My partner Lois and I keep our boat  on a pontoon mooring at Cap d’Agde in the South of France where we spend about 3-4 weeks several times each year. Bearing in mind that whenever we visit France for any length of time we take our two dogs (Westies) we’ve obviously been keen to ensure that the dogs enjoy the least stressful crossing and 600 mile journey by car south to the Med. Living as we do in Dorset we’ve always sought to travel on the Western Channel crossings rather than trek to Dover or Folkestone, and we have been clients of Brittany Ferries for many years, long before we had our apartment, and long before the Pets Passport Scheme enabled us to take our dogs.  When the Pets Passport Scheme was introduced several years ago now our first thought was which crossing would be the best both for us and for the dogs, and it took us a while to work that out. By definition, apart from the fast-craft, all the western channel crossings by ferry are longer than the short-sea crossings from Kent, and we were concerned that leaving the dogs cooped up in the car for six or more hours during the day wasn’t a terribly good plan, so we hit on the idea of a night crossing when the dogs would normally be sound asleep anyway. Our favourite channel crossing used to be the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth – St.Malo night service leaving Portsmouth around 8 o’clock in the evening in time for a pleasant meal in the excellent restaurant before a comfortable night’s sleep in our cabin, with a convenient arrival time  in  St.Malo around 8 o’clock  the following morning.  Although tempting, and great for my partner and I, we felt that the eleven hour  long crossing time would be more than the dogs could cope with, so we needed to find a shorter alternative. Fortunately we were able to do just that and still travel with our favourite ferry operator, by taking advantage of the Brittany Ferries night service between Portsmouth and Caen (Ouistreham) which doesn’t leave Portsmouth until 11 o’clock in the evening  and arrives in Caen around about 7.00 am the following morning local time – in other words a crossing time of  only 7 hours, during which time the dogs would normally be asleep anyway. So for the past several years we have used the Portsmouth – Caen night services both to and from France quite extensively, and  have consistently been very impressed by the service, and  so far as we can tell the dogs appear to have been happy with the service too!. The Brittany Ferries Portsmouth – Caen night services are operated mainly by either the “Mont St Michel” or the “Normandie” The  “Mont St Michel”  was built at the Van der Giessen de Noord shipyard in the Netherlands and has been operated by  Brittany Ferries since her introduction in 2002. The Mont St Michel was to have been called the Deauville or the Honfleur but this was thought to be too similar to Barfleur. The internal layout of the Mont St Michel is based on the  Normandie, which also operates on the Portsmouth–Caen  route. She is named after the world-famous  tiny island of Mont St Michel  (St Michael’s Mount) off the coast near Avranches ,  and she  offers passengers a host of features including more than 200 spacious cabins, over 400 reclining seats, a choice of restaurants, and facilities including bars, cinemas, a disco club and video gaming area designed for teenagers. She can carry some 2,200 passengers and 800 cars, and she features a range of state-of-the-art navigation and safety management systems some of which I was able to see at first hand, when, as Station Manager of the NCI Lyme Bay Coastwatch station I was invited on to the bridge during one crossing – this ensures that not only is the “Mont St Michel”  one of the most comfortable channel cruise ferries afloat, she is  also one of the best equipped. The “Normandie” , built in the early nineties is named after the French region of the same name, and is decorated in traditional Norman style and colours,  featuring excellent  on-board facilities for dining and shopping, some 220  comfortable cabins and over 400 reclining seats  and there’s live entertainment too.  