When checking in and boarding a NorthLink ferry to Shetland and Orkney, all details – from what to do with your baggage to car parking, bicycles, and assisting disabled passengers – have been carefully thought out with your ease in mind.
In order to board the ferry, please go to the Check-in desk. If you have taken a note of your booking reference number, this will speed up check-in. You will be issued a boarding card which will be checked just as you are about to board the vessel. Car drivers are asked to approach the car check in booth which should be clearly signposted. Check-in opens 165 minutes prior to departure at Hatston, 120 minutes prior to departure at Aberdeen and Lerwick and 90 minutes prior to departure at Stromness and Scrabster. Check-in closes 30 minutes prior to departure in all ports.
If you do not check-in at least 30 minutes prior to departure you will not be allowed on board our vessels
Car drivers are recommended to check-in at least 1 hour prior to departure.
If you are leaving Stromness on the early morning sailing and have booked a Bed and Breakfast cabin you may board between 21.30 and 23.30 the previous evening.
Whether you are a foot passenger or driving a vehicle your check-in times will be explained when you make your reservation.
You will be notified when the ship is ready for boarding. Boarding is an easy process – all terminals and passenger ships are connected with a covered walkway – so foot passengers do not need to use gangways. The walkways are accessible to wheelchairs and all stairs have accompanying lifts to enable access.
Car drivers and their passengers will be directed onto the ferry and will be shown a parking space on the car deck by the Stevedores. Lifts and stairwells to the passenger decks are available from both sides of the car decks. Please note that once on board you may not come ashore again prior to sailing (this is a Marine Law requirement)
We will provide staff to assist disabled and frail foot passengers with boarding when required – please let us know your requirements in advance. If you are in a car, you can request that your car is located near a lift on the car deck. Again, please notify us in advance.
NorthLink Ferries also offer a valet service for drivers who would rather not drive their car on board or away from the ferry. For a small charge we will arrange to load your car whilst you board as a foot passenger. On arrival in either Aberdeen or Lerwick we will unload your car and leave it, locked, in the terminal car park. You may then stay on board to enjoy breakfast (a £5 voucher towards breakfast is given to all valet service customers) and leave the ship at your leisure, collecting your keys at the ship’s Reception Desk.
If you are travelling with your car, please take only your overnight requirements with you. For safety reasons there is no access to car decks during sailings. If you are a foot passenger, your baggage should be checked in at the terminal. You will place it on to a secure trailer and it will be taken on board for you and stored securely. Upon arrival it will be unloaded. Labels for luggage will be issued at check in. Please note that whilst we take every possible care of your baggage, it is left at your own risk.
Please keep any items you need onboard with you as there is no access to checked-in baggage during the voyage. Please ensure though, that Hand Luggage only is taken on board our vessels, in the interests of Health and Safety . Please ensure that your hand luggage does not block walkways or seats.
Passengers are advised that a number of items that could be adapted or intended for use as an offensive weapon are not allowed on board ship without valid lawful reason. A list of these items can be found on our Prohibited items page. Divers are also advised to check our Diving Policy Page. Diving cylinders may be subject to regulations, and some gases may not be carried on our Passenger vessels. Diving cylinders may not be taken as hand baggage by foot passengers and must instead be placed within our specialised dive containers.
At NorthLink Ferries, taking a bicycle is free of charge across all routes. ]
To book your bicycle online – under the blue title ‘Vehicles’, select the number of bicycles you’re taking and then select ‘bicycle’ from the drop-down menu that appears.
Bicycle riders (Stromness, Scrabster and Hatston) – when you arrive at your departing ferry port, check-in at the foot-passenger desk in the Terminal. You’ll be asked to wait for a short period of time. At a moment when it is safe to do so, you will be asked to wheel (or ride) your bike over the stern ramp on to the ship’s car deck, as instructed by a NorthLink Ferries loading officer.
Bicycle riders (Aberdeen and Lerwick) – when you arrive at your departing ferry port, check-in at the vehicle check-in entrance. You’ll be asked to wait in the yard for a short period of time. At a moment when it is safe to do so, you will be asked to wheel (or ride) your bike over the stern ramp on to the ship’s car deck, as instructed by a NorthLink Ferries loading officer.
When the ferry arrives at its destination you’ll need to go to the car deck again, where you’ll receive instructions for disembarking the ship from the loading officer.
Where do I go to board the ferry?
At the terminal please go to the Check-in desk. You will be notified when the ship is ready for boarding. Please note that once on board you may not come ashore again prior to sailing (this is a Marine Law requirement)
Can you help disabled or frail passengers?
