We haved travelled to France six times in the last 8 years and each time we have chosen to use Brittany Ferries for our crossing. This is more to do with the fact that they service the crossings we want to use rather than a conscious decision over other operators. We usually travel to the West side of France and so the Calais crossing and the tunnel require longer drives for us on both sides of the Channel.
Brittany ferries operate from Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth and Cork and travel to Caen, St Malo, Cherbourg, Roscoff and Santander.
I have always booked my tickets as part of a package with my campsite accomodation with various tour operators so I am not sure how much each crossing costs but the crossings can also be booked direct from their website: www.brittanyferries.com . I did speak to someone else on a campsite a couple of years ago who had booked her site and travel seperately and had paid a lot more than I had as I think there are discounted tickets for early booking and the tour operators seem to have an alloaction of these.
We have always travelled from Portsmouth for our outward journey. The ferry port is very clearly signposted and when you arrive the booths for Brittany ferries are easily identifiable. You drive up to the booth and hand in your travel voucher and passports. You are issued with a ticket to hang on your rear-view mirror which I presume is to help organise where your car is to go once on the ferry. If you have booked a cabin you will also be given your cabin keys as this point. You are then directed into a numbered lane as vehicles are sorted into sizes. You are supposed to arrive at least one hour before departure but I have seen people turn up much later but I wouldn't want to risk it.
You then sit in these lanes for what seems like hours! There is a small shop selling refreshments and there is a toilet there too. The only problem is you have no idea when your line will be asked to move forward and its sods law that it will be just when you have decided it is safe to go to the toilet! This isn't really a problem as there is no rush but it is embarrasing all the same if a whole row is waiting for you to return!!
Eventually you get called forward in various orders. Occasionally vehicles are called over into the checking area where they are searched more thoroughly. Once you are around the corner you find yourself in another line. Eventually the boat starts to board. This process fascinates me. The decks move up and down to accomodate different size vehicles so loading seems to be like a giant jigsaw! We have travelled in a car, in a car with caravan and in a 4x4 with caravan and bikes on top. The bikes on top put us on the lorry deck and we were almost the very last vehicle to load, I started to panic that we wouldn't get on but obviously it is well organised! Once on the appropriate deck you have to get out of your vehicle quite quickly and the vehicles are very closely packed so be careful. You must lock your car with the key and do not set the alarm or it will be going off all the time because of the motion of the boat. You are directed to the nearest door and are given a note of your cardeck and door number.
Upstairs you come to the public areas of the boat. (You are not allowed back down to the garages). These areas are all brightly lit and are clean and welcoming. There is an information desk and bureau de change in the main foyer. There is also tourist information.
If you are hungry there are a choice of places to eat. The boats we have travelled on have all had a full-service restaurant which we have never tried, a self-service restaurant which we have used a couple of times but thought was pricey and not very exciting and a tea bar where you can get cakes and rolls etc. The self-service restaurant can get very busy, especially for breakfast on the overnight crossings so it is worth getting there early.
I believe there is a bar with entertainment on the overnight crossing but we tend to go to bed as it is a reasonably early start in the morning with lots of driving to follow so we like to get our rest. On the day crossing I have seen a childrens entertainer who seemed to be doing a great job of keeping the children happy with games and ballooon animals. There is a soft play area for young children and a small area of slotmachines as well for adults. Both of the ferries we were on also had cinemas. The films were reasonably up to date. We travelled in July09 and they were showing Star trek, Night at the Museum 2 and Angels and Demons so they were only a couple of months old. The tickets cost £5.50 which is cheaper than our local cinema. The tickets are on sale at the information desk and are collected when you have taken your seat. My son was a little freaked out as he thought we were locked in when the ticket collecter left. However it is actually other people who are locked out! This is worth remembering because if you leave to go and buy some goodies to munch you need to make sure one of your friends will let you back in! The seats are very comfy and it helps to pass a couple of hours.
On the overnight crossing Brittany Ferries like everyone to book cabins or reclining seats if possible. We always book a cabin as I often feel seasick and so like to have my own toilet if the worst comes to the worst! It also means we have somewhere quiet to rest and keep all of our belongings. To be honest the cabins are looking a bit tired as the boats we have been on are quite old but they are always clean. The 4-berth cabins have two single berths and two bunks. There is also a very small shower room. Sheets, towels,toiletries, duvets and the worlds thinnest pillows are provided. We have learnt to take our own pillows on board with us, this is easy as we have the caravan so we just take a couple out of there. There is one plug which has a 2pin socket so you will need to bring an adapter on board if you want to use a hairdryer etc. The beds are reasonably comfortable and I have usually managed to sleep ok once I have got used to the rolling motion. On the overnight crossings there is an alarm call into all cabins an hour before port. They ask for you to leave your cabins 30 minutes before port but we usually hang on as long as possible because there is nothing to do but stand in the stairwell until they open the garages. As I said I have not been very impressed with the restaurants and it all seems a rush in the mornings so we now take cereal, milk,bowls etc in a coolbag and just pop out to pick up a cup of tea and just breakfast in our cabin. If you have not prebooked a cabin they can often be purchased for the day crossings when you arrive on board, I think the night crossings have usually already been sold.
The reclining seats are altogether on the same deck as the teabar. They look quite comfortable but I know that I would not be able to sleep on them very well but they are cheaper than a cabin.
There are several shopping opportunities to while away a bit of time. There is a general sweet/newspaper kiosk with British papers and magazines. There is also a perfumery and a duty free store. They cannot sell alcohol and cigarettes in British waters so these bits close 30 minutes before docking. There is a good selection and the prices are very competitive.
