“ Ferry services between Portsmouth, UK and Le Havre, France. „
Take no notice of the website for this ferry it doesn't reflect reality.
When you arrive at St Nazaire don't drive to the barrier and show your booking details, you must park up and then you have to join the bun fight in a crowded office in order to get a boarding pass before proceeding to the ferry.
Cars were parked on the top (open deck) rather than in the covered decks which were mostly empty.
Consequently the cars are coated in salt by the time you reach Spain.
The first cabin we were allocated contained a floor polisher and some broken furniture, this had obviously been checked to make sure it met their exacting standards!!
Cabins are dingy and run down, mattresses are badly stained, its hard to tell what the original colour was! There was no plus in the sink and the shower curtain was just about hanging on a couple of clips.
The shop is a joke, it's about 12 square meters and contains practically nothing worth buying. "Charlie" perfume, do they still make that stuff?? I asked the attendant if she had a road map of Spain and after looking through some old bits and pieces on a rear shelf she produced a "dog-eared" crumpled map and asked me for 6 euros 70 cents. I declined her kind offer.
Considering its a 15 hour crossing there's no entertainment other than TV screens showing the news in Spanish.
We passed the long hours in the bar area watching pieces of broken wine glasses roll around the floor whilst listening to the barman having a heated argument with another member of staff.
We had to sit in the bar area because the lounge area was full of people eating. The reason being that the cafeteria area is too small to seat all the passengers that want to dine in the 2 hours that the cafeteria is open. If you want an evening meal get there early!!
We travel a lot on the cross channel ferries from France to UK and haven't had problems because they operate in a completely different league to this lot.
By now you will have realized that I was not a happy bunny, to the extent that both me and my wife decided we would drive all the way back from Spain rather than endure another 15 hours of the return crossing.
Believe me, driving to Spain is a lot quicker more relaxing, comfortable and cheaper than using this ferry.
I have used LD Lines numerous times now, always from Portsmouth to Le Havre. Previous to that, we sailed the same route with P&O, so the roads through the ports were familiar to me.
Firstly, having read other ferry reviews, I must emphasise that the port facilities and infrastructure are provided by the port authorities. I have yet to see any shops or cafes that match those found at airports, but it is wrong to lay the blame at the ferry companies!
So to the ferries.
LD Lines are the low cost ferry equivalent of Easyjet in terms of costs, and yet I have always been pleasantly surprised at the level of service.
Their (fairly) new online booking software is easy to use and adjust, to add or remove extra days, or alter the booking period forwards or backwards.
You can see the prices of the sailing either side of the one you select first, enabling you to decide right away if you can save money by changing sailings.
Unlike some of their rivals LD do not insist you book a cabin on night crossings. If you can sleep in a seat (or even on the floor) then you can save money. However, even if you don't wish to pay for a cabin, they have a number of airline style sleeper seats, which lie flat - available for a small surcharge.
My circumstances make the LD sailing times attractive... 23.00hrs departure from Portsmouth. I have to travel 300 miles to the port, so a night crossing gives me a real break after all that driving.
The bars and restaurant on board have always had a good range of food - and compared to landside outlets with a captive customer base, the prices are reasonable too.
Lately the LD fleet has been supplemented by an arrangement with Transmanche, and the journey has been on the "Cote D' Albatre". The same quality of service has continued, with the only exception being the slow service at the restaurant on our last journey in February 2011.
This was partly due to families only deciding what they wanted when they reached the serving point, and the steward having a particularly small ladle for the beans and other items!
On all the LD ferries I have sailed on, the duty free shop is smaller than some other ferry companies, with less of a range. Also the prices are not much cheaper than in some French supermarkets. However, AS LONG AS IT IS FOR YOUR OWN CONSUMPTION (or your immediate family) you are free to purchase as much wine, spirits and tobacco either in France, or on the ferry, so the more you buy the more you save - but the Portsmouth to Le Havre route is not the cheapest to use as a booze cruise.
