My partner Lois and I keep our boat on a pontoon mooring at Cap d’Agde in the South of France where we spend about 3-4 weeks several times each year.Bearing in mind that whenever we visit France for any length of time we take our two dogs (Westies) we’ve obviously been keen to ensure that the dogs enjoy the least stressful crossing and 600 mile journey by car south to the Med.Living as we do in Dorset we’ve always sought to travel on the Western Channel crossings rather than trek to Dover or Folkestone, and we have been clients of Brittany Ferries for many years, long before we had our apartment, and long before the Pets Passport Scheme enabled us to take our dogs. When the Pets Passport Scheme was introduced several years ago now our first thought was which crossing would be the best both for us and for the dogs, and it took us a while to work that out.By definition, apart from the fast-craft, all the western channel crossings by ferry are longer than the short-sea crossings from Kent, and we were concerned that leaving the dogs cooped up in the car for six or more hours during the day wasn’t a terribly good plan, so we hit on the idea of a night crossing when the dogs would normally be sound asleep anyway.Our favourite channel crossing used to be the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth – St.Malo night service leaving Portsmouth around 8 o’clock in the evening in time for a pleasant meal in the excellent restaurant before a comfortable night’s sleep in our cabin, with a convenient arrival time in St.Malo around 8 o’clock the following morning. Although tempting, and great for my partner and I, we felt that the eleven hour long crossing time would be more than the dogs could cope with, so we needed to find a shorter alternative.Fortunately we were able to do just that and still travel with our favourite ferry operator, by taking advantage of the Brittany Ferries night service between Portsmouth and Caen (Ouistreham) which doesn’t leave Portsmouth until 11 o’clock in the evening and arrives in Caen around about 7.00 am the following morning local time – in other words a crossing time of only 7 hours, during which time the dogs would normally be asleep anyway.So for the past several years we have used the Portsmouth – Caen night services both to and from France quite extensively, and have consistently been very impressed by the service, and so far as we can tell the dogs appear to have been happy with the service too!.The Brittany Ferries Portsmouth – Caen night services are operated mainly by either the “Mont St Michel” or the “Normandie” The “Mont St Michel” was built at the Van der Giessen de Noord shipyard in the Netherlands and has been operated by Brittany Ferries since her introduction in 2002. The Mont St Michel was to have been called the Deauville or the Honfleur but this was thought to be too similar to Barfleur.The internal layout of the Mont St Michel is based on the Normandie, which also operates on the Portsmouth–Caen route.She is named after the world-famous tiny island of Mont St Michel (St Michael’s Mount) off the coast near Avranches , and she offers passengers a host of features including more than 200 spacious cabins, over 400 reclining seats, a choice of restaurants, and facilities including bars, cinemas, a disco club and video gaming area designed for teenagers.She can carry some 2,200 passengers and 800 cars, and she features a range of state-of-the-art navigation and safety management systems some of which I was able to see at first hand, when, as Station Manager of the NCI Lyme Bay Coastwatch station I was invited on to the bridge during one crossing – this ensures that not only is the “Mont St Michel” one of the most comfortable channel cruise ferries afloat, she is also one of the best equipped.The “Normandie” , built in the early nineties is named after the French region of the same name, and is decorated in traditional Norman style and colours, featuring excellent on-board facilities for dining and shopping, some 220 comfortable cabins and over 400 reclining seats and there’s live entertainment too. She can carry over 2,000 passengers and 600 carsRecently we had to change our return trip from Caen to Portsmouth which