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Overnight ferry to France - what to expect?

(20 Posts)
elliott Sun 21-Aug-11 22:44:52

we are sailing portsmouth- St Malo overnight with Brittany ferried for the first time - can anyone tell me about it? What are the cabins like- do you get bed linen etc? What sort of food is available - will we have time for breakfast before we dock? Any other survival tips?

MrsCog Sun 21-Aug-11 22:50:23

I have done a different overnight crossing with Brittany Ferries and I have to say I was very impressed. Yes bedding is included and the cabins are spotlessly clean. Depending on the time of arrival you might have time for breakfast but on my crossing it landed at 6.30am so it would have been rushed and also we weren't really very hungry at that time! I'd say drive for an hour or so then stop for a delish croissant!

MrsCog Sun 21-Aug-11 22:52:03

Another tip - drive to Portsmouth, leave yourself plenty of time and get some dinner at Gunwharf Quays (cafe rouge/ pizza express type places) before you get on the boat.

elliott Mon 22-Aug-11 08:24:55

Thanks for the tips- we have a massive drive to get to prtsmouth so slightly anxious that we don't have any holdups!

elliott Mon 22-Aug-11 08:26:36

We are with two boys aged 9 and 7 so guess we will all just bed down together. Will we get any sleep at all I wonder....

Pagwatch Mon 22-Aug-11 08:34:48

It's fine.
We did the ferry to Spain this summer.
The dc loved it.
We went for the really expensive cabins which were like a decent hotel room and had fruit and complimentary mini bar and tv. I peeked in the other cabins and they all look like a decent standard.
The only bit I didn't like was the programme of activities taking up the whole bar every day. Great if you like quizzes and bingo but part of the crossing was a bit chilly and it was hard to escape the tbs and shouting pa system.

But otherwise lovely. We will do it again next year I think

Pagwatch Mon 22-Aug-11 08:38:44

Oh and we saw dolphins.

The food is ok but some people do pack a bag of food to have with them so they do not have to rely on what the cafes/shops/bars sell.
I was well impressed with some of them -it was like a military operation as they got out of cars with bags of food and cooler boxes full of drinks and found a spot to camp out for the crossing. Bloody organised.
I would be crap at that and leave it in the car grin

BecauseImWorthIt Mon 22-Aug-11 08:41:52

You will be fine and you will have a good and easy time!

When you get on the boat, go and find your cabin. It can be quite a melee at times, so it really does pay to get to Portsmouth early if you can. Otherwise, just let everyone else rush around for 15 minutes or so, and then find your cabin. All the beds will already be made for you. If you have booked a 4 berth cabin you may find that the two top bunks are folded up to the wall, so that you can use the cabin as a sitting room - but they are easily pulled down from the wall.

There is a little shower/toilet room ensuite, which is tiny, but there are small towels and soap.

You will probably find that in the morning you don't want breakfast as it will be pretty early when you dock. What we usually do is get off the ferry and then go and find somewhere in St Malo for breakfast. Parking in St Malo isn't that bad, as long as you don't try and go into the city walls.

On board the ship there are (usually) two restaurants - one is more like a self-service canteen, and the other is a proper restaurant with waiter service. The food in both isn't bad - up to you if you feel your DC are up to a proper restaurant! The canteen/self-service usually does some kind of happy meal thing for children - if yours are still into things like that!

I am very envious of you. I always looked forward to the overnight crossing - felt like the real start of our holiday.

BecauseImWorthIt Mon 22-Aug-11 08:42:56

When I say it can be quite a melee, I meant on the boat - people are rushing to find their cabins, and those who haven't got a cabin are rushing around trying to find good seats.

elliott Mon 22-Aug-11 09:02:50

Thanks for the advice- never attempted to drive to France before so I hope the boys don't kill themselves from boredom! It is 6 hours drive to Portsmouth (according to aa routefinder....) heading for Carnac so not too bad once we get to France!

Pagwatch Mon 22-Aug-11 09:07:23

We had 36 hours on the ferry and then an 8 hour drive through Spain.

