Recently we have been using the port of Portsmouth as our route to France, whereas for many years we have been using the Dover Calais route. This is largely because we have moved from Norfolk to Gloucestershire and it is only about two and a half hours from our house to Portsmouth as opposed to a four hour trip to Dover. We also manage to avoid the M 25 by going to Portsmouth .
We have used the overnight Portsmouth Le Havre route several times. We have slept well in a cabin and arrive about 8am. However it is not a slick operation. Loading seems to take for ever and the sailing has normally left late. This is not terribly important given that they take their time crossing so that you do not arrive in the early hours and therefore late departure does not mean late arrival in France. However if they were to get you on board at the scheduled time then you could get to your cabin and get some sleep, rather than sitting on the quayside. The boat on this route is quite basic, mainly given over to lots of cabins but to be fair Brittanhy Ferries do make this clear and the price reflects this.
On our last visit to France we came back on the daytime crossing from Caen to Portsmouth which was a good crossing. The ferry leaves Caen at about 4.30 pm and gets into Portsmouth just after 9pm so no cabins needed although some people did make use of them. The boat is much larger and you can go up on deck and take loads of photos, sunbathe, smoke or look for sea birds, I did see some gannets and cormorants. If you look closely you can see two in the photo below.
There is a good restaurant on board and a good cafeteria where you pick your starter and desserts off the shelf but then you order the main course which is then freshly cooked and brought to your table. All quite civilised. We ate in the restaurant where the quality of the food was very good. The boat was quite empty and there were only about 15 people eating there. The boat has two cinemas and a children’s play area,the duty free shop is quite large and well stocked.
Both routes are obviously more expensive than Dover Calais but if your are heading for Poitou Charente or further south, when you subtract the savings because less fuel and motorway tolls are needed and the night crossing obviates the possible need for a hotel for the night in France then they are a very competitive option.
They just need to improve loading and unloading at Portsmouth. At Caen it is very easy. Click to check all the options with Brittany Ferries and if you are reading this Mr Brittany Ferry man, can we have a free trip?
We have also discovered a very good Indian Restaurant in Portsmouth about 2mins from the port, called the Blue Cobra., which is a good start to your trip if you are taking the night crossing! Though in a small cabin it can impinge by the morning!