The 20.20 from troon to larne is never on time with po ferries, I have been on this ferry on many occasions and is either late or they tell you problem at larne or with computer at a earlier time,THE CUSTOMER IS PAYING GOOD MONEY TO BE THERE IN TIME SO PO PLEASE TRY AND PROVIDE SOME CUSTOMER SERVICETO YOUR CUSTOMERS AND GET THEM TO THERE DESTINATION ON TIME THANK YOU.
P&O Irish Sea - Troon to Larne
Don't do it, especially if you have kids! If you are travelling from central Scotland the option of a ferry crossing from Troon rather than the A77 drive to Stranraer might seem appealing, but think twice.
- never a punctual service - ever! - even when it leaves on time and its perfect sailing conditions
- If you are travelling on-foot add an extra 20-30mins to your journey when you arrive at Troon as you have to wait for all of the cars to disembark before you can, then you will be squeezed onto a bus to take you to the portacabin where you will find your luggage 'dumped' on the ground outside
- If you are a wheel chair user or have a pram, be warned there are NO lifts on the boat
- Facilities are basic and poorly maintained. If its a busy crossing you are not likely to get a seat with a table.
- Children - there is a cupboard sized room with a TV with no volume, and a softplay area, its upstairs- remember there is no lift for your pram!
There are no highchairs at the eating areas.
- Refreshments - poor 'restaurant' and an OK coffee bar, but neither cater for any food intolerances e.g. Coeliacs
- toilets - cramped and not thoroughly cleaned
On the other hand if you travel the extra 1.5 hours drive to Stranraer, you will receive a very punctual service, EXCELLENT facilities for all and a relaxing crossing!
On a recent trip to Scotland, we opted to take the ferry across from Northern Ireland, as opposed to our usual choice of flying. Having priced around a little, with the cost of car hire over in Scotland on top of the flight and added taxes, it was as cheap for us to take our own car and go by boat, it also meant, I could throw in extra clothes/shoes etc etc.
The choice of boat to Scotland from either the port of Larne or Belfast was limited to either Stena or P&O. P&O were marginally cheaper nad the crossing times suited us better. We ended up being booked onto the European Causeway P&O boat leaving from Larne to Cairnryn, costing us £188 for the car and both of us. This also included a fee for paying by card. At the time of booking, P&O offer various options - an ecomony fare (which we chose) or a flexible fare. Taking the ecomony fare does create a little more risk in that any changes or amendments that you need to make to your booking will incur a £20 administration fee, and you also need to book 48 hours in advance. No refunds are given on the economy ticket either. On the other hand, the flexible ticket does give a refund, you can book up to the day of your departure and it is 'flexible' as its name suggests, in that there is no admin fee for any changes you need to make to your booking. In some cases a flexible ticket is an ideal choice especially if there is any uncertainty about your travel plans, however, for a basic trip away to Scotland, we were trying to keep our prices to a minimum, and hoped for the best. Thankfully we never had to make any amendments to our travel plans.
P&O advises passengers to be there at least an hour prior to sailing, as the ferry has been known to leave early. In actual fact, due to their not being mouch traffic on the roads, we were there before the suggested hour ahead, and were checked in very quickly at the drive through booth at Larne. We then proceeded through security, which did not take long, and the joined a queue to board the boat. We were due to set sail at 8 o'clock in the evening, but were loaded on to the boat long before that.
We were very fortunate on the crossing to Scotland, as most passengers were commercial drivers, with much fewer normal car/foot passengers. It has been a very long time since either my husband or I have been on the boat, and we were very disappointed by the lack of facilities and layout, although we have since been told that Stena offers much better facilities. The European Causeway ferry offers one deck for passengers once they have left their vehicles. One side of the deck is off limits to normal car passengers, and has been set aside as a designated area for commercial drivers only, who have pin number access to a lounge, restaurant and washing facilities. The other side of the deck is for everyone else, and we wre extremely disappointed.
As you walk through this deck, you see a hotel like reception desk. There is a games area with machines, before you then come to a small enclosed children's play area with limited seating and play equipment, there is also a tv screen in the room. On the other side of this is a small shop offering some reduced priced fragrances and sweets. Beyond this is the quiet lounge which has its own door to keep out noise. You then approach a smallish restaurant area offering hot food, before coming to what is the main seating area, the bar/lounge. This area is full of soft seating and round tables. There are 2 large screen TV's as well as a bar and costa coffee. There are also toilets nearby to the lounge.
As I said on our way over, there were few other passengers at our end of the deck, and os we had a compete choice of seating. Although we had already had our evening meal at home before leaving, we enjoyed a coffee from the costa coffee shop, although this was quite expensive. Our crossing to Scotland was very relaxing and quiet, although we were very surprised by the lack of seating, compared with boats that we both used to travel on years ago. Even though we were loaded up quickly and we had a smooth crossing, we were 35 minutes late leaving the ferry for some unknown reason, which delayed our journey to our lodgings in Scotland that night.