There are plenty of toilets and there are also some showers in the public areas. There are disabled facilities and lifts and disabled cabins. I presume that disabled vehicles are parked seperately on the cardecks as they seem to be put into a seperate queue but unfortunately I don't know any more about that. There are baby changing rooms around and lots of seats around the windows. It is possible to get out and sit on the deck which is nice on a sunny daytime crossing, not so nice on the windy, choppy crossing last Friday! I believe there are kennels on these boats but I don't know where they are as I only heard them mentioned once in an announcement. Purchases can be made in sterling or euro.
The car decks are emptied in order so you need to wait for your deck to be called before going downstairs. The car decks are incredibly noisy and probably quite scary for young children. Don't delay as it is very annoying if someone at the front is late as everybody gets held up, you disembark very quickly and are soon driving around France or Spain.
The night crossing to St Malo takes about 10 hours (usually on the Bretagne) and the day crossing from Caen takes about 6 hours (usually on the Normandie).
On returning to port we have always found it very easy to find the ferry dock and the process is much the same. We have found that the french security like to check our caravan as I have heard of incidences where people have stowed away in caravans that have been broken into whilst waiting to load on the boat, especially at night.
Overall we have always been very happy with the efficiency of Brittany Ferries. Once I had a cabin that smelt awful and they immediately changed me to another one. Newer boats would be an advantage but I don't think that will happen soon! The staff are always pleasant and speak excellent English even though it is a French company. We certainly have no complaints and it always offers a stressfree start to our holiday.
We annually use the Portsmouth - St Malo route. It is convenient from where we live and our accommodation is 30 mins from St Malo. Unlike flying taking the ferry obviously allows you to take your car and therefore far more baggage with you. The outward journey is great as it is overnight you can sleep most of the way, however this means the return leg is during the day which means it can get a little tedious towards the end. This route usually uses the Bretagne ship, which is getting old now but is perfectly fine for the journey it is used on. One time the Pont Aven was used on this route, it is far more modern. I really would recommend booking a room on this trip as it gives you somewhere secure to put your things and that bit of privacy. It is also worth upgrading the room to have a TV, it really is nice to have in your room on the return. The staff are generally friendly and do speak English (although it is a French company). I would also recommend the main restaurant to eat for your dinner and go for the buffet option, lots of food for a fixed price. Get there quick when you board to avoid disappointment.
Let's start with a fact that should put you off using Brittany Ferries - it's not cheap. Actually, it's expensive. In the past couple of years, I have paid between £100 and £150 for two foot passengers from Plymouth to Roscoff.
So, the question has to be asked, when I can fly to France for under a tenner, why pay ten times that to use a ferry?
Well, the simple answer is that there is 'expensive and rubbish' and then there's 'expensive and brilliant'. Brittany Ferries is expensive and brilliant. Actually, it's better than brilliant!
Brittany Ferries uses one of seven ferries or two catamarans. I've not travelled on either of the catamarans but have sailed on five of the ferries (The Pont L'Abbe, Normandie, Bretagne, Mont-St-Michel and the Pont Aven).
Although all are excellent, two deserve special mention. The Pont Aven, which usually plies either the Plymouth-Santander or (sometimes) the Plymouth-Roscoff routes, is a £100m state of the art mini-cruise ship. Inside is all glass and brass and shiny lights. It is lovely. The facilities include various bars, a pool, shops, two cinemas, three eateries, various bars and lounges. The on board accommodation is of the highest quality and the staff are the best.
The Pont L'Abbe is from another age. Wood and brass, sturdy and civilised, it mainly sails the Plymouth-Roscoff route. It is a lovely little bit of France. A waiter served restaurant and various bars mean that your fed and watered (and entertained) before bed. Accommodation is either by cabins (which are cosy and well kept) or cheaper couchettes - which are private sectioned dorms (think cheap and cheerful) with shared facilities.
One of the things that I am always impressed with is the food. I had always thought that it was excellent and so was particularly happy when I saw a Rick Stein programme in which he said that, for him, his holiday to France started with his meal on the ferry - and he was on a Brittany Ferries ship! Nowhere else in UK territorial waters (or on land) can you get a steak that good!
Food and drink on board are remarkably good value - especially given that they have a captive market while you are on board and so there is nothing to stop them fleecing you - they just don't!
The route that I use most is Plymouth-Roscoff. The main advantage to me (other than proximity as I live in Devon) is that you can get on the ferry at 11pm and arrive in France at 7am - so you do not lose a day's holiday. You simply get on the ferry after work and arrive with a full day ahead of you. To me, that would be worth the extra price alone - even if it was not for the excellent service, food and on board facilities.
So, where can you go?
Brittany Ferries sails between the following ports:
Portsmouth to Caen
Portsmouth to St Malo
Portsmouth to Cherbourg
Poole to Cherbourg
Plymouth to Roscoff
Plymouth to Santander
Cork to Roscoff
None of the crossings are particularly short but the Plymouth-Roscoff, Plymouth-Santander and Cork-Roscoff ones are very long and generally overnight.
They also do 'packages' where you can pre-book hotels although, in our experience, we have never found a French hotel package deal that is cheaper than booking when you get there (as they tend to charge by the room, where are packages charge by the person).
You can get more information and also find offers at:
The website also includes various city guides and other info that will come in useful when booking your holiday in France.
Brittany Ferries provides a service that is unrivalled in the UK ferry industry. It is the highest quality and unlike anything that you may have experienced on any of the more popular routes.
Although the routes that Brittany Ferries operate are in areas that you may not be considering, the destinations could save drivers many hundreds of miles of driving in France as they deliver you into the heart of France rather than in somewhere like Calais - which is miles away.
