Our journey wasn't really intended to be a cruise. We'd viewed getting the ferry to and from France for our holiday as just part of the journey - but actually it was a bigger part of the holiday adventure.
The St Malo to Portsmouth ferry takes nearly nine hours and when we found this out, I was rather apprehensive. We were travelling home at the end of a lovely holiday - but we were tired and I was ready for home. I need not have worried - the journey was like being on a cruise at the end of our holiday. The kids loved it and it really was another adventure which we all enjoyed.
Boarding at St Malo was quick and easy and once were were on board we were surprised at how large the boat was. We had a cabin for the duration of the daytime crossing and this really did make the journey very comfortable. We watched the sea go by from our little window and it was a really lovely place to unwind and have a bit of privacy. Two of us had lengthy naps (the driver and the littlest), and it was nice having an en-suite with shower facilities.
There is a cinema on board which we bought a £6.50 adult ticket and two £5.00 tickets for. It was a good way to use up some time and the kids had been desperate to see Boss Baby. There were a range of films on through the crossing for both adults and kids. We did the movie first, and then explored. A lovely cafe made us feel like we were still in France - we breakfasted on croissants and coffee, and the lunch we had at the self-service restaurant made us feel like were were back home - we had fish and chips and pasta between us! All the food on board was very good, and there were plenty of options for my picky children. If my husband and I had been alone it would have been nice to try the restaurant - it looked like a lovely place to eat - but we'll have to do that another time.
The very large bar featured a stage where the kids watched a brilliant entertainer for an hour, and they also enjoyed a mini disco there too. It was hard to believe we were on a boat! There as even a small soft play and another tv screen showing kids' films next to the cafe. The day of our crossing was beautiful, and so we spent an hour playing on the amazingly large sundeck - this was probably our highlight.
Nine hours is a long time, but we saw the day as an adventure. We fitted a lot in and everyone slept well at the end of it - it really did feel like we extended our holiday by another day by doing this journey. The boat was comfortable and clean, and I’d highly recommend it.
We'd travelled to France on the Portsmouth to Cherbourg Normandie Express which was a brilliant way for our family to start our half-term break in France. We were travelling to the Vendee region of west central France, on the Altantic Coast - and the driving time from Cherbourg to our destination was a manageable four hours.
We took our three-year-old and five-year-old with us and they were incredibly excited by the prospect of driving onto the ferry. When the day finally came, they weren’t disappointed. Everything at Portsmouth was quick and easy, we boarded promptly, parked the car, took out our essentials, and headed upstairs.
Our express ferry ride took little over three hours and perfect sailing conditions. Our ferry wasn’t large - but everything we needed was on board. We sat down by a window and got some snacks - meals at the cafe and bars on board are basic but there are plenty of pasta and sandwich options as well as drinks and sweet treats. If you’ve got picky eaters, do take snacks for them as these aren’t full restaurants with lots of options.
The kids watched Trolls during the crossing so they were delighted. There’s no cinema on board this boat, but a big TV screen in one area meant all the kids could sit in front of it while the grown-ups sat close by with an eye on the action.
The viewing decks were small, but all we needed and the children loved being outside and watching the waves. Overall, the ferry was a wonderful adventure. The boat was clean and compact, and perfect for such a speedy crossing. In France, we were off the boat and on our way in no time, for the rest of the holiday to begin.