in a pretty basic room. It saved us a long car or train trip. Or more expensive plane tickets.
So when we planned our east coast trip, we wanted to take the ferry to Newfoundland. It was just one of many ferries we took on our travels around Eastern Canada.
Ferry Routes To Newfoundland
There were two different ferry routes for Newfoundland that travelled to and from North Sydney on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. The shorter ferry was about 6 hours to Port Aux Basque. The longer ferry went overnight for about 16 hours to Argentia outside of St John’s.
Ideally we wanted to arrive on one ferry, drive around the island and depart on the other ferry at the other end. If we could not book the long ferry, we needed to re-trace our route and return from where we landed on the short ferry. This added at least one driving day and one or more nights in a hotel.
Getting A Cabin On The Longer Ferry To Newfoundland
For the longer ferry route, we really wanted a cabin. There were a number of cabin classes from a basic bunkbed room to luxury suites. When we checked the original dates for our travels in Eastern Canada, there were no cabins available. We looked at all dates and finally found one date with a cabin for the long transit from Argentia to North Sydney. And then we re-planned our trip around this date and left Newfoundland on the longer ferry. Luckily we were able to book the shorter ferry to travel to Newfoundland for the date we wanted.
With only one cabin available on the longer route, we had no choice about the accommodations. The only cabin left was a basic two bunkbed room. This was bigger and more expensive than just the beds we needed. But it was less expensive than the deluxe room we preferred. We knew this was not the most luxurious accommodations. But it gave us some privacy. And we were not left exposed to maskless passengers for the long crossing.
At one point as we checked dates for the longer ferry to Newfoundland, we considered flying instead. But the cost for two people to fly was expensive. We then needed a car rental. And we feared we would probably see less of the island.
The reservation process for the ferry to Newfoundland was all done online. This included checking for and booking a cabin. A few days before our ferry trips, we received an online check-in questionnaire that covered a variety of Covid-19 issues. This was in addition to already having a Newfoundland Covid-19 authorization from the government to enter the province.
Even though we did the online ferry process, we still got a phone call that reminded us of the Covid-19 requirements and the need to do the ferry questionnaire in advance. We were surprised when we arrived to board our ferry that some cars ahead of ours still had not done the required paperwork.
We were told to be at the ferry dock at least 2 hours before sailing. When we showed up at 2 hours, we were amazed to be much later than many people. Of course, several cars showed up just before the ferry boarded. With all the extra processes, we did not risk missing the ferry.
When we arrived at the ferry dock, our questionnaire was checked. We were issued a boarding ticket that was used to get on the boat. And for the long ferry, a cardboard room key.
When we landed in Newfoundland and again in Nova Scotia, the cars were lined up and went through a Covid-19 entry process. We were a bit surprised that these entry authorizations were not checked before we boarded the ferry. On both ferry crossings, we got off fairly quickly and our entry process was quick.
The Short Ferry From Sydney To Port Aux Basque
On the way to Newfoundland, we travelled on the day ferry from our stay in Sydney to Port aux Basque. The ferry arrived after 7pm. So we planned a one night stay in Port Aux Basque and started our travels in Newfoundland the next day.
The ferry ride was about 6 hours. There were no assigned seats but we found comfortable seats on an upper deck. Although we remained disturbed by how many people forgot they were sharing the space with others!!!
There were capacity limits due to the Covid-19 pandemic so seats were blocked off and people were spread out. Until people moved where they wanted to. The ferry rules stated that masks were to be worn whenever you moved about the vessel. They could be removed when you were in your seat or in your cabin. But mask removal was not limited just to when people ate or drank. Even double vaccinated, we felt far more comfortable wearing our masks at all times.
We spent most of this ferry ride working at our seats. By this time we were already far behind in picture editing and blog writing. As land approached, we packed our day bags and headed up on deck. We got a great first view of Newfoundland.
On deck, we watched the ferry turn around and back to the ramp. Port Aux Basque was the first stop on a week exploring Newfoundland.
The short ferry to Newfoundland was an easy ride and a great way to get onto the island.
The Overnight Ferry Back To North Sydney From Argentia
The return ferry trip left from Argentia about 90 minutes outside of St. John’s. This was a 16 hour ferry and after the first short ferry trip we were glad we had a cabin to escape to.
The pre-boarding and boarding process was similar to the shorter ferry. This time we got our cardboard key to our cabin. As soon as we parked on the ferry, we headed up to the 8th deck.
We walked all the way forward until we found our cabin. We thought we were prepared but it really seemed smaller than we expected. This was not the cabin we ever booked when we cruised!
While small, the cabin had enough room to sit and work. And the bathroom with shower was bigger than expected. The very narrow beds meant there was no snuggling room at all. But happily the mattress was less uncomfortable than it originally felt.
Our Overnight Experience
We settled our things into the cabin and then went on deck for the departure views. Once at sea, we grabbed our cooler bag and took it to the lounge area with tables. There was a limited menu onboard and the line ups were very long. So we were very glad we had dinner provisions packed in the cooler.
After we ate, we moved to the quiet Havana club with our computers and worked. Few people found this spot and it was ideal for an hour with a view out the window. And with no food allowed, those who entered had masks on.
