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Holidays

Ferry: overnight to Santander

24 replies

PastelGiraffe · 08/10/2021 17:44

Hi there

We are looking at booking a ferry for next summer as we will be spending a longish holiday in the north of Spain so it’s cheaper to take our own car rather than fly and hire.

We’ve never done this type of trip before with kids and wondered if anyone can advise the best type of cabin to book and how we can make the trip more comfortable? Me and my OH are both prone to sea sickness, and hoping we can find some miracle tablets which will help ward this off for the longer journey.

I see you can book a cabin with or without a window - if the window doesn’t open, is there any benefit in having it?

The kids are 9 and 8. We are looking at a 4 berth cabin - I’m assuming once we pay for the cabin that includes beds for the four of us?

Any other advice would be appreciated- we’ve got a long drive down to Plymouth too!

Thanks!

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Campervan69 · 08/10/2021 17:54

I remember hellish journeys as a kid. My parents both teachers and we would take the car and travel lesser known Spain for the 6 week summer holidays. My mum and I would spend the majority of the 24 hour crossing vomiting which was a terrible beginning and end to each trip. The bay of biscay is often very rough even in summer. I remember one year coming home they couldn't dock as it was so rough and we had to spend an additional 24 hours trying to dock then giving up. Everyone was vomiting everywhere. It was awful.

Having said all that, perhaps sea sickness pills would do the trick. I vowed never to do anything other than fly however after my experiences as a child.

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PastelGiraffe · 08/10/2021 18:09

Thanks - you’ve very efficiently summed up all of my fears in a single post 😂. My husband has done this trip himself before and had a rough time but not sure how it would go as a family. Car hire in northern Spain is ridiculous though, so we’d be talking about upwards of £700-800 for a month. As such, it is worth considering I guess. (I don’t relish the prospect much myself mind you)

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CatsOperatingInGangs · 08/10/2021 18:12

We did this trip before the kids came along and I’ll be frank, I swore never to do it again.
If you’re not great on boats, I don’t think you’ll enjoy it but if you know you just have to grit your teeth and get in with it, it’s fine. Get a cabin with a window if possible. We had a cheap inside cabin and it was like being in prison.

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IsThisNameTaken · 08/10/2021 18:17

I did this trip many years ago with parents and DSis - Mum spent the whole 24hours vomiting and the rest of us were ok on the way out. I think we were all ok on the way back. Even then there was loads to do on the boat and I imagine even more nowadays.

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wizzler · 08/10/2021 18:21

I am not great on boats but have done that trip a few times. The cabins are really small but there is a lot of space elsewhere on the boat .
My top tip is to check the availability of commodore class cabins.. they are very expensive but you have loads of room , a fridge, tv etc... more like a hotel room.

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bluejelly · 08/10/2021 18:31

Another way to do it would be to take the train through France, and have a non-driving holiday...

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traumatisednoodle · 08/10/2021 18:34

We did this with DCs aged 4 & 7, I was similarly concerned and asked a pharmacist for advice. She adviced Kwells, it was a bit rough on the way back and we were all fine with the pills. As she said to me they are very effective these days.

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trilbydoll · 08/10/2021 18:36

My parents did it and my Mum suffers from seasickness. Dad paid for the most expensive cabin and I think it had an opening window or some way of getting fresh air in? Mum took tablets. She survived but said she wouldn't do it again Grin how about going to Northern France like Cherbourg and driving down? Not sure how far or how realistic that is, my geography isn't brilliant!

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Keladrythesaviour · 08/10/2021 18:53

If you can afford a six berth, get a six berth! We always go for bigger than we need as they are tiny!
I'd also recommend a window. The windowless one are closer to the engine and I generally find it's actually the vibration (and smell) of the engine that sets off my sea sickness. You can't open the window but seeing daylight and being able to keep an eye on the horizon can help. Plus it gives the kids something to look at whilst you're puking

I also recommend taking packed sandwiches, though I don't know what regulations allow now we aren't in the EU. I found places didn't really sell food to take away, just to eat in the canteen. I was sort of hungry and wanted food to settle my stomach, but couldn't bear the thought of eating in public incase I needed to run to the bathroom!

