Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Voyages using Brittany Ferries
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ryanh
Pont-Aven
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by ryanh »

I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable break in St. Malo, sailing both ways on Bretagne. We booked a two night ferry and hotel package directly through Brittany Ferries, staying at the Hotel des Armateurs in Intra-Muros, with our car remaining in Portsmouth this time. I’d never actually stayed within the city walls before, only out along Plage du Sillon, so I was really looking forward to this trip, especially as we’d be back on the Bretagne again for our first BF sailing since the Covid era.

We arrived in Portsmouth in plenty of time for the sailing and took a trip up the Spinnaker tower, which I hadn’t done for at least ten years. After a drink in the Still and West, we made our way to the port to check in around 7.00pm. When we arrived in the terminal, there were no other passengers to be seen anywhere. So, having collected our boarding cards and negotiated security, we were on the bus to the ship, along with two other foot passengers. The bus drove straight through the bow doors, rather than us using the walkway, the reasons for which I do not know. We took the lift up to deck six where we found our four berth outside cabin. First impressions were good, with everything appearing clean, tidy and in working order. I didn't notice any unpleasant smells anywhere around the ship, and as we browsed around the shops I thought what good shape the public areas seemed to be in. The Yacht Club bar adjacent to Les Abers restaurant was closed, so we made our way to the Gwen ha du bar to buy some drinks before watching our departure, which was on time at 8.30pm. I had noticed that prices onboard now appear to be primarily in Euros, but UK time is still kept on board; I presume this is a fleet-wide policy?

Sitting in the bar having left Southsea behind, it soon became apparent that there wouldn’t be any live entertainment of any kind. So we went along to Les Abers, shortly after 9pm, but were told it was closed, and that if we wanted to eat, we had better go to the self service before that closed as well. So we did just that, and found the crew hurriedly trying to shut everything up for the night. We did manage to get served, but the attitude of the crew seemed very much that our being there was an inconvenience to them, and we found them quite abrupt almost to the point of being rude. The food however was very good; we each chose a main course and dessert (myself having the ‘dish of the day’ which was Pork) as well as two small bottles of wine and this was good value with there being a 15% off promotion at the moment. After all the shutters were promptly brought down on the servery area, we noticed four of the waiters stood nearby chatting, presumably waiting for us to finish and leave.

After our meal the ship’s movement became more noticeable, but definitely not uncomfortable. We went back to the main bar area which had a few passengers dotted around and had a post dinner drink. The sign at the entrance stated that it would close at 11.30pm, so we were surprised when the shutters came down around 10.50pm, and then even more surprised to be told that we must all leave, immediately, with our drinks and sit in the adjacent seating area next door. We finished our drinks, then had a brief stroll on the outside deck before going back to our cabin for the night.

The next morning we were woken promptly around 6.00am ship’s time by the infamous Breton folk music. Since we wouldn’t be able to check in to our hotel until the afternoon, we planned on finding somewhere in St Malo for breakfast, so we did not use either of the restaurants. Disembarking seemed to take a long time, with us foot passengers being the very last to be called to leave the ship. The gangway was not in use, so we again had to go to down to the vehicle deck (3 I believe) and wait for a bus. I think it took around an hour from docking to us actually clearing passport control.

I won’t dwell too much on our time in St. Malo as I know many users of this forum are very familiar with the city and surrounding area, but we really enjoyed having three full days there and had some excellent food and walks along the beach. We also did some new things such as visiting the ‘Micro Zoo’ which is inside the walls (and a lot better than I thought it would be) and finding our way out to Cunningham’s bar, which we loved. I would not hesitate to recommend the hotel des Armateurs, which is very comfortable and in a fantastic location.

Because it was raining, we took a taxi back to the port for our return sailing on Saturday evening. The terminal was noticeably busier with foot passengers, with some having been on day trips. This was actually the first time I had sailed overnight from St. Malo, so I was looking forward to it. There was a delay whilst we waited for the bus, however this time we used the gangway to board rather than the vehicle deck. We soon found our cabin no. 6117, not far from the information desk and opposite a stairwell. We were both quite tired and were enjoying a lie down when there was a knock at the door. I answered and was met by two crew, one of whom seemed to be from maintenance. He asked if we had ‘fresh air’ in our cabin, I said that I hadn’t noticed but it did feel a bit warm. He said could he check and we then found that nothing was coming from the air vent in the ceiling. They then went away saying that they would report it; I can only assume that whatever the problem was it wasn’t too major as it was working later on that night.

