Few are the travel pleasures that match a long journey by ferry. Ferries and cruise ships are quite different experiences. The latter is more inclined to seclude the traveller from the outside world, while the humble ferry often offers an inviting foretaste of the community for which you are bound. To board the Cal Mac ferry at Oban bound for Barra is already to catch a whiff of the outer isles.
A good ferry jouney is slow travel at its very best. To hop onto the morning boat at Harstad in northern Norway for the journey out to Stamsund in the Lofoten Islands, with four stops along the way, is one of Europe's most rewarding days afloat. And it is a service that, weather permitting, runs almost every day of the year.
Spring 2009 sees dramatic changes in European ferry services.