If you want to arrive in France in a couple of hours and travel on a stinky bus-type ferry for £1, then Brittany Ferries is not for you. If you want to arrive in style refreshed and having cruised and eaten like a king the night before, then you really should check out Brittany Ferries.
And one last tip - the staff are very friendly provided that you treat them with respect and talk to them. I have see people being utterly rude to them and they don't deserve it. By chatting to the staff, we have found that they are very willing to give up the secrets of their back yard. They have told us about some great hidden restaurants and bars in and around Brittany. So, take the time to talk. They are busy but they are so friendly and helpful if you're willing to treat them like real people too!
Way back in March we were planning to drive to the Costa Blanca in Spain for a few months. After looking at the various ferry options we settled for Brittany Ferries overnight sailing to St. Malo in the north of France. Sailing at night suited us because we would have a full days driving in France and making St. Malo our destination saved us some driving time and less fuel.
This obviously comes at a price being quite a bit longer sailing than than to the likes of Calais or using the tunnel. We booked on the internet at a cost of £160 which included a basic two berth cabin with en-suite facilities. We only made a one way booking as we were unsure when we would be returning.
The ferry was due to sail at 9.30pm but we arrived at the terminal at about 6.30 and were able to have our passports checked and issued with a key card for our cabin. We were told that we could leave our car in the line and and go into the terminal building until an announcement summoned us back to the vehicles.
The terminal building lacked some comforts and there was not a great variety of food on offer ( Perhaps they would rather you eat on board) Eventually all the vehicles were moved round to the boarding area and after some further waiting in our cars we were marshalled on to the ferry.
On board the facilities were quite impressive and we found our cabin quite adequate. There was a choice restaurants, one waiter served and one self service, we chose the latter.There was a good choice, well presented and reasonably priced and very enjoyable.
After a decent night we got up in good time to get a breakfast
before arriving at St. Malo at about 8.30. Having been very satisfied with our evening we used the self service again and we were not disappointed.
The unloading seemed to take a long time but eventually we were driving through St. Malo and looking forward to the drive southwards to Spain.
All in all our crossing had been a good experience and we felt quite satisfieed with the service of Brittany Ferries.
We live in the South West and both work full time with not a lot of holiday allowance so we tend to use the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff as this means we don't waste any of our annual leave actually traveling to our holiday destination. I cannot recommend Brittany Ferries highly enough.
The accommodation is comfortable and the staff are incredibly helpful. I have also seen them be very patient with vile Brits who think they can get what they want by shouting. I love traveling with Brittany Ferries and I feel like the holiday has started as soon as we get on the ferry. It isn't just a journey, it's part of the fun.
We have only ever had 2 problems. One was that we went on a crossing with hundreds of exchange students who were running around the corridors by the couchettes being really noisy. When we complained we were instantly upgraded to a cabin, and a cabin with a view at that. The staff were so helpful. It makes you feel better because you don't want to start your holiday on a big moan! (Some people would say that is what I live for but honestly, I'm not that bad!) The other problem was that when we ordered some food, one of the meals wasn't great. I think it was fish and chips and there was more batter than fish. We asked for another and it was replaced immediately and was fine. When we got home we wrote to say how well they had handled the complaint and we received some money off vouchers.
The food on board is outstanding. The steak and lamb in particular are incredible. The steak is even recommended by Rick Stein in one of his tv programmes.
If you haven't tried it, you must. Prices vary considerably depending on time of travel and time of booking. Check out their websites for any deals.
We travel to France two or three times a year; sometimes we fly but generally we sail with Brittany Ferries.
We are fortunate in that we live just twenty minutes away from the Port of Portsmouth and around forty minutes from Poole Harbour, so the ferry is an easily accessible way for us to travel. Portsmouth is our usual choice of departure point.
The whole Brittany Ferries experience is consistently good from the moment you book until the moment you alight from the boat at your foreign destination.
We book online and their booking procedure is very simple and very efficient. Within forty-eight hours of booking your e-ticket is emailed to you. You can print off as many as you wish so I always print one for each passenger in my party and one to be left with a friend in the UK, just in case the unexpected happens and we need to retrieve the details.
We are members of Brittany Ferries Property Owner's Club (we have a house in France that we are slowly but surely renovating, as a holiday home for now but, eventually, with a view to retiring there). The Club membership gives us a discount of around one third off the normal price; also we can let others have our Club membership number and they can use this to get around 25% off their ticket prices. Club membership costs in the region of £85 per year which is worth it if you make two or more trips a year. The ferry prices vary with the seasons; at its cheapest we can book for one car and two passengers, off peak, for around £150 but this can increase quite dramatically for the high peak summer season, costing over £300.
On the day of sailing you need to be at the port 45 minutes prior to departure (which is a lot better than the three hour check-in demanded at main airports nowadays). The terminal is well signposted so you know exactly which boarding queue to join. You hand your ticket and passports to the steward in the booking kiosk who registers you as a passenger, hands you back your documents together with a leaflet containing information about the particular boat you will be sailing on, the in-house magazine and a boarding ticket which must be hung from your rear-view mirror so that the boarding crew can identify you and direct you to the relevant part of the queue for boarding. You are guided into the garage of the boat by stewards in high-visibility vests and, immediately, a very smart, friendly and polite stewardess will hand you a ticket which tells you which deck you have parked on and which stairway will lead you back to it when the boat has reached its destination. It would be very easy to get lost without this ticket!
Once on board, if you have booked a cabin, you will be able to go straight there and leave your belongings. Some of the cabins are very basic with just a couple of narrow bunks and a very tiny but functional bathroom; the more expensive Commodore cabins are much more luxurious.