We both headed outside to watch our departure, which I always enjoy on any ferry, but this time it was from the bow which I remembered how to access from the front of the self-service. It was fantastic to stand there, alone in the darkness, almost surreal in fact. We remained there until a crew member came out to take down the Gwen ha du and said he was locking the door afterwards. Since we had eaten a substantial meal in Intra-Muros earlier, we did not attempt to eat in either of the restaurants, though they both looked quite busy. Instead we indulged in some drinks and snacks in the main bar, where the only form of entertainment was some recorded music and a TV showing the France vs Gibraltar football (I had to get my glasses from the cabin to confirm the score was correct). I was watching some distant lights through one of the windows, which appeared to be going up and down with increasing frequency, but the ship’s movement never progressed to anything more than a gentle roll, in my opinion at least. Last orders were at least announced in advance this time, around 11pm, after which we called it a night. After a very comfortable night’s sleep we were again woken by the familiar music and as I looked out of the window around 7.15am we were already passing Gosport. We docked on time, next to the Mont St Michel, with Condor Islander, Commodore Clipper and the Geest Line reefer vessel Luzon Strait also in port. This time we were able to disembark very quickly, with the walkway in use and a bus waiting to take us the short distance to the terminal building.

Overall this was a really enjoyable trip, in particular because we stayed in the very heart St. Malo and had an ideal base from which to explore. I thought Bretagne looked to be in great shape overall, clean and tidy throughout, especially inside. Yes, there are some bits of rust to be seen here and there on the outside decks, but nothing significant and certainly a lot better than many other much newer vessels I have sailed on. I thought certain aspects of the onboard service were a bit disappointing, such as the lack of some as even a singer in the main bar, but then it was mid-November after all and this did not detract from our overall experience in any way. Listening to some of the other, perhaps more ‘regular’ passengers, it’s clear the Bretagne has a loyal following and it will be a sad day indeed when she is not around for us to enjoy anymore. But whatever the future holds for her, I think she has plenty of years of service left in her yet.

Bretagne
Bretagne

Funnel Lit Up At Night
Funnel Lit Up At Night

Condor Voyager
Condor Voyager

Atrium At Christmas
Atrium At Christmas

Stern View
Stern View

Stern Decks
Stern Decks

Bretagne Through The Walls Of St Malo
Bretagne Through The Walls Of St Malo
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colinb
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by colinb »

Good report.How did you spend your time before checking into the hotel? Also, after checking out? Was there early boarding?

I have wondered about doing this trip but not keen on wandering around with overnight luggage for hours in possibly bad/cold weather.
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tumnus2010
Bretagne
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by tumnus2010 »

Thanks for the great report @ryanh we are heading to St Malo on the Festive Cruise on Bretagne next week, and really looking forward to it. Although I've sailed on BF already this year, and last year. I've not sailed on Bretagne since (I think) 2016. The last time we went to St Malo was in December 2019, and on that occasion Pont Aven was on the route for the winter.

I'm hoping Les Abers will be open when we sail, the BF staff at the call centre were very helpful with us, and suggested that these seasonal trips were very popular, and so hoping the restaurants are open accordingly. We shall see.
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ryanh
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by ryanh »

colinb wrote: 20 Nov 2023 20:08 Good report.How did you spend your time before checking into the hotel? Also, after checking out? Was there early boarding?

I have wondered about doing this trip but not keen on wandering around with overnight luggage for hours in possibly bad/cold weather.
Thank you. Fortunately, our hotel was happy to look after our bags until check-in time arrived. And happily it wasn't raining. But yes, we did have to kill almost 5 hours before our room was ready. We did this by having a leisurely breakfast, followed by walking the full length of the outer walls, and then finding a Creperie for lunch. But I was very glad to get in that hotel room that's for sure! Again, the hotel was happy to keep our bags after checking out and also called a taxi for us to the port. 

I forgot to mention, fortunately we were not ordered to vacate our cabins on Bretagne 30 minutes before arrival, in fact nothing was said about vacating cabins at all, except to say that 'mini cruise' passengers could leave their luggage in them. Presumably this was because of the more leisurely timetable at the moment. 
 
Last edited by ryanh on 21 Nov 2023 08:17, edited 1 time in total.
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ryanh
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by ryanh »

tumnus2010 wrote: 20 Nov 2023 22:54 Thanks for the great report @ryanh we are heading to St Malo on the Festive Cruise on Bretagne next week, and really looking forward to it. Although I've sailed on BF already this year, and last year. I've not sailed on Bretagne since (I think) 2016. The last time we went to St Malo was in December 2019, and on that occasion Pont Aven was on the route for the winter.

I'm hoping Les Abers will be open when we sail, the BF staff at the call centre were very helpful with us, and suggested that these seasonal trips were very popular, and so hoping the restaurants are open accordingly. We shall see.

Thank you, what is the festive cruise exactly, is this something BF have organised? 

The main restaurant looked very popular on both sailings, neither of which were that busy, so I am pretty sure it will be open for you. We would have gladly used it on the way out had we not been turned away ;) 
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tumnus2010
Bretagne
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by tumnus2010 »

ryanh wrote: 21 Nov 2023 08:16 Thank you, what is the festive cruise exactly, is this something BF have organised? 

Yes, it's called the Festive Cruise & Dine to St Malo offer. Essentially it's a 2 night trip to St Malo, with a 3 course dinner included in the price for the outward leg. I'm hoping that will be in Les Abers, the information said we had to book a table when arriving on board, so that seems like it should be in there.

Link from BF site here.
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dibdobber
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Bretagne 15th & 18th November

Post by dibdobber »

Really enjoyable report. Thank you very much.
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