We’ve compiled a list of answers to our most frequently asked questions about booking your ferry to Orkney and Shetland, about arriving at the NorthLink Ferries ports and about sailing on board NorthLink ships – we hope this list of questions and answers helps you find out what you need to know!
Booking, amending or cancelling your Journey
Q. How do I book a sailing?
A. NorthLink Ferries sail between the Scottish Mainland and the Orkney and Shetland islands – view our routes here. You can use the NorthLink Ferries website, phone 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles), +44 (0)1856 885500 (International), email the Reservations Department or visit any NorthLink Ferries office or port to book a sailing.
Q. Can I cancel a booking?
A. Yes. Should you wish to cancel your booking, you will receive a full refund (up to the point of the date of travel; except if you fail to check-in or notify us of your intention not to travel).
Q. How do I amend or cancel a booking?
A. To amend or cancel a booking please phone 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles), +44 (0)1856 885500 (International), or email the Reservations Department.
Customers with can also edit their bookings online by clicking on the ‘Login’ link at the top the NorthLink website and viewing a list of their booked sailings.
Q. How can I get a quote?
A. It is possible to use the NorthLink Ferries online booking system to price up a journey. Simply select the details of the ferry journey you wish to take, and a price will show in the shopping basket without having to commit to book. A sailing will not be booked until payment is made.
Q. Should I book ahead or just turn up and go?
A. It is possible turn up at the NorthLink Ferries port and sail, however we would strongly advise that you book in advance to avoid disappointment, especially if you wish to take a vehicle or require cabin accommodation on board.
Q. Can I book an open return ticket?
A. NorthLink Ferries do not offer an open return ticket, however two single tickets cost the same as a return ticket, so you could book your journey a stage at a time. Alternatively, if you book a journey and your return date changes, your sailing can be easily amended.
Q. Can I book online with NCS Vouchers?
A. Not at present, though online booking using National Concession Scheme Ferry Vouchers will be available in the near future. Journeys using ferry vouchers should be booked in a NorthLink office, over the phone on 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) or by emailing the Reservations Department
Q. Can children travel free of charge?
A. Children aged between 0 and 4 years (infant) travel for free on all NorthLink routes between the Scottish Mainland and Shetland and Orkney. Children aged between 5 and 15 travel at a discounted rate. For more information about pricing, please visit the NorthLink Fares Fares webpage.
Q. How do I access the best fares?
A. The NorthLink Ferries fare structure is set by Transport Scotland and governed by the contract awarded for the operation of the Northern Isles Ferry Services. Please phone 08001114422 or email Reservations if you are unsure whether you are entitled to a discount.
You can also view information about NorthLink offers.
Q. What is a NorthLink ID?
A. Passengers over the age of 16 can register for a NorthLink ID as they book on the NorthLink website to view and amend bookings. Residents of Orkney and Shetland can also register for an Islander discount ID. Please note, it may take up to 10 days to receive your Islander ID, so please plan ahead.
Q. I need a reminder of my ID or Password.
A. If you forget your NorthLink ID or Password, please fill in the Forgotten ID form and an e-mail with your ID and a link to reset your password, will be sent to you. If you do not receive your ID, please check your Junk Mail first, and then contact NorthLink Ferries.
Q. How do I change my e-mail or other details?
A. After logging in to the NorthLink website using a NorthLink ID and Password, you can update the details that NorthLink Ferries store about you, including your address, email and telephone number, by clicking on the ‘Your information’ link.
Q. Are there any concessionary fares available?
A. Passengers with a disability, those over the age of 60, and students in full time education are entitled to a 10% discount on passenger and vehicle fares. Please note, when claiming the student discount, passengers will need to show their student card at check in.
Q. Can I book without my car number plate?
A. If you do not know your vehicle number plate, please enter ‘not known’ into the vehicle registration field to proceed with your online booking. If possible please contact NorthLink by phoning 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) or email the Reservations Department once you know your vehicle registration.
Q. What is a domestic van?
A. A domestic van is used by a household, whereas a commercial van is used for the carriage of personnel, goods, tools, or equipment used in the course of business. Domestic vans can be booked online. Commercial vans should be booked by contacting the NorthLink Ferries freight department on 08001114434.