We will provide staff to assist passengers when required. Please let us know in advance.
Do I have to board via a gangway?
Covered walkways are now in use at all ports.
When can I board?
Passengers may check in and board in Aberdeen and Lerwick any time from two hours to thirty minutes prior to departure. At Kirkwall you should check in and be waiting to board when the ship arrives as the ‘turn round’ time is only 45 minutes.In Stromness and Scrabster please check in leaving plenty of time for boarding. If you are leaving Stromness on the early morning sailing and have booked a cabin you may board between 21.30 and 23.30 the previous evening or between 5.45 and 6.15 on the morning of departure.Whether you are a foot passenger or driving a vehicle your check in times will be explained when you make your reservation.
I’m bringing my car but don’t like the idea of driving it aboard a ferry. Can you help?
On certain routes we are pleased to offer ‘Valet Parking’ (available Lerwick to Aberdeen, Aberdeen to Lerwick, Kirkwall to Lerwick and Kirkwall to Aberdeen routes only). For a small charge we will arrange to load your car whilst you board as a foot passenger. On arrival in either Aberdeen or Lerwick we will unload your car and leave it, locked, in the terminal car park. You may then stay on board to enjoy your breakfast (a complimentary £5 meal voucher is included) and leave the ship at your leisure, collecting your keys at the ship’s Reception Desk. The spaces available for this service are limited, so advance booking is essential.
What happens about my luggage?
If you are travelling with your car, please take only your overnight requirements with you. For safety reasons there is no access to car decks during sailings. If you are a foot passenger, your baggage should be checked in at the terminal. You will place it on to a trailer and it will be taken on board for you and stored. Upon arrival it will be unloaded. Please keep any items you need onboard with you as there is no access to checked-in baggage during the voyage. Labels for luggage will be issued at check in. Please note that whilst we take every possible care of your baggage, it is left at your own risk.
Is there a left luggage facility at the Aberdeen terminal?
A left luggage facility is available to passengers who are booked for the same day’s sailing from 08:00 up until 2 hrs 15 mins before departure. Luggage must be labelled for the onward voyage (eg Kirkwall or Lerwick). It is the responsibility of passengers to transfer their own luggage from the left luggage facility to the luggage trolleys. All items of baggage are left at the owners risk and may be subject to searching if regulations require.
What items are prohibited from taking onboard?
Passengers are advised that a number of items that could be adapted or intended for use as an offensive weapon are not allowed on board ship without valid lawful reason. A list of these items can be found on our Prohibited items page.If you require further information or intend to travel with any of the above items please contact a member of staff for guidance or visit NorthLink Ferries, Stromness Ferry Terminal, Ferry Road, Stromness Orkney KW16 3BH Tel: 01856 885500 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I travel with my dog or cat?
Pets may be left in (ventilated) vehicles but consider the length of your journey and be aware that you cannot have access to the car deck during the voyage for safety reasons. Kennels for dogs and cats are available for a small charge and should be booked in advance. If you have a number of pets they may share kennels, according to size. The kennel room is heated and ventilated, and there is a water supply. You may visit your pets in the kennels during the voyage, and there is access from the kennels to the open decks should you wish to exercise your pet. With the exception of support dogs, animals are not allowed in public areas or cabins.
How many kennels are there and what are the dimensions?
We have purchased an animal accommodation system, purpose built for our vessels, from a major supplier. Each ship will have 13 kennels of varying sizes;
4 x large animal unit 800mm (width) x 1400mm (depth) x 1000mm (height)
9 x small animal unit 500mm x 700mm x 600mm
The units have solid walls, ceilings and floors, with wire mesh front gates, and are raised from the floor to avoid draughts and for ease of cleaning.
Making Your Booking
When you book with NorthLink your reservation will only be confirmed once we have received payment for the full value of the booking. In particular, cabin and vehicle space will not be held until payment is received and issue of a quotation will not guarantee availability of space at point of booking.
Checking-in for the Ferry
NorthLink operates a ticketless system with the key to your journey being the unique booking confirmation number. Please have this ready when checking-in.
Please also note the advertised check-in times for your chosen port of departure/route. Arrival at the terminal after check-in has closed will mean that you may not be able to travel. Details are given below.
Checking-in at Aberdeen
As Aberdeen terminal is in the city centre, passengers should allow sufficient time if arriving by car. Check-in commences two hours prior to departure. Car drivers are recommended to check-in at least one hour prior to departure. Final check-in is 30 minutes before departure.
