On our trip to Brittany in August we took the slow ferry to France from Portsmouth to Caen and the quick ferry back from Cherbourg to Portsmouth here is what we thought of both options.
We haven’t done Ferries since the kids were born. In fairness I haven’t taken a ferry since 1997 and a horrific ferry from Anglesey to Belfast put me off Ferries for what I thought was life.
However having read lots of positive reviews from Mini Travellers team members, this Summer and last, about Ferries to France, I decided to try and put aside my long standing views about Ferries and my previous dislike – sea sickness and length of time based and try it out for our trip to Brittany.
By co-incidence rather then design we tried out two very different ferry experiences. Taking the slow ferry from Portsmouth to Caen on the way to France and the quick ferry from Cherbourg to Portsmouth on the way home.
So what are the differences and the pros and cons of the quick ferry and the slow ferry?
Firstly Portsmouth to Caen takes 6 hours. 6 long hours which is 1/4 of a day! Add that to the distance from home to port, and port to location in France and you have a very long day.
Cherbourg to Portsmouth on the other hand is 3 hours on the Express ferry and is a much less daunting time.
On the Portsmouth to Caen ferry there was masses of seating. No issue with where to sit, people moved around naturally. There were cabins to be had and there was no reservation of seating. We were comfortable the whole time and didn’t use our cabin at all – although I do know that a cabin was highly recommended by Ian and Emma from the team who travelled with younger children. A cabin being a perfect place to contain the kids and get some rest if you’ve had a long drive beforehand.
On the Cherbourg to Portsmouth ferry there was a definite benefit to being on earlier. By the time we got on, the best seats had been reserved, the area around the children’s film was gone and we sat at bar stools so the kids could play cards.
The seating is much more aeroplane style in rows due to the smaller style of ferry rather than spread out and comfortable.
Which brings me to entertainment. We were surprised to find lots of entertainment on the Portsmouth to Caen ferry. I hadn’t done any reading about it, but literally had no idea that there would be a cinema, soft play and an entertainment team. The combination of soft play and the entertainment team – balloon making, colouring competition and the favourite Princess and the Pirate show kept the kids fully entertained for 6 hours solid! They actually didn’t want to get off.
On the Cherbourg to Portsmouth ferry there is no entertainment to speak of. We thankfully had cards in the bag and we were grateful for our last minute decision to bring the iPads out of the car.
This for me was a shock! I have always felt sea sick but on the flat calm August sea, on the substantial ferry from Portsmouth to Caen I didn’t feel sea sick at all. Not one little bit. I managed to eat some food and have a coffee And everything was fine.
The quick ferry from Cherbourg to Caen was however another matter. From the moment we got on board until the moment we landed 3 hours and 10 minutes later myself and my eldest felt shocking. Not actually sick, but fairly awful and it was actually flat calm. Not sure what it would have been like for me and my eldest if it had actually been choppy.
The breakfast on the Portsmouth to Caen ferry was ok (not amazing) but ok and reasonably priced. I didn’t feel like I’d been robbed which is always a good start. There were quite a lot of options from an A la Carte to snacks and everything in between. There was also lots of people better prepared than us with substantial picnics which I was pretty envious of.
The food on the Cherbourg to Portsmouth fast ferry was very limited indeed, but on the basis that you are only on the ferry for 3 hours it didn’t need to be more. We chose not to have any of the options and have tea in Portsmouth instead but this did cause a problem (starving kids) when the ferry docked a little later than expected due to a cruise ship that hadn’t left on time.
It’s a tricky one. The quicker ferry felt like the Ferries of old that I’m used to and I’d be put off doing it again based on the sea sickness point. It is however a lot more convenient from a time perspective and gets you to the continent or home again significantly quicker.
The kids however would choose the entertainment on the 6 hour ferry as they really enjoyed the day.
We absolutely loved our trip to Brittany this year and we definitely want to return, but on which ferry – well I think we will leave the choice to next year!
NB: The ferry to France formed part of our press trip to Brittany, I was not obliged to write this post in any way and all views and opinions are my own.
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