There are two ferry’s that service the route between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand. As with most things in New Zealand, there are only two options (other then various flying services) and they are very close in terms of service and price, with one always undercutting the other.
The bigger and more expensive, but my no means better ferry is Interislander. They run slightly more services daily and have an on-board small movie theatre, but if you are sailing on the nice day, I don’t see why you would want to be inside when you can be outside enjoying the view through Queen Charlotte Sound on the South Island. The food services on this boat, people think are better, but they didn’t seem too special to me. I took this boat when I was doing NZ with my family, so we had a car to drive on the boat in Picton. One thing I didn’t like about the Interislander is that when I printed out my confirmation email, there was no date or time on it. I was worried that I reserved our sailing for the correct day, because we were travelling during peak travel season and Blue Bridge had already sold out our sailing. But I did get a lovely text message the morning of our (thankfully correct) sailing day, telling us that everything looked like it was going to be ontime, so I breathed a sigh of relief that I booked the correct day. We did a mid-day sailing and spent some time on deck for the first part of the cruise as the day was nice, but once we got out of the Sound into the straight, it got a lot chillier and we retreated inside to the huge lounge, where in typical NZ fashion, my parents started chatting with the people next to us about their travel plans in the country. Too funny, we seriously are normally not very chatty people with strangers (it’s our New Yorkness, for sure) but New Zealand just brings it out even in the most closed up people.
A downside for me regarding Interisland ferry is their drop off point in Wellington. Thankfully for this trip we had a car, but for those who don’t, the drop off point is about 2km south of the train station. But it looks like there are shuttles to various points in town now, for a small fee. Kind of a pain in the ass!
I actually liked Blue Bridge better. Apparently the ships are slightly older, but I barely noticed. I took it from Wellington to Picton and it was wicked easier to walk on in Wellington as the ship docks right across the street from the train station. I liked the check in procedures because they make it seem like you are checking in for a flight and taking your bag and everything. But unlike flights, you can leave and walk around before returning for the cruise. I am sure it was the day I took the ferry, but I felt the Blue Bridge was a lot smoother then Interislander, but I won’t blame the ships, that is more a comment on the days I took the ride.
When I got to the other end in Picton, I had made a reservation at Tombstone Backpackers and requested a pick up at the ferry terminal. I love New Zealand for its smallness and all I had to do was email them and tell them which ferry and time I was arriving and knew it would all work out. And of course, it did! They were waiting for me as soon as I grabbed my luaggage and exited the terminal. How you pick up your luggage is kind of funny. It’s sort of a reverse airplane way, at least in Picton it is. They lay all the luggage out in rows inside the terminal and once they are done, passangers are allowed in to walk around and grab their bags. Too funny!
Moral: As with everything in New Zealand, there are two options for one popular tourist need. Neither is better or worse, so unless Interislander fits your needs more, as they do have more sailings, I would check with Blue Bridge first to see if they are available. Otherwise, Interislander is fine.