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Everything posted by Ryan_H

  1. Re: Brittany Ferries Vs LD Lines to Santander Well I would like to take my car with me to Barcelona at the end of September, BF is quoting between £688 and £733 return for a car and 2 passengers, depending on what cabin we have (not that there are many available!) I have tried to compare with LD Lines but sadly there does not seem to be any room. Alternatively it seems I can fly with EasyJet at the moment for well under £200, including hold luggage; I would much rather not, but again it does provide a stark illustration of the battle ferry operators face. Having said that it is very good to see the ships sailing to Spain appear to be full all Summer...
  2. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close Well there is no-one who would like to see this route continue more than me! But Stena have only recently advised all their freight customers that the route is closing, which seems an odd thing to do if they have any intention of continuing the route? Then again I suppose stranger things have happened! As I said in my voyage report, I think standards on the route have declined recently, as you say particularly in the seven seas restaurant. Many of the crew I encountered did look a bit fed up, which was in sharp contrast to my last trip back in 2008. I'd be interested to know where the Stena Line rumour has come from. Hope you have a good trip in September...
  3. Re: Potential other routes? It should not be forgotten that BF also has significant numbers of customers from the Midlands and northern England and for us, Portsmouth is without doubt the most easily accessible. In many cases, Portsmouth is nearer even than Dover.
  4. Re: The last ferry to Scandinavia: Harwich-Esbjerg, 20th-24th June If you head out of the city centre to the 'man meets the sea' statues, which are worth seeing on their own, you should get some decent views from there. Also if you take the little ferry over to the island of Fano, there are some good spots. I was very lucky in that we had a such a good view from the hotel window, good enough for photos. I would recommend Esbjerg generally; there is plenty to see and do and the nightlife is good. The bars and restaurants are not as expensive as you might think, and all the people we encountered were very friendly and helpful.
  5. Re: The last ferry to Scandinavia: Harwich-Esbjerg, 20th-24th June Thanks, I have written to DFDS. As I said to them, it's not as though this was a 'budget' short break; we could have flown for much less. I don't mind paying a premium to travel by sea, but I do expect the standards to be somewhere in line with the pricing, and I didn't feel that was the case with this trip. Nevertheless, we had a great time in Esbjerg and I would certainly like to return one day for a longer visit to Denmark.
  6. I spent the weekend before last in Esbjerg courtesy of a four-night break which I had booked with DFDS on 29th April, the day on which it was announced that the Esbjerg-Harwich route was to close, which Involved two nights on board the Sirena Seaways and two nights at the Scandic Olympic hotel, just a few minutes’ walk from the harbour. The outward leg to Harwich on 20th June was well patronised, with the ship said to be three-quarters full. On arrival in our cabin (number 7001), I was a little irritated to find that the ‘VIP kit’ which I had pre-ordered along with our meals, which was basically a half-bottle of champagne and a few snacks, had failed to materialise. I don’t usually order such things, but as it was my birthday I decided to treat myself. After a quick visit to the reception it duly arrived within ten minutes. After opening our champagne we noticed that ship had begun to move, fifteen minutes ahead of the advertised sailing time, so we went outside with our glasses in order to get a better view of things. As it was a pleasant, sunny evening we ended up staying outside for another hour or so, by which point the container cranes of Felixstowe had become mere silhouettes in the distance. We then went inside for dinner in the ‘seven seas’ restaurant. The restaurant area seemed to have changed little from my previous two crossings back in 2008 and 2005, apart from the previous high-backed chairs having been replaced with smaller, less comfortable and cheaper-looking seating. Unfortunately, the selection of food on offer was rather a disappointment, with noticeably less sea food on display than on previous crossings, and just a few bits of meat available at the carvery section. For the price, this did not seem to be great value for money and I heard some other English passengers making similar comments (although the table adjacent to us also bemoaned the fact that there were no chips!) After dinner we walked through in to the adjacent ‘Columbus lounge’ where a lone guitarist was playing, which is usually the case on this route. He was good, and made his views regarding the impending demise of this route clear, stating that he would soon be out of a job. The service at the bar could be slow at times due to it being staffed by a lone barman, and the prices were just as high as I remembered, but we had a good time nonetheless. The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast in the ‘seven seas’, overlooking what were surprisingly lumpy seas and rather angry looking skies. Again, the selection did not seem as extensive as on previous crossings, but as we were not overly hungry this was not a major issue. After breakfast I spent some time in the shop, which as others will know is not very big, and can become very cramped if there is more than a few people in it. In the end I decided to leave any potential purchases until the return journey, as I could not look at anything for long enough without getting in someone else’s way. By this point we were little more than an hour out of Esbjerg so I wandered outside in order to watch our approach to