Ferries Reviews - Which Cross Channel Ferries to France ?

Choosing which ferry crossing will best meet your needs is not just a matter of cost but also of the quality of amenities available as well as the convenience of the ferry route offered. For the last two decades, we have been crossing over the English Channel to go to Brittany in France. During this time, we have tried nearly all the different ferry companies you can get including the Eurotunnel, so I guess you can say that we are "qualified" to write reviews about them. So, here are the contesters:

 

Not sure which ferry crossing to go for ? Check our timetable review.

 

Celtic Link Ferries Review

Get a quote and book with CELTIC LINK FERRIES below:


There has been a lot of press recently on Celtic Link Ferries's new line Portsmouth-Cherbourg with the Norman Voyager, the newest conventional ship on the channel, which was also due to be used on the Rosslare-Cherbourg route. However, as of January 2010, the vessel is still out of action due to technical grounds and we will update this review as soon as we hear more.

Currently, Celtic Link Ferries serves only the Rosslare to Cherbourg route with 13 monthly sailings all year round with the Diplomat vessel, primarily serving the freight passengers. It is also an overnight crossing so it is compulsory to book a cabin. The cabins are basic but cleaned, all with ensuite facilities, bedding from 2 to 5 persons, some with outside views, all above sea level. However, you do not have entertainment, duty shops, etc, like with Irish Ferries for instance, but there is a bar, a restaurant and a lounge. The food is included in your ticket price and it is fine. If you are a young family, you might find the 18.5 hours journey long to keep the children happy during all this time unless you prepare yourself with an army of games and toys. However, Celtic Link Ferries offers some very cheap prices compared to his counterpart which is worth compromising on amenities if this suits you.

Some restrictions you need to consider. Foot passengers are not accepted. Although there is a lift from the car decks to the accommodation, the cabins are not suitable for wheelchairs and therefore it may be unsuitable for disabled or infirm passengers. Pets (excluding guide dogs) are permitted to travel from Rosslare to Cherbourg ONLY and not on the return leg and they must also travel in their owner's vehicles for the duration of the crossing .

In our views, with the current Diplomat vessel, we would recommend Celtic Link Ferries primarily to couples and families with older children, travelling with a car. Motorcyles, caravans and trailers are allowed.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 10/10
Fast speed crossings available: No
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: basic with the Diplomat vessel but full amenities available on the Norman Voyager once in operation
Service: 6
Value for money: 8 (the cheapest route depending on the season)

Get a quote and book with CELTIC LINK FERRIES.

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Brittany Ferries Review

Brittany Ferries Route Map

Overall, Brittany Ferries is by far the best of all when it comes to crossing by sea. With a large ship fleet, they offer several crossings from the UK and Ireland:

  • from Portsmouth to Saint-Malo
  • from Portsmouth to Cherbourg
  • from Portsmouth to Caen
  • from Poole to Cherbourg
  • from Plymouth to Roscoff
  • from Cork to Roscoff

Some of standard cruise crossings are now available with fast speed ferries of 2 hours typically between Poole and Cherbourg and this is a real bonus. Two more fast speed lines are due to open 1st November 2009 to connect Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Caen.

Their cabins are clean and modern. For young families, you can opt for the 2 or 4 berth cabins, all equipped with toilet and showers. A baby cot can also fit into the 2 berth, a little tight but for a short journey, it is not a problem.
Brittany Ferries is also very good at providing plenty of entertainment during your crossing with cinemas, music, games shows and children play rooms. For toddlers, we found the soft play area safe and ideal. In summer times, some ships will have an entertainer to amuse the children and do some crafting activities. Couples can also leisure on sun-decks and in the Pont-Aven's swimming-pool, although we have never had the pleasure to try it.
When it comes to where to eat, again, all budgets can find their places, with a self-service catering area usually easier for families, cafe areas with cold snacks and the main restaurants with excellent menus where you can start indulging on French food and good wine before you reach your final destination.
Now, all of this do come at a price and in peak season like July and August, you can expect to pay around GBP400 for a return ticket. This is not cheap but it is worth considering several factors:

  • if you are travelling with young children, the fact that you can take a cabin even during the day is priceless to get some rest.
  • you will be saving considerably on driving and fuel cost as you can arrive in Brittany either in Saint-Malo, Roscoff or the nearby Norman port of Cherbourg.
  • you can cross overnight and save 2 days of your holiday by doing so.
  • you can start to relax onboard, enjoy the cruise journey with a nice restaurant meal rather than stressing on the road.

