I realize that not many people actually use a ferry to cross water while on their motorcycle. Of course there are plenty of bikers who use them, maybe even daily, but I would say that the majority have not, or have never used a ferry. So here is a review of what it is like to use a ferry while you are on a motorcycle.
The ferry in question belongs to Condor Ferries , and the trip, Saint-Malo in France to Jersey Island in the UK, takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. The ferry is a fast catamaran which is not only very fast, but quite stable. Here is what it looks like when you arrive on a motorcycle.
You start the ferry journey like almost any trip; queueing up. You queue up at the check-in desk. In our case, the ferry left at 08 AM so you had to check in at 06:30 AM, meaning some people slept in the cars in front of the check-in booth (really... one did not wake up and kept sleeping in the car, missing the ferry).
Check-in is accomplished by giving the agent your booking reference number or your credit car you used to book the ferry. In many cases you can also just arrive without reservation and just pay-and-go (if there is space).
On an interesting side note, when you are checking in with Condor, you are actually standing on weight scales and you can see how much your bike, people and gear weigh. Mine was a shocking 630 kgs (Honda Gold Wing, rider, pillion and lots of baggage).
You are given a sticker which needs to be visible to the ferry staff (so it goes on your wind screen), and you are given a lane number. Motorcycles usually are in lane #1, the first to board.
Next you queue up for the customs & immigration officials. Quick check of your passport and you are through. They might single you out for further inspections, some of it for security reasons, some of it when they suspect you are leaving the country with all your money without paying taxes, something that happens a lot here in France recently.
Then you head on over to the ferry boarding queue.
On the ground you see the lane numbers. This is where you stay in the lane you have been assigned to. Lanes are assigned depending on the height, width and sometimes weight of your vehicle. So all SUVs are together, all camping cars are together and all motorcycles are together. Often the wait is fun for bikers, since if there are several, you end up chatting with all of them, exchanging tips and information about your destination or the ferry.
Once your lane is told to board, you need to ride very carefully. It is all metal, and the metal often has oil or gasoline on it, so very slippery. Ferry staff guide you to your parking area. In the Condor case, the motorcycles are at side, mid or front of the ship, but parked 90°, so sideways to the cars, with the motorcycle nose to the ship side.
Staff very fast and expertly tie down your motorcycle using enormous foam pads so that your bike is not damaged.
The motorcycles are strapped down very tightly, luckily, since you don't want a wave to make your motorcycle tumble over.
The whole action took under a minute, impressive. it was almost like being in a Formula One race and doing a pit stop. Several staff members arrive when you park and turn off the ignition, and they do not wait for you to go away from your bike, they are already putting things in place to secure your ride.
Then you get to go onboard. For a 1 hour 20 minutes ferry ride, the ship has a lot of amenities. Shops, restaurants, TV rooms... etc.
Something I learned from previous ferry crossings, is that if they offer a "business class", I take it. The extra costs are often very low, like 10 or 20 £/$/€, but it is worth it. It is so much quieter, relax and comfortable, plus they usually offer free coffee, tea and soft drinks, and some even offer a meal.
Although the breakfast is not free on Condor, the business class staff go and get it for you so you do not need to queue up. Need booze? They will go and get it for you.
Once at the other side, the process is reversed. You can either unstrap your own motorcycle or wait for the ferry staff to come and un-hook you. Remember that when you exit the boat, that things can be quite slippery.
So there you go... a ferry crossing with a motorcycle. Kudos to Condor staff, I found them very professional and efficient. I also recommend a trip to Jersey, but do not do what I did and take a Gold Wing. The country roads are very narrow and taking 180° curves with not enough room to maneuver while there is a bus at the other side is not easy.