the port, where we docked precisely on time at 13.00hrs local time. We made our way to our hotel on foot as it was just a short walk from the port. On arrival at the reception, I gave my name and handed over my DFDS booking confirmation, but the receptionist was unable to find any reservation for us. He then went on to search the entire year’s bookings, but still could find no trace of our names. This then necessitated a phone call to DFDS in the UK, with me briefly explaining that the hotel apparently had no record of the booking, which I thought I had made (and paid for) almost two months previously, and then passing them over to the receptionist. In the end, things were sorted out and the very pleasant receptionist arranged for us to have an upgraded room on the very top floor, which had a truly amazing view of the harbour, but of course this was no thanks to DFDS, who had apparently simply failed to book a room for us! Our remaining time in Esbjerg was trouble free and we both had a fantastic couple of days in this lovely city. Our return sailing to Harwich on 23rd June saw us arrive just over an hour before sailing time at the terminal, which was very full. Upon checking in I asked if the sailing was full and I was told ‘yes, almost’. I then noticed that our boarding cards had the same cabin number as on the outward crossing, but that they also stated ‘Harwich-Esbjerg, 20th June’! When I asked I was simply told that this was DFDS’ mistake and that it would not matter. Once finally on board we dropped our bags off in our cabin (7001 again) before going outside to witness what could well be our last departure from Esbjerg. There were a number of coach parties on board and numerous announcements were made over the P.A. system instructing them to be at various places at various times etc. The weather was not great and it was necessary to shelter from the rain as we made our way out past the adjacent Jutlandia Seaways and towards open water. For dinner that evening we decided to book at table in the blue riband restaurant, as it was the last night of our holiday and we wanted a more intimate atmosphere than the seven seas. The restaurant also serves at the ‘Explorers’ steak-house, with both menus being provided on each table, so that diners can order from either. As I did not fancy anything from the blue riband menu, I opted for a steak, whilst my girlfriend planned to have the set price two courses from the blue riband selection. If you are ordering from the ‘Explorers’ menu, you are required to fill out a card, detailing how you would like your steak cooking, which sauce you would like etc, which is then handed to the waitress. It took around forty five minutes for our main courses to arrive, which was not a problem and the food was very enjoyable, although I suppose you could argue that at these prices, it should be . The restaurant was only around a third full, so it was hard to understand why we were then seemingly abandoned for a further thirty minutes. When we heard the waitress offering desserts to an adjacent table of Danish men, we asked if we could see the menu; we were then told quite abruptly that the kitchen was now closed and that we could not order anything else. Given the amount of time which we’d been left waiting we were not too happy with this response, and made this clear to the waitress, who then half-heartedly offered us some crème Brule. Given the prices charged in this restaurant, and the fact that we had specifically wanted to order two courses for a set amount, we found the service provided unacceptable. We spent the remainder of the evening in the Columbus lounge, until it closed just before midnight. The following morning we decided not to spend any more money in the ship’s restaurants and so avoided breakfast and instead had a lie-in. At around 11.00am it was announced that the ‘sky bar’ was open at the rear of deck eight and so we ventured outside and bought some coffees here which we had long with some pastries purchased from the lighthouse café. By this point the Sirena Seaways was making her way very slowly along the Suffolk coastline and it was very enjoyable to sit in the warm sunshine and enjoy the last couple of hours of the journey. I did wonder though why the ‘sky bar’ had not been opened at departure times, as this surely would have been a good money making opportunity and would have saved people walking to the Columbus lounge. I no time at all we were passing Felixstowe, then old Harwich, before finally manoeuvring on to the berth at Parkeston. Naturally I did feel quite sad as we ascended the walkway at Harwich and took a final look back at the ship. I think it’s fair to say that a number of things seem to have gone down-hill since my last sailing on this vessel, which was then the Dana Sirena; the food was not as good, nor the service, and the general upkeep of the vessel somehow did not seem to be at quite the same standard as it had been in the past. Nevertheless, for me and no doubt many others, it is very dis-heartening to think that this journey will not be possible as from October this year. I would like to spend more time in Denmark but I do not want to fly in order to get there, nor do I particularly fancy driving hundreds of miles through the Netherlands and Germany. Will another company step in and provide a new connection with Denmark, or for that matter, anywhere else in Scandinavia? I for one very much hope so. Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to upload my photos in the usual way, therefore please see my Flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35806500@N04/sets/72157645449348405/
  7. Re: Another DFDS route threatened I think another route from Zeebrugge could be under threat in the not too distant future: the one which sails to Hull. How does P&O intend to comply with the rules? If DFDS did move this route from Rosyth to Newcastle, perhaps they might open it up to passengers? One can always dream......