Q. How do I book a bicycle online?
A. To book a bicycle, please select 1 vehicle and then select Bicycle as the type of vehicle from the drop-down menu that appears. Bicycles travel free of charge with NorthLink Ferries on all routes between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland. If the car deck is full, please book as a foot passenger and email the Reservations Department to inform us that you wish to take a bicycle.
Q. How do I book a trailer or caravan online?
A. To book a trailer or caravan online, please select 1 vehicle and then select car towing a trailer, or car towing a caravan as the type of vehicle from the drop-down menu. You will be asked for the vehicle number plate and total combined length in metres of your car and tow.
Q. Can I take my car, which has a roof rack or roof box on the ferry?
A. Yes. However if your car, including a roof rack or roof box is higher than 2.2 metres, please select the option ‘Car over 2.2m in height’ in the vehicle menu.
Q. How do I book travel with horses?
A. Whilst you can book your car and horsebox online, NorthLink Ferries need to be aware of any equine or farm animal travelling a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure, in order to comply with key legislation and ensure the welfare needs of your animals are met.
Q. What is Priority Boarding?
A. This service is only available on Stromness to Scrabster sailings. For a small fee you can select priority boarding to be one of the first to board and disembark from the vessel in your car. Passengers selecting this option must arrive at check-in 1 hour before sailing, and being one of the first to disembark is not always guaranteed.
Q. How can I pay online?
A. The NorthLink Ferries online booking system uses the card payment service provider Verifone for electronic payment transactions. We accept the following cards: Visa, Mastercard, Visa Debit, Mastercard Debit, UK Maestro and American Express.
Q. Will my credit card data be secure?
A. NorthLink Ferries do not store any card data. Payment details are passed on to and validated by our card payment service provider and kept as transactions in systems not available from the internet. The NorthLink Ferries checkout is secure and fully PCI certified.
Q. What is a booking reference number?
A. Each NorthLink Ferries booking made has a unique reference number. This can be found on your booking confirmation. Quoting the booking reference number to NorthLink staff when phoning or checking in will allow quick access to your booking.
Q. Can I view my bookings?
A. A registered customer with a NorthLink ID number and Password can log into the NorthLink Ferries website and can view, amend, or cancel their booked sailings. Please note, only future sailings can be accessed. Sailing from the past cannot be viewed.
Q. I haven’t received my booking confirmation.
A. NorthLink booking confirmations are sent by email. If you do not receive your booking confirmation email, please check your Junk Mail. If you cannot find your booking confirmation in Junk Mail, please phone 08001114422 or email the Reservations Department.
Q. Can I travel without my booking confirmation email?
A. Yes, your booking confirmation is a reference about your sailing, but is not your ticket. Quoting your booking reference number can help NorthLink staff identify your booking when checking in or amending your sailing. However, staff can also use your details to locate your booking.
Q. Can I receive my booking confirmation by post?
A. Of course. NorthLink are happy to send a hard copy through the post at no extra cost. To request your booking confirmation by post, please phone 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) or email the Reservations Department.
Q. When can I book travel for next year?
A. NorthLink Ferries usually publish timetables and fares and open up the booking system for the next year in November. Please visit the 2023 booking webpage for an email notification at the point when 2023 bookings can be made.
At the NorthLink ports
Q. Where can I find more information about each port?
A. To find out more information about each of NorthLink’s ports, including opening times, directions, transport links, facilities and accessibility information, please visit the following webpages: Aberdeen, Kirkwall (Hatston), Lerwick, Scrabster, Stromness.
Q. I require special assistance, can you help?
A. NorthLink Ferries are always happy to make arrangements for anyone who requires help at the ports or onboard ships. If you require any assistance please let us know by emailing the Reservations Department or phoning 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles). Alternatively you can let us know about your accessibility requirements in advance using WelcoMe.
Q. Is there information about COVID-19 and NorthLink Ferries?
A. Please visit the NorthLink Ferries COVID-19 webpage for the latest port information. If you have booked a sailing, NorthLink Ferries will also make you aware of any changes which may affect you. For that reason, please be sure to give contact details when making a booking.