A typical sailing from Portsmouth to, say, Caen in France, will take around five and a half hours. I generally find the journey very relaxing although we have sailed in very stormy conditions which is not quite so relaxing!
On board you can sit in one of the bar areas and enjoy either alcoholic drinks or tea and coffee. There is a simple snack bar and two restaurants - one with waitress service and the other which is self-service. We usually dine in the latter and, for under £6, we can enjoy an excellent meal from the varied menu. I can recommend all the meals because I have tried them all!
On fine days you can stroll the decks where you will find plenty of places to sit and relax. Inside the boat there are reclining lounges, some with cinemas for which you can buy tickets to that day's screening; others simply have reclining chairs for those who fancy a nap away from the bustle of the main decks.
There is a play area for children, some arcade machines and on each sailing there is usually a magic show. There is a main shopping kiosk where you can purchase newspapers and books - in French and English - and toys and souvenirs. There is also a duty-free shop where you can purchase the usual items such as perfume and cosmetics, gift items, tobacco products and alcohol.
The French staff are extremely smart, unfailingly polite and always happy to help.
The tannoy system keeps you up to date with the estimated time of arrival and the departing procedure is as smooth as the one for boarding.
All in all, I thoroughly recommend sailing with Brittany Ferries.
I have just recently saved up some vouchers from a local paper and taken a short holiday in France and the trip to and from my holiday was very enjoyable. Many people would choose to avoid travelling via ferry due to sea sickness, time constraints and the general ease of flying but the journey really was like a mini cruise.
Brittany ferries was originally formed in 1972 to transport fruit and vegetables from Roscoff to Plymouth. Living near to Plymouth I am quite familiar with the close relationship between towns in Devon and Cornwall with the towns and villages in Brittany. After recognising the benefits of tourism in Brittany it was decided that produce being brought into Plymouth would continue but on the return they would transport passengers to Brittany to benefit tourism. Since this Brittany Ferries has grown in size and popularity meaning that they make a great profit every year.
The website is very helpful and easy to use. The website can be read in 5 different languages (English, Irish, French, Spanish and German) and is very easy to navigate. The website offers advice on the transportation of pets etc. they are quite strict on transporting meats etc into/out of the country so the website offers great support on this before booking.
The booking process is thorough requiring specific measurements of your car. By booking online you can save money. The tickets are e-tickets and these are sent after full receipt of payment. If you do choose to deal with a person when booking you can contact the Brittany Ferries office by telephone, email or in person. Some travel agents also deal with ferry bookings.
The staff at Plymouth seemed highly efficient at organising the traffic and checking passports so much so we were severely held up on the return journey. The port is easy to find as it is situated in the 'red light district' of Plymouth. We went by night so we didn't really see a lot else that would be of interest. There is a nice little café for cars waiting and a nice little area to take pictures of Plymouth Sound and Mount Edgcumbe (beautiful country park in Cornwall).
The staff at Roscoff seemed quite short tempered, passport control were very lapse and did not check passports on arrival or departure. The cafe sold a selection of continental cakes and had a few arcade games to keep the children happy. We stood at the gates and watched the ferry arrive apart from this the view was obscured by large buildings.
On the way to Brittany we traveled on the Pont L'Abbe this ferry serves the Plymouth to Roscoff route. Its first journey was in March 2006. The ferry can hold 410 cars and a maximum of 1,200 passengers.
As we chose a night time journey we could not book without choosing a cabin or reclining seat to sleep in/on. Due to the seats being £25 each we decided a cabin would be more comfortable. We chose a 4 berth cabin with two bunk beds and a toilet. The room had a small table and wardrobe.
On arrival the room had a very foul smell and we quickly left to check out the rest of the ship on our return 3 hours later the cabin was fine. There is something quite nice about falling asleep on a rocking ship.
There are many other types of cabin ranging from the deluxe cabins (for 2,3 and 4 people) with a porthole, basic cabins such as the one we had (for 2,3 and 4 people) and the couchettes with shared washroom and toilet.
The beds were comfortable but the bedding was very basic. The rooms were very cold so its best to take a spare blanket.
There are two bars on the Pont L'Abbe. We sat in the largest one where we could watch the live cabaret, although admittedly this was rather awful. On the way back we had a music quiz and the boffin we were with got every question right resulting in a prize from the onboard shop and a new record was set.
The drinks and snacks served in the bar were more expensive than we had expected although quite cheap compared to English prices, however the drinks were on the very small size (obviously based on French sizes). The rocking motion of the boat however made us feel so sick food or drink was out of the question anyway. We could pay for the drinks in either Euros or Pound sterling.
The shop was very useful to us as realising that motoring rules in France requires drivers to have a fluorescent vest, first aid kit, GB sticker and warning triangle in the boot in case of inspection we rushed to buy all the items. The items although over priced could have saved us from harsh fines. It was clear to see that the shop was taking advantage of unprepared drivers.
The shop was spacious and interesting to look around. Whilst the prices for alcoholic products were cheaper than most shops it was still quite expensive compared to the shops the other side of the ferry in Roscoff. We visited the shop before returning to stock up on beer and wine with a 70% discount compared to English prices who could complain.
When we went Stardust was being shown, along with another film we had already seen so didn't use this facility. We would rather wander around the ferry anyway. I think there was an extra charge for this facility but it wasn't too much.