She can carry over 2,000 passengers and 600 cars Recently we had to change our return trip from Caen to Portsmouth  which resulted in our travelling on one of the few Brittany Ferries ships that we’d never previously been on, namely the “ARMORIQUE”. The  29,000 ton Finnish-built“ Armorique”  was specifically designed and built for Brittany Ferries, in particular for the Plymouth – Roscoff route, and  was first introduced to the service in 2009. She carries up to 1,500 passengers and 470 cars, and  follows a modern design with décor that indeed seems to  capture the lights, colours and space of the Brittany Region and its maritime heritage. Also featured are a number of artists and their work celebrating Breton culture, its traditions, spirit and innovation. There's plenty of space to move around on board (both inside and on deck) with an open plan feel, and lots of areas to relax, including a quiet zone. There is no waiter-service main restaurant, but there is a spacious self-service restaurant where your choice of hot main-course is delivered to your table, and there’s also a café serving hot and cold snacks. There are some 240 air-conditioned cabins, all with en-suite shower and wc., and the one we had was very comfortable and surprisingly spacious; there’s also a good number of reservable lounge seats throughout the ship. The bar is very stylish, and the shop well-stocked and cleverly designed. All in all we had a very pleasant crossing and would certainly be more than happy to travel on this ship again. Clive Edwards
Getting to France from the West Country
About Brittany Ferries Founded   in   1972   by   proud   Breton   Alexis   Gourvennec   and   a   group   of   fellow   Breton   farmers   wanting   to export   their   cauliflowers   and   artichokes   to   the   UK,   Brittany   Ferries   is   now   the   leading   maritime   carrier on the western and central Channel. The   company,   originally   known   as   Armement   Bretagne-Angleterre-Irelande,   or   B.A.I.   for   short,   was officially   born   on   a   bleak   New   Year's   Day   in   1973,   with   French,   British   and   Breton   flags   flying   and   a choir   singing   carols.   With   Britain's   entry   into   the   Common   Market   in   1973,   Gourvennec   saw   his chance to end the geographical isolation of Brittany. Realising   the   quickest   route   to   this   new   market   would   be   across   the   western   Channel   to   Plymouth,   he contacted   several   large   shipping   companies   to   see   if   they   would   be   interested   in   operating   the   route. These   efforts   were   to   no   avail   so   he   and   his   fellow   farmers   purchased   their   own   freighter   and   named   it 'Kerisnel',   after   a   small   Breton   village   famous   for   its   cauliflowers.   The   Breton   farming   groups   who founded the company remain its main shareholders to this day.
MV Armorique 2009 2009 29,468 168.30m 26.8m 23.0 Knots MV Baie de Seine 2002 2016 22,382 199.40m 25.6m 22.0 Knots MV Barfleur 1992 1992 20,133 158.70m 23.3m 19.5 Knots MV Bretagne 1989 1989 24,534 152.80m 26.0m 21.0 Knots MV Cap Finistère 2001 2010 32,728 203.90m 25.0m 28.0 Knots MV Étretat 2008 2014 26,904 187.00m 26.0m 22.0 Knots MV Mont St Michel 2002 2002 35,586 173.95m 28.5m 22.0 Knots MV Normandie 1992 1992 27,451 161.40m 26.0m 20.5 Knots HSC Normandie Express 2000 2005 6,581 97.22m 26.6m 42.0 Knots MV Pont-Aven 2004 2004 40,859 184.30m 30.9m 27.0 Knots
Ship Built Service Tonnage Length Beam Service Speed
Entered Gross
Passenger Ferries
MV Kerisnel MV Barfleur MV Cap Finistere
Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries
There are two main ferry companies operating in the western English Channel - Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries  Brittany Ferries operates services to France and Spain throughout the year, albeit with a reduced choice in the winter months.  Condor Ferries operates sevices to the Channel Islands and France using fastcraft which can only practically sail in the summer.   The Commodore has also written about his experiences with Brittany Ferries.  Any other contributions of a similar nature would be most welcome.
Recent History Condor   Ferries   established   the   first   high   speed   car   ferry   service   to   the   Channel   Islands   from Weymouth   in   1993   using   the   74m   Incat   catamaran   Condor   10.      In   the   winter   of   1993/1994, Condor's   parent   company,   Commodore   Shipping,   took   over   British   Channel   Island   Ferries   (BCIF) which   operated   conventional   ferry   services   to   the   Channel   Islands   from   Poole.      Upon   taking   over BCIF,   Condor   moved   all   passenger   services   to   Weymouth   and   the   BCIF   freight   service   was transferred   to   Commodore   Shipping.   In   August   2014   Condor   Ferries   purchased   of   a   new   Austal 102   ferry   and   announced   that   all   future   services   will   operate   from   Poole   as   Weymouth,   despite spending £4.5m renovating its harbour, could not accommodate the new ship.