Q. When do I need to check in for my sailing from Aberdeen or Lerwick?
A. Check-in at the Aberdeen and Lerwick Ferry Terminal commences two hours prior to departure. Car drivers are recommended to check in at least one hour prior to departure.
Check-in closes 30 minutes prior to departure.
Q. When do I need to check in for my sailing from Hatston, Stromness and Scrabster?
A. Check-in at Hatston, Stromness and Scrabster opens 90 minutes prior to departure. Car drivers are recommended to check in at least one hour prior to departure.
Check-in closes 30 minutes prior to departure.
Q. When do I need to check in for the Hamnavoe B&B?
A. Check-in for the Hamnavoe B&B is between 21:30 to 23:30 for foot passengers. Vehicle drivers are required to arrive between 20:00 to 20:30 hours to drive their vehicle on board. Please park in lane 5 and then collect your boarding passes from the terminal.
Q. Do I need to bring any form of ID to check in?
A. Only if you are claiming the Student 10% discount on passenger and vehicle fares. If so, you will need to show your student card to claim the discounted rate. Failure to present it will result in us requesting that you pay standard fares.
Q. What happens if I miss my sailing?
A. Please try to keep NorthLink informed by phoning 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) if you think you may miss your sailing. NorthLink will endeavour to book you onto the next sailing, subject to availability. You may be charged for any difference in fare. Please note that unused tickets are not refunded.
Q. What if my sailing is cancelled or delayed?
A. NorthLink Ferries always contact and advise passengers of any delay or cancellation in advance. In the event of delays, if you have a booked sailing, NorthLink will keep you informed and will assist you, but cannot accept liability for any costs or inconvenience caused if the delay is weather related.
Q. What do I do when travelling by foot?
A. Please check-in at the desk inside the terminal. You will be instructed by NorthLink Ferries staff when to board. Foot passengers board the ship via a covered walkway. Stairs lead from the ground floor to the walkway, but there is also a lift available for public use in all NorthLink Ferry Terminals.
Q. How do I check-in when travelling with my bicycle?
A. Please check-in at the desk inside the terminal and when safe to do so, you will be asked to wheel your bike on to the ship’s car deck via the stern ramp. NorthLink Ferries staff on the car deck will instruct you on where to park your bicycle.
Q. How do I check in when travelling by car / van / motorbike?
A. Please check-in at the vehicle check in. This will be a staffed kiosk visible close to the terminal, but please ask a member of NorthLink staff if you cannot find it. Once you have checked in, you will be instructed on when to drive your vehicle on board.
Q. What happens with luggage?
A. Passengers should only take hand luggage onto the ship. Other luggage can be left in your vehicle or, if travelling on foot, may be placed on luggage trolleys (which are loaded onto the car deck) prior to boarding. Whilst onboard, please ensure that your hand luggage does not block exits, walkways, or seats.
Q. Is there a left luggage facility?
A. A left luggage facility is available in Aberdeen and Lerwick to passengers who are booked for the same day’s sailing. Luggage must be labelled for the onward voyage, and it is the responsibility of passengers to transfer their own luggage from the left luggage facility to the luggage trolleys for sailing. All items are left at the owner’s risk.
Q. Is there public transport which connects with the ferry?
A. Please visit the port webpages: Aberdeen, Kirkwall (Hatston), Lerwick, Scrabster, Stromness for information about transport services, including the bus / train to Inverness from Scrabster, the Hatston connecting bus, and the Jet bus from Aberdeen Ferry Terminal to Aberdeen Airport.
Q. Can I park my vehicle at the Port?
A. Yes. There is car parking available near to NorthLink Ferries terminals. Please be aware that some parking places may be charged at an hourly or daily rate. Visit each port webpage for more specific information about parking: Aberdeen, Kirkwall (Hatston), Lerwick, Scrabster, Stromness
On board the ships
Q. How large are the ships?
A. The NorthLink Ferries passenger ships, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey are 125 metres in length, and MV Hamnavoe is 110 metres. Each ship can carry up to 600 passengers.
