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Stuart Maxwell

Boarding Times on the Bretagne

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When I booked our trip to St Malo leaving Portsmouth on the 4th October, it was mentioned that we can board early at 6.15, depending on car size. We have a Honda CR-V which is a smallish 4x4 and fits in as a normal size car but not sure if we will be allowed on (or not). Does anyone know anything about this?

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Out of season, Bretagne spends all day on Wednesdays in Portsmouth, having arrived in the morning overnight from St Malo.  So it's the one sailing of the week where early boarding is possible in theory.  In practice, what that means is that they start loading early, but whether you happen to be one that gets on early depends on where you are in the loading plan.  If your car is booked as a standard size car, and will fit onto deck 5, then I'd think there is a good chance that you could get on early.  But there are no guarantees and I don't think you can ever know exactly when you will board until it happens.  All BF will be able to tell you in advance is whether your vehicle is eligible for early boarding (and I suspect they will tell you it is).

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On Bretagne, highly likely as going on early you will almost certainly be put on deck 5.  Highly likely on Pont Aven too, as with early boarding you will go up onto the mezzanine and that can't be unloaded at the other end until everything on the deck below it has been cleared out.

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Also, on Bretagne deck 5 getting off rather depends on your proximity to the down ramp when parked. You might be one of the first off or one of the last as they play roundabouts. Worst place is actually over the down ramp in which case you will definitely be tail end charlie!

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Earlier in the summer we took a similar sized Nissan Qashqai on the Wednesday night departure. We arrived for early boarding at 1815 and then had possibly one of the longest waits I can recall, eventually being sent up to Deck 5 at around 19.45. That said, many similar sized vehicles (which arrived after us) were on well before us.

I know BF have the whole 'loading to a pre-determined plan' line that gets trotted out, but it can be hugely frustrating when identical vehicles that arrive after you go on first!

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3 hours ago, Jim said:

 

I know BF have the whole 'loading to a pre-determined plan' line that gets trotted out, but it can be hugely frustrating when identical vehicles that arrive after you go on first!

Could that be due to who actually books first? I know that might be an algorithm too far for the booking and loading system to incorporate but could perhaps explain why a car that arrives after you gets on first. Or is it linked to the number of people in the car? Four passengers might spend more in the restaurant to kill time until departure than just two? Ed. 

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4 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

Could that be due to who actually books first? I know that might be an algorithm too far for the booking and loading system to incorporate but could perhaps explain why a car that arrives after you gets on first.

I hope you're right, as I've already booked a Portsmouth-St Malo crossing on Bretagne for next June. I shall look forward to some speedy boarding! B|

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18 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

Could that be due to who actually books first? I know that might be an algorithm too far for the booking and loading system to incorporate but could perhaps explain why a car that arrives after you gets on first. Or is it linked to the number of people in the car? Four passengers might spend more in the restaurant to kill time until departure than just two? Ed. 

I'd have thought not as it would then be reliant on people turning up in booking order, and I'd also then be loaded last on most sailings. ;)

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Are the loadmasters and traffic marshals actually aware of who booked first or last or who arrived for embarkation first or last?  I rather think not.

Certainly Bretagne was found not to be much good for day trips because of this Deck 5.  As far as I am aware she's not been back to Poole-Cherbourg!

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The load masters wouldn't need to be aware of that. On check-in the computer would simply print one of those mysterious hanging panels with a code on it and you would then be directed to the appropriate lane to await your turn to board.

It was just me speculating on why some people feel others are queue jumping. Another suggestion could be that Club-voyage members get priority boarding. Jim, are you a member? Ed 

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52 minutes ago, Cabin-boy said:

The load masters wouldn't need to be aware of that. On check-in the computer would simply print one of those mysterious hanging panels with a code on it and you would then be directed to the appropriate lane to await your turn to board.

It was just me speculating on why some people feel others are queue jumping. Another suggestion could be that Club-voyage members get priority boarding. Jim, are you a member? Ed 

That would be a hell of a lot of administrative and logistical effort... and completely irrelevant unless everyone magically turned up in the order they'd booked. There is also a limit to lanes so I very much doubt the level of planning goes that way. I've also been in situations where 2 vehicles which were booked at the same time and checked in at the same time have had enough of a gap that 4 of us were sat in the restaurant and ordering an aperitif whilst the rest of them sat on the quayside.

It's been discussed at length before, but unlike vessels on say Dover - Calais, the BF fleet are not all suitable for priority boarding as first on doesn't always equal first off etc. 

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I never worry about it. At Portsmouth we aim to arrive 1 hour before departure to allow for traffic delays and the ship usually sails on time so once we are through booking in the maximum wait will only be 45 minutes and usually it it a lot less, half an hour at most which is really no hardship and trivial compared with the hassle of getting onto a plane.

I've never understood those people who place such importance in getting aboard 10-15 minutes earlier. You still all get to France at the same time.

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1 hour ago, cvabishop said:

I never worry about it. At Portsmouth we aim to arrive 1 hour before departure to allow for traffic delays and the ship usually sails on time so once we are through booking in the maximum wait will only be 45 minutes and usually it it a lot less, half an hour at most which is really no hardship and trivial compared with the hassle of getting onto a plane.

I've never understood those people who place such importance in getting aboard 10-15 minutes earlier. You still all get to France at the same time.

It is important to people who may have travelled a long way and are desperate for something to eat, or to get their head down. It can be considerably more than 10-15 minutes. 

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If people have travelled a long way then surely they should have taken a break en route and eaten then. I don't think we have ever had to wait more than half an hour at Portsmouth. If they are that desperate to get their head down then maybe they shouldn't be driving! Sorry, but I don't buy that argument.

