Ultimate Guide to Stena Superfast Ferry in 2024: Belfast to Cairnryan

A picture of the Stena ferry taken while in the middle of the Irish Sea.
Home » Ferry Reviews » Ultimate Guide to Stena Superfast Ferry in 2024: Belfast to Cairnryan

At its closest, Scotland is just 12 miles from Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea. On the clearest of days, you can even see right across.

If you’re thinking of taking your car or campervan to Scotland or Northern Ireland, then the only passenger ferry now running is the Stena service from Belfast Port to Cairnryan.

I come from Northern Ireland and lived in Glasgow for college, so I’ve been over and back so many times that the Stena staff recognise me (almost!).

You’re in the right place to find out about the Stena Superfast Ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, how to book and on-board services. Let’s get started!

About the Stena Superfast Ferry

Stena advertises this route as the fastest route from Northern Ireland to Scotland, at 2 hours and 15 minutes.

That’s technically true, but if you’re planning a tight schedule, the waiting times bump the drive-in, drive-out overall trip time to over 3 hours.

Image shows cars lined up in rows at Belfast Port with a Stena ferry in the background.

There are in fact two ferries used on Stena’s route, the Superfast VII and the Superfast VIII.

At the time of writing, the Stena Nordica has replaced the Superfast VII.

Together, they make 12 journeys on this route daily. The route serves foot passengers, cars, motorhomes and lorries.

Booking

The best place to make your booking is on the main Stena Line website. I’d love to tell you there’s loads of discounts and coupons for discounts! But there’s not.

The best way to get a cheap price on Stena is simply to be flexible: the early morning/late night journeys are usually cheaper. Plus, if you can travel earlier in the week, you will often find a better price.

Use the low price calendar on Stena’s website if you can be *really* flexible! Read the options carefully, you can sometimes find deals on popular days at good times.

Plus, very occasionally, Stena sends out deals via its email newsletter.

Booking Stena Premium, Flexi or Economy Fares

Stena offers three different fare classes and the cost difference is not as much as you might think. There is a step up of about £15 between each fare type (e.g., Flexi = Economy + £15).

Simply put, you pay the extra cost to get additional flexibility. Economy is good if you’re certain of your booking date and time. Flexi makes it easier to make changes.

Premium gives most flexibility and includes Stena Plus lounge access as well as Express boarding and disembarkation.

Pre-booking Suites, Hygge Lounge & Stena Plus Lounge

Superfast Suites

The Superfast Suites (really just cabins) are on Deck 10, near the Pure Nordic Spa. Most suites have a double bed, an ensuite with towels and shower gel and up to 5 people are allowed to use one suite. They cost from £40.

For such a short trip, I can’t see much use for the suite. However, if you are in a small group that needs to be away from the crowds, or you need to freshen up, then it’s good to have the option.

Hygge Lounge

The Hygge Lounge is a quiet room with 36 comfortable chairs. A good place to nap, though usually the expectation of quiet is challenged by people coming in and out with a banging door (ask me how I know!).

The Hygge Lounge costs from £10 extra per person and can be pre-booked or pay on the day (if there’s space).

Stena Plus Lounge

Seating areas shown inside the Stena Plus Lounge

Passengers can upgrade to the Stena Plus Lounge for £20.

Planet Patrick Advice

Access to the Stena Plus Lounge is included in Premium fares. A Premium fare is usually £30 more than an economy fare and also includes priority boarding/disembarkation and flexible rebooking.

If you’re travelling on your own, I’d just book a Premium ticket, rather than pay out for the Lounge on its own.

The Stena Plus Lounge price buys you access to a private lounge with snacks, tea/coffee and soft drinks as well as wine. Seats are more comfortable and there are private bathrooms.

Pure Nordic Spa

The spa has been closed since the Covid-19 pandemic and remains closed (as of 2024). It offered a jacuzzi, relaxation area and massages for an additional cost.

How long before departure do I need to check-in for Stena Superfast?

Car check-in for cars opens 2 hours before departure. It CLOSES 45 minutes ahead of departure.