resulted in our travelling on one of the few Brittany Ferries ships that we’d never previously been on, namely the “ARMORIQUE”.The 29,000 ton Finnish-built“ Armorique” was specifically designed and built for Brittany Ferries, in particular for the Plymouth – Roscoff route, and was first introduced to the service in 2009.She carries up to 1,500 passengers and 470 cars, and follows a modern design with décor that indeed seems to capture the lights, colours and space of the Brittany Region and its maritime heritage. Also featured are a number of artists and their work celebrating Breton culture, its traditions, spirit and innovation.There's plenty of space to move around on board (both inside and on deck) with an open plan feel, and lots of areas to relax, including a quiet zone. There is no waiter-service main restaurant, but there is a spacious self-service restaurant where your choice of hot main-course is delivered to your table, and there’s also a café serving hot and cold snacks.There are some 240 air-conditioned cabins, all with en-suite shower and wc., and the one we had was very comfortable and surprisingly spacious; there’s also a good number of reservable lounge seats throughout the ship.The bar is very stylish, and the shop well-stocked and cleverly designed. All in all we had a very pleasant crossing and would certainly be more than happy to travel on this ship again. Clive Edwards
About Brittany FerriesFounded in 1972 by proud Breton Alexis Gourvennec and a group of fellow Breton farmers wanting to export their cauliflowers and artichokes to the UK, Brittany Ferries is now the leading maritime carrier on the western and central Channel. The company, originally known as Armement Bretagne-Angleterre-Irelande, or B.A.I. for short, was officially born on a bleak New Year's Day in 1973, with French, British and Breton flags flying and a choir singing carols. With Britain's entry into the Common Market in 1973, Gourvennec saw his chance to end the geographical isolation of Brittany. Realising the quickest route to this new market would be across the western Channel to Plymouth, he contacted several large shipping companies to see if they would be interested in operating the route. These efforts were to no avail so he and his fellow farmers purchased their own freighter and named it 'Kerisnel', after a small Breton village famous for its cauliflowers. The Breton farming groups who founded the company remain its main shareholders to this day.
MV Armorique2009200929,468168.30m26.8m23.0 KnotsMV Baie de Seine2002201622,382199.40m25.6m22.0 KnotsMV Barfleur1992199220,133158.70m23.3m19.5 KnotsMV Bretagne1989198924,534152.80m26.0m21.0 KnotsMV Cap Finistère2001201032,728203.90m25.0m28.0 KnotsMV Étretat2008201426,904187.00m26.0m22.0 KnotsMV Mont St Michel2002200235,586173.95m28.5m22.0 KnotsMV Normandie1992199227,451 161.40m26.0m20.5 KnotsHSC Normandie Express200020056,58197.22m26.6m42.0 KnotsMV Pont-Aven2004200440,859184.30m30.9m27.0 Knots
There are two main ferry companies operating in the western English Channel - Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries Brittany Ferries operates services to France and Spain throughout the year, albeit with a reduced choice in the winter months. Condor Ferries operates sevices to the Channel Islands and France using fastcraft which can only practically sail in the summer.The Commodore has also written about his experiences with Brittany Ferries. Any other contributions of a similar nature would be most welcome.
Recent HistoryCondor Ferries established the first high speed car ferry service to the Channel Islands from Weymouth in 1993 using the 74m Incat catamaran Condor 10. In the winter of 1993/1994, Condor's parent company, Commodore Shipping, took over British Channel Island Ferries (BCIF) which operated conventional ferry services to the Channel Islands from Poole. Upon taking over BCIF, Condor moved all passenger services to Weymouth and the BCIF freight service was transferred to Commodore Shipping. In August 2014 Condor Ferries purchased of a new Austal 102 ferry and announced that all future services will operate from Poole as Weymouth, despite spending £4.5m renovating its harbour, could not accommodate the new ship.
