So what’s it all about?
I’ve just been on a mini cruise with Brittany Ferries and loved every minute of it. If you are looking for a different kind of weekend break then this is it.
Let me start by explaining a little bit about a mini cruise with Brittany Ferries…
During the winter months Brittany Ferries do ‘mini cruises’, which means two nights on a ferry and a day in France. Our ferry left on a Friday night at 8pm from Portsmouth and arrived in St Malo at 8.15am local time on Saturday morning. We had all day to explore with boarding starting from 6.30pm that evening. The boat departed at 8.30pm local time and arrived in Portsmouth at 7.45am on Sunday morning. The mini-cruise package allows you to keep your cabin and leave luggage on board.
Arriving in port pull up to the check in kiosk for your destination and hand over your passport and booking reference number. You’ll be given a boarding card to hang on your rear-view mirror and your cabin key. After that it’s all really straight forward, you’ll be told what lane you need to go in to board the boat and then directed from there onto the vehicle levels. We waited around an hour each time to board so make sure you’ve used the toilet before you get in line!
Once parked up a member of staff will greet you and give you a card with the door and level to access your car on arrival at the destination. Make sure you take everything you need for the crossing, as access to the vehicle decks during the crossing is not allowed.
GMT is used whilst on board and arrival and departure times are in local time and there’s a wake up around 1 hour 15 minutes before arrival.
We were on Pont Aven. It has two restaurants, two bars, a spa, 2 cinemas, a pool (it wasn’t open on our trip) a shop, a small amusement arcade and a children’s play area. There was Wi Fi in public areas on deck 6, 7 and 8.
Our 2 berth inside cabin with bunk beds and ensuite was compact but just what we needed. We didn’t mind not having a window as with two night crossings we figured we wouldn’t see much anyway. We spent pretty much all our time on board either in the restaurant, at the bar or strolling outside on the decks. There are larger cabins with windows and suite style cabins if you want a bit more luxury too.
The evening entertainment in the main bar was brilliant and something that I didn’t expect. It really added to the trip and made us feel like we were on a cruise! There was bingo, a quiz and a really great band. The atmosphere was fantastic with people dancing and enjoying themselves. Drinks were reasonable and being 5 months pregnant I was pleased to find non-alcoholic beer and mocktails on the bar menu.
We ate in the self-service restaurant on the first night; steak, chips and creme brûlée, yum! We bought our own food to eat on the return. Breakfast was good, full English and continental were all available.
The day in France:
Mont Saint Michel
Arriving in St Malo early in the morning meant we had plenty of time to explore. We headed straight for Mont Saint Michel, around one hours drive from the ferry terminal. This area of Normandy is absolutely beautiful. The car parks are located quite a way back from the shoreline to help preserve the natural beauty of the area. Parking in low season costs 9 Euros, walk the 1.5 miles or use the free shuttle bus. It’s around a 30 -minute walk, you could walk there and jump on the bus back like Matt and I did.
Straight out of the pages of a fairytale, timber fronted buildings line the cobbled streets of Dinan. There’s a creperie on every corner and a picturesque castle to set the scene. Located on the banks of the River Rance, there is so much to explore from the old city walls to Saint Malo Church and St Sauveur Basilica. As well as a top spot for history lovers, there are plenty of shops from shabby chic interior stores, art galleries and patisseries. Not to mention the food. For panoramic views of the town and Brittany, climb the 158 steps to the top of Tour de l’Horloge. The clock tower stands at 40 metres high, on a clear day you can see all the way to Mont Saint Michel.
A day trip to France wouldn’t be complete without a supermarket stop to stock up on alcohol, chocolate mousse, cheese and other French delights! Carrefour in St Malo is huge so be sure to allow enough time to browse. We also stopped at another Carrefour near Mont Saint Michel; it was smaller than the St Malo one but had some nice things in it.
The whole trip was so easy and it was so nice to try a different mode of transport to flying. Being able to take our car was a bonus and the distance between each of our planned stops was easily achievable in one day:
– St Malo ferry terminal to Mont Saint Michel: 55.4 km – roughly around a 1 hour drive
– Mont Saint Michel to Dinan: 58 km – around 1 hour
– Dinan to St Malo ferry terminal: 30 km – about 35 minutes
If you are looking for more to do in Normandy I’ve blogged all about my trip to the fishing town of Port en Bessin: Exploring Port en Bessin, France.