Generally I think kids have it much easier. I had those wrist bands as a kid which generally helped. Definitely take seas sickness tablets, but be aware they can make you drowsy so might be worth having a trial run to see how much they knock you out.
Could you get a ferry to somewhere in Bordeaux and drive over the pyrannees? This tended to be our route as children so as to miss the dreaded Bay of Biscay... (Plus the pyrannees and Basque country is gorgeous).

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PastelGiraffe · 08/10/2021 18:54

Thanks everyone - that’s all really helpful. We still need a car when we arrive so train isn’t really an option as we would just fly otherwise.

Will have to look into prices of the fancier cabins to see how they compare.

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SiobhanSharpe · 08/10/2021 19:24

We do this trip a lot and like it very much, the holiday starts when you get on the boat, IMO. There's lots for kids to do like a games room, cinema, even a small pool. Free wifi in the public areas.
Brittany Ferries is a French company and we've always found th food to be really good.
All this comes at a price, it's not cheap but you can defray costs by buying sandwiches etc from the little takeway food shop on the and as well-as a posher restaurant there's a cafeteria style one on the Pont Aven. Or you can bring food with you. On the Cap Finisterre there's just a restaurant and sandwich shop.
I'd go for the best cabin you can, definitely outside, the inside ones are a bit claustrophobic for me. You can also get a 'club' cabin which has a tv. The cabins are not large for four people but you could try to get two two-berth ones next to each other, if finances permit.
The big issue of course is the weather. We have been really lucky with our sailings and it has been incredibly calm on many occasions however we have also had a couple of fairly rough trips. . When it's like that the best advice i have is to stay in your cabin, and lie down as much as possible, it really helps.
But when the weather is good, it's fabulous, we have spotted whales and dolphins and well as kittiwakes and petrels. The views leaving Portsmouth and coming unto Santander are lovely.
We love northern Spain, it's so different from the south and the Costas. We're going on the new boat, the Galicia, in the New Year. Cant wait!

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Campervan69 · 08/10/2021 19:30

Also be aware that the weather in Northern Spain is very different to the rest of Spain. Much more like the UK. You might get nice weather but you may well not. Its still a lovely place but be prepared.

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Isit2021yetplease · 08/10/2021 19:33

We did this with a 2 year old and a 6 month old and still can’t talk about it as it was so traumatic Grin
In all seriousness it is doable as a one off but others have said go for the best cabin you possibly can, preferably take some of your own food. It was great weather when we were there but still felt sick. With older kids you should be fine. Neither of ours slept with the rocking motion and we came out a shell of our former selves!!!

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PastelGiraffe · 08/10/2021 19:46

@SiobhanSharpe

We do this trip a lot and like it very much, the holiday starts when you get on the boat, IMO. There's lots for kids to do like a games room, cinema, even a small pool. Free wifi in the public areas.
Brittany Ferries is a French company and we've always found th food to be really good.
All this comes at a price, it's not cheap but you can defray costs by buying sandwiches etc from the little takeway food shop on the and as well-as a posher restaurant there's a cafeteria style one on the Pont Aven. Or you can bring food with you. On the Cap Finisterre there's just a restaurant and sandwich shop.
I'd go for the best cabin you can, definitely outside, the inside ones are a bit claustrophobic for me. You can also get a 'club' cabin which has a tv. The cabins are not large for four people but you could try to get two two-berth ones next to each other, if finances permit.
The big issue of course is the weather. We have been really lucky with our sailings and it has been incredibly calm on many occasions however we have also had a couple of fairly rough trips. . When it's like that the best advice i have is to stay in your cabin, and lie down as much as possible, it really helps.
But when the weather is good, it's fabulous, we have spotted whales and dolphins and well as kittiwakes and petrels. The views leaving Portsmouth and coming unto Santander are lovely.
We love northern Spain, it's so different from the south and the Costas. We're going on the new boat, the Galicia, in the New Year. Cant wait!

Thank you - this gives me some hope! I’ve got a lot to research now so will go explore the options. Thanks!
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PastelGiraffe · 08/10/2021 19:48

@Campervan69

Also be aware that the weather in Northern Spain is very different to the rest of Spain. Much more like the UK. You might get nice weather but you may well not. Its still a lovely place but be prepared.