We managed to sleep ok. The sea was quiet and gently rocked the ferry. When we woke in the morning, it was wonderful to have a hot shower before we started our day. We made our breakfast up in the forward lounge and bought coffee from the snack bar.
The overnight ferry to Newfoundland worked out well for us. But only because we had a cabin. Even our basic cabin was better than being in the open space. We can no longer really sleep in a chair! Or sprawled along a bench seat.
Facilities On Board
We were used to the quite spacious and well equipped ferries on the west coast in the Vancouver area. The ferries for Newfoundland were smaller. And many of the areas were closed for Covid-19.
The seats were comfortable and had foot rests when we sat in the seating area. There were several lounges and quiet areas around the ship. When we travelled, the casino, games rooms, gift shop and some dining facilities were closed.
Overall the ferry to Newfoundland had enough facilities for the length of time we were on the ferry and awake.
Views From The Deck
There were several different outdoor deck areas. On both ferry crossings we spent some time outside on the decks for fresh air while we checked out the sights.
When we left Argentia after our stay in Newfoundland it was a beautiful sunny day. We stayed out on deck and watched the transit out of the harbour. We saw Husky Energy’s West White Rose Project with the ALE SK350 crane. Sometimes my Civil Engineering geek surfaces! With his zoom lens, David found gun bunkers in the hills that protected the harbour. We saw leaping fish but even a zoom lens did not capture the splashing sights.
The skies remained clear as we left Newfoundland. But we never saw the French Island of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off of Newfoundland. One day we will go back and visit. But we caught a great sunset as our last view of Newfoundland.
The outdoor decks were a great spot for views when we took the ferry to Newfoundland.
Would We Recommend Taking The Ferry To Newfoundland?
We were glad we took the ferry to Newfoundland and booked the short ferry one way and the long ferry the other way. It worked out well for our travels when we looked at various considerations.
1) Travel Time
The short ferry was relatively fast. If we just explored the north part of Newfoundland or were prepared to drive around the island twice, it was possible to use the short ferry to travel to and from the island.
The ferry took longer than flying. This was fine for our long visit to Newfoundland. But a ferry trip would not be as good for a short visit to the island.
The ferry to Newfoundland was reasonably priced when compared to flying and renting a car.
The longer ferry at Argentia was about 3 times the cost of the shorter ferry for 2 people. Even without the added expense of a cabin. If we travelled with a larger group, the costs would quickly add up. The additional cabin costs ranged from about $176 to $246.
But there was both time and cost to drive back through Newfoundland to Port Aux Basque from St John’s to take the short ferry. So we figured for two people, it was basically about cost neutral even with a cabin. And the ferry was still far cheaper than flying for multiple people.
3) Ferry Schedule And Accommodation Needs
The other thing we factored into our plans was the accommodations at either end. Depending on the schedule, additional hotel nights might be needed close to the ferry terminals. We left North Sydney mid-day so did not really need to stay there before we left. But we arrived in Port Aux Basque after 7 pm so we wanted a hotel relatively close to the ferry dock.
On the return trip, we left late in the afternoon so it was an easy drive from St John’s to neighbouring Argentia. And we arrived in North Sydney first thing in the morning and kept driving to Nova Scotia. So we did not need North Sydney accommodations for the return trip either. But other ferry schedules with very early departures or very late arrivals might add in hotel night stays close to the ferry terminals.
The Newfoundland Ferry Was Just One Of The Ferries We Took In Eastern Canada
We took several ferry rides on our road trip around Eastern Canada. The first ferry on our travels in Quebec took us across the St Lawrence River from Les Escoumins to Trois Pistoiles. Then we did the two Newfoundland ferries. For our stay in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island we took a ferry from Caribou in Nova Scotia to Woods Island on the PEI. We changed it up and left the island on the Confederation Bridge into New New Brunswick.
We booked advance reservations for all ferries since we found little availability on the ferry schedules. There were extra fees for the reservations. But the cost to make last minute changes if we missed a ferry made the fees worthwhile.
The processes for Covid-19 screening on the ferry varied by company. But they all at least paid lip service to Covid restrictions although mask adherence varied.
The Covid-19 processes and timing varied by province. But entry authorizations were only checked when you left the ferry. We were not sure what happened to people who did not do their provincial authorizations in advance. With the paperwork done and ready for review, entry was not a major challenge.
All ferries required being at the dock well in advance so that timing was planned into our travel days.
Overall, it was great to add the ferries into our road trip travel mix. The time onboard gave us a little time to relax. Often, the ferries were faster than other options. And while they added costs, the cost for other alternative travel plans made the cost less of a factor.
Take The Ferry To Newfoundland And Enjoy The Trip
It may not be luxury cruising but we were happy we took the car ferry to Newfoundland and back. It was a great way to start and end our travels in Newfoundland.
The busy summer ferry schedule meant we ultimately planned our trip dates to Newfoundland around ferry and cabin availability. This had a cascading effect on the rest of our travel plan. But without ferry reservations that worked for our visit, we would not have visited Newfoundland.
Did you take the ferry to Newfoundland? Would you recommend it?
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