When we went we watched a 'duo' try to do caberet. It was rather disappointing as the woman was too quiet and the man seemed to drown her out. The disco afterwards was rather entertaining. The DJ was a funny guy and seemed to have a laugh with the passengers. A few jokes were made about sickness however at this point we were accustomed the rocking and had put it to the back of our minds. Elsewhere in the ship children were playing in arcades and some were playing in the other bar area. We enjoyed the entertainment a lot more on the way home. A quiet quiz was what we needed after a busy week. The quiz was based on music and fortunately enough the guy we were with seemed to know every song since 1920. With 100% correct and the best score the quiz master had ever seen we were given extra prizes. Over in the other bar there was a magician and balloon man entertaining the kids.
The staff were very friendly and polite. They couldn't do enough to help. Most of the staff were French but spoke excellent English. On arrival the people showing cars to their places were slightly abrupt but I think I would be to if I was stuck on the car deck inhaling fumes and dealing with obnoxious passengers who think they own the roads. The cleaning staff were quite friendly although they spoke little English so when we were trying to get back to the car deck we ended up getting highly confused and lost.
We only had breakfast on the ferry on our outward journey. We were amazed at the service we received in the restuarant. The waiters went out of their way to provide us with an excellent service. The breakfast which was both continental and English was a mixture of self service and waiter service. The food was lovely and was very reasonably priced. The tables were positioned next to the window and we could see the coast of France in the distance.
I was very impressed with the price. When split between 3 of us we realised that it was our cheapest option. Put it this way if you plan to go over to France to stock up on alcohol then it's probably worth it. As mentioned previously we managed to get a voucher entitling us to a crossing for £20 per person per night so it is very worthwhile looking out for these offers.
The current prices for two people with a small car is £440 (noting that by selecting different days or crossing times will significantly reduce this)
For a family of four with a roof box or trailer the price is £320. Strangely with more passengers and a trailer this crossing is cheaper which shows that the day and time does make a huge difference. I am sure however that you will agree that compared to flying it does work out at a good price.
You can travel by ferry everyday with crossings ranging between 3-6 times daily. The crossing times also change depending on the time of day or weather conditions. The average length of crossing is 7 hours. I have based my review on the Plymouth to Roscoff crossing however you can also travel from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, Caen and St Malo, Poole to Cherbourg, Corke to Roscoff and Plymouth to Santander (Spain). These routes involve different ferries but are similar to the one mentioned in this review. For more information visit the website https://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
I really enjoyed my ferry crossing it was hard to imagine that we were stuck in the middle of the ocean as the facilities onboard were great. With so much to do the crossing seemed to pass really quickly. With cheap petrol and drink abroad it really makes sense to pop over for a few days for a cheap holiday and bring back necessary items! As a non-smoker I have little interest in cheap cigarettes but would imagine that this would be another great incentive to go to France via the ferry.
I have just returned from Brittany Ferries three day mini cruise to Spain and all in all found it quite superb. Years ago (when I was a little girl) whilst visiting family friends in France, I travelled via Brittany Ferries to Roscoff, it was not a particularly pleasant experience: several people were seasick and our cabin was adjacent to what appeared to be a noisy engine room. Therefore I went on the mini cruise expecting fairly little but I was to be pleasantly surprised.
With a price tag of under £100.00 per person, the mini cruise/ mini cruise plus includes a small cabin with bunk beds which are far from uncomfortable (although one might ask for extra pillows), the room also includes a small but adequate ensuite bathroom, with the mini cruise plus meals are also included, there is decent onboard entertainment in the bars, kids entertainment during the day and to top it off a hot circa 4-5 hours midday in Santander.
Obviously if it is Santander you wish to see and not a cruise ship than you are better off flying, 4-5 hours in a port is quite pitiful and there is little which can be done other than a spot of shopping. However it is ideal for bringing back some cheap alcohol and enjoying yourself with other English passengers on the ship (something I personally usually detest but it can be fun).
The crew of the boat are French and are generally very hard working and helpful, indeed I am not sure they get much of a break to sleep, the same staff served breakfast that served lunch and dinner all afternoon and evening. The food was excellent and came in large quantities for all tastes, there are three main places to eat and I used the self service restaurant which was cheap and tasty, I was able to get a large slab of lamb and chips for under 6 pounds and cake for under 2 pounds which was simply delicious. In the morning I went to another small restaurant bar at which I was able to get a pain au chocolat for around 2 pounds but a full fry up is also available for £3.30. There was a more classy restaurant which looked fabulous, the prices were good but enough to scare off a poor student so I did not venture there.
There were three bars I believe, the main one Le Grande Pavois had stereotyped pub style entertainment till the early hours of the morning and the piano bar contained a student pianist playing popular melodies of the thirties giving the bar both a dated and pleasant feel (quite continental). The final bar was the swimming pool bar, which surprise surprise contained a swimming pool in the centre which is great for kids and for adults who lack inhibition. There is kiddies entertainment in this area all day which the adults can watch from afar with a drink in hand, most interestingly this includes French lessons.
On the upper level the sun decks are accessible which are pleasant on sunny days, there are many chairs and benches for sitting on with books and this was possibly my favourite place on the ship, where I sat curled fairly undisturbed with a Malibu & coke in one hand and Hemingway in the other.
The duty free shop sells classic cheap trash along with the usual cheap alcohol and tobacco, it is not great for picking up presents unless you want a model of Brittany Ferries but is good for contraband goods.
I did enjoy this trip, although it is not my usual cup of tea as I prefer to spend money on seeing a place rather than the journey. However it is great if money is limited or if youd rather relax and party with people of your own language.
Brittany Ferries' flagship service from Plymouth to Santander is a very civilised way to travel to Spain. There's loads to do on the ship itself and you can leave the children to explore safely. Rough weather can be a problem but the friendly staff will hand out seasickness pills if the need arises. The buffet breakfast is highly recommended in the main restaurant.