  8. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close Yes that's exactly what I thought. They have gone in to quite a bit of detail though, so they must have (or had) some idea of the vessel they might use. I do tend to think that if one of these proposed new ventures to Norway or Denmark does get off the ground, there must be at least some chance of success, if only because there will soon be no other ferry services to Scandinavia, for passengers at least. I still struggle to comprehend that there is enough of a market to Spain to support two operators, with four routes, yet apparently no market whatsoever for any kind of car ferry service to Scandinavia?
  9. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close A ro-pax vessel such as a visentini would seem to make sense but if their website is anything to go by it sounds like they are planning for a cruise ferry. It's hard to gauge how serious this company really is, but their plans certainly sound ambitious given that DFDS claim the route to be un proffitable.
  10. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close I notice that Regina Line have updated their website, with some detailed information, and are claiming that they will start sailing next Easter; what are the odds of this actually happening i wonder? In the meantime i will be sailing on the 'Sirena' next Friday 20th, for what will probably be the last time....
  11. Re: Things you miss from BF... A decent beer selection in the bars (Kronenbourg, Heineken) as opposed to what was on offer during my last sailing...
  12. Re: (SPECULATION) DFDS axeing Newcastle - Amsterdam? I suspect a lot of people probably thought the same about Esbjerg-Harwich; I certainly don't recall seeing anything which suggested it was under threat. Is this route really all that proffitable?
  13. Re: DFDS axeing Newcastle - Amsterdam Yes sadly it has to be a possibility, hard to believe this will be their last passenger route on the North Sea. As i've said elsewhere, i just have a feeling that we may see some sort of 'consolidation' where DFDS either take over one of the Hull routes or maybe even start up a ro-pax service to one of their existing Dutch ports, ending the cruise ferry service. I very much hope i'm wrong though!
  14. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close Another point which occurred to me was the growth in cruises from the UK in recent years and the influence this must have – there are so many nowadays, including many to Scandinavia, and quite a number from Harwich as well. I’ve been on a couple of cruises and enjoyed them; It’s easy to see the attraction of having (almost) everything included in the fare, especially if you are going somewhere like Scandinavia where prices ashore will be high. However, as a result of this, combined with the influence of the airlines, I suspect that less and less people are willing or even aware that the option exists to take a ferry crossing. Personally I find there is something about the journey on a longer ferry crossing, where there is a wide range of different types of traveller, which cruise ships cannot compare with. It seems to me that general public awareness of the longer ferry routes, away from areas close to the ports, is very poor; how many people do you know (who aren’t shipping enthusiasts) who are even aware of the existence of this route? I don’t think the ferry operators have done enough to promote what they offer.
  15. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close It would be great to think that another operator might step in, but it is surely unlikely? There were rumours some time ago about a rival operator joining this route, don't know how serious these were though. Of course, we are now faced with the end of all car/passenger ferry links between the UK and Scandinavia, so maybe that will create enough of a gap in the market for someone to fill?
  16. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close Yes I think you've summed up the situation perfectly, and my own feelings as well. What remains of DFDS' operations in the North Sea is now mainly concentrated on the Humber and with this in mind I wonder if they might try to take over the Hull-Rotterdam service? This would no doubt then be described as 'consolidation', as the Newcastle-Ijmuiden route would close. I may well be wide of the mark here, but the Newcastle ships are clearly going to need money spending on them or replacement before too long and can anyone really see DFDS building new ships, which would be suitable for the route? When sailed on the Pride of Bruges in February I got the impression that P&O were simply trying to extract as much revenue as possible from the ships, whilst investing very little in them; sadly it's hard to see them being replaced.