Checking-in at Lerwick
Check-in commences two hours prior to departure. Car drivers are recommended to check-in at least one hour prior to departure. Final check-in is 30 minutes before departure.
Checking-in at Kirkwall (Hatston)
Foot passengers should note that the new Kirkwall (Hatston) Ferry Terminal is situated some two miles out of town. As the call at Hatson will always be part of a ‘through’ sailing between Aberdeen and Lerwick, the ship will arrive in port approximately 45 minutes before the scheduled departure. Boarding will only commence after all passengers and vehicles have disembarked from the incoming vessel. Departure times from Kirkwall may be subject to change depending on sailing conditions. All passengers disembarking at Kirkwall are asked to retain their boarding card during the voyage for use as a landing pass on arrival at Kirkwall.
Checking-in at Stromness
Check-in for the 0630 sailing will open 60 minutes prior to departure. Passengers who have reserved an overnight cabin should check-in and board for the 0630 sailing from Stromness between 2130 – 2330 the previous evening. For all other sailings check-in will open 90 minutes prior to departure. Final check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure.
Checking-in at Scrabster
Foot passengers are required to check-in at the foot passenger terminal situated at the ferry berth on the new pier. Passengers arriving at the old pier should allow appropriate time to make their way to the foot passenger check-in terminal on the new pier (some 800m distance) no later than 30 mins prior to published departure time.
Further details of our passenger terminals, their location and the facilities offered can be found on our About Terminals pages. All our terminals incorporate lift access to an upper level to allow easy boarding by elevated passenger walkways. However should you require any special assistance please advise staff at time of booking.
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult when travelling. Unaccompanied children will not be allowed to board vessels. Infants cannot be booked into shared cabins and we would request that passengers wishing to book young children into shared cabins have appropriate consideration for fellow cabin passengers.
Passengers are advised to take only hand luggage required for their crossing onto the ship – bearing in mind that this may include an overnight journey. Other luggage should be left in the car or if travelling on foot may be placed on luggage trolleys prior to boarding the ship. The trolleys will be loaded onto the vehicle deck with luggage made available for collection on arrival at the destination port. Maximum baggage weight is 30kg. Bulky or overweight baggage will be carried only at the discretion of the local service manager and may be subject to charge.
NorthLink does not offer secured long-term parking. In Orkney and Shetland parking associated with the ferry terminals are operated by the local harbour authority. In Aberdeen there are several car parks available near the terminal. At Scrabster, the long stay parking area is operated by the local harbour trust and is situated around 800 metres from the passenger terminal on the pier (01847 892779). Customers wishing to leave their car and travel as foot passengers should be aware of the time required to move between the car park and the terminal. We recommend that those leaving their car, drop off passengers and any luggage to be taken on-board at the terminal on the pier before parking up and making their way back to foot passenger check-in.
Passengers should be aware that onward transport connections are limited and can vary between seasons.
At Scrabster and Stromness, not all sailings connect with onward public transport and you should check timetables before confirming your choice of sailing.
At Aberdeen, the ferry terminal is a 10-minute walk from the bus and rail stations. Passengers with luggage may wish to consider booking a taxi to assist with their transfer. Similarly, the Lerwick terminal is at Holmsgarth at the edge of town, a 15-minutes walk from the centre.
For details on the Stromness/Kirkwall bus service which covers arrivals and departures from Hatston please see our Hatston connecting bus page.
Our terminals and vessels are entirely no-smoking in all public indoor areas. On-board ship there are designated smoking areas on the outside decks.
Behaviour on board
Passengers should note that all travel is governed by our Conditions of Carriage, copies of which are available on this website, at our terminals, on board the ships or on request from our offices. Within our Conditions of Carriage there is an implicit expectation as to the standard of behaviour expected of passengers once on-board. Passengers appearing under the influence of alcohol or drugs at check-in cannot expect to be allowed to board the vessel. Similarly, while our bars and restaurants do serve alcohol during sailings, our staff are authorised to refuse to serve alcohol to any passenger whose behaviour may cause offence to other passengers or who may be deemed to be putting themselves, staff or fellow passengers at risk.
NorthLink Ferries strongly recommends that all passengers carry appropriate travel insurance. In the event of disruption or delay to sailing schedules NorthLink will not be liable for consequential costs incurred by passengers. Please see our Conditions of Carriage for details on the limitations of our liability in event of delay or cancellation.