Interislander x Bluebridge – a comparison between the Cook Strait ferries

If you're going to take the ferry between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand, you'll need to choose one. Click to know all about both of the companies that offer the service: Bluebrigde and Interislander.

A pin to make life easier!

There are 2 companies running the ferries between the 2 main islands in NZ. We tried both and tell you the differences, the pros, and cons of each.

We used Interislander to go from Wellington to the Picton in May, and Bluebridge to go from Picton to Wellington in August. Both times with our car.

Interislander

It was our first time on a huge ferry, and we were excited but also nervous. The weather was awful, the sea was wild and it was as windy as it could get.

We got at the terminal exactly one hour before the departure time, just as it said on our manual. There was a huge line of cars waiting to board the ferry. We waited for around 20 minutes in the car before driving it into the ferry. We parked our car in midst of trucks – huge trucks and it was a bit scary. Then we were asked to leave the car and go to the passenger area.

 

interislander ferry

Interislander, passenger floor

 

The ferry had 11 floors, it was massive. At the elevator, we saw that Zootopia and the Revenant were on and they were both in the theatres as well. We wanted to go and watch it, but they charged more than we pay at the regular cinema, so we skipped it. It was probably a good decision since half of the family felt really sick and the other half felt mildly sick.

The café didn’t have many options and neither of them looked very fresh – and it was the morning ferry. By the end of the trip, all the food had their prices reduced.

Jose and I started feeling really sick, so I took him to take a nap at one of the chairs – they had chairs that looked like airport seats facing the windows and it was pretty cool and comfy. Looking at the horizon helps with seasickness, even though not enough. Angelo took the other kids to walk around the ferry and they found out the upper floors’ cafés served better food at better prices. The upper deck was closed due to the weather, but it’s usually open for viewing the Marlborough Sounds as the boat approaches.

There are viewing decks on all floors, and the cold wind also helps a lot with seasickness.

We – the super sick – decided then to walk a bit (since we couldn’t sleep), and my idea was to go to the bottom floor, where the cinema and the 2 storey playground are, but Coral saw a TV nearby and it was on Disney Channel or something like that, so she decided she’d stay right there. I had to stay with her as well, of course. It was better, less crowded, didn’t smell like food and I could go out to the deck to get some air and come back within a minute. Plus the chairs were a lot better.

When we reached Marlborough Sounds, the weather had cleared and we could see the fairy tale like scenery. I felt like we were in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (well, sorry if I only watch kids movies!). By then, besides a slight discomfort, I was feeling OK and Jose was 100% new.

When we reached Picton, we were told to get to the car and I was never happier to be in it. We were one of the first to leave the ferry and it was great.

All in all, the ferry was in good condition, offered a lot of things (even though not always accessible) and it was huge. I was scared of the fact that our car was in midst of trucks, but it ended up being a good thing since we were able to get out before anyone else.

The service was OK, but the food wasn’t.

Bluebridge

We were very tense about this trip because we didn’t have a good ferry trip before, but despite the clouds, there was no wind nor rain – good signs.

We arrived at the terminal 90 minutes before the loading time and we waited in the car for 100 minutes – we couldn’t get out of it and it was not cool. Each kid received a bag with an activities book, which helped them to wait.

 

bluebridge ferry

Bluebridge, the café seats

 

We got on the ferry with the small cars. We had to park very close to the other cars, while people were leaving their cars, crossing and all that. Not a great feeling, even worse when we have 4 kids around. Once we left the car and crossed the parking lot, we were told to get to the 4th floor. The elevator carried a maximum of 4 people, so we took the stairs.

The 4th-floor layout was very much like the passenger floor on the Interislander, but that was the only floor available for all passengers that were not paying for a cabin upgrade.

The kids’ room was very small, overly crowded and offered nothing more than a few bean bags, small chairs and a TV with a movie on (it was Lion King) – but there was so much noise we couldn’t hear it.

The grown-up movie room, on the other hand, had very comfy seats. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just sit there (an old M rated movie was on), so we had to sit in the café. It had more food choices than the Interislander café, and the service was a bit better too.

Since the weather was better, I was able to stay outside on the deck, taking photos and watching the Sounds pass – so beautiful.

I slept as soon as the Sounds ended because of the seasickness, but nobody else felt sick (Angelo did, at the end of the trip).

Bluebridge was more contained, with only one floor to explore an old but free movies. There wasn’t much space to sit on other than the café – unlike Interislander.

It isn’t a bad option if you have kids that don’t need much space, like mine.

Overall

interislander ferry

At the viewing deck of Interislander

The price is pretty similar between them. If you like to wander around, don’t mind paying for a new movie, maybe the Interislander ferry is a better option.

If you’re happy with an old movie, a couch, and a nice coffee, Blubridge is for you. Bluebridge also offers cabins, with beds for those willing to pay, so if you wish to sleep on a bed, then this is it.

Both companies offer discounts for those who buy online beforehand – which is what we do. It’s a cheaper option, but not the best. If we do this again in the future, we’d go on Bluebridge if the weather was bad and get a private cabin, and use Interislander on a good weather day, to have nice views all the way.

Below you can see our short video about the view from the ferries! Hope you enjoy it!

Have you traveled with any of them? What’s your opinion?

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