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DESTINATION: Tasmania

By JOHN ROZENTALS

TRAVEL: 24 OCTOBER 2016

JOHN ROZENTALS discovers that getting to Australia's island state can be very much part of the holiday experience.

Mostly, the worst time of going on holidays is the time spent getting to a destination and getting back again — hours spent getting through airport security and bureaucratic mayhem; the seemingly interminable boredom and discomfort of a long flight; or just the hassle of driving for hours.

For those heading to Tasmania via the waters of Bass Strait on board either of the identical sister ships, Spirit of Tasmania I and II, though, the trip itself is very much part of the holiday experience.

Sure, if you’re taking a vehicle, there’s a bit of queuing at Port Melbourne and again at Devonport on the way back, but there are real compensations for that minimal effort — chiefly not having to worry at all about excess baggage and having to make those “which pair of shoes will I take” decisions. Just throw both pairs — or indeed all three — into the car.

You just drive straight off the ship at Devonport and you’re on your way to wherever in Tasmania you’re headed.

The operating company, TT Line, offers both daytime and overnight crossings, and I recently tried both — overnight from Melbourne to Tasmania, then daytime on the return journey.

Both journeys were comfortable and fun, though if you’re doing the return daylight crossing you’re almost committing yourself to overnighting in Devonport to make the 9am departure — and, I guess, accommodation near Port Melbourne for travelling in the reverse direction.

There’s certainly plenty to do on board, and you’d have to have an extremely low boredom threshold to be fidgeting and peering constantly at your watch — a couple of movie theatres, Tasmanian musicians, reading room, gaming lounge, and plenty for kids to do, including a play area, a game zone and entertainment on day sailings.

The dining scene is well taken care of, with plenty of choice available at really quite modest cost in the TMK (Tasmanian Market Kitchen). Tasmanian seafood obviously features prominently but there’s plenty of other delights such as local lamb and vegetables, and, of course, Tasmanian cheeses.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Spirit experience comes with the attitude of the staff, who quite rightly — the ships are, after all, owned by the people of Tasmania — take a great deal of pride in their work and see themselves as very much ambassadors for the state.

They aren’t under instructions to squeeze the last possible cent out of travellers. They’re on a mission to welcome those travellers to Tasmania and to help them have the best time possible. The attitude is a most refreshing one.

IF YOU GO

Spirit of Tasmania — phone 1800 634 906 or visit https://www.spiritoftasmania.com.au

Tasmania — visit http://www.discovertasmania.com.au