Winner: Stena Line
The terms you used to describe Ireland's Favourite Ferry Experience weren't always flashy. In a world of stress, delays and disruption, however, they certainly hit home.
"Reliable" was one. "Fast and affordable," you said. "Quick and comfortable... good value, plenty of travel times... no-frills, but does the job."
You also singled out Stena's "professional" and "great" staff. "They are very helpful, prepared to help when one drives on board, and they don't rush, they keep calm," one reader said.
"Plus, their fish and chips are great."
"We were burgled this year and our car was stolen," another told us. "My husband was due to travel the next day to England with Stena. He called them to explain our situation and they were incredible... they gave him a full refund and a discount off his next trip. We will definitely use them again."
Judges noted, of course, the annus horribilis experienced by last year's winner, Irish Ferries. Though polling well, the delayed arrival of its new W.B. Yeats vessel, with knock-on effects including thousands of cancelled bookings, not to mention the announcement that it is "unlikely" to sail from Rosslare to France this year, all saw a fall in favour among our readers.
Stena isn't just benefiting from misfortune, however. The company will introduce three new E-Flexer RoPax ships to its Irish Sea routes during 2020 and 2021 (now under construction in China).
"The Roll-on Roll-off service is incredibly efficient," you told us. "The premier lounge is as good as any airport lounge anywhere. I don't feel exhausted after the journey."
Stena Line is "a gateway to Europe", you said. It offers "a painless way of going on a family break" with "the added feel of being on a seaborne adventure". "The overnight trip to France can be treated as a hotel at sea," you said.
"Cool views", one reader concluded, with a special shout-out to "the lady at the bar that complemented my necklace"!
As airlines continue to pile on extra fees, and car hire gets more expensive in peak season, many of our readers noted the relative ease in travelling by ferry to the UK and France. "My sister and her family drove home this way last Christmas," one told us. "They were amazed that what would have cost over £1k sterling on flights cost less than a fifth of that for four of them. I would try it myself now." Several new ships are scheduled to arrive in the coming years, and Brittany Ferries now offers a year-round route between Ireland and Spain.