Model Boat Mayhem

Mess Deck: General Section => Chit-Chat => Topic started by: kayem on July 10, 2007, 02:30:21 pm

Title: Ferry Charges
Post by: kayem on July 10, 2007, 02:30:21 pm
It's a her!

Hate flying, too much sitting around waiting and then being squeezed into a flying toothpaste tube. Brittany Ferries are OK but are getting a bit expensive so we slummed it via Dover. Still, 54.4mpg out of a 2 litre diesel Mondeo isn't a bad average and I filled up in Calais at around 1 Euro per litre before boarding!

Apologies to Admiral Bishop for moving one of his posts, but you'll understand in a moment. CB says "Brittany Ferries are getting a bit expensive", and he ain't kidding. I've just booked a few days in France, and having used them before, I get regular 'special offer' e-mails from Brittany Ferries, the latest one read 'from' 89 each way. It's a real weasel word that 'from', it's typical marketing speak. If you click on the 'Special Offers' tab on their website and try to book something, half the boxes are greyed out, no sailings available. Sure, you can get something close to these prices, but only if you go for 2 or 3 days midweek, even though their offer is for trips up to 5 days. In almost all cases, one of the sailings is going to be over a weekend, so a hefty supplement applies, it seems that the 'offer' isn't available on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Travelling over a weekend from Thursday to Monday, I got a quote of 203, still some way from the promised 89 you'll notice, but trying for six days Sunday to Saturday, they quoted an almost unbelievable 538 !! Eventually I tried Monday to Friday, and settled for 230, which is still expensive but just about acceptable, as long as you ignore the fact that as an ex P & O shareholder (before they sold out to Arabs),and using my lifetime discount, I could have travelled between Dover and Calais on two sailings seven days apart for 75, and that includes seats in the Club Lounge with free glasses of champagne, not exactly what I'd call 'Slumming it' CB, and to rub it in, I made a good profit on the P & O shares.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: Colin Bishop on July 10, 2007, 02:48:54 pm
Kayem, Brittany Ferries are attracting a lot of criticism over their pricing, particularly as if you book your accommodation through them there are some pretty good deals around - or were when I last looked. If you just want the ferry only then the sky's the limit as you've found. They may have a premium product but the prices are way too high. One reason is almost certainly due to the crews being comprised of French nationals who are very expensive to employ. Irish ferries had the same problem last year so they made most of their crews redundant and replaced them with Poles and Eastern Europeans. The whole thing is further complicated as most of the money on an annual basis is made on the freight. Travelling Western Channel allows the drivers to get a decent break which fits in well with driving hours restrictions.

An alternative from Portsmouth are LD Lines to Le Havre who are much cheaper than BF but have only limited cabin avaiability at night unless you fancy cuddling up with a trucker. Avoid Transmanche from Newhaven as the ships are always running aground and hitting things and the harbourmaster has no nautical qualifications.

As far as P&O are concerned we didn't treat ourself to Club Class. You are only on the boat for 90 minutes or so (compared with 3 hours waiting in Calais because only one tug was available and winds were 50-60 knots :() so it's just a sort of floating bridge really....
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: kayem on July 10, 2007, 02:59:50 pm
All true Colin, but I'd be slightly wary about recommending LD Lines between Portsmouth & Le Havre. I had a quick look at their website, and I may have missed something in the small print, but as far as I can see, they don't appear to be very much cheaper than Brittany Ferries. They only have one ship & one sailing each day, certainly at the moment, and the half speed overnight crossing takes eight hours! At least, living in Poole, I'm only a 15 minute drive from the port, and it's only 2h 15m to Cherbourg on the high speed ferry. Driving to Dover takes me a good three hours at dead of night, though I don't have much choice if I'm heading for Germany or Austria.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: Colin Bishop on July 10, 2007, 03:11:35 pm
I see your point Kayem, Cherbourg is the obvious choice of French port for you.

I've not checked on LD myself recently but had it on good authority that they were quite a bit cheaper than BF - maybe that was during non peak periods of the year. They are looking for another ship but there isn't much on the market at the moment apparently. Most of the overnight ships slow down during the crossing to avoid arriving too early in France. I've always found that the 8am arrival French time in St Malo is quite early enough for me, especially if you have a long drive at the other end.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: Bunkerbarge on July 11, 2007, 07:35:22 pm
Depending on your route of course but what about the tunnel?

I have crossed a couple of times with the motorcycle and wouldn't dream of using the ferry as they have not the time or the inclination to look after something as precarious as a bike.  The tunnel was cheap, very fast, and I stood next to the bike holding it up for the journey.  Quick and easy!
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: alan colson on July 11, 2007, 09:59:24 pm
How about booking one of your crossings over night, I would have been able to book a car, caravan and 2 adults for under 200 by doing this with P&O on a July crossing, the tunnel was almost the same price by doing a night crossing and for speed and convienience this is what I have done.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: kayem on July 12, 2007, 08:16:52 am
Depending on your route of course but what about the tunnel?