Q. How safe are the ships?
A. NorthLink ships have been built to exceed the latest safety standards. The bow doors are of clam shell design and are kept closed by the pressure of the water outside. There is a second set of doors inside which by themselves can withstand the sea. Each ship is equipped with lifeboats and marine escape systems fitted in excess of MCA regulations.
Q. Where can I find more information about the ships?
A. To find out more information about MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland, and MV Hrossey, including accessibility information, cabins, food and drink, shops, travelling with pets and other facilities on board, visit the NorthLink Ferries webpage, ‘The Journey’.
Q. Where can I find more information about the freight ships?
A. To find out more information about the freight ships MV Helliar and MV Hildasay, including timetables, prices, dimensions, procedures, and goods carried, please visit the NorthLink Ferries freight webpage.
Q. I require special assistance, can you help?
A. NorthLink Ferries are always happy to make arrangements for anyone who requires help at the ports or onboard ships. If you require any assistance please let us know by emailing the Reservations Department or phoning 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).
Q. Is there information about COVID-19 and NorthLink Ferries?
A. Please visit the NorthLink Ferries COVID-19 webpage for the latest ferry information. If you have booked a sailing, NorthLink Ferries will also make you aware of any changes which may affect you. For that reason, please be sure to give contact details when making a booking.
Q. Are NorthLink ships accessible for passengers with reduced mobility?
A. NorthLink Ferries ships have been built with accessibility in mind to ensure that all passengers enjoy their experience on board. View our Accessibility Policy and information about accessibility options, including cabins, toilets, and lifts.
Q. Can I buy food and drink onboard?
A. Food and drink can be purchased from the Feast restaurant – view the menu online. Food and drink is also available to buy in the on board bar. Snacks and drinks can be purchased in the shop on board. Please be aware that food and drink may not be available late at night.
Q. Do you cater for special dietary requirements?
A. There is a range of food options available on the Feast restaurant menu, which also displays allergen information. If you have special dietary requirements, please inform a member of the on board team who will offer alternatives.
Q. What methods of payment do you accept on board?
A. You can use Sterling cash (GBP), Visa, Visa Debit, Mastercard, Mastercard Debit, UK Maestro, American Express, Apple Pay and Google Pay on board NorthLink ships. Sorry – NorthLink Ferries do not accept personal or business cheques.
Q. Can I book a cabin on the ferry?
A. Cabins, pods and seats are available to book before travel and sometimes during a journey. As there are a limited number, passengers are advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment. On the NorthLink website, only cabins available on the sailing you have chosen will be visible.
Q. If I book a cabin is it for my exclusive use?
A. Yes. A booked cabin will be for your exclusive use only, even if you are the sole occupant of a twin, three or four bed cabin. NorthLink Ferries do not currently offer hostel-style beds in cabins which are shared with strangers.
Q. What facilities are in the cabins?
A. All cabins have en-suite bathrooms with a shower, shaver socket, and hairdryer. There are tea and coffee-making facilities, a television, a telephone to contact Reception for assistance, a clothes rail and hangers, and UK power points and USB sockets for charging electrical equipment.
Q. What is the Magnus’ Lounge?
A. The Magnus’ Lounge is a private lounge – space in the lounge is limited. Entry is available to passengers who purchase a Premium or Executive cabin, and can be bought online or on board. Benefits include complimentary snacks and refreshments, newspapers, magazines, and a table dinner service (though meals are not included in the Magnus’ Lounge price).
Q. Do you have wi-fi onboard?
A. NorthLink offer free wi-fi, however, please be aware that the onboard wi-fi will never be as fast as broadband you might enjoy at home. Once you select NorthLink wi-fi, your browser should open a signin page at http://172.16.16.1. The wi-fi network password is the name of our viking logo: Magnus
Q. Can my dog travel on the ferry with me?
A. Animals can travel in a pet-friendly cabin, in a kennel, or can remain in your vehicle. Unfortunately, animals are not allowed in the ship’s public areas, with the exception of guide dogs. On the crossing from Scrabster to Stromness, pet owners may book a free space in the dog lounge or take their dogs to the outside deck. Find out more about travelling with pets.
Q. What facilities are there for infants and children?
A. There are many facilities for children and infants on board. These include a children’s play area, children’s meals, cots, highchairs, children’s films, and baby changing facilities (which are available within the accessible toilets). View more information about travelling with children.