It was our experience of the crossing on the return journey that was not pleasant. We arrived for the 4.30 afternoon crossing at the Cairnryan terminal. We had planned to get our evening meal on board, being aware that they had a suitable restaurant. The ferry crossing back however was full to the brim with both foot passengers and car passengers. After the car had been loaded onto the boat, we made our way up to the main deck, along with what seemed like the rest of the country. We made the mistake of heading to the soft seating area in the lounge. Within10 minutes, there was not a free seat in either the lounge, quiet lounge or restaurant, so it was impossible to move elsewhere. A very large crowd of football fans were on the crossing back. We witnessed an elderly lady being forced to flee her seat, as these football fans sat down at the table where she was quietly reading the newspaper and started shouting and cursing around her, ordering drinks from the bar. Their behaviour became very loud at times as they drank more and more alcohol, and this was on top of a very rocky crossing due to high winds. Nearby to our table, there were several young families, some chidren being very unwell, but surrounded by these loud mouthed drunken football fans. For an afternoon crossing with many families just wanting to enjoy a quiet crossing back to Larne, it was terrible. We both agreed that if this had been our only experience of P&O ferries we would not be back. The big problem was that people could not move anywhere else, as there was so little seating, and the ferry was so full. We couldn't even get dinner in the restaurant, as tables were all taken. People not wanting to go into the noisy lounge, ended up spending the entire crossing taking up a table in the restaurant so others could not get a seat to eat there. Nobody was going to give up a seat in the quiet lounge either, so families and others, as I said, simply wanting to enjoy a quiet ferry crossing back, did not get to experience that. We did not see any sign of security either on the boat, and we heard many commenting about what should happen if some of the football fans get any drunker and louder.
All in all, unless we have little choice, we will pay the extra to use Stenaa next time for a ferry crossing to Scotland. P&O European Causeway just does not have enough seating for a full ferry. There should be a separate lounge for families, and for those that want to consume alcohol, as it is not right to combine both, especially with there being so many families around. I cannot quite understand either why so much alcohol is so widely available on board, as surely as lot of these people have to get back into their cars and drive off, but if that is what P&O wish, then they should at least have a small private lounge with a bar, not place it in the biggest seating area on the ship. We were very disappointed on our journey back, and were feeling very hungry, as we couldn't get a seat in the restuarant to enjoy an evening meal. nobody was prepared to move passengers who had finished their earlier meal on to somewhere else, probably because there simply wasn't anywhere else on board to move them. A very disappointing layout and experience on thie P&O crossing.
I have a holiday home in France and use P&O ferries a few times a year traveling from Dover to Calais. The crossing is about an 1 1/4 hours which suits me fine as I tend to get sea sick. I book my tickets on line which is very easy and just takes a few minutes. As it's only a short crossing the tickets are very reasonably priced - I get mine for £60 return however I do tend to travel at night, it will be more expensive for a day time crossing.
P&O ferries run four different routes to:-
Dover - Calais
Hull - Rotterdam
Hull - Zeebrugge
Portsmouth - Bilbao
It may take longer to travel by ferry but you can take your car and pack as much as you want, unlike airplanes where you are restricted by a weight limit.
Once you've booked your tickets it will tell you what time you have to arrive at the port. Usually this is half an hour before boarding. Depending on what time of the year you go will determine how much queuing time there is at the port. School holidays are much busier than other times in the year. I went to France in May and had my ferry booked at about 2 in the morning and arrived at the port early, P&O were very good, as there were no queues and because I was early they let me get on the earlier ferry. However, when I went to France in August I traveled at the same time and again left early but got stuck in traffic on the way and when I got to the port I queued for half an hour so I missed my ferry. Again it wasn't really a problem, I wasn't in any rush and P&O put me on the next ferry (which was only an hour later).
Once on board there are a few things to keep you entertained for the crossing including:-
and also you can walk out on deck to get some fresh air and stretch your legs.
These are all available on the Dover to Calais crossing, other crossing may have other forms of entertainment.
Calais Port and Return
Once you've arrived in Calais it will take about 5 minutes to reach one of the main roads which are very clearly signed. The return journey is much the same as the outbound, arrive half an hour before check in and in my experience if your early you can get on the earlier ferry (if there's space) and if you miss your ferry then you'll be put on the next available one with no extra charge.
Overall, I would recommend using P&O ferries, it's an easy, relaxing and cheap way to travel. It may take longer to get there but at least you can move around on the boat unlike most other forms of travel. There's lots to keep you entertained on your crossing over (great for kids). The only downside is not knowing how long you'll need to queue for at the port so may miss the ferry you've booked on. It's probably best to be safe and leave with plenty of time to spare.
P&O Ferries Website: http://www.poferries.com
We used P&O Ferries this August on the Dover-Calais crossing. One of my sons misunderstood when we said "ferry" and got exited about the small glittery things with wings, that he thought would be taking us on holiday. If only ...
** Booking **
I'd booked it through AirMiles (1000 airmiles + £9) which meant phoning AirMiles, trotting through all their questions and then being put through to P&O and doing it again. But it was a free call and they were all very friendly and helpful.
** Checking in **
You have to arrive 30 minutes before you ferry is due to leave, which gives you time to be late I think! The check-in process was very fast - by the time we got to the head of the queue in our car they had already checked our numberplate, and found our booking, so they just had to hand us a ticket and wave us through - great. Then we parked our car in a long queue and waited. There are toilets, a Smiths and a Burger King there if you are really early.
** Eating on board **
The ferry itself felt pretty crowded. We ate in the restaurant which was a mistake since the meals were £10 each and deeply mediocre. We would have done better to buy a sandwich from the Costa coffee place, which served the usual nice coffee. It pays to race to the food outlets as soon as you get on board, as enormous queues soon form.
** Shopping? No! **
There are several shops on board, which we avoided as we have 3 small children who think they need to be bought things if you take them in a shop.
