Brittany Ferries is to introduce a 214.5m ‘cruise ferry’ carrying more than 1,000 passengers on its route from Rosslare to Bilbao in Spain from November.
a Galicia, which the line describes as “a more tourist-oriented ship”, was launched in December 2020 and offers onboard shops, games rooms, sundecks and cabins with video on demand.
It will handle crossings between Ireland and Spain from Connemara, a mainly freight ship with limited facilities for holidaymakers.
Currently, crossings to Spain last between 27 and 33 hours with at least one night spent on board.
Fares have yet to be released for crossings to Galicia, but one-way fares for two passengers and a car sailing from Rosslare to Bilbao on Connemara’s ‘simple, but comfortable and no-frills service’ are currently €223 at €468. one way in May and June on brittany-ferries.ie.
Four-berth inside cabins are extra, from €174 each way.
Currently, Wednesday crossings depart at 10.15am and arrive in Bilbao at 3pm on Thursdays. Friday crossings depart at 11pm for a two-night sailing that arrives in Bilbao at 8am on Sunday.
An update on the Galicia timetables for 2022/2023 will be provided in mid-late May.
While the Connemara carries around 500 passengers, the Galicia can accommodate 1,015 and is closer to the company’s flagship, the Pont Aven, “with much better facilities for holidaymakers”, the company says.
The decision follows “dramatic growth” at Rosslare Europort, County Wexford, according to the company. With freight links to Spain established, the plan is now to increase passenger traffic on the route.
“Le Galicia will continue to offer a solid freight offer,” said Brittany Ferries president Jean-Marc Roué.
“However, our research has indicated that there is demand from Irish people wishing to holiday in Spain, and Galicia will certainly provide them with a much more enjoyable experience.”
These experiences include interior and sea view cabins with video on demand, a tapas restaurant and “a fusion of Spanish, French and international flavors” in the main Azur restaurant.
Purchases on board will range from perfumes, clothing and cosmetics to sweets, wines and spirits, the brochures say. They also promise “interactive playrooms for the little ones”.
Passengers can enjoy “a Spanish town vibe” at the Plaza Mayor bar, and there’s an upscale private lounge alongside the regular lounges.
As well as ferrying Irish holidaymakers to Spain, the new ship could boost inbound travel as Irish tourism seeks to stage a post-pandemic recovery.
In 2019, Ireland welcomed 431,000 Spanish visitors to the island, spending €218 million.
Siobhan McManamy, Markets Director for Tourism Ireland, called the news “a real vote of confidence in Irish tourism”.
“Our message is very simple: Ireland is open for business again and we look forward to ‘rolling out the green carpet’ and welcoming our Spanish visitors back.”
Galicia’s announcement follows confirmation by Brittany Ferries that its new twice-weekly service from Cork to Roscoff will become a “permanent feature” of its timetable.
The weekly sailing from Pont Aven was joined by a new mid-week night sailing on the MV Armorique.
“While the last two years have been difficult for all of us, I am delighted to be able to confirm that this year our advance bookings have increased by more than 35% compared to 2019, which was our last “normal” year. “due to Covid,” Mr. dit Roué said.
As well as giving Irish holidaymakers better access to France, the new navigation has the potential to generate €4.3 million via visitors to Ireland, estimates Tourism Ireland.
The first direct sailing from Brittany to Spain was a 28-hour route from Cork to Santander on Connemara, launched in 2018.
His Rosslare route in Bilbao followed in February 2020.