Cruise - Ocean Cruise
3 Day Mini Cruise on Pont Aven
188 people found this review helpful
It was 24 years ago that I last slept on an overnight ferry and that was to the Channel Islands. I was therefore looking forward to my trip on the Pont Aven for a 3 day mini cruise to Spain and back. Has a lot changed in the last 24 years? Read on…
We arrived at the Portsmouth International Port building which houses the check in desks for various shipping lines. On arrival at the Brittany Ferries desk we were met by a young lady who made check in the simplest I have ever had. Hand over booking confirmation, tickets issued, job done. The tickets also acted as the keys to our cabin and we were given a map of the ships layout. If only all check in could be that simple. It was then time for coffee and wait to be called for boarding. When the call came we made our way through security and onto the waiting coach that would take us to the ship. This was the first time I had seen Pont Aven up close and she looked bigger than I had imagined.
Launched in 2004 and built at a cost of £100 million by the Meyer Werft yard in Germany she is the flag ship of the Brittany Ferries fleet. At 604ft long and 101ft across the beam she weighs in at nearly 41,000 Gross Tonnes. Pont Aven is also fast with a maximum of 28 knots and a service speed of 27 knots which enables her to keep to schedules.
Boarding was very straight forward and first stop was our cabin. This was a club class cabin situated on deck 5 with outside view. The cabin would sleep 4 with drop down Pullman beds. Equipped with a small dressing table, flat screen television, tea/coffee making facilities and a large round window it was very comfortable. The bathroom comprised of the usual, toilet, wash hand basin and shower with curtain. Also supplied were towels, soap and shower gel. In all, more than acceptable for the 2 nights that we were going to be on board.
It was then up in one of the glass lifts, yes glass lifts, and onto the outer deck to see the ship sail. At just after 11am the lines were caste and we edged away from the quay side. With the assistance of the bow thrusters we turned in almost our own length. Making our way passed the moored modern naval ships together with those from a bygone age in the form of HMS Victory and HMS Warrior we headed out into the Solent. Once passed the Isle of Wight Pont Aven increased speeds leaving behind us a white foam wake. We were on our way to Santander with an arrival time of 12noon the following day and hopefully some sunshine. It was now time to explore the ship.
This ship is classed as a Cruise/Ferry. Some people use it purely as a ferry for themselves and their vehicles to and from Spain whilst others like me were using it as a mini cruise. It has a lot to offer. 3 bars, 3 restaurants, 2 cinemas, a swimming pool, entertainment lounge as well as shops, children’s playroom and a games area called ‘Games planet’.
The piano bar is named Le Fastnet and has a lovely white baby grand piano. The seating is in a very light brown that blends so well with the light brown of the wooden effect floor. One side consists of large picture windows giving uninterrupted views out to sea. This is the perfect place to sit and be entertained or to have that pre dinner aperitif. The piano bar is adjacent to the Le Flora a la carte restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. However reservations are required for dinner in this well appointed restaurant with its shining cutlery and sparkling glasses.
There is also the self service restaurant, La Belle Angele, where you can find a selection of meals, salads, desserts, drinks etc. Personally I thought the breakfast here at La Belle Angele was exceptional value. 2 fried eggs, hash brown, 2 sausages, grilled tomato, 3 bacon rashers, baked beans and toast. £4.50!!!!
The entertainment lounge, Le Grand Pavois, is located on deck 8 and has a stage in one corner as well as a large bar along one wall. The entertainment was under the direction of Chris Solari who introduces the acts as well as organising the quiz’s and bingo. On our trip were 3 acts. CK2, a male/female singing duo, David Arkay a magician and Little Laura a solo singer. All the acts were very professional and were well worth watching. David Arkay also came around the various tables doing ‘Close Up’ magic. I had not seen this before and was very impressed. The price of drinks is also reasonable. £3.10 for a pint of beer, single measure spirits £2.00, £3.40 for a double and Cocktails from £3.95.
After dinner it was time for bed as we entered the notorious Bay of Biscay. Would it live up to its reputation? The beds were extremely comfortable and the television offered a variety of channels. Then it was a cup of hot chocolate and lights out. On waking the following morning I found myself looking out onto a calm blue sea and a blue sky slightly obscured by mist. The notorious Bay was but a mill pond. Into the shower, this was hot, and provided a powerful jet of water. It was then off for breakfast and a look at the interactive map. This showed us making a steady 23 knots and the coast of Northern Spain fast approaching. It was just before Noon that we espied land through the mist. The air was fresh but pleasantly warm as the temperature climbed through the high teens. 30 minutes later we had the pilot on board and were making our way slowly along the channel into Santander passing golden sand beaches and buildings of beautiful architecture.
After docking we left the ship to visit the area. There is a lot to do and see in Santander but we only had a few hours before the ship set sail again. However in that time we managed a stroll along the sea front past the imposing head quarters of Banco Santander and on towards the sandy beaches which during the summer months are thronged with tourists. Despite this being the end of February it was quite busy with people taking advantage of the mild weather. Even the ice cream parlours were doing a good trade. Eventually we found our way to a small café with a table and seats in the sun. Here we had a real Tortilla Espanola, just made with eggs, potato and onion, washed down with a delightfully chilled local white wine. The cost? 7 Euros, excellent value for money I thought. Sadly the hours passed with too much speed and it was time to return to the terminal to check in for the return trip. Again the procedure was painless and soon we were back on board again.
At just after 1630 hrs local time with the sun setting in the west and a long blast from the ships whistle we caste off and turned to make our way back down the channel to the open sea and the UK. In what seemed no time at all Santander and the Spanish Coast were fast disappearing from view as the sun dropped down towards the white wake of the ship and we got ready for another evening on board.
On waking the next morning, despite the Bay of Biscay having been as smooth as I have ever known it, it was back to rain and grey skies as we made our way up past the French Coast, across the English Channel and round the Isle of Wight back into Portsmouth. We were home.
Back to the question that began this article, ‘Has a lot changed in the last 24 years’. Yes it certainly has. Whether you travel on the Pont Aven as a passenger taking your car to or from Spain or whether you are on a mini cruise you won’t be disappointed. This really is a lovely ship. It does not profess to be a full blown cruise ship but it certainly has many of the attributes of one. With its glass lifts, swimming pool, restaurants, lounges, bars, entertainment, shops and very friendly and helpful crew you can’t help but enjoy yourself. The cabins are comfortable and more than adequate for 2, 3 or more nights. Some of the cabins even have private balconies. It is also very ‘Disabled Friendly’ with special cabins and public toilets that will take wheel chairs. I feel sure it would appeal to the Silver Traveller and certainly my wife who is one enjoyed it. She has accompanied me on many cruise ships and was surprised at the level of comfort and service provided. Yes, much has changed and I look forward to the day when I travel again on the Pont Aven.
188 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.