Newest Review: ... The seats are very comfy and it helps to pass a couple of hours. ---Accomodation--- On the overnight crossing Brittany Ferries like e... more
Leave Britain with Brittany
Member Name: Meggysmum
Date: 01/08/09, updated on 16/01/10 (1775 review reads)
Advantages: Clean and comfortable
Disadvantages: Cabins are a bit tired.
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.
Summary: Easy way to start your european holiday.
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