It was a wet and squally evening in Melbourne as I prepared to board the good ship Spirit of Tasmania II. I was already tired from the journey down from G West and the mentally draining trauma of crossing the West Gate Bridge as well as contending with the density of traffic whizzing by.

Ship - Vehicle and Passenger Ferry to Tasmania
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Now in Melbourne, we just have to drive up the ramp and onto the ship we go!

Ship Ahoy… Sailing on The Spirit

by Roger Findlay

Being a frequent sailor, I recognised the security guy who was about to check my vehicle. I had my P Pod going with a bit of Tom Petty. It was drowning the noise from the heavy rain and my man was getting a good soaking as he checked the cars for bombs, illicit drugs, alcohol and foxes! He was most concerned with my two fishing rods and told me that I would have to complete a quarantine declaration form in Devonport. This proved to be utter tripe!

Ship - Melbourne to Devonport
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Think Tasmania: patiently waiting in line at Melbourne, Spirit of Tasmania II

With me, the security man was rude. He had no people skills or manners and (as a contractor) he represented the TT Line poorly. In his defence, why on earth don’t they erect a structure with a roof (the same as Devonport) so that the vehicles can be checked out of the weather?

Leatherwood Restaurant

Once on board, I made my way to the Leatherwood Restaurant and made a booking for the latest sitting then I went down to the back of the ship, the stern, to get a nice, cold quenching ale.

Ship - Bar and Lounge
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On-board the ship: Spirit of Tasmania Bar and Lounge

The main lounge has The Spirit Bar but the dance floor of old has gone. If you intend having a few, you will need to take plenty of money and it will be a relatively short night. Premium beers are sold at $7.50 a go or $165 a slab. For potency/dollar, Cascade Stout is the best buy! I was drinking with the flies and had my two before the ship left port. A much better option would have been to sit in the up-market surrounds of the Leatherwood Restaurant; drink prices are the same as the bar.

A Movie in the Cinema

Sailing alone, I chose the Recliner option with a calculated plan for combating boredom. First of all, I made my way to the cinema to watch the 10pm movie. Don’t expect a Regent Cinema. All you get is a large screen with two tellies in support. The seats are level making it difficult to see and I was behind a man with the biggest head on the ship who doubled his width by putting his hands on his lump of lard with his elbows out like wings! With all of the good movies out there, I always seem to get a bad one but it hardly matters when you’re half dozing to the motion of the waves.


 

At the end of the movie I was in time for one more beer before the bar closed at 11.50pm. I then had to fill-in five hours before any sort of activity re-commenced. All of the passengers had gone to cabins or recliners and the crew had vanished leaving just myself and one security guard to mind the ship.

Ocean Recliner… or Not!

I declined to recline on this sailing as I needed to creep about, undisturbed, on Deck 7 taking photos for Think Tasmania. It also gave me plenty of time to jot a few ideas for future stories and the thesis I’m about to write for my Certificate 7.

Ship - Children's Play Room
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Spirit of Tasmania: children’s play room at 3am

I was tempted to enter the children’s play area where piped music was still playing. It’s ideally situated adjacent to the Captain’s Table so that parents can watch their children while tucking into a $30 meal consisting of a hearty plateful from the bain marie, sweet and drink.

Ship - the Captains Table
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On-board the passenger ship: the Captains Table, Spirit of Tasmania

Ship Security: Secret Service

Now I’m going to reveal a secret. Don’t tell anyone! Between the hours of 12.01am and 5.30am, everything is closed making it impossible to get a drink or a snack. Not even a vending machine on this ship! The security guard was on his rounds and commented that I was the lone night owl. He then directed me to the discreet location of an operable drink machine near the cash registers of the Captain’s Table. Coffee at no charge!

Ship - Coffee Machine
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Top secret coffee machine for Night Owls on board the Spirit of Tasmania ship

On cue, action began at 5.30. I took a bit of time studying the faces of tired looking crew as they emerged from cabins after a brief sleep. Some of them I recognised from previous sailings but, I guess, this job and lifestyle would have limited appeal. Much of their conversation was about days off as they busily prepared continental breakfasts for early risers.

Ship - Lavender Cafe
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Lavender Cafe at 3am on board the Spirit of Tasmania ship

I had my own breakfast in the form of two tablets and a swig of warm water. I was set for the day ahead. In hindsight, a tin of sardines would have been the perfect pocket sized snack that all sensible passengers should carry!

The Love Boat v Spirit of Tasmania Ferry

This is no Love Boat. It’s a ferry where you’ll be mixing with people from all walks of life. Surprisingly it’s always quite peaceful, with no signs of trouble, when I sail.


 

Is it worth the money? I find that the trip for me and my vehicle is reasonably priced but what you get on board is over-priced, unattractive and fails to meet the needs of a 21st century person. Is this the reason for the 12% drop in passenger numbers? I would be interested to hear your views.

Ship - Devonport to Melbourne
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The Spirit of Tasmania ship arriving back in Melbourne at 5.45am

Next week, I’ll be sharing the Leatherwood Restaurant experience: it’s not too bad.

Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the
experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of
research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.

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