The Stena route to Poland
The Stena Britannica
The big Stena ferries are pretty amazing – they are amongst the biggest ferries in the world, and are like a nice hotel. Our cabin was spotlessly clean and very comfortable. You have a choice of where you eat dinner – buffet or waiter service – and if you book and pay in advance for both dinner and breakfast, the cost is slightly lower. We had a lovely three course meal, with excellent service, before the ferry sailed. Breakfast next morning is in the buffet, and it’s fairly typical – edible, but you could do better yourself at home.
The Metropolitan Restaurant on board
The beauty of the Stena ferry? Discipline. No – not that sort of discipline! The ferry timings give you a full day in the UK to do what you have to do (on subsequent trips we’ve spent the day shopping at the big man’s clothes shop in Rayleigh (John), the Nike, Reebok, Le Creuset and other shops at the Freeport mall at Braintree (Rajmund) and getting some of those food, drink and other items we just don’t get at our local Tesco in Nowy Sacz. After a full day, you head to the port to arrive maybe 8 or 9 o’clock and join the queue to board. The boarding process is quick and easy – we always get a space close to the lifts from the car deck because John has to use his wheelchair on the ferry – and the ferry sails at 23:15. If, like us, you have dinner as soon as you board, you get a decent sleep before getting up about 6 o’clock to have a quick shower and head to breakfast (the ferry has a wake-up announcement at about 06:30) and be ready for the call to the car deck a little before the ferry docks at 07:45. The entry process at Hook is sometimes slower – we’ve been “quick-searched (or, rather, the car has) more often than not – but you’re still on the road by about 08:30.
Comfort Class – not really space for the wheelchair, so left it at the door. Stena have very roomy disabled cabins, though, if you need one, wth excellently adapted wetrooms
On our first trip (with the van) we stopped overnight on the way out to Poland. We’ve found the German B&B hotels are either very handy for the autobahn (ie on a service area) or newer and in town (eg Dresden, Essen). Some of them are part of the “services” building, so you can get a meal 24/7 from the food court. Others have their own breakfast room plus menus for you to call for a delivery pizza. One trip we stayed overnight at the Green Hotel, outside Poznan, which was very nice but slightly spooky (there were only three guests staying that night, including us!) and on the return at a hotel outside Warsaw, the less said about which the better. The B&B and Green hotels all have decent disabled rooms.
Captain’s Class – these are nice, and have a fair bit of space if you can’t book a disabled cabin
We like the Stena start because we can drive straight through to our home in one long day. It’s roughly 1,400 km and to all intents and purposes, when you include breaks and fuel stops, it takes from getting out of Hook till getting on for midnight to reach Kamionka Wielka. We HAVE done it overnight, after a day out and about in London and Kent and an afternoon Channel Tunnel crossing, but we’d not really recommend it – on top of an active day, it’s just too much. So either Chunnel or Dover-Calais and an overnight stop or Stena and drive straight to Poland.
The different crossings will probably mean your satnav will give you different routes – ours likes the more northerly route from Hook, past Hannover and close to Berlin but the more southerly route from Calais passing Essen and Leipzig to the border.
One last thing, just over the border into Poland you’ll pass the exit for Bolesławiec, the famous pottery town – if you come to stay, we’ll show you our tableware and pottery chicken!
The sun’s going down at Kamionka Wielka
Green Hotel, Poznan http://www.greenhotel.pl/en/en
The big man’s clothes shop in Rayleigh http://www.sizedwell.co.uk/store/index.asp
Freeport, Braintree http://www.freeport-braintree.com/
One of several Bolesławiec pottery shops http://www.boleslawiec-sklep.pl/?gclid=CJH_4d3Z6LYCFYRQ3godVCIAzg