** Fresh air **
We tried to go outside but they had blocked off the stairs to the viewing deck. The only outside sections available were the walkways at the side of the ferry, which had no seats, and high solid barriers so the children couldn't see out. After about half an hour they filled up with smokers too.
** TV **
So we stayed inside and found the Children's room. This was a room with a few seats and lots of floor space. They had 3 bead tables (you'll know what I mean if you have toddlers and you won't care what I mean if you don't!). The main attraction was the large tv screen showing cartoons. So we stayed there for a bit, and since it is a 90-minute crossing that was that and we had arrived.
It was all fairly painless really - which is what I want from travelling with small children.
** French Check-in**
The return crossing was trickier - we arrived at Calais in good time and then spent 45 minutes in the passport queue. We were still in time for the ferry though - but were told that it was full, presumably with people who'd missed the previous ferry. And so we were put on the next ferry, 3 hours later. The facilities on the French side are not so good - there are toilets and a drinks machine. So I was less impressed with that, but it is good to know that if you do miss your ferry, you can just go on the next one and they don't charge you for it.
I have been using the services of P & O for many years now. It started when I was a student in the 90s', National Express coach from Leeds to Stranraer, and then onto the ferry as a foot passenger. I struggle to remember the length of time the coach took but it must have been vast as the car journey I take now with the whole family takes over 5 hours! With the discovery of cheap flights a few years back the whole ferry idea died a death, but now with the new hidden extra taxes from our favourite not so budget airlines, why not re-discover what a ferry can do for you!
Now anyone who makes the journey to either Stranraer or Cairnryan from England will tell you that once you leave the relative comfort and easy overtaking opportunities of the M6, what lies ahead is the longest hour and three quarters of your life. Don't get me wrong, there have been many improvements to the A74 over the years but somehow I feel that that road will always bring out the worst in me. To some degree I think that the scattering of dual carriage ways and crawler lanes only serve in teasing me, giving false hope of a quick victory. Whereas in reality what happens is you naturally meander along the single carriage way behind no end of caravans, tractors and other abominations, and when a dual carriage way does present itself..... not another vehicle as far as the eye can see, until of course you get to the end of the fast lane and guess what? Yes that's right a bloomin motor-home convention appears ahead! Anyway you get the picture. Now back to the ferry.
This past couple of years I have tended to favour the P & O crossing from Cairnryan to Larne. The main reason for this is simply availability and time of the crossing. To give you some facts there are three routes available; Liverpool to Dublin, Cairnryan to Larne, and Troon to Larne.
The Troon to Larne ferry operates twice a day (each way). The Liverpool to Dublin ferry is an overnight crossing or 7 ½ hours (daytime) of board and restless children. The literature warns that this is a basic service not suitable for families with young children. The Cairnryan to Larne ferry operates ten sailings per day (each way) and so is more flexible for our needs. There are certain restrictions depending which day of the week so study the timetable closely for exact requirements.
Now within the timetable there is another very important factor to consider; do you want to cross by a standard ferry, which chugs along at a leisurely pace, getting you there in about 2 hours. You recognize the familiar old cargo hold, packed in straight lines and full of cars, coaches and lorries. Or do you want to turbo charge your journey with a fast craft. Blast your way across the Irish sea in 1hour! Believe me I have tried both and the fast ferry wins every time.
Getting there early improves your chances but does not guarantee you will get on the ferry first. You can imagine that timing a journey from Leeds to Cairnryan requires a large margin of error in order to avoid that nightmare scenario of trying not to miss the ferry. In reality we usually get to the port very early, 2nd or 3rd car in the queue. However despite this, on more than one occasion we have actually been one of the last cars to get on. The exact reason why is a mystery, I think it has something to do with the type of vehicles booked on the ferry and capacity, but I can only speculate. Why is it so important to get on first? Simple, first on is usually first off (especially on the fast ferry), so in front of all that slow moving traffic. First on is also first to the choices and facilities on board, but more of that later.
**Ferry Port Facilites**
If you do get to the port early don't expect to be entertained or fed to any degree of style. The facilities are basic. Cairnryan is very basic with only vending machines. It does however have a small play area for the kids. Larne does have a café but no play area. We tend to take a packed lunch instead. There are of course toilets available, but be prepared for a reasonable walk to get there at the Larne side. Not so fantastic if the Irish weather is normal!
You do not need a passport to travel from England to Northern Ireland, but you should be prepared to prove who you are with ID at security. We have never been pulled aside for a car search but it does seem to happen around us fairly regularly. I don't know if our children's innocent faces put them off or we are just lucky, but it does make me think that a tidy packed boot would make this ordeal more bearable, were it to happen. You will of course need to confirm the names of all passengers during the booking process, whether online or by phone.
If you are catching a ferry around a lunch or evening meal time then once again through no fault of your own, being late to get out of the car deck on board proper will also give you the penalty of having a long queue at the food court and probably not much choice at the end of it. At best the food is average. Strangely the old slow ferry offers a healthier menu, while the fast ferry presents the standard and probably apt fast food option.
The seating arrangements on board are similar on board both vessels, there are several areas catering for all needs; general 'airline style' seats are scattered all over, there is a quiet room which discourages children from entering, a cinema area which will be showing a family block buster, the bar lounge area with TV or sports channel playing, and the truckers area.
Other areas worth mentioning are the open air decks on the traditional ferry, where you can actually get some fresh air and a view, unfortunately the fast ferry does not have any outside option apart from what is laughingly referred to as the viewing gallery. In reality this is a permitted smoking area, the size of an average living room, and is usually packed with funnily enough, smokers! Ironically, there is no actual view from the viewing area except for a small window below waist high which is usually obscured by a haze of smoke anyway. I guess you can get a view of the sky if you look up!