Q. Can my child travel alone?
A. Children under the age of 16 years must be accompanied by an adult on all NorthLink Ferries ships between the Scottish Mainland and Shetland and Orkney.
Q. Can I travel if I’m pregnant?
A. There are no restrictions for women to travel at any time during their pregnancy on NorthLink Ferries sailings. However, passengers should ensure that they are fit to travel before embarking.
Q. Who do I contact if I have left personal belongings onboard?
A. If you lose any property whilst travelling with NorthLink Ferries please fill in the form on the lost property page. The NorthLink lost property department can also be contacted by e-mail.
Q. Can I smoke onboard?
A. Passengers are advised that all areas on board NorthLink Ferries ships are non-smoking with the exception of the outside decks. The use of electronic cigarettes is also prohibited in the public areas.
Q. Do you carry unaccompanied vehicles?
A. Yes. Please contact the NorthLink Ferries freight department on 08001114434 or visit the unaccompanied vehicles page on the freight website for further information. Please note, unaccompanied vehicles and trailers are charged as per the freight rates.
Q. Do I need to turn my car alarm off on the ferry?
A. Some car alarms may be sensitive to vibrations on deck and can be set off during the crossing. The noise can be disruptive to passengers, especially during an overnight sailing, and so NorthLink would appreciate if you could disable your car alarm before sailing.
Q. How long can I stay onboard after the ferry arrives?
A. On NorthLink sailings arriving at Hatston, Stromness, and Scrabster, disembarking passengers must leave the vessel immediately.
However, on sailings arriving in Aberdeen and Lerwick, passengers can stay on board for an hour after arrival in the morning. Vehicle drivers should follow announced instructions to disembark immediately upon arrival in Aberdeen and Lerwick, but may return on board as a foot passenger with a valid boarding card, for an hour.
Q. Can I take extra fuel in my vehicle?
A. Unfortunately not. In line with safety regulations, spare containers of fuel should not be carried in private vehicles on board NorthLink Ferries ships.
Q. Can I travel with dangerous goods?
A. When travelling onboard any of NorthLink Ferries’ vessels with dangerous goods, there are procedures which must be followed to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew, and vessels. Please contact the freight department on 08001114434 for further information.
Q. Can I travel with firearms?
A. The safe transport of firearms is strictly regulated on all routes. Passengers wishing to travel with firearms and/or ammunition should reference the Conditions of Carriage and be prepared to assist staff in fulfilling regulatory requirements.
Q. How do I travel with firearms and/or ammunition?
A. Please declare your firearms and/or ammunition at the time of booking and then again discreetly during check-in. You will be asked to provide your firearms licence for inspection and to surrender the firearm and/or ammunition.
Q. Can I travel by ferry with gas?
A. Under International and UK legislation, passengers wishing to carry gases in cylinders need to comply with the appropriate regulations. Please be aware that transport requirements apply equally to nominally empty cylinders. Acetylene Gas is not permitted for carriage at any time or under any circumstances.
Q. What are the regulations for sailing with propane and butane gas?
A. Propane and butane gas can be carried for private use only. A maximum of 3 cylinders (combined weight must not exceed 47kgs) used for camping, lighting, cooking, or heating purposes only, may be offered to the ship without documentation or in accordance with IMDG regulations.
Q. What are the regulations for travelling with diving gases?
A. Diving gases (including air) for personal use may be carried in private vehicles used to carry passengers and their personal diving equipment in accordance with IMDG regulations. To find out more, please visit the Dive equipment policy page on the NorthLink Ferries website.
Q. What are the regulations for travelling with Medical Oxygen?
A. Medical Oxygen for personal use can be carried in private vehicles (used to carry ill or disabled persons). Vehicles may carry up to six cylinders, of size ‘F’ or smaller (i.e. up to 60 litres aggregate water capacity) containing UN 1072 – Compressed Oxygen.
Q. Can I charge my electric car onboard?
A. Unfortunately electric cars cannot be charged onboard NorthLink Ferries ships, however there are charging points located near to NorthLink Ferries terminals. Find out more at the ChargePlace Scotland website.