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When we travel on Pont Aven to Roscoff we like to get on early, have a nice meal as a family in the restaurant, and then get the kids to bed.  But each to their own - it's important to some, not to others.  Everyone has their own priorities.  Just need to understand that early boarding is a bonus opportunity if it happens, but is not a guaranteed right.

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20 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

If people have travelled a long way then surely they should have taken a break en route and eaten then. I don't think we have ever had to wait more than half an hour at Portsmouth. If they are that desperate to get their head down then maybe they shouldn't be driving! Sorry, but I don't buy that argument.

We travel from Scotland have lunch enroute and like to get on as early as possible as basically you want to get the car parked  up for the night sit down and eat without getting in it again after 7 or 8 hours behind the wheel it’s our ideal scenario although it doesn’t always work out like that .

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Yes, quite agree that it's nice to get onboard as soon as possible but is 20 minutes or so extra on average such a deal breaker compared with the overall journey time? Aim to get there between 60 and 45 minutes before departure and you won't have much of a wait while sitting in your nice warm comfy car anyway.

As I have said, the key thing is to arrive at the port at the right time. Too early then you will inevitably sit around. No point in arriving too early although you obviously have to factor in possible delays if you are coming a long distance but that is not BF's fault and if you have spent 8 hours driving down from Scotland then 15-30 minutes in the boarding lane is not much hardship really.

Every time my Wife and I travel BF we thank our lucky stars that we aren't sitting in an airport departure lounge. It's all relative.

Edited by cvabishop
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I expect the authorities are bit depressed at the shortness of memories/lack of knowledge of some ferry travellers.  Am I the only one who now remembers the Herald of Free Enterprise?  I thought the need to get the load lined up so it could be stowed according to the weight of each vehicle was emphasised by this disaster.  In this way the ship could be kept in trim.  Booking order has nothing to do with it.  Of course there were various other things wrong as well such as proceeding to sea with the bow doors open but it was found P&O (actually Townsend Thoresen -- they'd just been taken over) had no idea as to the weight of the load and consequently how it should be distributed.

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Booking order isn't considered. It's somewhat chance. If you were in a 4x4 type vehicle you may have been classed as a "leisure vehicle" and put in that lane. The ones loaded before you could have been classed as cars. The leisure vehicle system is being changed and somewhat phased out for non-extraordinary vehicles.

 

The ship will call for cars, and then it's up to the foreman to choose which lane of cars goes first.

 

I hope this clears things up a bit.

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Goodness me !

Just about everybody on here is a seasoned ferry traveller.  Me too.

After years of doing it, we all know that sometimes you can arrive quite early, sometimes quite late ......... and you never really know in what order you'll get loaded. The same (more or less) applies to disembarkation.

I reckon that over the years, it has pretty much evened out, but I don't keep a score!  And btw, even if I did, it would make sfa difference.

 

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1 hour ago, Hawser Trunnion said:

I expect the authorities are bit depressed at the shortness of memories/lack of knowledge of some ferry travellers.  Am I the only one who now remembers the Herald of Free Enterprise?  I thought the need to get the load lined up so it could be stowed according to the weight of each vehicle was emphasised by this disaster.  In this way the ship could be kept in trim.  Booking order has nothing to do with it.  Of course there were various other things wrong as well such as proceeding to sea with the bow doors open but it was found P&O (actually Townsend Thoresen -- they'd just been taken over) had no idea as to the weight of the load and consequently how it should be distributed.

Sorry HT, that is totally inaccurate. Of course we all remember the HoFE and it is absurd for you to insinuate otherwise.

I can only assume from what you said that you haven't the faintest idea about what happened and why, and that you have not read the inquiry report.  I have read it numerous times from cover to cover and it still sits on my bookshelf.

To put you right on the specific issue of the down-by-the-head trim, this was nothing to do with the way the ship was loaded.  It was due to the need for the ship to be balllasted at the bow for the single-level loading ramp at Zeebrugge to be able to reach the upper deck.  Pumping of this ballast upon departure was already well under way but takes about an hour to complete.

But anyway, this is nothing to do with the topic of the thread and it was very cynical of you to introduce it in such an ill-informed way as if it had any relevance to the topic.

Edited by Gareth
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The loadmasters are savvy,.On a couple of relatively recent occasions I have seen cars sneaking across from a static queue to a moving one to try on get in board earlier. In each case they were stopped and made to wait until their original queue loaded. Result!

The loadmasters do their best to get everyone on as soon as possible, after all that is their job. It does sometimes mean that cars are held up for a few minutes while freight is loaded but that is all.

It strikes me that people who complain in such circumstances are being rather self centred. You will get on, you won't have to wait long and the ship won't sail without you. The restaurants and bars will still be open the food won't all be eaten up and your cabin will still be waiting. Get things in perspective!

Edited by cvabishop

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I've arrived about an hour and a half early in the past for a couple of overnight crossings from St Malo to Portsmouth in the winter season and checked in as a foot passenger. They do advertise that early boarding will be available from around 7pm (the vessel leaves at 8.30 - I assume that's still the case but haven't checked the timetables) and I have been taken on board by bus. On one occasion I was the only person to arrive so early on foot although there were a couple of family groups already in the restaurant. The advantage was that I was able dump my bag in the cabin, do an hours' work on my computer before departure while the 3G signal was still available in France, have a meal at the same time before the rush started (admittedly not a huge rush in early January) and then catch a film in the cinema before bed. It's far better than sitting around in the terminal. The same thing also happened when I went by car later that same season but I was put up on Deck 5 and it took an age to get off at the other end. But as I only have a 20 minute drive on leaving Portsmouth, it wasn't too bad. Ed

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