There is also an amusement arcade area and a little shop selling papers, magazines, perfumes, etc. This seems to cover a surprisingly large selection of useful travelling stuff for such a small area. The information desk also offers a currency exchange which always puzzled me, as when approached with Ulster Bank notes, I was told they only changed foreign currency. Not much requirement for that sort of thing in the UK I would have thought?
**For the Kids**
For those of you who want to watch a film and can get there early then the movie area is for you. Thinking about it, I do not know what they show for the fast ferry crossing as obviously you cannot watch a full film in one hour.
For the younger ones there is a small soft play area which is unsupervised, so I usually sit in there with my Mp3 player watching the kids and everyone else's when their parents assume I am the responsible adult and leave quickly. They do pop their head around the door occasionally to ensure that my kids are not killing theirs!
It is difficult to talk about ferry prices as this can vary vastly depending on how and when you travel. The website quotes a basic price starting from £69 for a car and driver for a single journey. We paid around £300 for a family of four in an average saloon car in high season both ways. Well actually I paid nothing, as I used a years worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for the trip. If you go for the cheapest option then the right to cancel and amend is limited. Paying a little extra will gain you a flexible ticket.
The P & O Irish Sea Ferries website can be found at http://www.poirishsea.com/
Telephone booking line is 0871 66 44 777. Please be aware that there is a £5 booking fee by telephone.
When all is said and done I travel with my family to Northern Ireland once a year so that I can visit my parents and extended family, my kids get to spend time with their grandparents and cousins, uncles, aunts etc. I would not say that I particularly enjoy the journey, apart from West Moorland service station (I feel a review coming on) but on balance the ferry crossing is not the worst part of the journey. With 2 still fairly young children, flying does not seem to give me the flexibility (luggage and car) that the ferry does. If you want to experience Northern Ireland then you will need a car. It may not be absolute luxury but there is something of an adventurous feeling about taking the ferry.
P&O Ferries (P&O)
The first time I was on a P&O ferry was a couple of days ago, I got a small and fast ferry over to Cairnryan, Scotland. And a Large and Slow ferry back to Larne, Northern Ireland. I will write a review on them both.
P&O Smaller Ferry...
The ferry was designed for cars just, It was a smaller ferry and it was faster ferry! It had three decks of cars on it, and when you got onto the ferry it had two decks to it and a Smoking Area outside. The First deck had a shop and some chairs. On the second deck there was alot more chairs, and there was a food shop where you could buy Chicken, Roast Potatoes and many other foods. On North of the boat there is a door that leads you to a small place outside just infront of the Cabin where the captin of the boat was, This was where everyone smoked at. In the shop on the first deck there was Perfum, After Shave, Books and many other products but this shop was very dear and so was the Food canteen. The boat was fast but it was very rocky, But it gets you from Larne to Cairnryan in around One Hour. So Overall this is a very good boat to travel on if you want to get to Scotland quick. The only disadvantage was that there is No Lorries on this boat so the Lorry Drivers had to get the bigger boat!
P&O Larger Ferry...
It was a ferry designed for Lorries, It had a lower deck for large lorries and a upper deck for Lorries and cars. The decks fitted around 100 lorries and cars. When you got onto the boat there was only one large deck, And there was a Truckers lounge but I never seen it, But I have heard that they get there own canteen etc. But on the main deck there was a Cinema, Quiet room, Childrens room, Gambling room, Hot food Canteen, Sandwhich bar and a Shop. I wasn't in the Cinema so I don't know what was on. But in the Cinema and Quiet room you were not allowed Mobile phones. In the childrens room there was two rows of chairs and a TV, Wall E was on the TV. The Quiet room was for reading or just taking some time to yourself. The Gambling room had gambling machines just in it, Around ten Gambling machines. The Hot food canteen sold foods like Chips and Gravy, Mushy peas and many other foods. I had Chips and Gravy and it cost me £1.99! There were comfortable chairs at the Canteen and everywhere over the boat. The sandwhich bar obiously sold Sandwhiches! The shop sold P&O products e.g. P&O toy boats and P&O eatable Rock, They also sold Books, Aftershave, Perfume and many other products. On the two sides of the boat there were decks that you could see the sea and they where the smoking areas on the boat. Overall This boat was a excellent boat, it took two hours to get home to Larne, Northern Ireland. And the journey was very calm.
The two boats where excellent to travel on, The boat cost the same. I Drive a Vauxhall Vectra 1.9 five door and they boat had enough room it!It cost around £65. There is secuirty checks before you get on the boat so the boats are safe. I really enjoyed travelling on the P&O ferries and I will be again when I go back to the Mainland or Europe. I might even order for a Cruise next year. I would recommend anyone Lorry Drivers or Car/Van/Motorcyclist drivers to go on the P&O Ferries if you have to go over seas.
Do you sometimes wonder how Accounting works? I do, and I'm an Accountant myself...
No matter how many times I thought about it, it just didn't make sense. Obviously, this is a lie - I well understand the concept of Marginal Revenue and Contribution - but I'm trying to paint a scene of nonsense Maths here.
Last weekend, I took the family on a trip to Calais for the day. This involved the P&O Ferry and our car. Happening upon a spiffy offer on the Interweb, we paid the grand sum of £19 for the crossing. This included a free box of wine (6 bottles of South African Rose that my Wife gratefully received) valued, according to the discounted Duty Paid price in the shop on the Ferry, at £17.64. Still with me? Also we received a voucher for half price breakfast (£3.75 saving) which together meant that our savings exceeded the cost of the trip.
