Total lack of communication and understanding but accessible
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Wheelchair
The WightLink car ferry connects Fishbourne, Isle of Wight to Portsmouth. There are several ferries in the fleet, one of which is fairly new and more accessible than others. I travel on a very regular basis and this review covers both. Cars are packed into the ferry like sardines and so if you require any extra space to exit your vehicle or gain access to the lift this MUST be booked beforehand by phone. There are ticket concessions to blue badge holders. It can get very busy in the holiday season and unbooked cars are highly unlikely to be given a space. Crossing time is approximately 45 minutes
Transport & Parking
The car lanes are entered by passing by a manned booth. Here you must give in your ticket to be scanned and always, always reiterate that you have booked a space near the lift for wheelchair access and tell them where you need extra space, ie, at the rear/side to remove a wheelchair and the driver/passenger side for exit, whichever applies. Quite often I have arrived, having booked a wheelchair accessible space only to be told that there is no record of it. (This is much more prevalent on the Portsmouth side returning to the Isle of Wight than the other way round.) You should then be placed into a dedicated lane and when being loaded on the ferry will be asked to put on your hazard lights to make the crew on the car deck aware that you require a space near the lift and extra space to park. When parked, before alighting from your vehicle if you need space at the rear of the vehicle, always make sure that the crew allow that space with the car parked behind - many times I have found that they park other cars too close to the rear of my car.
All floors are accessed by a lift, no persons are permitted to remain in their vehicle on the car deck. You should be parked very close to the lift. There is a small threshold ramp to the lift area, found at the foot of the stairways. The crew have a habit of parking cars near the foot of the ramp which can make it difficult to manoeuvre when going up or, in particular down, the ramp. On the older ferries, the lifts are small but big enough to accommodate a manual or power chair and carer. On the new ferry, the lift is larger and can accommodate three or four people plus a wheelchair. Seating is both fixed and moveable depending on which area you choose to sit in and the lounge is large enough to move around comfortably. There is a coffee/snack bar on board and staff will bring drinks over to the table if requested.
The older ferries all have disabled toilets, a bit grubby with hard to open doors but with handrails and emergency cords. The new ferry has a large disabled toilet with plenty of room for a wheelchair and a carer or two. It has ample handrails, both fixed and pull down, an easily accessible sink and a well placed mirror. Each time I have used it, it has been clean and tidy. No RADAR key is necessary
The port staff are generally sullen and if there is mis-communication between the booking clerk and the lane staff at embarkation, then it is considered to be the customers fault (I have been told 'well I'll believe you THIS time' and 'You must have got it wrong' on 2 occasions when my request for a wheelchair space has not been relayed to the embarkation crew.) This is on both sides of the Solent but more likely to happen at the Portsmouth terminal. On board staff are generally good and are helpful if asked to assist.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
Plenty of time is given to return to your car at the end of the journey via a tannoy message. Given a choice, I would not travel via WightLink but if wishing to travel from Portsmouth by car ferry, this is the only alternative.