With the winter season approaching rapidly there will be an increase in ferry diversions and disruptions due to the larger number of winter storms and swell conditions. If you're travelling to Islay by car during the winter season it's a good idea to do it well prepared and to build in some extra time in your schedule to stay on the safe side. With being well prepared I also mean that you use the information sources available to stay up-to-date on the ferry services and check the weather forecast.
Wether a sailing is cancelled or not is largely depending on the forecasted and current wind speeds as well as sea conditions. As a more or less general rule one can say that when wind gusts of around 40 to 45Mph or higher are expected there is already a chance that ferries will divert or are being cancelled. Usually when there's a forecast of strong winds the Islay service can be put on Amber Alert, which is a pre warning, meaning that cancellations are more likely to occur. Now how do you find out about these alerts? And can you find out if the ferry to Islay is sailing? Read more....
Calmac txt service
Calmac has a number of services to which you can subscribe. The easiest one is the subscriber text service. When you have a UK mobile phone number you can subscribe to the Islay service alerts as follows: Text the words "calmac subscribe 09" to 60030, 09 is the code for the Islay service. This will automatically subscribe you to ongoing service information relating to the Islay route for a six month period. You can cancel the service by texting "calmac stop 09". For a one time update text "calmac 09". This does NOT work on NON UK mobile phones.
By phone or smartphone apps
Calmac has a service Information line for updates on their services. The number is 0800 066 5400, international customers can use +44 (0)1475 650 397. If you own a smartphone you can download the official Calmac service status app to stay up to date with the latest sailing information for each Calmac route. Mind you, this only works when you have WiFi of 3G on your smartphone. On most parts of the route between Glasgow and Kennacraig there is no 3G available. You can download the app for the carious operating systems here: iPhone - Blackberry - Android
Calmac Updates on Twitter
If you're a Twitter user you might want to follow @calmac_updates. They provide an excellent service by messaging all the service info on their Twitter timeline and they answer questions as well. Very useful but as with the apps, you will need WiFi or a 3g connection.
The Calmac website also has a section for service status information. To check the Islay Route visit the service status page for the latest updates.
When the ferry is cancelled
Usually when your ferry is cancelled Calmac will contact you first if you have left a valid phone number or email address. If that's not the case or you find out first that your ferry has been cancelled you need to contact Calmac on 0800 066 5000 or +44 (0)1475 650 397 (when you use a non UK mobile phone) to make alternative arrangements. They are open from Monday to Friday: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.. Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. If the service is cancelled for the rest of the day you'll need to find accommodation for the night. If you don't have family or friends in the area you'll need to find accommodation. Visit www.tarbert.info for accommodation in and around Tarbert which is a few miles from the Kennacraig ferry terminal.
There is a possibility that you can receive a refund or complimentary snacks, refreshments or meals when the ferry is delayed or cancelled. In some cases Calmac will give a refund for accommodations costs in case of a cancellation. For more info on passenger rights please visit the Calmac website.