About five weeks ago, roughly one week before the Coronavirus lockdown started in Spain, I was due to leave my home in Alicante and move to Tenerife. Moving house is always a hassle and especially so when it involves an eight-hour car journey plus a forty-hour ferry journey! Anyway, my girlfriend and I got all our possessions packed away and loose ends tied up before I was due to leave - she was due to fly from Alicante to Tenerife North (TFN) the following week.
Leading up to our move, we considered various options for getting our possessions down to Tenerife: having our stuff shipped down and flying over, both of us driving down, but in the end, we decided I would take the ferry and she would fly in order to cram as much as possible into our car. Then we would sell or store anything that wouldn't fit.
You get some interesting reactions when people ask you how you're getting there and you say "the ferry", the usual questions arise such as "where from?", "how much?", "how long?" etc., but when you tell people it's forty hours they seem shocked, I was beginning to worry myself as I hadn't given the duration too much thought.
I have never seen a car packed so tightly with stuff than my Golf was before I left Spain, I could barely inhale and exhale!
Booking the ferry
After googling around I found the two routes to Tenerife are from either Huelva or Cadiz, Huelva being closer to Alicante, and the departure times were much better. So I booked with Fred Olsen online which was a pain-free experience, and also very affordable as I am a resident of the Canary Islands (75% discount!), so I treated myself to a cabin too, and boy am I grateful I did.
Stopping off in Granada for dinner on the way down to Huelva
The journey begins
Google Maps makes navigation trivial these days, the shortest route on the motorway to Huelva was estimated at 7 and a half hours, approx. 680km (420mi). It's recommended you arrive at the terminal at least 2 hours before departure if you have a car, or 1 hour otherwise.
My ferry was due to depart at midnight on Friday night, so I set off at 2 pm to arrive for 10 pm including time for a dinner stop half way. Despite the length, it was actually quite a pleasant drive, Spain is stunning at that time of year, not too hot, not too cold. Although as you get closer to Granada you can feel the temperature dropping - see the snowcapped mountains in the picture above.
The journey was uneventful up until I reached Seville which at around 9 pm comes to life apparently, and quite an interesting city to drive through, especially over the bridge. It was now that I realised I'd only typed "Huelva" into Google Maps and not actually where I was meant to be boarding the ferry. Frantically trying to update my maps I saw the first sign for the port and Huelva. To my relief it was very well sign-posted, but I still updated my directions just in case. It turns out the port is actually further south of Huelva as you see on my screenshot below. At this point it was just follow the well-marked directions.
Entering the unknown
Once I'd arrived at the terminal and passed the first Guardia Civil checkpoint (where I got a few odd looks for the sheer volume of stuff in my car) I made it to the Fred Olsen desk and was kindly pointed in the right direction by one of their staff members and checked myself in. Apart from having to queue for a while, the whole process was seamless, even down to the text message confirmation on the day.
There's only one way to go once you've checked in so after that it's plain sailing. I joined the queue of cars to board and it only took about 10 minutes to get onto the ferry and parked, there was one more Guardia Civil checkpoint before boarding and lots of people to point everyone in the right direction.
I parked my car, grabbed my backpack, and headed for the reception. I had been sent a PDF of my ticket earlier which had a QR code on it that you scan to open your room, no keys or keycards these days apparently. Mine of course didn't work so the receptionist printed me one and after that it worked fine.
Life before Mal de debarquement
The cabin was very nice to my surprise, I hadn't seen one before so wasn't sure what to expect. Complete with 2 beds (another 2 were folded away), bedside table, desk, tv, and bathroom. Absolute bliss to finally relax after the long journey that day, so it was shower then bed. Or so I thought.
I'm normally a light sleeper and often wake up several times during the night, but when it happens at home I'm not usually sliding around my bed (ok that was a slight exaggeration). I wouldn't have called it rough, or even choppy, but there was a very noticeable sway during the night, and the engine hum and creaking didn't help. Fortunately I don't suffer from seasickness. As I mentioned before I was grateful to have a private place and not spend the entire journey in one of the seats, although they looked very comfortable and spacious, and there was a nice outdoor area.
The Wi-Fi cost €10.00 for the duration of the trip, or if you're not impatient like me you would've noticed the free wifi ticket on the table in the cabin, sigh. I spent most my time resting, catching up with some reading, Youtube, and talking to friends.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all included with the price of the cabin and operated as a buffet. The food was nice, nothing quite like watching sunset out in the ocean while eating your dinner.
After a very lazy Saturday, the next night's sleep was very rough, lots of creaking and sliding around in the bed. After a while though your body seems to acclimatise to the constant rocking.
When I woke up on Sunday morning around 7am, the announcement over the tannoy said we were about to arrive in Gran Canaria - the first and only stop before Santa Cruz. We were there for about 4 hours while people disembarked and the ferry was refuelled which was interesting to watch from above the stern.
After we left Gran Canaria, it was only around 2-3 hours until we got to Tenerife. I had some lunch, had a final wander around, and watched as we approached my final destination.
Once again it was a pain-free process when we arrived in Santa Cruz,
15. Arriving in Tenerife afternoon and disembarking
16. Final guardia checkpoint then drive to to Tenerife south