What is described as the biggest, most luxurious ferry to sail back and forth on the Irish Sea has been launched in Germany.
The WB Yeats cruise ship cost £135m, has 435 cabins, space for 1,885 passengers and has 3km of car deck space. It will be used by Irish Ferries on routes from the Republic to Wales and France.
This magnificent ship is a reminder that travel in and out of Northern Ireland is getting gradually better and better. There are now motorways most of the way from Belfast to such shipping routes from Dublin Port, Rosslare and Cork, and gradually the road connections from Londonderry to Dublin and Belfast is being upgraded too.
There is a dual carriageway from Belfast to Larne and from Holyhead all the way to London (which becomes motorway en route). The boat route to Scotland improved years ago when Dr Ian Paisley and Alex Salmond opened the Stena Line terminal at Cairnyan, shortening the distance travelled and using bigger, more comfortable boats.
It hasn’t all been progress: the A75 Cairnryan to Dumfries road is still poor, and the old, superfast one-hour P&O Larne to Cairnryan ferry has closed (it was the fastest ever car ferry from Ireland to Great Britain). But on the whole transport connections to abroad are getting ever better, including a growing range of global destinations from the various airports used by Ulster travellers (including Dublin, which is now easy to get to).