Ship Built Passengers Cars Service Speed
HSC Condor Liberation 2010 880 245 35 Knots HSC Condor Rapide 1997 741 175 34 Knots MV Commodore Clipper 1999 500 100+ 18.5 Knots MV Commodore Goodwill Freight Only
UK Routes Poole to Cherbourg Operated by Barfleur. Timetable HERE Portsmouth to Cherbourg Operated by the Normandie Express. Timetable HERE Portsmouth to Caen (Ouistreham) Operated by Mont St Michel and Normandie. Timetable HERE Portsmouth to St Malo Operated by Bretagne.  Timetable HERE Portsmouth to Le Havre An economy service operated by Etretat and Baie de Seine.  Timetable HERE Plymouth to Roscoff Operated by Armorique.  Timetable HERE Plymouth to Santander Operated by Pont-Aven.  Timetable HERE Portsmouth to Santander Operated by Pont-Aven, and Cap Finistere.  Timetable HERE Portsmouth to Bilbao Operated by Cap Finistere and Baie de Seine.  Timetable HERE
MV Mont St Michel MV Armorique MV Bretagne Click for website
UK Routes (as at August 2018) Poole to Jersey & Guernsey Operated by Condor Liberation and Condor Rapide.  Weather dependant.  Portsmouth to Jersey & Guernsey Operated by Commodore Clipper.  Operates independant of weather conditions. Condor Ferries Timetables can be viewed HERE
Condor Rapide
Baie de Seine “Economie” Service - March 2016
Current Ferry Positions:
A live map showing the current positions of operational ships can be seen HERE
SEAFARERS AFLOAT home of The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club
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Condor Ferries
Stena Line
Comodore Goodwill
Condor Liberation Comodore Clipper
As regular travellers,  along with our two small Westie dogs, Alix and Donald, on Brittany Ferries we were very pleased when a couple of years ago they introduced their “Economique Service” operated by the “Etretat” which has a small number of “dog friendly” cabins where dogs are able to share one’s cabin rather than remain in the car overnight. We travelled on the “Etretat” and took advantage of the dog-friendly cabins soon after the Economique Service was introduced and were very impressed with the operation. Given how frequently we travel with Brittany Ferries (at least eight crossing per year) I’ve taken to writing the occasional report on their different routes and the ships operating them.  So, having recently taken an overnight trip from Le Havre to Portsmouth on the “Baie du Seine”, which was introduced quite recently to operate another “Economique” service alongside the Etretat, I decided that this innovative dog-friendly “no frills” service thoroughly deserved to be written about at some length - hence this report.  Unusually for us we arrived early for the check-in at Le Havre but were allowed on-board almost two hours ahead of the scheduled sailing time of 22.30 and parked the car on deck six.  Our dog-friendly cabin was on deck 9 and, somewhat to our trepidation, we and our dogs were directed to this not by the stairs but by the lift where there were already half a dozen dog owners and their dogs queued up waiting.  We thought there was bound to be some contretemps between what turned out to be no less than nine dogs in quite a small lift but, to our amazement, they all seemed to be overawed by the experience and incredibly quiet and well-behaved! We discovered that we had been allocated a very comfortable outside cabin with proper twin-beds, an en-suite shower and WC complete with hair dryer.  There was even a gift-bag for the dogs with a toy, a collapsible drinking bowl and poo-bags.  The cabin was only a matter of about eight metres from the dog-exercise area on the outside deck!  Brittany Ferries promote this as a “no frills service” but, especially from a dog-owners perspective, it would be very hard indeed to find fault with the quality of these dog-friendly cabins.  In our opinion they are every bit as good as, if not even better than, the standard cabins on other Brittany Ferries vessels. That’s not only our opinion but, judging by their behaviour and the way they settled down as in the photo below, I think our dogs appreciated the cabin too and much preferred it to being shut in the car overnight!  Arriving on-board so early after our 650 miles journey from the Med, we were able to leave the dogs asleep in the cabin whilst we explored the ship and had a very nice meal in the self-service restaurant followed by a drink and coffee in the bar.  The restaurant may have a somewhat limited menu but, with a choice of several different starters, main dishes and sweets at very reasonable prices, we enjoyed a very good meal in pleasant and comfortable surroundings.  Afterwards we were able to relax in the bar without the usual worry as to whether the dogs would be OK left in the back of the car for so long. If I have any criticism at all it’s certainly not about the Baie du Seine, or the so-called “no-frills” Service Economique, but rather about the fact that if Brittany Ferries can provide this excellent level of service and comfort for pets and their owners at this price, then why do they have to charge the same amount to carry dogs that don’t actually occupy any extra space at all but are confined to their owner’s vehicles for the duration of the crossing? Having spent the majority of my working life involved with ships and the sea it’s not often that I can say with a great deal of confidents that the Brittany Ferries Service Economique provided by the Baie du Seine (and by the Etretat)  may be promoted as having “no frills” but it certainly doesn’t lack for quality in any respect at all and provides a truly superb service for both dogs and their owners!
MV Baie de Seine MV Etretat MV Normandie Express MV Pont-Aven MV Baie de Seine MV Normandie