'So they're paying us to travel', I pointed out, as is my need to justify expenditure in these cash-strapped times. I know it isn't that simple, but the moral effect of such a bargainous outcome is worth more to me than the real cost of the trip, which involved 298 miles of driving to get to Dover in the first place.
It's some years since I'd been on a Ferry, and whilst I hadn't expected Technology to have altered the experience too greatly, I was pleasantly surprised at the organised and sensible layout of the Ferry decks, and the efficiency of the whole loading procedure.
Upon arriving at the Terminal, we navigated a series of concentric lanes, dodging errant trucks and passing through French Border Patrol (who looked thoroughly underwhelmed at spending their working day sitting in a small box on the wrong side of La Manche, until we arrived at out designated lane, where we queued patiently before loading time. Having preplanned for all considerations, I was not caught out by the loading assistant's questions regarding my mandatory travel accessories (Loading Assistant? I'm sure they have a far more complicated name - Executive Loading Efficiency Operative?)
Warning Triangle, check. High Visibility Jacket, check. Headlight Beam thingies, check. Magnetic GB plate, check. Easy see....
We filed up the top ramp and onto the upper car deck of the ferry, even managing to unload the pram and child without inconveniencing anyone. Then we took a lift up to the first of 2 passenger decks. The actual crossing time, including a bit of parking sensor fun with the Docks at either end, is 90 minutes, and the Ferry comes equipped with a variety of ways to part you from your money and make back some of the money you didn't spend on the crossing ticket.
The lower of the two passenger decks contained a Family Lounge with Bar, a Coffee Lounge - both with Costa Coffee concessions therein, a bureau de change, and the fairly impressive Duty Paid shop. Due to arcane laws involving chicanery and possibly skulduggery the sale of this cheaper alcohol and tobacco booty is prohibited until the Ferry has sailed out of British waters. The other half of the shop contains mostly perfume, as well as chocolate and books - and this area is constantly open, and was populated with women browsing the fragrances, and their partners loitering by the tensabarrier, thirstily awaiting the opening of the alcohol section. There is also a grown up pub on the other side of the deck, next to a gaming room full of expensive flashing boxes that swallow money but keep your teenage kids suitably entertained.
Upstairs is located the Food Court - which is actually a small buffet serving breakfasty and lunch fare with a massive seating area. You may think the £7.50 for 7 items of cooked breakfast is a bit steep (unless you have a cunning voucher as I did), but you just try bringing yourself to pay 30p for a tiny portion of marmlejam to spread on your toast!
Also upstairs you will find the Club Lounge (actually you won't find it, as it's hidden round a bulkhead corner and behind a frosted glass door) and the Commercial Driver's Canteen, which is the polite version of Café filled with truckers. Whether they are separated for the passengers' good or their own I couldn't say - but then If I had a 26hr drive to Budapest to contemplate, the last thing I'd want to spend my relaxation time doing is queuing for my breakfast behind an outsized family group noisily debating the merits of which Irish/British Pub in Calais to drink in first.
During our sojourn on the high seas we heard a couple of garbled announcements from the Purser - probably telling us what particular combination of klaxons and horns to listen for in the event of attack by Giant Sea Serpents, or a Fire - and there are obviously an inordinate number of posters, stickers and notices about concerning safety, lifejackets and other things of common sense involving boats. Aside from this, we were mostly left untroubled to enjoy our time on the boat - and even experienced some positive customer service on the return trip when an Onboard Loading Operative (Chap in High Visibility jacket telling us where to park) saw our pram and directed us to a cunningly hidden lift not 5 paces from our car, even taking time to press the button for us as we manoeuvred between cars. In today's era of surly teenagers with caps pulled down over their faces as they take your order it was a pleasant change.
I should add some official burble here about frequency of service and so on. P&O have some boats that sail on days ending in Y, at least twice a day, and for a variety of fares eclipsed only by the train companies. It may be slower than the Chunnel, but is certainly cheaper for a Day Return, and considerably more fun if you have kids in tow than spending 35 minutes inside a dimly lit tunnel. As long as you don't get seasick filling a sink, and reckon you could swim the 12 miles maximum to the nearest shore if it capsized, then the Ferry is clearly the way to go.
Seafrance offer competition on the route - but I haven't used them yet, so I shan't mention them anymore....
have been on a number of minicruises to amsterdam and bruges now. P&O are great (especially if you can get the 241 deals that they often do.
their cruises suit every taste and budget (we stick to the cheapies tho), They do channel shopping cruises, city breaks to Holland and Belgium - and taste of Spain breaks with 3-night mini cruise from Portsmouth to Bilbao.
If you fancy a break with a difference P&O are great , they do special themed mini cruises with special bands or events. These are great and will definately get you in the party mood!
The only downside is the cost of the food. At around £18 for dinner its not cheap but you do have the option of a snack bar if you prefer. Drinks are also quite expensive but we tend to buy a lemonade and put our own vodka in!! cheeky - yes but saves a hell of a lot of money which you can spend on chocolates in bruges!
I am a regular traveller on the Dover-Calais route, and always travel P&O, as a foot passenger. I have always been impressed with the service I have received. I normally book online (via Quidco, to get my 4% cashback), and find the process very easy. The website is very clear, and simple to use. One criticism of the booking process on the website I do have is that it is not easy to find out what sailings do not allow passengers - I know by experience, but it would be helpful for it to be on the site somewhere.
