A WEEKEND BREAK WITH BRITTANY FERRIES
When we were children my father was a film school university lecturer which gave us long summer holidays to fill and as a family of five, camping was the financially viable choice for our extended trips. Dad would do some extreme packing and somehow shoehorn enough 1970s style camping gear for two or three weeks away, including a large frame tent, ice box, rigid water carrier, kitchen, cooker, gas bottle, clothes etc into our trusty Hillman Hunter estate and onto the roof rack. Looking back I’ve no idea how he got it all in, but somehow he did and, packed up to the rafters, we’d head down to the coast to catch a ferry with sleeping bags on our laps and tentpoles under our feet. It wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences – and then, once on the boat, there was the mad dash to find five seats together on the ferry!
This weekend is to be the polar opposite of those family camping trips. Brittany Ferries has invited me on a frankly luxurious trip to The British Film Festival in Dinard, Brittany. We’re crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo on Friday evening and returning the following Sunday morning.
I drive down from Bristol and as soon as I’ve parked my car in Brittany Ferries’ car park in Portsmouth, I feel as though my holiday has begun.
I head towards the terminal to check in as a foot passenger.
I’m impressed by how smart the building is, with shops, cafes and an easy to read departures board, bringing to mind a small airport. I arrive early so there’s plenty of time to have a look round and enjoy a flat white before we embark.
Yes. I’m going to share a photo of the toilets with you, because I’m good like that and I think you’ll be impressed by how clean and modern they look, complete with automatic taps and soap dispensers!
A shuttle bus takes us to the ferry and I’m glad of my wheeled suitcase as there are a few ramps to go up on the way.
I drop my bags into my cabin, then go up on deck to wave goodbye to Portsmouth and England generally. See you on Sunday . . .
Once en route, I head back down to have a proper look at my cabin and its facilities before dinner.
It’s a four berth club cabin so spacious for one. I even have my own TV as well as an ensuite! Even though it’s dark by now, I enjoy having a window so I can get my bearings and a sense of day and night.
I’ve made a short video tour so you can have a look around the cabin with me!
I meet the rest of the team at the ‘Yacht Club Wine Bar’ for fancy shmanzy pre-dinner cocktails. How pretty is that?
Our evening meal is in Les Abers restaurant, next door to the bar. This is my first experience of à la carte dining on a ferry and quite frankly I’m impressed with the food, the elegant, spacious surroundings and the open kitchen where you can see the chefs in action.
We plump for the buffet menu which includes a main dish chosen from the a la carte menu, plus starters, desserts and cheeses from the extensive buffet featuring cured meats, fresh seafood and salads. I’m starting to think that there are some distinct benefits of a ferry over plane travel when I’m presented with my main meal of spiced lamb, zitone pasta, broad beans and sugar peas.
My neighbour’s fillet of duck tournedos, shallots and potato gnocchi is pretty tasty too. Handily I’m sitting next to someone else who likes to share, so we get to try both!
Always aiming to be thorough, I sample a little of the large buffet selection too, which is just as good.
After a quick nightcap at the bar, it’s time to retire back to my cabin for PJs and a hot chocolate.
I’m already awake when the ship’s gentle guitar music alarm clock strikes up and enjoy surprisingly good shower pressure for a ferry! It’s time to eat again so I head back to the same restaurant where I order a cooked breakfast which arrives within moments of ordering. I suppose these chefs are used to having to feed everyone within a tight timeframe! Again the quality is excellent – the little sausages are seriously tasty and the coffee’s good and strong.
The breakfast buffet looks impressive too but I’ve pretty much reached my limit and only manage a little fruit. Maybe next time ?.
This cruise ferry experience has been far more luxurious than any crossing I’ve been on before and yet it doesn’t seem to have been an overly expensive. I’ll include a breakdown of costs in my follow up post so we can decide how it fares in terms of value for money.
The boat is spacious with plenty of comfy seating and a choice of how to while away the time including televisions, restaurants, bars and shops. If my children were here, they’d be exploring the cinemas and video games room and for the little ones there’s a children’s playroom. Yes, it’s taken me a lot longer to arrive at my destination than if I was flying, but this trip has been a real lesson in the benefit of slow travel and treating the journey as part of the holiday.
We arrive in St Malo at around 8am, just ahead of schedule and are welcomed by beautiful morning views.
I’m in France and I can’t wait to get to Dinard to experience my first film festival which you can read about in my next post.
In the meantime I’d be interested to know, have you ever been on this kind of cruise ferry and if so, how was the experience for you?
DISCLOSURE: THIS TRIP WAS FUNDED BY BRITTANY FERRIES. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.