UK RoutesPoole to CherbourgOperated by Barfleur. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to CherbourgOperated by the Normandie Express. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to Caen (Ouistreham)Operated by Mont St Michel and Normandie. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to St MaloOperated by Bretagne. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to Le HavreAn economy service operated by Etretat and Baie de Seine. Timetable HEREPlymouth to RoscoffOperated by Armorique. Timetable HEREPlymouth to SantanderOperated by Pont-Aven. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to SantanderOperated by Pont-Aven, and Cap Finistere. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to BilbaoOperated by Cap Finistere and Baie de Seine. Timetable HERE
UK Routes(as at March 2016)Poole to JerseyOperated by Condor Liberation and Condor Rapide. Timetable HEREPoole to GuernseyOperated by Condor Liberation and Condor Rapide. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to JerseyOperated by the Commodore Clipper. Timetable HEREPortsmouth to GuernseyOperated by the Commodore Clipper. Timetable HERE
Baie de Seine “Economie” Service - March 2016
Current Ferry Positions:
A live map showing the current positions of operational ships can be seen HERE
As regular travellers, along with our two small Westie dogs, Alix and Donald, on Brittany Ferries we were very pleased when a couple of years ago they introduced their “Economique Service” operated by the “Etretat” which has a small number of “dog friendly” cabins where dogs are able to share one’s cabin rather than remain in the car overnight.We travelled on the “Etretat” and took advantage of the dog-friendly cabins soon after the Economique Service was introduced and were very impressed with the operation.Given how frequently we travel with Brittany Ferries (at least eight crossing per year) I’ve taken to writing the occasional report on their different routes and the ships operating them. So, having recently taken an overnight trip from Le Havre to Portsmouth on the “Baie du Seine”, which was introduced quite recently to operate another “Economique” service alongside the Etretat, I decided that this innovative dog-friendly “no frills” service thoroughly deserved to be written about at some length - hence this report. Unusually for us we arrived early for the check-in at Le Havre but were allowed on-board almost two hours ahead of the scheduled sailing time of 22.30 and parked the car on deck six. Our dog-friendly cabin was on deck 9 and, somewhat to our trepidation, we and our dogs were directed to this not by the stairs but by the lift where there were already half a dozen dog owners and their dogs queued up waiting. We thought there was bound to be some contretemps between what turned out to be no less than nine dogs in quite a small lift but, to our amazement, they all seemed to be overawed by the experience and incredibly quiet and well-behaved!We discovered that we had been allocated a very comfortable outside cabin with proper twin-beds, an en-suite shower and WC complete with hair dryer. There was even a gift-bag for the dogs with a toy, a collapsible drinking bowl and poo-bags. The cabin was only a matter of about eight metres from the dog-exercise area on the outside deck! Brittany Ferries promote this as a “no frills service” but, especially from a dog-owners perspective, it would be very hard indeed to find fault with the quality of these dog-friendly cabins. In our opinion they are every bit as good as, if not even better than, the standard cabins on other Brittany Ferries vessels.That’s not only our opinion but, judging by their behaviour and the way they settled down as in the photo below, I think our dogs appreciated the cabin too and much preferred it to being shut in the car overnight! Arriving on-board so early after our 650 miles journey from the Med, we were able to leave the dogs asleep in the cabin whilst we explored the ship and had a very nice meal in the self-service restaurant followed by a drink and coffee in the bar. The restaurant may have a somewhat limited menu but, with a choice of several different starters, main dishes and sweets at very reasonable prices, we enjoyed a very good meal in pleasant and comfortable surroundings. Afterwards we were able to relax in the bar without the usual worry as to whether the dogs would be OK left in the back of the car for so long. If I have any criticism at all it’s certainly not about the Baie du Seine, or the so-called “no-frills” Service Economique, but rather about the fact that if Brittany Ferries can provide this excellent level of service and comfort for pets and their owners at this price, then why do they have to charge the same amount to carry dogs that don’t actually occupy any extra space at all but are confined to their owner’s vehicles for the duration of the crossing?Having spent the majority of my working life involved with ships and the sea it’s not often that I can say with a great deal of confidents that the Brittany Ferries Service Economique provided by the Baie du Seine (and by the Etretat) may be promoted as having “no frills” but it certainly doesn’t lack for quality in any respect at all and provides a truly superb service for both dogs and their owners!