After booking, by debit or credit card (£2 fee for credit card bookings), it normally comes to £20-£25 for a return sailing, depending on the dates and times. I think this is a VERY good price! The confirmation and booking documents are emailed immediately, which is great.
I have booked my crossing by telephone at times when the site is experiencing high traffic, or when there are limited spaces left (ie, when it's school holidays, trying to book through the website is a nightmare!). The staff on the booking line are all very helpful and friendly, whenever I have called, and are knowledgeable about the crossings and the rules about foot passengers.
The service upon check in is great. On the one occasion I missed check in by a minute due to heavy traffic, the Dover check in staff moved heaven and earth to get me on the boat, for which I was very grateful! They are always helpful, and very professional.
The boats themselves have great facilities (and I know they are investing in bigger better boats, to come into service in 2010), with great shopping (wahey, duty free!), great bars, Costa coffee, lovely restaurant (book a table ahead, if you want a place guaranteed, it's normally fully booked before the boat has even started moving), great food court (reasonably priced meals such as fish n chips, and good family deals) and plenty of seating areas. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and the bars aren't super expensive as you might expect them to be, with a captive audience.
On the rare occasion of there being changes to my booked crossing, P&O have always got in touch with me in good time, and with great flexibility of different sailings to offer me. They have said to me before "it's our fault you have to change sailing, so you can go on any crossing you like" - meaning the fully booked ones also haven't turned me down. I guess they leave a few places free in case they're needed.
I have travelled on the ferries by car before also, and although the prices are less competitive (Eurotunnel is cheaper), the service is the same, just as great.
In my eyes, P&O can do no wrong.
Usually when I travel to the continent I am going over towards Belgium, Holland or Germany. For our holidays this year (you will be able to tell when I went by the gap in my reviews) we went to the Cote Sauvage (Atlantic Coast) region of France. We booked through the Caravan Clubs excellent members service and sailed through P&O European Ferries from Portsmouth to Le Havre and returned on the same route.
After a pleasant couple of days in Portsmouth we sailed at 14:30 for Le Havre. We arrived at the port at about 1pm and the booking in was uneventful, we boarded on time and as a caravanner we were among the first to board. Boarding was easy and competed speedily and efficiently. We did then go quickly from the car bay to the decks but there turned out to be no need to rush as there was plenty of room in all the public areas. The ship was the 'Pride Of Le Havre' and it was very spacious. The sailing seemed to be fully booked but as there was such a choice it seemed less full.
We had not booked a cabin as for 5 and a half hours sailing time it did not seem worth it. There is a lot to do on board. Firstly there is a wide choice of places to eat from the standard self yourself restaurant to a waiter service restaurant. We ate in the self service area on both crossings and found the food good, reasonable value and monster portions of it! There is a cinema which managed to fit in 2 good recent family films during the crossing and at £4.20 for adults was not too badly priced. There is also a swimming pool on deck 2 that is below the level of the car decks. This was very busy and perhaps explained why the rest of the boat seemed empty! You only need to remember your costumes as there are changing facilities and even towels available.
If you don not fancy a swim or a film or something to eat there was huge selection of arcade games and slot machines and for adults fancying a bit more of a gamble a casino with roulette or black jack. The casino is in part of the bar area which has a good selection of beers though these I found were unnecessarily pricey. There was also a small stage where the cabaret performed. This was a passable group singing popular songs. You have to feel for these people who play their hearts out to a handful of people and complete every song to near silence. It must be soul destroying. There were advertisements for a children's entertainer but I did not see him. There is a children's room for drawing, colouring and the inevitable face painting. I do have to confess I find face painting a baffling phenomenon, I have yet to see any which makes the person or child look better.
If all else fails there are lots of places where you can just sit around. The shop on board has a good range of wines and spirits and other goods and prices were quite good. However overall you are always best to buy in the local stores in France. It can be a good way of getting rid of any spare change as this will be accepted and the subsequent change given in English coins. The exchange rate of about 11 Francs to the pound was not too punitive.
What I particularly liked about the P&O service was that the ship was clean, well laid out and all the staff and crew were friendly and helpful. In a recent review I said the best way to cross the Channel was by Le Shuttle and it probably is, just. The ferries though like P&O know that some people miss the 'ferry experience' and when the crossings are as calm as ours were this year that is a very happy experience.
Me and my fiance went on a 2 day mini cruise to Amsterdam from Hull in March.
It cost us only £69 both ways as it was a buy one get one free offer as P & O often offer.
We has an outside cabin which we didn't have to pay more for, just request one when you book.
The offers on the P & O website change monthly so you usually can't book more than a month in advance.
The cruise was lovely, there were a couple of big bars on the ship, a restaurant and even a cinema!!
On the way out we didn't bother with a meal cos we didn't sail til 9pm but on the way back we treated ourselves and it was worth it! The restaurant had so much choice and beautiful food!
The North sea can be a bit rough in March so if you get sea sick it would be better to go at a calmer time when the weather is better!!
You sail throughout the night.
The ship gets into port at 8am then a coach takes you into the centre of Amsterdam.
The coach picks you up at teatime and then takes you back to port.
Again, you sail home through the night and arrive in Hull early in the morning.