If you want a really good mini cruise to Spain then look no further. I went on this fabulous cruise a couple of months a go and will be going again next month.
The Cruise Ship:
Let me start off by talking about the cruise ship itself. The boat (called the Pont-Aven) was launched in March 2004 and has a stunning 10 decks. It cost £100million and is the flagship of Brittany Ferries. It can take 2400 passengers and 650 vehicles. Being on this ship is almost like a holiday in itself. Good accommodation, a choice of 4 restaurants, 3 bars, swimming pool, shops, entertainment from a magician, resident live band and disco. I have gone into more detail below.
The Pont-Aven cruise ship has a staggering 652 cabins. All cabins have air-conditioning, en-suite bathrooms, radio and alarms. You get the choice when booking of which cabin you want. These include standard, superior or luxury cabins. If you opt for the superior cabin, you get a flat screen tv and for the luxury cabins you get a dvd player as well. Also the luxury option gets you a continental breakfast, morning coffee or afternoon tea and some even have their own private balconies. There is also a choice of inside or outside cabins.
As mentioned earlier, there is 4 restaurants on the Pont-Aven. The main restaurant (Le Flora) is very stylish and has great ocean views. The food in here is either a buffet or an a la carte set menu. The next restaurant (La Belle Angele) is self service with a wide range of traditional menus. Le Cafe du Festival is a self service cafe which is open 24hrs. Here you can pick up sandwiches and pastries. The final restaurant is the Freight Restaurant which is for lorry drivers and their passengers.
My favourite place.... the bar. Just as well they have 3 of them onboard. Lets start with the main bar (Le Grand Parvois). This bar is pretty big and has two floors. The upper mezzanine level has a glass roof which goes into the swimming pool area which also has sun decks and another bar which i will come to in a minute. In the main bar is where all the entertainment takes place on the stage and dance floor. May i just add at this point that the bar/cigarette prices are very nice here. Because this is a french ship, the prices are much cheaper then back here in the UK!! Right, the next bar is the Pool Bar (Les Finisteres). Obviously this is the bar wich serves the swimming pool area. The final bar is the Piano Bar (Le Fastnet) and as suspected, yes it does have a piano in it. This is quite a pleasant bar with window seats and occassionly a pianist.
Pool & Leisure Area:
The swimming pool is here along with the pool bar and sun decks. The pool is of a fair size and great when the boat is tipping about slightly as it creates some great waves. The only downside to the pool is that it is only open for a few hours a day.
The ship has an on board resident live band, who play mainly covers of pretty much any style of music you can think of! Also there is a magicain and various quizzes, oh and a disco which goes on til the early hours.
The Promenade on deck 6 is fantastic. you can walk round the entire ship and you get great ocean views. The top deck is pretty good also. Both are awesome when the sun is out and you have a beer in your hand.
You will find various shops on board offering many items at reduced prices. Many items can be bought at Spainish prices.
There are 2 cinemas on the ship playing the latest films. About 90 passengers can use these at one time.
The casino area is more of an amusement arcade. The usualy slot machines, dancing games and air hockey tables are in here.
Speaks for itself really.
The Pont-Aven sails from Plymouth twice a week on either a Wednesday or a Sunday and from Santander (Spain) on a Monday or Thursday. Each crossing takes about 20hrs each way.
Prices start at about £285 each way for 2 people with a car. There are numerous breaks and offers available also.
Half an Hour in Santander - Two days on a boozy boat! On a gorgeous morning in June may partner and I boarded the Val de Loire ferry in Plymouth. The ferry is huge and I had no idea how I would cope with regard to sea sickness, boredom, or going hungry. I'd read mixed reports on Dooyoo and ensured I packed rations, Connect 4 and plenty of sea sickness stuff. Onboard we were greeted by a plush reception and lots of leaflets about locations on the boat, the day's activities and advice for travel. The first thing we wanted to do was offload our bags so it was off to explore the cabin. It was a long way down the stairs. We'd booked a discount trip to santander which involved a two night stay on the boat with 2 hours in Santander, Spain on the second day. We hoped this wouldn't mean a nightmare cabin! The cabin was a 4 berth but we'd paid a supplement to just use it alone. There was about as much space as you'd get in a twin room in a static caravan which is reasonable, but the great thing was a nice 'bathroom' with a toilet, sink and very lovely but powerful shower! In case you'd forgotten there were the usual hotel style soap freebies, towels etc. Also included were the bed linen and a plug socket (for which you could get an adapter in the onboard shops). We did the right thing in dumping our stuff, grabbing some sun creme and drinks we'd brought with us, then dashing up tot he top deck - this time via the lift which was quick and didn't seem like half the trek that we'd experienced via the stairs! On the top deck were a load of free sunloungers and because we got lucky with the weather - loads of sun. As the boat set off we were welcomed by a frech accented lady over the tannoy and pan piped music - it was quite bizarre! I found that the motion on the boat didn't bother me - this was my first ferry trip and I didn't want to end up being sick the whole time. I sat on my sun lounger and