When you take all these considerations into account, the price tag is not as bad as it looks.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 10/10
Fast speed crossings available: Yes
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Accommodation and on board amenities: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Value for money: 7/10
Overall: 8/10


Get a quote and book directly with BRITTANY FERRIES.

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Condor Ferries

Get a quote and book with CONDOR FERRIES below:


Condor Ferries is the second contestant to arrive right in Brittany. Overall, it is a smaller player with a smaller fleet to Saint-Malo and Cherbourg only. However, 3 out of its ships are fast speed ones, with a crossing time of 4 hours and 30 mins from Poole to Saint-Malo for instance, which can be a major advantage. However, you have to check individual crossings as Condor Ferries do not operate the whole year round for all of them, see details below:

  • from Portsmouth to Cherbourg (conventional ferry), Crossing time from 5 hours, May to September only
  • from Poole to Saint-Malo via Guernsey/Jersey, (Fast Speed Car ferry), Crossing time from 4 hours 35 minutes, May to September only
  • from Weymouth to Saint-Malo via Guernsey/Jersey, (Fast Speed Car ferry), Crossing time from 5 hours 15 minutes, Whole year round
With the conventional ferry, you will get access to cabins, restaurants and all other amenities you can expect with a ferry company. Now, with the fast speed car vessels, you do not have access to cabins but reclining or ordinary seats. Because the journey is shorter, facilities onboard are more limited but you will get access to usual duty free shops, bars and cafés. A small children's soft play area with a TV screen is also provided. For a small addition fee, you can opt for their Club Class Lounge which we highly recommend. You get your own designated reclining seat with a table into a quiet air-conditioned room. Tea, coffee and newspapers are also complimentary.
You can also combine stop-overs to Guernsey and Jersey and discover these 2 beautiful islands.
Pricewise, Condor Ferries can offer some good competitive quotes but beware, their online booking system can be slow at times so just be prepared to wait the additional minute.


Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 10/10
Fast speed crossings available: Yes
Whole year round crossings: No
Accommodation and on board amenities: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Value for money: 8/10
Overall: 8/10



Get a quote and book with CONDOR FERRIES.

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P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries is a straight forward cross channel ferry crossing of 90 minutes, Dover to Calais with up to 46 crossings a day. Their ships are well equipped with restaurants, cafés, duty free shops and currency exchange bureau. You also have access to a family room to keep the children happy unless they prefer to go for a run around on the deck. A Club Lounge is also available to relax in peace with complementary drinks.
Pricewise, they can provide some very competitive quotes depending on the season. Check their offers of the moment.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 5/10
Fast speed crossings available: N/A
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

Get a quote and book with P&O FERRIES.

Bear in mind that to drive from Calais to Saint-Malo with the northern coast motorway, it will take 4 hours and 50 minutes to cover a distance of 515km (320 miles) and cost an additional Euro 71 (incl Euro 47 in petrol fuel cost). To avoid the motorway toll, add one additional hour to your journey. Read our guide on driving to Brittany for more details.

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SeaFrance

Get a quote and book with SEAFRANCE below:


In our views, Seafrance provides a very similar service to P&O Ferries with the same route, Dover to Calais, and a 90 minutes crossings. The usual onboard amenities are available with restaurants, cafés, foreign currency exchange bureau, duty free shops, a soft play area for toddlers and a games room for teenagers.
What might differs is the different crossing times and the price. It is worth checking these two companies and offers before booking your holiday trip.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 5/10
Fast speed crossings available: N/A
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Overall: 7/10



Get a quote and book with SEAFRANCE.

Bear in mind that to drive from Calais to Saint-Malo with the northern coast motorway, it will take 4 hours and 50 minutes to cover a distance of 515km (320 miles) and cost an additional Euro 71 (incl Euro 47 in petrol fuel cost). To avoid the motorway toll, add one additional hour to your journey. Read our guide on driving to Brittany for more details.

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LD Lines - Transmanche Ferries

Get a quote and book with LD Lines below:


For travellers in search of alternative departing or arrival ports than Portsmouth, Dover, Saint-Malo or Calais, LD Lines might be the answer. They have also rescued the popular route Dover to Boulogne that was originally covered by the bankrupt ferry company Speedferries. See below for their current popular route network:

  • from Portsmouth to Le Havre
  • from Newhaven to Dieppe
  • from Dover to Boulogne
  • from Rosslare to Le Havre

Their cruise liners are very good with all the amenities you would expect. Prices are attractive with High Speed Craft available on some routes.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 7/10
Fast speed crossings available: Yes
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Overall: 8/10


Get a quote and book with LD LINES.