  17. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close As i said previously, i can't see how this ship is suitable for the Channel routes; she is a stern-only loader and is very much an overnight vessel. Her facilities are pretty much ideal for a longer route, such as those DFDS already has in the Baltic. Of course, she could operate on another North Sea route, but DFDS will only have one of these left! This is still a young vessel, so i would have thought fitting scrubbers or converting to LNG could be viable. I've just booked one of the special offer hotel breaks to Esbjerg for the end of June, there are also some minicruises available, so to anyone who hasn't tried this route before who fancies it i'd say do it soon before it's too late....
  18. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close I don't know what the wider reaction will be in the coming weeks and months, but for me this news is really significant; Esbjerg-Harwich is *the* DFDS route, the equivalent would be Brittany Ferries closing Plymouth-Roscoff. You have to ask just how far behind other North Sea routes will be; Newcastle-Ijmuiden, Hull-Zeebrugge, even Hull-Rotterdam - is there any future for these routes? I apologise if my reaction seems overly dramatic, but I (like many other people) have enjoyed travelling on and reading about North Sea ferries for almost as long as I can remember and tonight it really does feel as though we seeing the beginning of the end of passenger services in this area. I have a framed advertising poster for the Esbjerg-Harwich route on my living room wall, I'd always thought how great it was that this historic connection was still relevant today; soon this poster really will be nothing more than a piece of nostalgia.
  19. Re: Harwich-Esbjerg route to close If Harwich-Esbjerg isn't deemed viable, then I can't see how Newhaven-Dieppe can be, especially with the over-capacity which exists on the Channel. I also can't see the Sirena Seaways being suited to a channel route, I would have thought a longer route, perhaps in the Baltic, will be sought her for her.
  20. I'm so sad about this news, it truly will be the end of an era... http://www.dfdsgroup.com/News/Latest/20140429/
  21. Re: Languages used for on-board announcements. I think you are absolutely right in what you are saying, the linguistic abilities of Brittany Ferries crews have always impressed me, and certainly compare favourably with the standards of other operators on the Channel.
  22. Re: Languages used for on-board announcements. My point is that there is greater choice of routes and ships to Spain now than at any time previously, go back less than ten years and there was just two routes, one with BF and the other with P&O. I'm sure that if there is enough of a market for it then LD Lines will start offering facilities for pets in due course. As I see it travellers wanting to drive to Spain can either take one of four direct ferries (from three different ports), or take one of the longer routes to France and drive down, or take Dover-Calais/Eurotunnel. I think we have to remember that taking a ferry to Spain is still quite a 'niche' thing to do, despite it becoming more popular in recent years and so when you bear that in mind, I think the options available are pretty good actually.
  23. Re: Languages used for on-board announcements. I would say there is plenty of choice at the moment, in fact we have more routes to Spain then at any time I can remember. I think BF in particular has done just about all that could be reasonably expected of them; plenty of choice in terms of vessels (cruise ferries and ro-pax), destinations and timings, plus they have shown that they are prepared to invest in the future and that they do listen to their passengers (look at the facilities planned for the new vessel). I would say customers wanting to drive to Spain have far more attractive options at their disposal than those wanting to travel to places such as Scandinavia, for example.
  24. Re: Languages used for on-board announcements. I’ve sailed to Spain with BF many times, most recently in September last year, and as far as I can recall all of the public announcements I have heard have been in French, English and Spanish, in that order. The ships are French registered and French crewed, so to me it would seem perfectly appropriate for announcements to be made in that language even if the ship is sailing to/from Spain; it’s also quite possible that some French passengers might be using the route since it is convenient for south-west France. From what I recall the main reason that Spanish announcements were prominent on board the Pride of Bilbao was because there were a number of Spanish crew (some of whom are now on the Hull-Zeebrugge route). I don’t recall any of the British crew (what few there were) making any announcements in Spanish, and that includes the Captain. As others have said, Brittany Ferries has a Breton strong heritage which is reflected throughout the service provided on board and this is (or certainly has been) one of the main reasons people choose to travel with them over other operators.
  25. Re: LD Lines Poole to Santander/Gijon (was Norman Asturais to Santander) I know this might sound trivial to some, but the bar is generally one of my favourite places to spend time whilst at sea, so I'd just like ask: which beer(s) are served on draught and what are the prices like? I'd very much like to visit Gijon so may well try this route later this year.
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