sunbathed for a few hours - great! So what about the two days stuck on a boat - apart from sunbathing - what was there to do? Recommended activities: Watching the house band in the 'Le Rabelais' bar. When we were on the boat we were entertained by 'Rain'. They were really good - they did standard favourites to meet the tastes of a mixed age-group and background audience. Everything was played from Shania Twain, beatles, Dire Straits, REM but they refused our requests for the Cheeky Girls. Be sure to try all of the bars and find one that suits your mood! Playing Bingo and the Quiz in the 'Le Rabelais Bar'. We won our beer money back - a splendid £75!!! Listening to the pianist in the 'Le Layon' bar whilst sipping southern comfort - very elegant and romantic bar - no riff-raff!! Eating at the 'Le Temps de Vivre' restaurant - this is fantastic and worth paying extra for! £13.00 a head gets you the Buffet menu. The starter is a plate full of anything you want from an amazing buffet cart of french cuisine. Fresh Fish, vegetables, pates, and olives etc. If this wasn't gorgeous and filling enough you then get a main course of a cordon bleu style dish - I can recommend the beef - and the vegetarian lasagnette. This is followed by the desserts table. By this point I could hardly make it to the puddings - there were deleicate petit fours, massive gateaux, fruit salads and chocolate cakes. Shopping at the onboard Duty Free - fanastic bargains on booze and perfumes etc. On a Budget? On board there are plugs so you could take your own travel kettle and tea bags. There is also a microwave so you could make your own meals with stuff you bring on board. There is a newsagent called la kiosque for buying papers, chocolate bars abd bottles of pop. Free Entertainment is plentiful - especially in Le rabelais bar. Also free are the movies which are pretty r
ecent and change each day. If you don't fancy fench cuisine, you can buy meals at around £3 from La magdelana self service - you can even just grab a slice of toast at breakfast - have as much or as little as you want. Other useful information: It is credit cards or sterling only onboard. Check with your provider if there are likely to be fees for using it onboard a ferry - I certainly had no charges on my Barclaycard. There is no real lower limit to the amounts of each transaction so you don't have to worry about spending £5. i would have liked to have taken more cash with me though. You can use your mobile phone when nearer to the coasts. As you pass through each country - France and Spain, most mobiles hook up to the local provider and send you useful text messages about how to use your phone abroad. There is an L.E.D board on deck 7 that shows your progress to Santander as you travel. Bargain ciggies can be bought from a shop not to far from the port in Santander - just ask the ladies at the check in desk for directions - you won't have a lot of time to look round Santander. I also recommend the Supermarket Jesus just across form the port and down the first side street you see. It has a good stock of groceries and they take credit cards for small amounts. Don't worry if you aren't very organised - there are plenty of announcements about what is happening on ship - including reminders about getting your reservations in before midday for the evening meals in most of the onboard restaurants. The staff are all french but speak good English however if you speak too quickly they just don't understand!! We paid £49 pounds each plus £20 supplement for the room. This was a special discount price that you may be able to negotiate with some travel agents. The standard price for two people can be several hundred pounds. Despite having a sizable discount in a budget room w
e were ver y satisfied with our stay on the boat and it turned out to be a very romantic holdiay for the two of us. We had lots of fun, got very drunk and thanks to our Bigno winnings we weren't much out of pocket!! I would recommend this was a route to Spain if you really can't stand flying! It is a long trip but if you are prepared to explore the boat you'll find something to entertain you and lots of great food!
At the beginning of August My Family and I went on Brittany Ferries? MV Val de Loire for their 24-hour crossing from Plymouth to Santander in Northern Spain. The ferry departed from Plymouth at 0830 so check in was by 0730 which meant an early start, but not as bad as if we had been flying at the same time and had to check in two hours before. We were on board within 30 minutes after a very slick loading operation and on the way to our cabin. Travelling with two small boys of 4 and 6 years old we had gone to the extra expense of booking a deluxe cabin. This was an extra £20.00 over a standard four-berth cabin but worth every penny. We had double the space of a standard cabin with two good size single beds, a sofa bed, a drop down bunk over the sofa, coffee table, armchair, TV, video player, fridge with free mini bar, trouser press, dressing table and stool, a good size en-suite shower/w.c. with lots of free toiletries and plenty of towels, complimentary morning coffee and afternoon tea in the cabin, and free continental breakfast served in the cabin in the morning. You also get a key which allows you access to the Commodore Lounge on deck 10, which is good if you want a quiet area with a good view forward and comfy sofa style armchairs but otherwise a bit of an over-rated perk as no drinks are available up there. The public areas are largely on decks 7,8 and 9 with the main foyer on 7 very much like that of a smart hotel with carpet and marble tile flooring and lots of chrome and glass. Also on deck 7 are the main wine and sprit shop which had tastings every few hours throughout the day and prices on a par with your local Tesco / Sainsbury for wine and branded spirits a touch cheaper. Also the perfumery kiosk with the majority of things at below high street prices by about 10%. Heading to the stern you come to a children?s playroom for the under 7?s with padded climbing frames, ball pond etc. and where other organised activities take
place during the day. Finally the main self-service cafeteria restaurant is here. This serves fairly standard fare although well cooked and the chef doling out the chips did not seem too concerned about presentation. You can have a three-course meal here including a 50cl pitcher of wine for £8.00 but be prepared to sit at Formica tables with plastic chairs. Deck 8 is where the serious dining is done and the prices increase accordingly. There is a Café de Thé serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, pizzas, baguettes, salads and wonderful pastries with nothing priced over £2.80. A piano bar for a pre-dinner cocktail at prices below UK pubs is very pleasant. If you wish to dine in the main A la Carte restaurant in the evening you need to book your table as soon as the restaurant opens for lunch as it is very popular, especially if you wish to eat between 6.30 and 8.30. You have a choice of a three course Buffet style menu for £16 or a five course Table d?hôte menu for £19. This may seem quite pricey but the food is very good, plentiful and with a good choice of quite expensive items. Wine is on the expensive side with the cheapest bottle at about £6.00 but it is above average rather than ?ordinary? table wine. Cheaper and probably better value is the Café du Port Bistro. There is less of a choice here but again the portions are a good size, well cooked and very tasty. My wife and I had a three-course meal including wine for £33. My only criticism was that neither restaurant allowed wine by the glass. The main bar where evening entertainment takes place is on deck 9. The usual range of drinks and cocktails is available here along with Bingo, quizzes, disco and live band music and a nightly cabaret show. Musical style tended towards disco/rock rather than garage/ house and an older audience, with a fair standard of performance. We were very impressed with the extent and value of children?s entertainment available, which ranged from various club
