Sunday, 19 June 2016

Cruising from Portsmouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries

Remember a couple of weeks ago I told you about my wonderful weekend in St Malo? Well ma dears, now I want to spill the beans on how I got there. And back. Because unfortunately I did have to come back.

After work on Friday evening, I met up with my absolute sass-pot of a school friend, Jess, and we squidged ourselves in with all the commuters on the train from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour. From the train station, it was just five minutes in a taxi to the actual harbour where we met the rest of the gang and checked in. Simple.

Just before 8pm, we boarded the ferry and it was time to set sail.
You would think just nipping over the English Channel would only take an hour or so, wouldn't you, but Brittany Ferries somehow make it take around 11 hours. For an overnight crossing, however, that works rather nicely.

Our journey back was a daytime crossing taking up most of Sunday, but you've got to think of the time on the ferry as being part of the holiday, in my opinion. And the timings are perfect for a weekend break without having to take any time off work - we arrived in St Malo on Saturday morning and got back to Portsmouth on Sunday evening with enough time to get back to London at a decent hour.

I'd never been on a ferry for more than an hour or so which meant this was all a new experience for me. So, let me fill you in on what it's like...

The ship as a whole

The ferry was huge. Like, it is a hefty hunk of metal cruisin' over the water (best not to try and think about how that actually works, I find). But it's pretty spacious too.

There are a couple of deck areas too where you can admire the vast expanse of blue all around, and marvel at the coastline of England and France.
Champagne optional but recommended.

Inside, well, I'm not going to lie to you - the decor is looking a little jaded and it's not exactly super stylish, but it's fine.

On board

Considering how long the journey is, it's a jolly good thing there's entertainment on board, particularly on the daytime crossing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that there was a proper, albeit slightly smaller than usual, cinema. You had to buy tickets, but they were cheaper than usual ones, thank goodness.

There are various little shops on the ship, but between you and me, there's nothing particularly interesting for sale in my opinion.

Although I didn't actually go to any, there were various performances on too.

There's wifi on board, but unfortunately not in the cabins, which was pretty annoying.

And of course, there was plenty of scope for my fave activity: eating. But we'll get to that.

The rooms

There are four different levels of room on a Brittany Ferry, and we were in the second best type.

That said, our cabin was pretty basic. It had everything we needed and was pleasingly clean, but it was nothing special. I did like the pinkness though!
The beds were comfy, but I think if there had been four people in there (the top bunks fold up at the side), it would have been veeeery cosy.

What's more, I couldn't sit on my bed with my back to the wall because the top deck got in the way, despite the fact that you were clearly meant to as there was a back rest. Maybe children can fit, who knows.

We had a TV with an array of channels, which was great, and I was obviously thrilled to find tea, coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits.
 There were hangers too which was useful, and the shower wasn't bad either.
Apparently the most basic cabin doesn't have TV or even a window which I don't think would be particularly nice, so maybe if you can afford it, I'd pay a little extra for the window at least.

Whilst on board, we were fortunate enough to be shown the highest level room, the Commodore cabin.

And it was pretty sweet.
I don't think my picture does it justice but the Commodore cabin was really lovely and spacious too - it was more like a hotel room that just happened to be on a boat. I'd treat yourself to that if you can.

The food

Both on our outbound and return journeys, we ate in the à la carte restaurant which was lovely. White tablecloths and all, people. I was really pleasantly surprised by the standard and quality of the food actually.
And what was great was that the menu for dinner on our way to Brittany was different to that of lunch on our return voyage.

After settling in on the Friday evening, we went up to the bar for drinks.
Champagne as served in a flute, prosecco in a wine glass. I don't know why.

As we sat down, we were brought warm bread rolls to nibble on whilst perusing the menu. Although you can order each course off the menu, there's also the option of a buffet for the starter and pudding. And who can resist a pudding buffet!? (Not this gal.)
There were lots of interesting dishes and I liked being able to try different things and choose exactly what I wanted. There weren't loads of veggie options though.

Our main courses were significantly better presented:
I had the move vegetarian ravioli which ended up being somewhat deconstructed. They were tasty though.

And behold, the pudding buffet:
Yeah, I went to town. Classic.

All the cakes and puddings were French-style - my favourite was the pistachio cake - but I liked that there was fruit salad too. You know how sometimes all the time you want to finish your meal with something sweet but you just want something light? Exactly. Or you could just have fruit AND cakes. No regrets.

Breakfast the next morning was much like any French hotel breakfast, and was really decent.
Man, I love breakfast.

For lunch on the way home, I started with a starter buffet once again, before demolishing this here ciabatta burger with pesto and mozzarella. The meat was a tad dry for my liking, but the chips on the side were perfection.
Once again, the food was beautifully presented.
What with having spent the past day eating all the French food, I was more inclined to go a bit lighter on the pudding buffet this time round.
Yes, that is a small pudding for me. And no, I could not resist the pistachio cake again.

It was all really really tasty, and I liked the experience of being in a good restaurant that just happened to be in the middle of the sea.

The experience

We hadn't been expecting to, but both Jess and I slept surprisingly well.

What we didn't like, however, was being woken up at 6am by bizarre folk music being played out on the speakers in all the cabins. Quote Jess: "I feel like I'm in a forest in medieval times." It felt a bit patronising to be forced to get up at a certain time.

The staff, however, were all fantastic. They're nearly all French but were really friendly and helpful. The idea is that as soon as you step on board, you're in France, and I liked that.

So, is a journey with Brittany Ferries a luxury experience? No. Not unless you're in a Commodore cabin. Would I do it again though? Absolutely.

It was fun, really affordable, and the timings mean you get the most out of one night in St Malo. Plus, the pistachio cake *insert emoji with hearts for eyes here*.

Jess and I were guests on board Brittany Ferries, but as you can probably tell, I have been 100% honest in my views. What do you think? Would you do it?


  1. I've always wanted to take an overnight ferry somewhere. This seems like such a great way to travel vs. plane or train!

    1. It definitely adds an element of fun! Hope you get to try it soon, Rachel :)


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