AD – hosted ferry trip provided for review purposes, opinions remain my own.
Cocooned in crisp white linen in our bunks in our Brittany Ferries cabin, we awoke to the most gentle sea-shantyesque piped alarm as we sailed into Caen. After a bit of fresh air on deck, tea and pastries, we were rested and ready to head off to for a week of relaxation in the Southern Loire.
The Portsmouth to Caen crossing saved us 40 minutes driving in the UK and 3 hours driving to the Southern Loire once in France. We sailed overnight on the way out and by afternoon on the way home. There are 21 crossings a week on this route.
The crossings start from five hours 45 minutes in the day and are closer to seven hours at night. With entertainment and restaurants on board and the option to sleep in a cabin and get some proper rest when making a long drive, it quickly becomes both an appealing way to travel and a mini adventure in its own right
I have fond memories of ferry travel as a kid, to Spain and Scandinavia, and our trip reminded me me how much I love slower travel, the adventure of travelling by sea and the convenience of taking your own car. Food, camping gear, dogs, kids’ favourite bedding, I even took my dumbbells and exercise mat – not that I used them once I got into holiday mode.
I felt much less stressed travelling by ferry as a parent than I do compared to getting us through airports. It was just so easy to throw everything in the car and to hop off for a bit once onboard the ferry. No hire car to find and get used to, no lugging heavy cases around.
And ferries have everything airports have, like restaurants and duty free, but leaving most things in your car or cabin and being able to stretch your legs and get fresh air while actually moving is a much more pleasurable travel experience for me. Ferries even have cinemas these days, although I would rather watch the sea!
My enjoyment was all despite worrying about seasickness, although with tablets I was thrilled that I didn’t feel even remotely sea sick. In fact I quite enjoyed lying in my gently swinging bunk as the ferry rolled over some waves in the night. Modern medicine is pretty incredible. The kids slept through it.
There was plenty to do on board, although now our two are older they were happy to chill out in the cabin for much of our afternoon crossing. We debated going to the cinema and leaving Mr A in peace to rest before the drive home, but the cabin was so comfy it was hard to move.
We visited the shops and arcades and enjoyed the deck which was accessible from the end of our corridor. On the way home Mr G and I bought pizzas back to the cabin which made everyone smile.
Prices vary, but our two crossings would have cost £556 in total, which is much cheaper than airport parking, car hire and flights combined. I think cabins offer great value too, the cabin portion of our ticket was £85 on the way out and only £31 on the way back.
You don’t have to opt for a cabin, there are bookable reclining seats as well as plenty of lounge and bar areas where families had set up camp for the afternoon on our return journey, kids were being entertained by a talk on sea creatures and by an entertainer making balloon animals.
Our ferry out and the ferry that unloaded when we were in Caen were packed with soldiers and historical re-enactors and their vehicles heading to Normandy to mark 75 years since D Day early next month. We tried to imagine 156,000 allied troops descending on the Normandy coast in one night. The loss of life, risk and scale of that operation to liberate France and begin the end of WW2 is mind blowing.
I am also thinking of Ernie and Sid, who are immortalised on this vehicle. Our ferry was decked out in English, American and Canadian flags and had a welcome sign for WW2 veterans. It was a humbling experience, along with sailing into Normandy’s beaches on the way out.
Sailing back into Portsmouth was equally exciting, it’s a vast harbour with lots of warships and interesting architecture.
We must go back and explore Normandy, the war cemeteries and beaches where the landings happened. But for this trip, we were headed to Gites de La Richarderie, in the Southern Loire.
Thanks to Brittany Ferries for a fun, comfortable, inspiring and relaxing adventure!
Alongside suitcases get everyone to pack a small bag for the ferry, with a toothbrush, things to read and play. Headphones are very handy too.
Wearing comfy clothes you can sleep in is an easy option rather than changing in and out of PJs if you want to maximise your sleep, especially on an overnight crossing. Plenty of kids were in onesies for the whole journey of course!
Cabins have shower rooms and towels are provided.
Don’t worry about setting an alarm, the cabins have an automatic one.
You can’t always access your cabin immediately, and you will have to vacate it about 30-40 minutes before arrival. We found a drink in the bar and a wander round the ship helped everyone acclimatise, especially my youngest who was straight from a weekend away with his cousin, hadn’t quite realised we were sleeping on the ferry, and was a little unsure at first.
Fresh air on deck in the morning helped us all wake up and watching the ferry sail in is all part of the ritual!
Check the information desk for cinema tickets and entertainment options during your trip, ferries are much more like mini cruises these days!
On the way home we thought there had been a mistake and we’d only been given one bed and a sofa, but we soon realised the sofa was a second bed and when I lay on it I suddenly saw how to pull the well-disguised top bunks out of the ceiling. So clever, but we very nearly spent the journey with three of us sat on one bed watching Mr A sleep!
Check out Brittany Ferries for more info on Portsmouth to Caen sailings.