If you are uncertain which route to take, you might like to consider that the Le Havre crossing takes you further west and south, lessening the distance to drive from Calais if you are heading in those directions.
There are also less tolls to pay across Normandy than on the route past Paris from Calais, and no tolls at all as you pass through Brittany until you get south of Nantes.
This makes the slightly higher cost of the Le Havre crossing better value in terms of toll money saved, fuel, and driving time.
We decided to go for a weekend break with our children, 5 and 11, in the Boulogne area and found LD lines on the Dover Boulogne route. It was good value and the journey time looked reasonable. We booked the 7.15 pm sailing going out and the 5.15 coming back. On the trip out the boat was more than an hour late sailing. Unloading the ferry took a very long time and it was midnight by the time we were on our way to our hotel. With very tired children. On the way back the loading process again took a very long time; and the ferry was again more than an hour late in departing. In Dover the unloading seemed much quicker and more efficient than in boulogne. On the boats we travelled on there was a bar, a restaurant and a panoramic video lounge - the bar and video lounge were hot, stuffy and crowded. Going out we talked to some people who had travelled with LD lines before on this route who said the boat had been delayed when they sailed. Other people said it was cheap and cheerful. We would not travel on this line again as it was not a particularly pleasant experience and the delays and slow loading and unloading in Boulogne made the crossing much longer than advertised.
Having had a recent trip to watch Le Mans 24 Hours race in Le Mans, we required a ferry to travel across the vastness of the English Channel.
Having looked at all the normal ferry companies and foudn them to be rather expensive, we came across LD Lines.
We noticed they do a Dover to Boulogne route, which cuts the driving time on the other down by roughly an hour. We also noticed that it was brand new route for this company, including it using a brand new ferry.
At the moment, as it is a new route, they are offering a special price, being £30 each way for a car with 4 occupants. This is alot cheaper than the normal companies who take you to Calais.
It is that new a route, that on arrival at Dover port, all the normal companies have rather large signs directing you to the check in points for them, where as LD Lines has a rather small sign posted just out the way as an after thought. However, it was still adequate enough for us to locate where to go. For the person that misses the sign, it is the very first 2 check in booths as you enter the long line of booths.
Check in was extremly swift and the member of staff was very polite. We were allocated a lane to go and queue in, which was the worst part of the whole experience. The lane we got given was already full, causing us to queue in the main traffic lane, well it would have done had I not moved behind the lane next door, where it was not so full. Several cars behind me had the same problem, but it was quickly resolved by a member of staff by the lanes.
Boarding was meant to happen at 7:15am for a 7:40 departure. I have never got a ferry and boarded when they say and it was no surprise when this didn't happen, but it was only around 5 minutes late. On boarding, you could tell how new the ferry was, as everything was still shiny and bright. We later found out, the ferry was 3 days old when we used it.
The parking is over 2 levels, lower level for lorries and taller vehicles, etc, upstairs only fitted cars. It is quite a squeeze and they certainly pack you in, but they were very organised about it all. A short flight of stairs later and you were on the one and only deck the ferry has for passengers to use while in motion.
The front part of the deck has a small bar/coffee style shop and seating areas consisting of airplane style seating and armchairs around a round table. None of the seats move as they are bolted o the floor, as is the table. This is good for rough seas, but bad when there is a considerable gap between the chair and table.
The middle bit has more airplane seating, a further coffee style shop and small shop which currently sells very little as they were still waiting for licensing to come through for duty free goods. The back is more airplane seating.
That is it, nothing more and nothing less. Oh yeah, they also have several male and female toilets dotted around at convienient places. We foudn out on the return trip that the front part of the boat is going to be an exclusive members only part, but having seen it, it's nothing special and does not warrant paying more than the rest of the deck.
The crossing took one hour, which is 30 minutes less than Dover to Calais for a greter distance. Good going. Docking was doe very swift and disembarking was also very swift.
