We have just got back from our first family trip to France. We sailed from Portsmouth into St Malo and returned from Caen back into Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries. The flexibility to choose different return ferries made our holiday experience more flexible.
The St Malo ferry was an overnight ferry. This did have me very anxious as to whether the girls would sleep or just be too excited and be bouncing around.
Our first port of call once we were boarded was to get on to the deck to wave England goodbye. This is an experience the girls have never had before, and I think they thoroughly enjoyed the sail out of the harbour.
As it was an overnight crossing a cabin was essential with children. The rooms were cosy, and adequate. We had an inside 4 birth cabin. This consisted of two beds and two foldable top bunks. A radio built in, a desk and mirror, our own toilet, sink and shower.
The top bunks didn't really have in my opinion, a child safe barrier to stop any falling, so Daddy and myself claimed the top bunks much to J's dislike. We decided we needed to tire the girls out before turning the lights out so we explored the boat a little. We had already eaten due to the time of boarding, but we could have had either a posh dinner in the restaurant, or a casual dinner in the self service restaurant.
We found ourselves in the bar and as Daddy didn't have to drive until morning we both enjoyed an alcoholic beverage to start the holiday. The girls joined in with the dancing on the dance floor. The atmosphere was great, everyone seemed like they were on holiday and enjoying themselves. We let the girls party hard until S was too tired for anymore dancing, before retiring to the cabin.
We all slept surprisingly well. We could feel the boat rocking with the waves a little, but nothing stomach turning. I had set my alarm to make sure we were awake with plenty of time, and shortly after soft music started playing into the cabin to finish waking the girls up. With our own en-suite bathroom it meant we could freshen up, just light a hotel room, this meant we were ready for the day ahead nice and fresh, as well as bright and early. We hadn't wasted a day travelling as we slept it away.
Our return journey was very different. We decided to drive further to Caen so we could get an afternoon ferry, rather then an early morning ferry out of St Malo. This meant the sea time was reduced as well as giving us another city to explore beforehand.
We had a cabin booked again hoping the girls would sleep, but they never did. Instead we headed outside again to let them run off some of their energy.
The sea breeze soon picked up and the girls wanted to go inside. We tried out the children's area. This says for children aged 3-8years, but in my opinion its for a much younger age range, J being closer to 6 then 5 was too big in my eyes. S enjoyed the climbing frame, whereas J preferred the colouring tables. Pierre the bear also popped in to say hello.
To help the time pass we tried out the self service café and managed to get the front of the boat seats. All we could see was sea, but kept the girls entertained trying to spot England. The food was nice, serving big portions and at a reasonable price. The children's menu was large portions again, coming with a magnet, bookmark and a colouring in puzzle, which again helped pass some time.
The return ferry seem to take forever. It was actually much quicker then the outbound journey but we were wide awake. The girls were irritable and there wasn't much entertainment on board. I had hoped to find another disco or children's entertainer like the St Malo journey. Instead in the bar had a pub quiz followed by a football match on a large screen. I made the rookie error of not bringing in the girls toys from the car which was now out of bounds for safety reasons.
We chilled out back in the cabin watching Shrek on Daddy's I pad, and dancing along to the radio. As we came into Portsmouth we returned on top of the deck again to watch the sun set over England.
Which meant I could try out my camera on the non auto setting whilst another Brittany Ferries came out of harbour.
We were soon back in our car ready to go through customs and continue back on our journey to home.
After experiencing two completely different journeys we preferred the night journey on the Bretagne the best. They seemed to have more entertainment for families, as well as being able to sleep it away. However the shorted traveling time would be suitable if you have time issues, but would recommend taking some activities on board to keep the children entertained.
*We were given a complimentary return crossing in return for an honest review, all words pictures and opinions are my own.