Embarking in the dark, lit up by the headlights of cars and motorbikes as people drive or walk aboard, a night ferry turns your transit into an adventure. Instead of travelling during precious daylight hours, only to arrive at another airport, it makes sense to mini-cruise while you maxi-snooze and wake up on the waterfront.
These huge vessels have sleeper cabins with beds or cheaper reclining seats, as well as bars, dining and Wi-Fi, while some have resort-style features. Often priced lower than daytime departures, not to mention airfares, overnight sailings might also save the cost of an extra night's hotel accommodation.
Crossing states, countries and continents, these are some of the best ferry trips around the world.
Tassie is best explored by car, campervan or motorhome, so bring your own on the Spirit of Tasmania. Since October 2022, North Geelong (70 kilometres south-west of Melbourne) has been the new departure port, with overnight crossings operating most days of the year. Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II each have 222 cabins and 121 recliners. Cabins are equipped with two single beds or bunks, private shower, adjustable air-conditioning, a desk, chair and power outlet, with bedding, towels and soap provided. Deluxe cabins have a queen bed, television, fridge and porthole window.
There's plenty to do during the 448-kilometre journey, which takes nine to 11 hours. Both vessels have a restaurant and a snack shop, three bars, two cinemas, kids play area, games arcade and children's entertainers. Next year sees the launch of two bigger vessels, measuring more than 200 metres in length and carrying up to 1800 passengers. Spirit of Tasmania IV and Spirit of Tasmania V will have 301 cabins, 118 standard recliners and 47 business recliners.
Passengers can also travel without a car, but nothing beats unloading in Devonport and driving straight off the ferry to start your road trip.
Greece is famous for ferry travel - it's even included in Eurail passes. Neighbouring islands are only a couple of hours apart, but it can take up to 12 hours to reach further-flung places like Crete or Kos.
From the mainland port of Piraeus, Minoan Lines and Blue Star Ferries operates night trips to Crete's main port of Heraklion; Anek Lines offers the option to arrive in the other port of Chania (nine hours). Blue Star is the only operator to Kos.
Longer overnight trips include Lesvos (12 to 18 hours), Symi (13 to 16 hours) and Rhodes (13 to 30 hours, depending on the ferry speed and conditions). Blue Star Ferries also offers a slow sailing to Santorini, arriving at 2am (high season) or 5am (low season). As your hotel room is unlikely to be ready, head straight out for a drink or relax on the beach for sunrise.
Private cabins have a bed, toilet and shower, or you can sit in basic, business or VIP seats. Most ferries do not sell out, but it's smart to book cabins a couple of months in advance. Comparison sites are ouzo-ing with information about all the routes and fares. directferries.com.au; ferryhopper.com
One of the most cruise-like ferry experiences is between the capital cities of Sweden and Finland in the Baltic Sea. Viking Line and Tallink Silja Line have decked out their ships in style: think saunas, spas, beauty salons, duty-free shopping in iconic stores such as Marimekko, and multiple restaurants serving local cuisine, sushi or Italian.
Entertainment includes nightclubs, karaoke, live music in pubs, and performances by singers, dancers and magicians. There's even an occasional themed sailing such as the Moderskeppet Cruise on October 12 for anyone who loves gaming and geek culture. Accommodation is shockingly elegant, with some spacious suites offering lounge rooms, espresso machines and your own Jacuzzi (bathrobes, slippers and towels included). Other cabins are designed for people with allergies or families of four.
The afternoon departures and 10am arrivals are also civilised. Don't miss the first three hours after leaving Stockholm to witness the beauty of this archipelago, closely passing dozens of tiny isles dotted with huts and houses. en.tallink.com; vikingline.com
City Line's Meimon Taiyo Ferry service connects these two popular destinations in Japan. Osaka is known for its food, fun and nightlife, while Kyushu is renowned for its natural hot springs, beaches and volcanoes. The fleet operates two 13-hour trips departing from both ports every day (5pm and 8pm) via the calm and scenic Seto Inland Sea, passing under magnificent bridges that connect the islands on either side. Arriving at the Shinmoji port of Kitakyushu, complimentary buses take guests into town.
Each of the four ferries has a public bathing area featuring window-side spa baths to enjoy a hot soak with sea views. Other amenities include an observation lounge and amusement arcade. Room types range from "tourist class" capsule beds and bunks to luxury hotel-like suites with well-stocked bathrooms. cityline.co.jp/english/
UK to France
Departing from various ports, several routes cross the English Channel. Brittany Ferries has nightly sailings from Portsmouth to St Malo (10 to 12 hours).
Italy to Croatia
Ancona to Split (8 to 11 hours) is served by SNAV and Jadrolinija, several times a week. ferryscanner.com
This 30-hour slog leaves Barcelona in the afternoon and arrives in Nador early evening the following day.
Camellia Line is a car and passenger ferry that makes one roundtrip voyage per day from Busan to Fukuoka (nine hours).