s catering for age ranges between 4 and 14. The older ones get taken off to their own club area for arts and crafts, video, a meal/ snack, cinema and visit to the bridge with a chance to take the wheel (thoroughly supervised!). Our two had a thoroughly enjoyable two hours having their faces painted, dressing up in costumes, a tour of the ship including a visit to the bridge and a snack all for £4 each. Had they both been six or more we could have got rid of them for a half or whole day if we had wanted at the same rate of £2 per hour! We did avail ourselves of two hours ?baby sitting? in the evening to allow us to have dinner ?a deux?, again at £2 each per hour. The ship also boasts a swimming pool and two cinemas. The pool is not very large (about 8m x 8m) so can get quite crowded though numbers are controlled, and is 1.5m deep all over so is not ideal for small children without close supervision. We did have a lot of good fun though and the cost of £3 allows you unlimited access for the whole crossing. The cinemas each take about 100 people and show a variety of films at a cost of £4. The staff on board were all extremely helpful and courteous and our disembarkation on arrival in Santander was very smooth and efficient. It was raining when we arrived and my wife said ?you carry on and I?ll go backwards and forwards for the week?! We left the ship looking forward to our return journey and were not disappointed either. We had the same standard coming back to Plymouth and would have no hesitation in recommending this crossing.
I recently went on a tour of Normandy with a group, seeing the sites (Bayeux, Caen etc.) and the beautiful Normandy scenery, blue skies, long, golden beaches, palm trees and crystal waters.... or maybe not. Anyway, it las a long drive down to Portsmouth from Newcastle upon the Tyne, several hours long, except we arrived at Portsmouth a few hours early! oh well. Once we were told we could begin boarding, there was one slight problem. Where was the boat? All we could see was one huge P&O ferry, a Commodore ferry and the entire naval fleet! After asking around, some exploration, the coach driver found us the Duc de Normandie, nestled next to a rather ugly vessel (I think it was the Pride of Hampshire, or some such). The old 'Duc' is a little more aged that the rest of Brittany Ferries fleet now, but I am told she is soon to be replaced. Once onboard and safely snuggled in the comfy reclining seats, a very helpful sort of stewardess gave us a brief overview of the ship's facilities, and told us a few general rules on safety. WE were then freee to explore! You could tell the bessel was coming up to retirement, having been on some of Brittany Ferries more modern vessels, i thought some areas were a little cramped, and slightly grotty. After 'browsing' in the tiny shop, i went to the cinema. Not too impressesd there, either. It was basically a white board with a small projecter showwing images onto the small screen. However, the seats were comfy. At lunch, I went to one of the various areas you can eat in, the food was actually quite good and enjoyable, and all for a fair price. Cafeteria was roomy too. The weather wasn't too great, but I risked a trip onto the outdoor decks, where there was ample room for a stroll, or whatever else you would want to do on the decks. Throughout the crossing there were various activities to do, enough to keep most people occupied, and even if that wasn't enough, you can always snooze in a
recliner! The return crossing: Aboard the larger and far better Normandie. Same rules aplied. Stewardess told us the drill, no running shouting, screaming etc. and a safety drill. Far more facilties, areas to sit althouth it was a rough crossing, i spent half the time being asleep/throwing up. The shop was big, although the stock was poor. Lots of the same, useless items and strange cds (this was 2001, and i found 'Hits 98!') Overall, a pretty good crossing, I enjoyed it. Nice one, Brittany Ferries!
Brittany Ferries is by far the best ferry company on the channel. Myself and my family have used them for the last 12 years at least 3 times a year. Over this time we have become wellaquainted with the company. On the plymouth - roscoff route we usually have the quiberon and val de loire. People may think that the quiberon is cramped shabby and old fashioned, admittedly she is not the most luxurious ferry on the channel...but she is a very sturdy boat. She got us across the channel in the middle of winter when all other ferrys had been cancelled, and ahead of schedule. Her staff are very friendly and the accomodation is sufficient for the crossing. I find all of bf's ships pleasant to sail on with a very french atmosphere, here is how i would rate the boats... 1) Bretagne - truly spectacular! 2) Val de Loire 3) Normondie 4) Barfleur 5) Quiberon 6) Duc de Normodie
This has got to be a great way of introducing yourself to the cruise experience. I work in Plymouth port control and am fully aware of all the offers that become available and myself and my girlfriend decided that this would make a lovely short break. The trip consisted of a 24 hour sailing to Santander, 2 hours in Santander to do as you please then the return 24 hours. The price was £99 each but included £30 each of vouchers for use in the restaurants, i thought the vouchers would be "spend £20 and get £5 off" sort of thing but they are money vouchers to spend as you please. We found that we didn't have to spend a penny on food on board and we had three meals every day. The facilities on board were fantastic very clean and easy to find, all shops and restaurants were attended by very helpful french staff. We also had the misfortune to see the hospital on board, my girlfriend suffers from epilepsy and had a fit in the restaurant. We were looked after very well and the staff were great at getting the doctor as quick as possible. All in all this was a great break from the kids!! and well recommended, also great value. i have read comments that the cabins are too small but we found them absolutely fine.. after all what do you expect on a ship.!