The success of the refurbished Spirit of Tasmania ferry service has famously had an unwanted side effect … surging numbers of grey nomads unable to find a space on a return crossing to the mainland.
While the official advice is: ‘Just make sure you reserve a spot going in both directions’, in reality, there are scores of reasons – spontaneity being one of them – why not all travellers are in a position to name a date and time for a return sailing. With winter approaching, the backlog is now gradually being cleared, but not all of the stranded travellers were prepared to quietly wait for months in order to ‘escape from Tassie’.
The Grey Nomad Times spoke to two grey nomads who used a combination of persistence and ingenuity to get off the island. Paul and Chris R initially found their plans thrown into chaos when a family member fell sick and they had to fly off the island in a hurry, leaving their caravan and car in storage in Tasmania.
By the time they got back in early April ready to sail away, they were told the first available date was in August, and they couldn’t even register for the wait list until July 16.
“I was told I could only be on one wait list and it had to be for a specific day, and the only way to get on a wait list was to be on the phone at the time a vacancy became available,” said Chris. “So, I constantly phoned hoping for a cancellation … sometimes I was phoning as many as 20 times a day.”
She first managed to get on a wait list for late June, then early June, and then May 21. “By this stage, all the staff knew me well,” she said. “In fact, I’m sure if they could have they would have written, ‘bitch from hell’ across my file.”
More determined than ever to ‘escape,’ the couple moved up to West Ulverstone and started making wait list enquiries in person at the Tassie ferry office, as well as still hounding them by phone.
Finally, on April 25, ANZAC day, and after spending more than $1300 for a one-way trip with cabin, Chris and Paul were back on the mainland.
“I can’t begin to tell you what a bad taste it has left in my mouth,” said Chris.
Max S was another caught in the backlog chaos. He tried in January to get a return crossing for April, but was told the earliest he could go was July. Rather than throwing himself into the cancellation hope lottery, Max booked his vehicles on as freight with SeaRoad, and then booked an ocean recliner on the Spirit.
When he got off the ferry in Melbourne, he walked around to another dock to pick up his rig.
“It was a simple process and all worked well,” he said. “The booking was easy, although it cost a bit more and there was also the extra cost of being a passenger on the Spirit.”
A spokesperson for TT-Line said caravan numbers on the ferry were up 17%, and motorhome numbers were up 15%. She reiterated that passengers were advised to book their return sailing at the same time as their forward sailing.