The return journey was not so great. Boarding was done on time this time, even slightly earlier and the everyone was on the ferry well on time for departure time. However, for unknown reasons, (I suspect the fact they were having a party in the front bit of the boat to celebrate the launch of the new route had something to do with it) the ferry departed 20 minutes and travelled across at a slower speed than before. This resulted in us arriving back in the UK at 6pm local time, instead of the 5pm time it should have been. I was not amused and having driven for 5 hours before hand to get there on time, I was disappointed by this.
I would use them again as they are cheap and it does cut off driving time the other side, but I hope the return journey was a one off thing for the route.
Having decided in June to make a brief trip to France by ferry from Portsmouth in late August, my choice was between Brittany Ferries and LD Lines. All I knew to begin with was that Brittany Ferries was likely to be the more expensive of the two. I visited their website first and found that there was a choice of destinations: Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo. I certainly liked the idea of St Malo. I started looking at timetables for the last week of August, but whenever I asked to proceed to the stage of having a ticket price quoted, I was told that there was no availability and I should try a different alternative. This happened several times before I gave up and went to the LD Lines website.
Here I found that the only destination was Le Havre, and that there was just one crossing per day in each direction: a night crossing leaving Portsmouth at 11pm, arriving in Le Havre at 8 o'clock the following morning, and a return journey leaving Le Havre at 5pm and arriving back in Portsmouth at 9.30pm. This actually suited me better than any of Brittany Ferries' timetables, as it meant being away for just twenty-four hours but having the whole day in France without needing to book a hotel for a night.
This time I found it extremely easy to get a quote for two foot passengers on 26th August, returning the following day. There were no longer any two-berth cabins available, but I thought we could put up with a night on sleeper seats as we were not going for long and neither of us had to drive on arrival. So I made the booking and paid by credit card, the total cost being £102.42 for the two of us. I very soon received a booking confirmation by email giving details of the journeys and reference numbers which I printed out to take on the day of the trip. There was a note that the fare is not refundable once booked, and another giving telephone numbers to use if you need to make amendments, updates or changes, for which there is a minimum charge of £10. An email address is given for those who require assistance with car hire, or booking flights or hotels.
A couple of weeks before the journey, an adult student of mine made these same crossings with LD Lines, although with more than a twenty-four hour gap between the two. She warned me that it hadn't been very easy to sleep on the outward journey as some passengers seem think it their right to talk through the night; her advice was to go well prepared with ear plugs and eye masks, the latter since some lights are left on. I did get the earplugs, but we decided we'd manage without masks. (I did begin to wonder at this point whether a day trip to Lille by Eurostar would have made more sense, but it will be a good excuse to try that next time.) She also warned me for the return crossing to sit near the back of the lounge, as there is a children's play area at the front. (I work with very young children, so I think I'm entitled to a break from them when I'm on holiday!) She did say that the restaurant offers very good meals such as leg of lamb, roast chicken, or chicken curry. We were intending to have lunch whilst in France, but at least I knew that if we just had a light lunch we could have a decent meal on the way back.
Tuesday 26th August finally arrived; it was to be my first trip on a ferry for thirty years or more, and my first visit to France since the summer of 2000. An exciting time, even if it was just a day trip. We took a taxi from Southsea to Portsmouth's Continental Ferry Port, which I had never departed from before. The passenger terminal was easy to find, but on entering it I was surprised that there did not seem to be any sort of check-in desk. Admittedly I hadn't travelled by ferry for many moons, but I'm a seasoned air traveller and am not usually at a loss as to where to go and what to do. We had been advised to arrive ninety minutes before the scheduled departure time and it was bang on 9.30pm, so we just sat ourselves down and waited. Nothing happened for quite a while, although the arrivals board indicated that the incoming ferry had arrived on time and we saw foot passengers traipsing through the terminal about fifteen minutes later. It wasn't until about 10.15pm that an announcement requested passengers for Le Havre to proceed to a particular door. All we had until then was the print-out of the confirming email that I had received at the time of booking, but I could see that the other passengers had something that looked like a boarding pass. We were asked to stand to one side and had to wait until all the other passengers had passed through; only then were our names checked on the list and our boarding passes issued. We then had to have our hand luggage checked and walk through a metal detector, just as one does at an airport.