A really cheap 2 day break, the food is a bit pricey but worth it when the rest of the break is so cheap.
just returned from a new years eve cruise 2007-2008,there 4 of us ,we enjoyed the cabaret ,also the food ,but the waiting around to board from portsmouth was a nightmare ,no organized queing ,plus there was not enough seating in the main show bar.we had to stand up throughout the shows.because people and children where reserving seats from early afternoon while parents and friends got changed into there eveningwear..it was overbooked .and when we complained to the staff the reply was,,,i cant do nothig about it !!!!!,,so we shall not be doing a new years party cruise again with p&o,,,most of the couples where complaining about the shotage of seats ,,,,,,,
My boyfriend and I have travelled on the P & O Ferries 'Pride of Bilbao' 3 times now and each time was thoroughly enjoyable...so much more than I was expecting for a £32 minibreak!
We decided to book a minicruise after being recommended the break by some friends. The price was a big factor in our decision as we are always on a very tight budget and at only £64 for both of us it seemed like the bargain of the century!
We were able to check out all of the details on the P&O ferries website (www.poferries.co.uk). The website is so easy to navigate and very informative, I found myself getting excited about the trip just looking at the pictures!
The minicruise departs from Portsmouth twice weekly all year round. It arrives at the port of Santurzi, North Spain after around a 36 hour journey. From the port you are given the option to take one of the various excursions or just to wander the area around the port and take in the local area. After about 4 or 5 hours you have to return to the ship for the voyage back to Portsmouth.
I believe you can book tickets online, however we always prefer to book tickets over the phone so dialled the number supplied on the website. We got through to a very helpful member of staff straight away without having to wait on hold and our tickets were booked in a matter of seconds! Rather than be sent the tickets, P&O Ferries prefer to save paper and just give out a booking number for you to quote at check in. I found this an efficient system, although I must admit i was a little anxious in the days running up to the minicruise (not having the tickets to clutch in my hand) that our booking hadn't been confirmed. All my worries disappeared when we got to the ferry terminal in Portsmouth and were checked in without delay.
The ship was due to leave Portsmouth at 8:00pm, being the cautious people that we are we chose to arrive an hour early and this proved to be a wise decision as we were told we could board after only a 20 minute wait. Boarding was a fairly quick and easy procedure. We were given standard security checks, both our luggage and ourselves were passed through the metal detectors. From there we walked out of the terminal to waiting busses provided to ferry us to the ship. The busses were very cramped with as many people standing as sitting, all carrying their full suitcases. I imagine this could prove to be a problem for elderly or infirm travellers, although it is possible P&O make allowances for this. I myself wasn't very bothered by the jam-packed bus, for the price we paid for this minicruise i was expecting to 'rough it' a lot more than this!
I first saw the 'Pride of Bilbao' from the bus window. I was amazed by the size of the ship. I had seen pictures of it on the P&O website but i imagined it would be more the size of the Sea cat/Condor cross-channel ferries (I'm a pessimist, i know!). It seemed even larger when i stepped out of the bus and glanced up to see the ship towering above me. The excitement almost overcame me and i set about bouncing my way up the gangway!
I can't recommend this minicruise for those that are petrified of heights. I do not usually class myself as person with a fear of heights, but queuing up on that gangway in high winds, looking down at the cracks in the joints of the metal floor made me feel altogether giddy! We were around halfway up the side of the ship (it looked so much lower from the ground!) and the passport-checking process at the ships door was causing a slight hold-up. While some more adventurous people used the time to get a better view of the ship and Portsmouth dock, I used the time to gather all of my various travel documents and most importantly, my passport to make the process as smooth as possible. Quite frankly, i could not wait to be off of that gangway!
On entering the ship we were directed by one of the many members of staff to the area of the ship where we would find our cabins. I had picked up a P&O brochure in the ferry terminal previously which had a map of the ship on the back which i found to be very useful throughout the minicruise, especially when it came to finding our cabins. We soon realised that most corridors onboard look identical and it is very easy to mistakenly go to the right area on the wrong floor, or the right floor but the wrong end of the ship! A tip to help first time travellers on the 'Pride of Bilbao' navigate the ship is to first find the correct floor in the stair wells and try to remember various items you see on the way (there was a fire extinguisher on my floor that i came to rely on when trying to find the route to my cabin). Of course the whole ship is clearly marked with directions at all the various junctions for the more logical thinkers!
The corridors to the cabins are, as i was expecting, quite narrow. I'm afraid i can not recommend this minicruise to claustrophobics either! Dragging your suitcase along these small, low-ceilinged corridors can be quite a task, especially when everybody else on board are also trying to locate their cabins.
We were lucky enough to have a cabin right at the rear of the ship. Right opposite our cabin door we were treated to a row of windows which, when in port provided a fabulous view. As i later found these windows would provide a lovely, relaxing place to sit and gaze out of at the surf.
We opted for a 2-berth inside cabin, being the cheapest choice I had quite low expectations of what i would find when i opened the cabin door for the first time. You are provided with a key card on embarkment, which we never had any problems with during our break. The first thing i noticed when entering our cabin was the size. I must admit, it was very small, but for the price we paid it was luxury! There was a single bed at the back of the cabin with fresh bed linen laid out on it. Above this was a fold-out bunk which could be clipped into place or neatly folded against the wall for single travellers. A ladder is stored against the wall as space is of the utmost importance! The fold-out bunk was to be my bed and i got several restful nights sleep on it! It does take some getting used to, i found it creaked quite a bit when climbing in/out of bed and even sometimes with the ships movement. Nevertheless, i found it did the job nicely! There is a weight limit to these bunks as you would expect. I'm afraid i can't remember what the limit is, it is printed on the bunk but if you are unsure i would suggest phoning P&O in advance.