Dd who is 8 was fine.
She slept a bit. Listened to Harry potter audiobook and some music on my iPad, watched a film, did some colouring and made up some very complicated game up with dr who cards.
Stopping to get a break and a drink helped too

She liked the kids activities on the ferry too.

elliott Mon 22-Aug-11 09:16:23

Pag, one child can't start a fight! Our boys can be a bit of a nightmare in the back together. We will just have to pile up a large amount of packing between them...

Poledra Mon 22-Aug-11 09:27:13

We do the Portsmouth-Caen crossing regularly (my DSis lives in France) and the kids love it. For the night crossing, we get on, dump the stuff in the cabin then take the DCs up to watch the boat go out of the harbour. Then, off to bed. We usually don't bother with breakfast as the boat gets in at 6:30am so we're not hungry but drive for a bit then stop for breakfast.

DCs do sleep on the boat, as does DH. I don't always, and this year, there was something banging outside our cabin so that was no good (DH named the boat the SS Clinky-Clanky) but it wasn't helped by the fact I (stupidly!) had a massive white wine hangover that day so wasn't feeling at my best. Remember to turn off your car alarm when you leave the car - you will not be popular if your alarm is going off all through the night.

When we do the day crossing, I take a bag of toys with me (and some food - smug) and the DCs quite often just spend some time in the cabin playing/reading/looking out the window spotting other boats. There is a small cinema (apologies to the man sitting next to us this year, as DD2 was seasick.....), a playarea and usually some planned entertainment.

You'll be fine, and the DCs will love it!

Pagwatch Mon 22-Aug-11 09:31:18


I only mentioned dd as she is the same age as your dc.
We also travelled with ds2 who is 14 and has asd. They are perfectly capeable of fighting. Ds1 can become distressed just if dd uses certain common place words so the potential is huge.
But I institute The Pag Rules. Any fighting is dealt with quickly. And with the wrath of god. Zero tolerance.

WomanwiththeYellowHat Mon 22-Aug-11 09:36:23

We also take this sailing and I echo the point about breakfast - it does make things quite a rush in the morning so we usually take packet croissants grin or similar to eat in the car as we set off.

We let the girls stay up late dssdo they are tired when we get into the beds and they and DH have always slept - I don't but I am hopeless at sleeping in transit anywhere. The day crossing back is the one we find much more trying....!

We did it a couple of years ago and it was fine (DCs were 4, 7 and 10 at the time) The only person who had any issues was me as I'm a terrible sleeper at the best of times and the A/C in the cabins irritated my asthma and disturbed me. It wouldn't stop me travelling that way again though.

Our return trip was during the day and that was fine too, plenty of things for the DC to do - DH even took them to see a film at the little cinema while I caught up with some sleep (I'd driven through the night to get there for the morning ferry)

elliott Mon 22-Aug-11 12:32:14

I have no idea how to switch off the car alarm shock!
Pag, how do you stop them fighting? We are Very Fierce about it but it doesn't seem to stop them until we have had Yet Another Blow Up at them about it. Very tiresome...
I am fully expecting to have no sleep but since DH will be driving I will be able to catch up in the car the next day grin

Pagwatch Mon 22-Aug-11 17:52:55

Oh, I don't know Elliot. I think there are siblings that you could threaten with Satan and all his evil deeds and they would still fight.
I think it depends on your child.

But I won't tolerate it for mine and I am prepared to be really deeply evil in terms of punishment if they fight. So I will literally take away beloved electronic items such as dss or x-boxes or cancel cinema trips or friends visits. I am prepared to take away something that will really upset them

They know I mean it so they don't go there.
They are allowed to disagree. But fighting - shouting, name calling, hitting. No .

We all have our non negotiable I guess. This is just mine.

pointydog Mon 22-Aug-11 18:02:04

We've done that trip a couple of times. The cabin is tiny so just go along when you are all ready to sleep.

Dd2 got a little bit alarmed and claustrophobic. A bit like me, imagining hitting rocks and having to scramble out of that hell hole grin.

I love Brittany ferries food. Those french guys know how to put on a spread. Fantastic. Some cider, sitting out on deck, in the sunshine. Ahh.

pointydog Mon 22-Aug-11 18:03:15

Oh yes, dd2 has asthma and did claim she coulnd't breathe very well. Mind you, I felt I couldn't breathe either. Felt like I was in a hole at the bottom of the sea.

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