I have crossed a couple of times with the motorcycle and wouldn't dream of using the ferry as they have not the time or the inclination to look after something as precarious as a bike.  The tunnel was cheap, very fast, and I stood next to the bike holding it up for the journey.  Quick and easy!

Good point, especially for bikes, but the biggest disadvantage with the Tunnel, at least as far as I'm concerned is the lack of flexibility, if you miss the time you booked, you're in trouble. That's probably not so bad on the outward journey, but it is when you come back. With P & O, although you have to book a time, in practice they just put you on the first available boat when you turn up in Calais, a big advantage if you've driven a long way. You have to specify a sailing when you book, so I pick the first cheap rate one, usually something like 21.00 hours. Driving from the Alps, traffic permitting and knowing the route, I usually arrive an hour or two before that, and I've never failed to get on the first boat, with no surcharge for being too early for the cheap rate I've booked. Reading the terms & conditions on their site, it looks to me if arriving early or late at the Tunnel terminal could be a big problem, at the very least there's a hefty surcharge for any alterations. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I have an unfair advantage of getting 50% off the standard rates on P & O.

PS And on that point about cheaper night sailings, I get the cheap rate on the outward sailing as well, leave home just after midnight, three hours or so along a deserted M3, M25 & M20, averaging about 70mph for the journey, and onto the 4.30 sailing from Dover. With the time going forward one hour, reach a French or Belgian town just in time for coffee & croissants.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: sinjon on July 13, 2007, 08:20:02 am
We always use the tunnel, (my wife hates the up and down bit at sea) sometimes leave after work, sometimes leave before breakfast, never had a problem, turn up early and have driven straight on, turned up late in France, same thing.
Glad I didn't know about the surcharge. It bores me silly sitting around for hours on a dockside. also book a time that suits you, not the ferry company.

Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: Colin Bishop on July 14, 2007, 10:50:29 am
LD lines have just announced an order for two new ferries for the Portsmouth/Le Havre route for delivery in 2010. I imagine that will help bring down fares at some point. However P&O pulled out of the route because they felt it wasn't viable although this may have been because the ships they were using had too much passenger capacity and not enough freight. The new LD ships will be more freight oriented. I imagine this will have a knock on effect on the Cherbourg routes.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges....and checks at the Terminals.
Post by: Roger in France on July 16, 2007, 07:08:13 am
I use the ferries and the tunnel frequently depending on where, in England I am heading. I always have my dog with me and, in the past, I often towed a caravan. I no longer own a caravan.

I found the Tunnel far too expensive when towing the caravan. However, I cannot use a ferry on the longer crossings because the dog must stay in the car, below decks. Even though my dog is a good traveller and seems happy on the Cherbourg to Portsmouth route I would not want to be cruel over a longer period. I understand some ferry companies are introducing a limited number of kennels on an upper deck but have not yet encountered such a facility.

I find the Tunnel very flexible and accommodating. I have arrived over an hour late - no problem. I have arrived as much as 5 hours (!) early - no problem. I have booked a standard height car and turned up with a large, over height roof box - no problem. I have never been charged a supplement or amendment fee.

My most recent crossing was last Friday. On arrival at the Folkestone Terminal I found no French immigration officials in the inspection office but surly British officials waved me (and others with British cars, mine is French registered) into a search area and without any explanation or permission and without any sense of politeness thrust a baton through my drivers window and swabbed the steering wheel and then did the same with all external door handles. They showed no interest in my roof box which could have housed at least two bodies. Without a word of explanation I was kept waiting for a few minutes and then summarily dismissed. When I asked what was going on I was told, "Just routine" and asked to drive on.

Of course I support reasonable checks in support of security and drug abuse. However, as a former law enforcement officer I always reminded my staff that if you have powers and sanctions you can always come out on top in the end so exercise your powers courteously and with transparency, you may even win friends that way.

I intend to check on the powers of these officials to carry out such checks without permission or explanation. I certainly know that most powers can only be exercised when there is "reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed". I accept that for security powers and drug control powers that may not apply. Even more reason to be polite and explain.

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Ferry Charges
Post by: Colin Bishop on July 16, 2007, 09:18:04 am
I came through Calais a couple of weeks back and everyone had to open their boots as usual. The security people were perfetly polite about it. I've occasionally been pulled over at Portsmouth for a security check and again no unpleasantness. although on the last return trip the passport check was almost non existent!

I imagine your roofbox was scannd Roger. They can look inside trucks for illegal immigrants so a plastic roofbox is not likely to be a problem.