There is also a bedside table provided, with radio, electrical socket, mirror and clothes hooks. The radio picks up both English, French and Spanish radio stations and can also be used as an alarm. The electrical socket is European so i advise that you take a European-English converter as they are quite expensive from the onboard shop. Other handy things to take would be a travel kettle, mugs, teabags...ect as I found buying drinks from the various onboard cafes can get very expensive.
The en-suite facility is much as you would expect. Very small but with everything you need. A small shower in the corner separated with a curtain, toilet and basin. The only problems we encountered with these facilities was that the flush on our toilet tended to stop working - not what you need in such an enclosed space! This happened 3 times in total and we informed reception, only to find that by the time we got back to the cabin the toilet had been mended. The engineers didn't even need to enter our cabin. Although it was a nuisance, the problem was dealt with in the most efficient way possible.
On touring the ship the first thing I came to was the large onboard shop. It sells mostly duty-free items (alcohol, cigarettes, perfume...ect) but also has a large selection of souvenirs, travel items and essential products such as pharmaceuticals, food and drinks. It would be wise to stock up on these essential items in England as I found the onboard shop to be very expensive.
On wandering further around the ship I came across the cinema. It is a fairly small and cosy cinema which shows a selection of the latest films and older films. When I was onboard they had catered for both adults and children with a wide variety of films. The cinema also doubles as a presentation room for the onboard Biscay Dolphin Research Programme. There are several wildlife officers onboard that conduct scientific research into whale and dolphin behaviour in the bay of Biscay. They also run free dolphin and whale spotting sessions from the top deck (or in bad weather a viewing area below deck).I loved attending the presentations and found them fun and informative. Children would especially love keeping a look out for sea life and there is a large display board on the top deck with pictures of all the species of dolphin and whale you might see.
We were very lucky and saw many dolphins come to play in the ships surf on all 3 of our trips.
At the back of the ship there is a very large main bar providing cabaret entertainment and late night disco's most nights. This is where we spent a lot of our trip! The drinks were reasonably priced and the entertainment was great. They provided a good mixture of song, dance and comedy.
There are several other small bars to relax in onboard. We spent some time in the piano bar listening to an excellent pianist playing the theme from 'Titanic' of all things! Again, the staff were polite and efficient. There is also an outside bar on the front deck, although this is only open during pleasant weather.
Right on the bottom deck of the ship is the fitness centre and swimming pool. The pool is very small but it is nicely heated and all occasions I found I almost had the pool to myself. There is a Jacuzzi next to the pool which was quite a bit busier. In the same area there is also several saunas and a fitness suite. This is again quite small but contains plenty of different exercise machines to get your blood pumping! Opposite there is a small bar with a television which comes in handy if you are waiting for somebody to finish in the pool.
One problem with the pool is that during foggy or rough weather the whole area is sealed off with water-tight doors. This is a precautionary measure as the pool is right at the front of the ship. It can be a nuisance but I understand that safety is priority.
There are plenty of places to eat onboard, although some tend to be quite expensive. The largest restaurant onboard was situated right at the front of the ship. It served buffet food and an all-you-can-eat cavery for £15 per head which I thought was very reasonably priced. The location of the restaurant provided brilliant views but unfortunately it was the area of the ship that moved the most and so I did start to feel a little queasy , something which spoilt my meal somewhat.
I was lucky to only feel sea sick on a few occasions. We travelled in autumn and the sea was fairly rough. Obviously if you tend to get motion sickness then this is not the break for you.
Whenever I started to feel unwell I found a nice walk along the deck made me feel a lot better!
There is also a childs play area and small salon onboard although I never used these.
Disembarkment in Spain was quick and easy. Thankfully there is not any queuing on the gangway! After a few security checks you are able to either make your way around alone or join any of the excursions (these must be pre-booked onboard). We joined a trip going into the city of Bilbao. There was a guide showing us the sites and we were able to spend some time wandering around the city. There is plenty to see and do in the city but unfortunately you are limited by time on this trip. You must re-board the ship only 4-5 hours after leaving it. It provides a nice break from the ship but it would be a lot nicer to have the whole day to sightsee.
Bilbao boasts the Guggenheim Museum although we never had time to visit it, the interesting building was pointed out to us on the guided bus tour.
Bilbao was a slight disappointment mostly due to the lack of time we had.
I thoroughly recommended this minicruise to anybody wanting a short break on a budget. P&O offer 2 for 1 ticket deals during the low season which means currently tickets are only £32 per person.
The staff are all English speaking and very polite and helpful. There are plenty of amenities, so you will find it hard to get bored. On the down side, It can get quite expensive buying food and drink onboard and I would not recommend this break to people who suffer from motion sickness, fear of heights or claustrophobia!
For more information or to book tickets go to:
i have travelled three times on the pride on each trip the staff were very friendly and helpful the entertianment was superb and so was the food. the weather was not so good the last time i went but i was not seasick, though others of my group were.did not see so meny dolphins as it was to rough for them and us, but i am traveling again in a week and i am realy looking forward to it, for a relaxing short break you cannot beat it if the weather is kind. the only down side is the queueing to get on and off the ship it is like being in a sardine can with everyone waiting in one small place to disembark, the places where you wait to board are very basic but clean and compfortable but not very large either not much to do apart from drink or eat, but not much choice there either. apart from this i would recommend it to anyone.