Thank you - my husband is from Asturias so we spend a fair bit of time there already! This is just the first time we will have travelled by ferry as we will be going for a longer holiday next year. Tbh we have always had good weather in summer - it can be very hot and feel quite oppressive with the humidity. Fabulous place though and we’re lucky to be able to spend so much time there 😍
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alpinia · 08/10/2021 19:52

Or just drive down through France? And stop for a couple of nights on the way. I used to take longer ferries no problem but after a few rough trips I'd rather avoid it if I can. There is also a car train from Paris to Biarritz.

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Mindymomo · 08/10/2021 19:57

We went to Guernsey one year. It left at 9 am and took 9 hours. We booked a standard cabin with 2 bunk beds, which was good, as we could read and 2 sons could either play on devices or sleep. I suffer from sea sickness and this helped to lay down for the middle hours and as the weather was good the last 3 hours we sat outside. On our return we got the fast ferry, late at night, NEVER AGAIN, full of drunken men. We changed seats and the only ones available were by duty free, which made me actually sick smelling the perfume. The good thing about having a cabin, we took it in turns to take children to get food and go to shop.

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myrtilles · 08/10/2021 20:01

We have done this journey several times. If you go from Plymouth you will be on Pont Aven and the crossing is shorter than from Portsmouth. The four berth outside club cabins with TV would be fine with kids this age. I definitely wouldn't get an inside cabin for a journey that long. I doubt you would get a commodore cabin for the summer holidays at this stage as they sell out quickly. you could see if there are any delux ones left. Often you can see dolphins in the bay of biscay. There is a cinema. Le Flora restaurant is good with kids as the children's meal is reasonably priced. The entertainment was reduced this summer but pre covid used to run throughout the crossing with a magician, quizzes, live music etc. There is a tiny pool which is fun for kids to splash around in but not big enough for swimming. The crossing is a holiday in itself.
I think the other two options next summer will be from Portsmouth to Bilbao or Santander on the new ships Salamanca and Galicia which are identical apart from Salamanca being on more environmentally friendly fuel. We have been on Galicia and it has a gym on the outside top deck! The sea was rough and but the boat was very stable. The crossing is more expensive on these new ships but it includes dinner and breakfast.

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Buddywoo · 08/10/2021 20:03

We have done this trip at least twice a year for the last fifteen years and not just in summer. During all that time we have only had one really rough crossing.

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ruthieness · 08/10/2021 20:04

Ginger biscuits are good for sea sickness!

Also the cabins on the lower decks do not move as much in heavy swells so maybe ask for a lower deck if there is a rough forcast!

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cabrillolighthouse · 08/10/2021 20:07

We did this trip a few times when my 4 DC were younger. My top tip is make sure you book the Pont Aven crossings and NOT the Finestre (both Brittany Ferries). Pont Aven is huge and therefore much less likely to feel sea sick - we never did on board - and as a PP said, the holiday began the minute we got onboard. Cocktails at the bar for us and Orangino in the classic glass bottles for the DC. Then DC would swim in the onboard pool followed by a meal in the restaurant - the food is fantastic, steaks cooked to order! One year we booked one of the captains suites and had a little balcony to enjoy our breakfast croissants on!
I did, however, make the mistake of booking the Finestre for our return journey. Never again!!! It's much smaller, grottier and everyone was very sick!

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myrtilles · 08/10/2021 20:33

@cabrillolighthouse I think Cap Finistere is being replaced by one of the new ships Salamanca on the Bilbao route.

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SiobhanSharpe · 09/10/2021 16:16

[quote myrtilles]@cabrillolighthouse I think Cap Finistere is being replaced by one of the new ships Salamanca on the Bilbao route.[/quote]
I think it's the Galicia, we're booked on it for just after Christmas - Portsmouth to Bilbao. The Salamanca is not due to go into operation until the Spring, according to the BF website.
I didn't mind the Cap Finistère, but yes, it is smaller than the Pont Aven. Looking forward to going on the Galicia though, BF's first Spanish themed ferry, with Spanish food and a tapas bar. 🫒🍅🫑🥑🌶 🍷

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myrtilles · 09/10/2021 20:51

@SiobhanSharpe I think the OP is looking at next summer by which time Salamanca will be doing Portsmouth Bilbao and Galicia Portsmouth to Santander. The two new ferries are I think identical apart from the fuel used. We have been on Galicia and it is more spacious and stable than Cap Finistere. I prefer the French food on Pont Aven though!

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