We decided to take the ferry to Northern Ireland and when we looked into it we decided the longer drive to Scotland and the shorter ferry crossing would suit us better than the shorter drive to Liverpool and a much longer crossing.
We set out early on our morning of travel to give us plenty of time to get to Cairnryan and allow for stops on the way if we needed them. The traffic wasn’t too bad so we made it an hour before our ferry was due to set off.
The P&O port at Cairnryan is a lot smaller than other ports we have travelled from so it was very quick and easy to drive through the check in and security. We were directed straight to the queue for the ferry and were able to get out of the car and visit the toilets in the building next to it if necessary. We used this waiting time to eat our picnic lunch in the car.
It was soon time to embark and we drove onto the ferry. It was a smaller ferry than we have travelled on to France in the past so loading all the cars didn’t take very long. We made our way upstairs.
At the top of the ferry stairs there was a small lobby area with toilets, reception and some fruit machines. There were doors to outside on either side of the lobby. Straight ahead, past the reception was a corridor that took you past the very small duty free shop, entrance to the private lounge and kids area and came out in the canteen/dining room. Through this was an indoor seating area. It was very busy inside so we decided to go straight outside and sit on the benches.
This worked well as we were able to watch the scenery and nip in to use the toilets by the door when necessary. The crossing was 2 hours and then we had to get back in the car.
Once it was announced to get back to the cars, the lobby area became very crowded and once we got to the car, we had all but a few minutes to throw everything in the boot and jump in before we had to drive off the ferry.
Taking an autistic child on the P&O ferry from Cairnryan to Larne?
There is an email address on the website to contact customer services if you need assistance. I did email them but I didn’t receive a reply until after our return trip, 2 weeks after I sent the email so if you book far enough in advance I would make emailing a priority rather than trying last minute.
The port at Cairnryan was great. It was small, quick, easy and there were close by toilets available. You will be in a line of parked cars with people joining other lines so there is obviously a traffic danger.
On board the ship was a small enclosed room for parents and children with play equipment. The rest of the ship was very crowded. Outside was much quieter and so was the private lounge but you would need to book that in advance.
The toilets had a queue from around 10 minutes before we arrived in Larne but were quieter at other times.
Outside there were benches to sit on. It is the smoking area but there is plenty of space and hardly anyone went out there to smoke during the journey. There are railings around the edge.
The lobby got very busy while people were waiting to get downstairs to their cars at the end of the journey.
There were announcements over the tannoy system which were quite loud.
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