Foot passengers should check-in between 1 hour and 45 minutes, and 45 minutes before departure time.

Stena: Approach to Pet Bookings

Pets CAN travel on the Stena Superfast Ferry, and they must be pre-booked.

However, there are some conditions. Pets can travel IN your vehicle, in a Stena kennel or your own carrier case. Pets are not allowed in any passenger area whatsoever. If you use your own carrier case, there is a designated zone on Deck 8 where you must stay WITH your pet for the entire crossing.

However, guide dogs, hearing dogs and assistance dogs (e.g., autism assistance dogs) are permitted in all areas. The passenger must show the right paperwork at check-in and the dog must be wearing an appropriate harness and jacket.

Passengers who use a Wheelchair, Frame or Stick

At booking, you need to let Stena know if you or a member of your group uses a disability device. That includes wheelchairs, walking frames or walking sticks. For ‘safety reasons’ numbers are limited.

Stena Line Extra Loyalty Club

By signing up to the Stena Line Extra loyalty club, passengers gain access to a small number of benefits. Booking is easier, as your details will be pre-populated. There are some member-only offers on board. Your points will get you discounts on future trips.

There are two levels in Extra: blue and gold. Gold gets users two free seats in the Stena Plus lounge, double points on all bookings and free service charges on booking amendments.

Stena Superfast: A typical journey

I hope you found the Planning Guide above helpful to work out your booking on the Stena Superfast Ferry. Next, I am going to walk through a typical journey on the Stena Superfast. I was travelling alone, with my motorhome on a Premium ticket.

Belfast Port: pre-checks and check-in

Arrival at Belfast Port is well signposted when drivers leave the M2. Upon arrival at the Port, follow the signs for Stena Line check-in.

First, all vehicles will be assessed for security and customs before proceeding to check-in. This usually takes a while! Be polite and friendly with security and customs staff and ready to show whatever they need, and you’ll have no issues.

Check-in for Stena Superfast at Belfast Port

Check-in for Stena Superfast Ferry

Check-in is usually pretty smooth at Belfast Port.

Have your booking reference number or email available, as well as identification (in case it is requested). Usually the check-in agent will be able to pull up your booking on the basis of your car/motorhome registration number.

You will be given a light cardboard hook to place over your rear view mirror and a pass for the Stena Plus Lounge, if that is part of your booking. If you want to add extras, usually you do NOT do it at check-in, but at the information desk on board.

Priority Lanes at Belfast Port

If you have a priority ticket, you will be assigned one of the priority lanes to wait in ahead of embarkation. This was my first time taking my motorhome on a ferry, so I wanted the extra time to get parked on board.

Patrick's campervan is shown waiting in line at Belfast Port

Facilities at Belfast Port for Stena Line

Stena Line uses one principal building at Belfast Port for processing foot passengers and providing facilities for all checked-in passengers.

The terminal building at Belfast Port with Stena Line branding on the side.

Car drivers access the building from a special entrance after check-in, on the left side of the waiting area/parking lanes. Special facilities are provided for freight drivers.

Picture shows the Motorists Lounge at Belfast Port

There is a lounge for motorists and, through a separate entrance, access to toilets.

Inside the terminal at Belfast Port, a sign pointing to the Motorists Lounge and Cafe Barista

Up the escalator on the first floor, there’s a cafe serving coffees, teas and snacks.

Patrick is shown waiting patiently in his campervan driving seat.

I grabbed a cafe latte to enjoy back in the motorhome!

Boarding the Stena Superfast Ferry

Ferry workers start loading the ferry anywhere between an hour, and 30m before the departure time. They come to the top of each lane (starting with the priority lane) and wave cars and motorhomes forward.

This is a roll-on, roll-off ferry, so first on will be first off at Cairnryan.

Cars entering the Stena Line ferry

I was glad I had the priority ticket to have this extra time to get on board. That entrance doesn’t look too big, but was absolutely fine in reality! Motorhomes go into a regular parking lane on board.

The roll on roll off doors are down to accept cars on the Stena Ferry

Here is my campervan all parked up.

