Tips and Infos
as of April 2019
Booking there was likegetting an inclusive tour voucher throgh a travel agency with a downpayment of 25% charged to your credit card and the full amount being deducted some eight weeks before travel. Communication by Brittany Ferries throghout the process was excellent with e-mails announcing each deduction 24 hours in advance and a final mail with information on the ferry terminal and check in procedures 24 hours in advance.
The one-way Crossing from Portsmouth to Santander with a single-occupancy outboard totales at 194,00 GBP (= 224,77 EUR in April 2019).
The Pont Aven Ferry leaves Portsmouth late afternoon on Thursdays (additional sailings Friday afternoon and Sunday morning) for the channel.
Hazy Sailing from Portsmouth:
Passing Ouessant Island the ferry enters the Bay of Biscay, during the night and passes through this sometimes unruly sea area on an easterly route during this 25-hour crossing.
At the end of the journey the Pont Aven enteres the wide bay of Santander with its sandy beaches and moores at the ferry terminal right next to the city center.
Getting to Portsmouth
Portsmouth is located in Hampshire, southwest of London. Train connections to the capital are very good and off-peak single tickets in Standard (=2nd) Class are widely available for as low as 9,00 GBP.
Trains operated by South Western Railway depart from London-Waterloo for Portsmouth Central and the Portsmouth Southend & Southsea terminus. Tickets can be reserved from South Western Railway’s Website or throgh National Rail. You can pick up your paper ticket from any ticket machine on any London terminal using the card you payed with.
To connect to the Ferry, travel to Portsmouth & Southsea Station.Travel time is 1:45 to 2:00 Hours and Trains run every 30 minutes.
A handy site for researching such train and bus connnections and planing trips worldwide is www.rome2rio.com.
The rolling stock on this line is your typical english passage railcar, British Rail Class 442 Wessex Electrics, to be precise, featuring rather spartan regional train seating in bold orange. Spacious overhead racks for luggage, air-conditioning, free WiFi and even streaming of some movies and tv-shows greatly enhance your journey.
Its best to take a taxi (ca. 15 Mins, 7,00-8,00 GBP) from downtown. While there are busses from City Shops South (#7 to Wecok, #8 to Clanfield), none of them stops directly at the terminal.
To walk there from the train station takes approx. 30 mins, and is not very well signposted (use the „International Ferry Port“ signage for motorists). As you have to walk all around a tiring number of roundabouts on narrow pathways, the walk is rather exhausting. Just befor reaching the terminal you can stock up on provisions at a small gas station shop (Shell).
The terminal has check-in desks and a small shop downstairs and a café with a nice rooftop space upstairs. Wifi is free troghout.
Portsmouth International Ferryport
At check-in Brittany Ferries staff will issue you with a paper boarding pass/cabin key (have your booking number and passport ready). About one hour before departure boarding will be called and after quick scan of your Boarding pass you will find yourself on a bus which will take you right to the pier.
Shipping Company and Ship
Brittany Ferries started as a grassroots initiative by Breton farmers and fishermen. A key figure in ist formative years was farmer und former leader of the militant young farmers movement CDJA Alexis Gourvennec (1936-2007). His vision in the late 1960s was to connect Brittany to the european trade without being dependant on the despicable central government in Paris as well as connecting the Region to the Celtic Crescent along the atlantic coast.
After Roscoff harbour had been upgraded to a deepwater port and no company wanted to start freight services there, Gourvennec, aka „The Bulldozer“, just created B.A.I. himself and started a service between Roscoff and Plymouth with, quite appropriately, a former tank carrier in 1973 – the year the UK joined the Common Market.
1974 the company was renamed Brittany Ferries and started its first passenger services. Fleet and routes continued to grow and today the company operates eleven ferries and one frighter, all under French flag. Another ferry to be named Honfleur is currently under cunstruction at Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft in Germany. It will feature a state of the art LNG propulsion system. Three more ships are on order.
This journey through the Bay of Bisacay was operated by the company’s flagship Pont Aven, a RoPax-ferry built by Meyer-Werft in Papenburg, Germany in 2004.
She features four garage-decks for up to 650 vehicles. A total of 2400 passengers can be accomodated in 650 cabins. The ship is powered by four MaK M43 diesel engines with a combined power of 68535 HP and a top speed of 27 KN (50 KM/H).
There are 2 and 4 berth in- and outboard cabins availabele as well as luxury staterooms with balconies. I made do with a standard 2 berth, single occupany outboard cabin which was more than sufficiant, quite roomy and decorated in cosy, yet a little dark, tones. The bathrom was small and rather plain with towels, soap and shampoo provided.
The carpet and all surfaces were perfectly clean, unfortunatley the sheets were not as they had some small stains.
Behind the big bulleye window and the railing was a catwalk open to the public so fellow passengers walked past my bed from time to time, which was a little odd.
Life on Board
As the term cruise ferry suggests, these ships are built to offer an experience close to cruise liners. As I have not yet taken a cruise, I am not the one to judge, wether this was achieved, the Pont Aven did offer a comfortable ride, however.
Five passenger decks with a sit-down restaurant, several self-service restaurants, a piano bar, a few cafés, pool and a large duty-free shop offer a lot of distraction. Tastfully decorated seating areas are sprinkeld between these areas. Strangely the open decks are rather dull with just a few plastic chairs and no bars or cafés.
After departure a lot of activities commence such as a sangria reception, whisky tastings, live piano sessions, childrens entertainment and even some sort of evening show with a quite good Illusionist and a not so good singer. The whole entertainment thankfully is pretty unobtrusive and there are a lot of spaces which remain quiet.
All public areas offer, very, basic, WiFi which is just enogh for posting on instagramm or a quick google query. The passcode is printed on your boarding pass. Larger bandwith and/or availability in your cabin Costs extra and even then your data remains limited: the 17,90 Euro deal comes with just 4,0 hrs/600 MB .
Food & Drinks
High scores for Brittany Ferries here. Even thogh I stuck to the cheaper cafeteria style options, every dish I tried was fresh, nicely presented and delicious.
The cafés serve breakfast and all day treats such as Croque-Monsieur (ham and cheese toast), sandwiches and fantasic tartes. The self-service restaurants also offer soups, salads and warm main dishes.
The main restaurant was way more expensive and as I found the menu to be a little too old-fashioned, I just did some window dining there.
The bars serve several wines as well as all the usual spirits. A palatable beer is sadly missing – I did force down a pint of Kronenbourg but… and UK-brewed Foster’s did not seem to be an alternative. Two red, one white and one rosé wine seemed to be a narrow selection considering that one of the Brands served is Cellier de Dauphines – which is, cough, a little lowbrow. But when fantastic French Orangina und Fanta Citron flow…
The free drinking water from a tap between the self-service restaurant and the Café de Festival deserves a special aknowledgement.
Softdrinks are around 2,50 EUR, a beer 4,00 EUR and a glass of wine about 6,00 EUR. Breakfast is 8-10,00 EUR, a Café au Lait 2,50 Euro. Lunch or diner in the cafeterias is about 15,00 EUR. A drawn-out dinner in the formal restaurant will start at 40,00 EUR (exkluding drinks).
Euros, Pound Sterling, maestro and credit cards are accepted.
My trip was during the first week of the UK easter holidays so a lot of familys, especially grandparents with their childrens‘ offspring were on board as well as some bikers and an elderly clientele from both Spain and the UK.
Despite the holidays, the ship was far from full which was maybe due the „hard brexit“ which theoretically could have hit in the week I travelled.