Basque in the sun Look inside the luxury new 'cruise-ferry' sailing from Ireland to Bilbao
Brittany Ferries’ Galicia will replace Connemara in sailing from Rosslare to Bilbao
Brittany Ferries is to introduce a 214.5m “cruise-ferry” carrying over 1,000 passengers on its route from Rosslare to Bilbao in Spain from November.
The Galicia, which the line describes as “a more tourism-oriented ship”, launched in December 2020 and comes with onboard shopping, playrooms, sundecks and cabins with video on demand.
It will take over sailings between Ireland and Spain from the Connemara, a predominantly freight vessel with limited facilities for holidaymakers.
Currently, sailings to Spain take between 27 and 33 hours with at least one night spent on board.
Fares haven’t yet been published for the Galicia sailings, but one-way rates for two passengers and a car sailing from Rosslare to Bilbao on the Connemara’s “simple, yet comfortable, no-frills service” are currently quoting from €223 to €468 each-way in May and June on brittany-ferries.ie.
Four-berth inside cabins are extra, from €174 each-way.
At present, Wednesday sailings depart at 10.15am, arriving into Bilbao at 3pm on Thursday. Friday sailings depart at 11pm for a two-night sailing that arrives in Bilbao at 8am on Sunday.
An update on the Galicia's schedules for 2022/2023 will be provided in mid-late May.
While the Connemara carries around 500 passengers, the Galicia can host 1,015 and is closer in style to the company's flagship, the Pont Aven, “with far better facilities for holidaymakers”, the company says.
The decision follows “dramatic growth" at Rosslare Europort, in Co Wexford, it adds. With freight links to Spain established, the plan now is to boost passenger traffic on the route.
"The Galicia will continue to provide a strong freight offering,” said Brittany Ferries’ President, Jean-Marc Roué.
"However, our research has indicated that there is a demand there from Irish people wishing to holiday in Spain, and the Galicia will certainly make for a far more enjoyable experience for them.”
Those experiences include inside and sea-view cabins with video on demand, a tapas restaurant and “a fusion of Spanish, French and international flavours” in the main Azur restaurant.
Onboard shopping will range from perfumes, clothes and cosmetics to sweets, wines and spirits, brochures say. They also promise “interactive playrooms for the little ones”.
Passengers can enjoy “a Spanish city feel” in the Plaza Mayor bar, and there is a private, premium lounge offering alongside the regular lounges.
As well as ferrying Irish holidaymakers to Spain, the new ship could boost inbound travel as Irish tourism looks to stage a post-pandemic recovery.
In 2019, Ireland welcomed 431,000 Spanish visitors to the island, spending €218m.
Siobhan McManamy, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Markets, called the news “a real vote of confidence in Irish tourism”.
"Our message is very simple: Ireland is open for business again and we cannot wait to ‘roll out the green carpet’ and welcome back our Spanish visitors.”
The Galicia announcement follows Brittany Ferries’ confirmation that its new, twice-weekly service from Cork to Roscoff will become a “permanent feature” of its schedule.
The weekly Pont Aven sailing has been joined by a new overnight midweek sailing on MV Armorique.
“While the last two years have been difficult for us all, I am delighted to be in a position to confirm that this year our early bookings are up by over 35pc on 2019 which was our last ‘normal’ year due to Covid,” Mr Roué said.
As well as giving Irish holidaymakers more access to France, the new sailing has the potential to generate €4.3m via visitors to Ireland, Tourism Ireland estimates.
Brittany’s first direct sailing to Spain was a 28-hour Cork to Santander route on the Connemara, launched in 2018.
Its Rosslare to Bilbao route followed in February 2020.
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