Patrick's Campervan parked on board the ship.

Stena Plus Lounge – my experience

Lounge customers present their pass at the entrance to the Stena Plus Lounge, have their name ticked off and then can access the lounge. The pass also contains a key code which you will need to be able to leave the lounge and return, so don’t lose it!

The buffet area inside the Stena Plus Lounge - vegetables with hummus dip is shown closest to camera.

The food and drink buffet is on the right as passengers enter and is available as soon as you get on board. On this trip, there was a nice hummus and veggie cup, mini muffins, fresh fruit and juices. There are fridges stocked with fizzy drinks and water, bowls of sealed crisps, and cookies. Fresh coffee and tea is available as well as wine for non-drivers.

Patrick looking comfortable in the Stena Plus Lounge

I found one of the comfy seats looking out over the rear of the ship. If you are travelling alone, it’s sensible to have a sweater or jacket to place on your chair to mark your territory while you get a drink or snack or use the bathroom.

The view from the Stena Plus Lounge as the ferry leaves Belfast Port

Outside deck areas on the Stena Superfast Ferry

There are numerous doors to the outside deck areas on the Stena Superfast Ferry. In fact, it’s one of the nicest things to do (weather permitting) to witness the departure from port or to get a breath of fresh air mid-journey.

The deck is shown, painted dark blue. The sea is in the background with a bright sky.

There are even seats outside where you can take your drink and enjoy the view!

Personally, I love to see the stern of the ship, and see the straight wake stretching out for miles behind us in the Irish Sea.

The Irish Sea stretches out for miles behind the stern of the ship.

Disembarking the Stena Superfast Ferry

Before too long, the ferry journey comes to an end and everyone gathers in the stair wells, despite Stena Line staff asking people to leave in strict rotation (which they announce)!

Everyone troops back to the car decks to find their vehicle and get ready for the final manoeuvres of the ferry to be completed.

You know you’ve really arrived when you hear the alarm indicating that the huge roll-off door is about to open.

Back on the car deck, the large ferry doors are opening.

Cars and motorhomes are allowed to disembark in lanes according to the decisions of the Stena Line ferry staff, but being up front with a Premium ticket does mean you’ll be one of the first off. That helps enormously as everyone bunches up on the roads out of Cairnryan behind slower vehicles.

YouTube Video

YouTube player

Overall Impression of Stena Superfast Ferry

I have been travelling this ferry route for 30 years. First it was Larne to Stranraer, but as that route closed, it’s been the route from Belfast to Cairnryan.

Belfast Port is very close to the city centre and is easy to access. The trip onwards from Cairnryan continues to suffer from a lot of single carriageway roads, when some improved infrastructure would be great.

Stena maintains a very professional and well-priced service on this route. I like having the option to upgrade to priority or the lounge, if I need it for some reason.

Or to keep costs lower, but still very comfortable, when using an Economy ticket and at the regular cafe and seating areas. This is one route I would happily recommend.

Have you taken this ferry before? Let me know about it in the comments below.

Share this article to Pinterest!

A pin encouraging people to book the Stena ferry
A pin referring to booking and enjoying this Stena ferry
A pin showing the stern of the Stena ferry.

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Stena Superfast Ferry in 2024: Belfast to Cairnryan”

  1. hi there just wondering if you saw the pet kennels on the car deck. we are travelling next month with our big dog.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, yes, I’ve seen them, but not used them. You probably already know that if your dog is small enough, it can travel on the passenger deck in a carrier, with a pet friendly seating area. I’m guessing that doesn’t work for you. The kennels are on the car deck and (in my view) are in an area that is quite noisy and which might get a bit cold (so if your dog is good with noise and you can bring a comfy blanket, then this works fine). You should know that you will not be allowed down to the car deck to comfort or walk your dog for toileting during the sailing. And this route doesn’t have pet-friendly cabins at this moment (unlike some of Stena’s other routes). I hope this answers your question. But feel free to ask any others you might have.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Planet Patrick contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using an affiliate link, the site may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. Find out more in the disclosure policy.

Book popular things to do