Published on Friday, January 17, 2014

Plain sailing?

With a family home in Brittany, Bev Fearis has made many trips across the channel, usually booking her ferry by trawling through all the various ferry company websites to find the best option. This time she decided to try out, which claims to be the "world's leading ferry website", with a "huge choice of ferry routes". Here's how she got on...

"The homepage has lots of information - reviews, timetables, news, and offers - but the big yellow booking box stands out. I hadn't yet decided which route to take, but I put in Portsmouth to St Malo as that's the route we usually take (Brittany Ferries, overnight, good food, only two hours' drive on arrival). I began to type Ports... and quickly the drop down list had selected it. Out of interest, I scrolled down the whole list - in alphabetical order - and noticed that the options also include the Greek islands, Croatia, Italy, and even as far afield as Russia, South Korea, Japan and Australia. There were ports on the list I didn't even know existed.

Next, I had to say how many passengers were travelling (two adults, one child, age 4), whether I was sailing with a cat or dog (no), whether we were foot, bike or car passengers (car), and whether I wanted the prices in pounds or euros. Easy.

A few seconds later and a grid appeared, with the lowest price highlighted in orange. A drop down menu allowed me to change the grid to sort by company, outbound date, return date, review score, or closest match. I stuck with price.

As well as the St Malo options, the grid also included other routes - Portsmouth-Caen, Cherbourg or Le Havre, Newhave-Dieppe, and more. Below the grid, the options are listed in detail, with times and prices, even giving me the prices and times for several days before and after my chosen date - excellent if your dates are flexible.

Scrolling down the list, I realised that for the return trip it would be considerably cheaper to drive an extra hour and a half to Caen and this would also shave two hours off the daytime crossing time back to Portsmouth. Perfect. If I had been prepared to drive all the way to Dieppe (7 hours), the price would be much cheaper, but with a four-year-old and an unreliable car, that would be pushing it. Perhaps when he's a bit older, though.

I made my selection but decided I had better check with my parents about arrival times. Permission granted, I turned my laptop back on later that day, went back to the page and found my original search details were still there. Another good time saver.

After double checking all the details, I was ready to book, so I ignored the options to 'amend quote' or 'email quote' and went straight to 'click to book'. The booking process was simple and asked for all the standard details - car registration, names, email, phone, address. By 'booking today', I was eligible for two gifts - I chose a car magnet and a mouse mat. I was also offered the option of booking a hotel - 'book now, pay later'. is a partner of, which offers a best price guarantee. I was also reminded to buy insurance.

Once paid, the confirmation email appeared immediately, with an Aferry reference and a Brittany Ferries reference too. I was told to print out the email to hand over on arrival. In fact, I just had to show my passport.

A few days after I returned from my trip I received an email from asking me to write a review of my journey for the review section of its website. I have to confess that I still haven't got around to writing it, but when I do I will be praising Brittany Ferries for its usual high service, friendly staff, its modern, clean and comfortable boats, and the excellent value for money meals in the self-service restaurant. I will, however, be pointing out that the fish and chips weren't up to the usual standard (the fish, not the chips).

As far as the booking process goes, I can find little to fault with The website was easy and quick to navigate, had all the information I needed, and more, and saved me whole a lot of time and confusion. It also opened up my eyes to alternative, cheaper routes. As an editor, I would prefer to see a bit more consistency when it comes to the use of upper case and lower case on the homepage, but that's just me!

In November, launched a dedicated site for the travel trade - - promising agents the chance to earn commission with "one easy booking system for all ferry routes in the UK and Europe". If it's as good as the consumer site, it would definitely be worth signing up.


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