Here's our experience of the IoM Steam Packet ferry.
In May 2006 we tried to book bikes on the ferry and were advised to 'ring back nearer the time'. In September 2006 we tried to book bikes on the ferry and were advised it was 'fully booked'. In the same month we tried to book through a travel agent and were advised 'fully booked'. In May 2007 'Sharpie' books two foot passenger tickets for us on the ferry from Liverpool to Douglas.
One week before departure having received no physical tickets or information we rode to the Steam Packet office in Liverpool to confirm our bookings and establish what we had to do on arrival. We were told to arrive in Liverpool 1 hour early.
On June 6, 2007 we arrived in Liverpool 1 hour early as requested and were advised: 'wait outside for an hour, its a nice day'. We mentioned we had tried to book our bikes on and were told 'there's lots of room for bikes.'
After boarding we had a good sail (credit where it's due) apart from the fact they had run out of Stella. 'Sharpie' paid £11.40 for 4 small bottles of Beck's (He needed a lie down in a dark room after that?) and then we had a really great TT. Absolutely awesome.
On June 9, 2007 we confirmed the sailing and bookings were OK for Liverpool. On June 10 we arrived in Douglas 1 hour early as requested and queued for departures and noticed some people being turned away and others arriving to try to buy 'stand-by' tickets.
On arrival at the counter we are advised we were early for our return ferry which departs at 17.30... TO HEYSHAM. 'There must be some mistake', we say. 'Oh! no' the girl says. 'We changed your booking and I was here until 23.00 sending letters out in MAY. There are no sailings to Liverpool today!'
Stunned, we ask 'How are we getting from Heysham to Liverpool? Girl shrugs her shoulders and says it's not her problem! I ask to speak to a manager. As we are waiting for the manager to arrive a woman starts kicking off and we realise she is being told the same as us. She said she has received no letter and the girl allegedly called her a liar! The woman is now insisting she has to be back in Liverpool that evening. I have to ask the girl again! I want to speak to a manager! A chap arrives on the other counter and we ask what has happened to our ferry. He tells us it's due to engine trouble on a ferry the day before. And remember? They were sending letters out in May predicting this, eh?
A security chap ambles out of the ferry security entrance and sticks a sign up saying 'Boarding to Liverpool' Remember this? The girl has told us there are NO sailings to Liverpool today? The pier manager arrives and we politely but firmly explain all of the above, but exclude how useless the girl on the counter is. He tells us a coach has been laid on to take us from Heysham to Liverpool and he has a legal maximum of passengers on the ferry.
After 5 minutes waiting, watching the ferry preparing to go we are now turning red, (this is quite a feat as we are already sunburnt!), blue veins are beginning to throb in foreheads, a small amount of froth is appearing on lips, we are thinking about going for 'ferry retribution'!
The pier manager arrives back and tells we are on! He has 12 tickets. The 2 counters are opened. A stand-by passenger is issued a ticket and is off. Sharpie and I are looking at stupido girl and the manager comes over, works the till, issues our tickets and we are off like whippets to catch the ferry. A chap who was stood beside us lands 'on board' beside us and we say we cannot believe such incompetence.
He asks how we think he feels... He was booked on as a first class passenger! Our thanks to the pier manager, who was the only one in Douglas who appeared to know what was going on.
Our commiserations to all others who failed to make their booked passages due to Steam Packet's incompetence. What a f*cking nightmare. I would say 'never again' but as far as I know the firm is the only one that sails there, so next year I will probably be doing the same again.