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I don’t tend to use ferries as a form of transportation much unless it’s the only way to get somewhere like, for example, visiting Gothenburg’s archipelago or going from Montevideo in Uruguay to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
But am I right in this decision? Should you travel by ferry next time you head over to France or Spain? My most recent trip to St Malo in Brittany with Brittany Ferries makes me think the answer should be “yes”.
Ferries aren’t much slower than flying
I suppose I always assume flights are quicker and while yes, flying to France would be quicker, by the time you’ve factored in two hours of sitting around after airport security, queues at border control and the train from the airport to where ever you really want to be, there’s not that much difference.
Plus, taking a ferry is a completely different experience to being sat in a tiny airplane seat. You can get up, walk around, go shopping, eat at one of several restaurants on board, drink cocktails while listening in to the pianist, watch new films showing in the onboard cinemas, catch some live entertainment, stroll about on deck, and, on the bigger ferries in Brittany Ferries’ fleet, even go for a swim!
Then there’s the cabins with beds and ensuite bathrooms: two much appreciated amenities you wouldn’t get even if you could fork out for a first class ticket.
Basically, getting a ferry is a much more relaxed way to travel across to the continent.
There’s plenty to do onboard Brittany Ferries
We boarded the overnight ferry from Portsmouth (just 1 ½ hours outside of London by train) which departed at 8.15pm.
After checking into our cabin which could sleep up to 4 people and came with a TV (both French and English channels) and tea and coffee making facilities as well as ensuite, we headed up on deck to watch our ferry pull out of Portsmouth, waving goodbye to people up the Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays.
The ferries, Pont-Aven and Bretagne which travel from Portsmouth to St Malo are slightly smaller than some of the other boats making up Brittany Ferries’ fleet, but by no means would you instantly be able to tell this.
There are 8 decks, 2 cinema screens, bars, and a la carte restaurant and a self service restaurants, 2 and 4 berth cabins including the very fancy commodore cabins which are the most which sleep 3 with a tv, tea and coffee making facilities, soft drinks and a welcome basket of macarons and fruit; a games room, play area for kids and probably more that I’ve missed out!
In short, the ferry is big enough so that even on a Friday night (one of the busier times) it never once felt busy and, unlike other boats I’ve taken,there was no shortage of places to sit.
The food is impressive
If you’re used to taking the ferry across the Channel from Dover to Calais you’ll know that the food on board isn’t great. It tends to be a bit like school dinners before Jamie Oliver got involved and, whilst I can vouch for the power of the full English breakfast on a hangover, it’s not great quality.
The food at the a La Carte restaurant on board Brittany Ferries is on a whole different level. There’s several menus and you can choose to eat from including a delicious buffet.
For dinner on Friday evening we opted for the a la carte menu feasting on four delicious courses: prawns in a Thai green sauce, vegetable ravioli, a very strong but tasty baked cheese, and a fantastically light mille feuille for dessert.
Breakfast was a typical continental breakfast: pastries, hams, cheese, cereals and bread and lunch was similar to dinner only with different buffet options which made the most of the great seafood available in Brittany.
It’s fair to say that foodies will not be disappointed by the food available on board Brittany ferries. The menus are reasonably priced too and you’ll pay about 30 euros for a four course dinner.
Calm crossings and plenty of destinations
Our crossing was a calm one both ways and you’d only feel the boat swaying from time to time. If you suffer from travel sickness badly then you might want to take a seasickness pill beforehand but in most cases you’d be completely fine. I only felt the boat sway a couple of times over night and otherwise had a very good sleep on board.
For those of you scared of flying then taking the ferry could be a great option for you. There’s no claustrophobia and it’s a pretty save way to travel too.
Brittany Ferries also travel to Cherbourg, Le Havre, Caen, Roscoff, Santander and Bilbao. So, next time you’re planning a trip to France or northern Spain, why not consider taking a ferry its add to the whole adventure!