A bus was waiting outside to take all foot passengers onto the ferry. As we had been at the end of the queue, we were last on and had to stand. There was just about room for everyone on the bus. It seemed to take an eternity for the bus to actually board the ferry, and we watched huge lorries bound for France and Spain rolling on at a different level. Eventually the bus drove onto the ferry and we were at least amongst the first passengers to be able to get off. There was then a choice of lift or stairs to the upper levels, and we decided we could manage a few stairs. We stopped when we reached a deck where there were obviously cafes, bars, a lounge and a shop, and we had a look around before finding reclining seats in the Horizon Lounge. Although there was a bar serving drinks and snacks at one end, it was extremely quiet, with just a small number of passengers getting out sleeping bags on the floor. An announcement was made that the ferry would not set sail until midnight because of a problem with a ramp, but that since plenty of time was allowed for the night crossing we would not be late arriving at Le Havre.
I realised that our seats would indeed recline, but there did not seem to be a proper footrest or any kind of partition, both of which I had seen on the website at the time of booking. I wasn't convinced we were in the right area, so I left my son with our bags and went off to investigate. I found a plan of the various decks and then realised that the sleeper seats were in fact on the level above us, along with the cabins. So up we went and found a much smaller, quieter area with sleeper seats arranged in twos, a half partition, and a footrest that lifted up to meet the seat and thus more or less form a horizontal bed that is 2.10 metres long. There was plenty of room to store hand luggage under the footrest or under the head area, but I decided for safety to keep my handbag next to me, inside my sleeping bag. When we entered this area we had our booking checked at a reception desk: there is of course an additional charge for a sleeper seat, but the following morning I realised that four passengers were being reprimanded for having apparently crept in unnoticed, without reservations. All they got was a verbal warning however, no penalty fare!
Toilets were situated just a few yards away from our seats (close enough to hear them being flushed!) and there was a refreshment area right alongside us. We soon settled down in our sleeping bags. My son was sensible enough to accept the offer of a blanket and I wished I had as well, as it served a useful purpose as a pillow. We both slept for around four and a half to five hours, more than I had dared to hope. I was aware every so often of someone getting a hot drink from the refreshment bar, and I think this was probably the staff. One dear lady burst into peals of laughter at around 4am, but otherwise the passengers were fairly subdued. There was a small amount of light, enough to enable you to find your way to the toilet should you need to, but not too much to hamper sleep. We didn't feel the need for either ear plugs or eye masks as it turned out.
I awoke at around 6.30am, and by 7am a number of passengers were queueing up for hot drinks and croissants at the refreshment bar. We decided to make do with our bottles of water for the time being, as we wanted to savour the delights of breakfast once we got to France. Soon we were able to see the Normandy coastline and the town of Le Havre itself. Announcements were made for drivers of lorries on a particular deck and then drivers of vehicles on another deck to make their way down. Foot passengers were the last to be called. We were asked to wait in the Horizon Lounge where we had initially sat on the previous evening. We did indeed dock in Le Havre on time, at 8am, and after a few minutes we were requested to go down to board a bus. Again, a lift is available but we chose the stairs. The astounding thing about the bus was that it travelled backwards for a considerable distance - a female driver, I might add. Nevertheless we arrived safely on French soil.