To drive to Saint-Malo for instance, bear in mind the additional facts:
- from Boulogne, 4 hours and 30 mins to cover 485km (301 miles) with additional cost of Euro 68 (incl Euro 44 in petrol fuel cost).
- from Dieppe, 3 hours and 30 mins to cover 356km (221 miles) with additional cost of Euro 48 (incl Euro 33 in petrol fuel cost).
- from Le Havre, 2 hours and 40 mins to cover 265km (164 miles) with additional cost of Euro 34 (incl Euro 24 in petrol fuel cost).
To avoid some motorway toll, add an additional 30 to 60 minutes to your journey. Read our guide on driving to Brittany for more details.

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Eurotunnel

The Eurotunnel might not be your first choice coming to mind when you think Brittany travel but if you are not a big fan of sea crossings especially in winter times when the English Channel sea is at its worst, then the Eurotunnel option is very attractive.
The Eurotunnel has a lot to go for with the shortest crossing of all of 30 mins only, and departures ever 30 minutes in average from Folkestone to Calais. It is very easy to use. From the motorway, you take the special exit for the Channel Shuttle, check-in is quick and you just have to wait for the call for your crossing time. On site, you have a waiting centre with several cafés to grab something to eat, toilets facilities, currency exchange bureau, newsagents and a tourism information centre. Once onboard of the train, you stay in your car with windows half-way down but you can walk around if you wish. Several toilet facilities are also in each wagon. Upon arrival, the check-out is very swift and faster than with ferries. Also, if you happen to be delayed, you have a 2 hours windows to catch the next available train. It is definitely a favourite of ours for Christmas time crossings.
Pricewise, it can be more costly than the ferries crossing from Dover to Calais but we think it is competitive for the service, the flexibility and convenience provided. If you happen to have family or friends working for Eurotunnel, ask them for their "Family and Friends discount code" that you can use during your online booking.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 5/10
Fast speed crossings available: Yes
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Overall: 7/10 (if it was closer to Brittany it would be a 9/10)

Get a quote and directly book with EUROTUNNEL.

Bear in mind that to drive from Calais to Saint-Malo with the northern coast motorway, it will take 4 hours and 50 minutes to cover a distance of 515km (320 miles) and cost an additional Euro 71 (incl Euro 47 in petrol fuel cost). To avoid the motorway toll, add one additional hour to your journey. Read our guide on driving to Brittany for more details.

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Norfolkline

Norfolkline is the only ferry company that covers the Dover to Dunkirk route. The crossing takes 1 hour and 45 mins with about 10 sailings a day. It might not be your obvious choice to travel to Brittany this way but it is worth considering if you are planning to visit other regions of France or Belgium nearby.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 4/10
Fast speed crossings available: N/A
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Value for money: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Get a quote and book directly with NORFOLKLINE .

Bear in mind that to drive from Dunkirk to Saint-Malo with the northern coast motorway, it will take 5 hours and 10 minutes to cover a distance of 556km (345 miles) and cost an additional Euro 75 (incl Euro 51 in petrol fuel cost). To avoid the motorway toll, add one additional hour to your journey. Read our guide on driving to Brittany for more details.

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Irish Ferries

Get a quote and book with IRISH FERRIES below:


Irish Ferries has an excellent easy-friendly website The overnight crossings to France to Cherbourg and Roscoff are onboard the Oscar Wilde ship which seems to tick all the boxes when you are to spend 17 hours onboard.

  • from Rosslare to Cherbourg, 17 hours crossing time, 7 monthly overnight sailings in July, August and September. More sailings available for the following as the route to Roscoff stops in winter times.
  • from Rosslare to Roscoff, 17 hourse crossing time, 8 monthly overnight sailings in July, August and September. No sailing in winter starting from October.
They provide a range of cabins from budget to luxurious double bed suites. A wide choice is available for dining with several different types of restaurants, cafés and bars. The children are also well entertained with special family play areas for toddlers and teenagers without forgetting various shows performed during your stay there. You can also use your Tesco Travel vouchers to pay partly or fully for your ticket booked on the phone only.
Irish Ferries voted "Best Ferry Company" at the Irish Consumer Travel Awards 2009.

Score
Convenience to cross to Brittany: 10/10
Fast speed crossings available: No
Whole year round crossings: Yes
Onboard amenities: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 7/10
Overall: 8/10



Get a quote and book with IRISH FERRIES.

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