Our return crossing was due to leave Le Havre at 5pm and we were again requested to arrive at the terminal ninety minutes earlier, but as we had sat doing nothing for forty-five minutes at the Portsmouth terminal the previous evening we thought it ought not to present a problem if we were back at the terminal by about 4pm. Presumably it would be more important for vehicles to be there well in advance of departure. We decided not to spend the day in Le Havre but to take a look at picturesque Honfleur, and buses back were at either 1pm or 3pm. It seemed worth living a little dangerously, so we went for the later bus. It was due back in Le Havre at 3.30pm and there was then a walk from the bus station to the ferry terminal that would take about twenty-five minutes. The bus, however, was a good fifteen minutes late. I thought we might find a taxi at the nearby railway station in Le Havre, but no such luck. We had to leg it, and we arrived at the ferry terminal at around 4.20pm. The place was deserted apart from the staff, who informed us that the ferry was due to leave half an hour early that afternoon because of the problem of the ramp in Portsmouth! We were shunted off through passport control and onto the bus, which was already full. We may have been the last of the foot passengers to arrive, but cars were still rolling on. I couldn't understand how they could bring the departure time forward if lorries and probably passengers were driving up from the south of France or even Spain. The adult student I mentioned earlier made the journey again in September and told me that she and her partner arrived back at the terminal at 4.30pm by car, and no-one batted an eyelid. I believe their car was the very last one on, however.
For the return crossing the Horizon Lounge was our designated seating area, and it was much busier than it had been the night before. We did try to sit fairly well back, away from the children's play area, but the screaming could still be heard. After a while my son decided to try out the showers, for which towels are available on board. He gave them the thumbs up, but I decided to wait until I got home. Young children nearby began to get more and more fractious, probably in need of sleep. We felt in need of a change of environment and decided to have a look at the restaurant and cafe. Having had a wonderful lunch at La Tortue in Honfleur, we didn't want to try out the Italian meals that the restaurant was offering, opting just for crisps, cheese and crackers, and bananas. The restaurant wasn't much less noisy than the lounge, so we went off for drinks in the cafe. This was so popular that all the tables were taken and we had to sit on high stools at the bar. I wished that I had spent an extra £12 each for seats in the Club Class Lounge - I would definitely do so if there is a next time. In desperation we went out on deck and took ridiculous photos of each other with our hair blowing wildly in the wind. Then it was back to the restaurant, now closed, where a family with a newborn baby and several other children soon settled themselves nearby.
It wasn't long before we were skirting the eastern side of the Isle of Wight and could see the lights of Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower. Once again we arrived on schedule, and as before foot passengers were requested to wait until the drivers had proceeded to their vehicles before being instructed to go down to the bus. As we walked back through the terminal I looked again for a check-in desk but saw none, so that procedure remains a mystery. Finding a taxi proved a simple matter for which we were thankful, being somewhat weary by then.
On arriving home I decided to check my emails whilst my poor lonely cat had a snooze on my lap. I was understandably surprised to find a message from LD Lines that had been sent about 9.30 that morning and was marked 'Urgent'. It informed me that the 5pm crossing from Le Havre to Portsmouth that we were booked on would be leaving at 4.30pm because of the faulty ramp in Portsmouth which would cause delay on arrival. If we had missed that particular ferry, LD Lines would have put us on a 7.30pm crossing to Newhaven at no extra cost. I don't know at what unearthly hour that would have arrived in Newhaven, but how we, as foot passengers, would have made out way back to Portsmouth late at night I have absolutely no idea.
LD Lines is basically a no-frills ferry company, but I would prefer to pay less for a channel crossing and have more to spend whilst abroad. I felt that the sleeper seats were perfectly adequate for the night crossing, although I am sure that a family with very young children would need a cabin. In this case it would be necessary to book well in advance, especially if you are travelling in the height of the season. For the return journey, I mentioned that there is a play area for children in the Horizon Lounge, but personally I would in future pay that little extra to travel in the Club Class Lounge.
As well as the Portsmouth-Le Havre crossing, there are crossings from Newhaven to Dieppe or Le Havre, Rosslare to Le Havre and Dover to Boulogne. I believe the Portsmouth-Le Havre crossing is the only overnight one with sleeper seats, as the Norman Spirit is the only ferry equipped with these seats. LD Lines also operates from Toulon in the south of France to Civitavecchia in Italy.
I would recommend LD Lines if you are looking for an inexpensive way to cross the English Channel, and if you are not concerned about having on-board entertainment to pass the time. Pay a little less and take a book to read!
Expecting to post same review on Ciao under my username denella.