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Everything posted by zuludelta

  1. My interest in Brittany Ferries began in 1992. But before I start my story I want to give it some context. My great-grandfather served as a second-mate officer with Cunard Line on their Liverpool to New York route. As a result, my grandmother was a lifelong ship enthusiast. She lived in Cork - not a million miles away from the Ringaskiddy terminal and she made frequent trips there with my grandfather. It would make part of one of their many afternoon drives. It gave my grandmother an opportunity to see what ships came in. It and also gave her an opportunity to people watch some of the “fogeners” and their strange ways. During the school holidays, we would make many trips from Dublin to Cork to visit the grandparents. During one of these trips to Cork in 1991, I remember my grandmother mention numerous times to my mother about a “beautiful” ship that was now coming into Ringaskiddy. She would say stuff like “you should have seen it…”. I remembered what was said but never really knew what she meant. Because, any time we took part in these excursions to Ringaskiddy, there only ever seemed to be the Celtic Pride (Swansea Cork Ferries) the St Patrick (Irish Ferries) or a car carrier in port. The M/V Bretagne and Me Fast forward to the summer of 1992. Instead of a holiday in Galway, Wexford or West Cork, my mother suggested we go to France. My father said he would “make some inquiries” at work. He came back with two pieces of information. First, there was a company in Galway called Campotel that did mobile home and camping holidays in France. And another colleague told him, about a boat that goes direct from Cork to a place called Roscoff in Northern France. He should have just asked my grandmother! Anyway a phone call was made to Campotel. There had just been a cancellation and yes, they could also organise that boat that sailed from Cork. In two week’s times, we would be all off to France. So, we arrive at Ringaskiddy. And there she was. The M/V Bretagne in all her resplendent glory. Now I knew what my grandmother had been on about. We drive on board and clambered up the steep steps the passenger decks. And all I could think was “wow”. I remember seeing the futuristic neon. The art filled atrium. The new ship smell. It was amazing. Myself and my brother were given the key to our cabin. It was one of the Ving cards – it was the weirdest and coolest looking key I’d ever seen in my entire life. The cabin had a sound system, cool little reading lights and even a telephone. This was amazing. We were picking up the phone asking the poor reception desk staff stupid questions. “What time does the cinema open at?”. “What are they showing?” (It was Medicine Man btw). “What time does the shop open at?” Now I know why some operators don’t put phones in cabins… "Like something out of a James Bond film" I never slept a wink that night. The excitement of this spaceship at sea was too much. We arrived at the campsite in Benodet, in southern Brittany. On a campsite you can hear everything. For the next two weeks, all I could hear holidaymakers talk about their holidays. Inevitably the topic of what route was taken would come up. For those who had travelled on the M/V Bretagne, superlatives were used. Comments like “amazing boat”, “more like a cruise ship”. One holidaymaker even said it was like “something out of a James Bond film”. I certainly could not wait to get back on it. The return journey was just as magical. That afternoon after the trip was over. We visited my grandparents’ house. I felt like Buzz Aldrin when he returned to earth. He had experienced something other worldly and was despondent to back to normal life. For the rest of the summer and well into that Autumn, I even dreamt about the Bretagne. I was totally smitten with the whole BF operation. That ship, those announcements, the food and even that weird soap. Everything was so perfect about it. The Val de Loire Years In subsequent years we went on the same Cork-Roscoff route this time on the Val de Loire. Back then, the only BF trip reports I could find were in the Sunday Independent. In this paper every July or August, the Irish playwright Hugh Leonard would invariably sing the praises of Brittany Ferries and their Val de Loire ship on his annual trip to France. He knew a good thing when he saw it. In my college years, the opportunity arose to study in France for a year under the Erasmus programme arose. I jumped to it. When the year was over, I bought a EuroDomino pass and spent a month backpacking around France. I also decided it would be fitting to end to arrive back by sea. So, one Friday night in the middle of July, I ended up in Roscoff terminal sans billet asking if they had availability for that night’s sailing. “Non” was the firm response. But after a lot of cajoling, I finally, and at the last minute, got a ticket. Val blasted her horn and slipped her berth. It was Bastille night. Fireworks adorned the Roscoff skyline. The fully laden Val headed into the pitch black of the English Channel swinging left towards the Celtic Sea homeward bound. My sojourn in France could not have ended nicer. Brittany Ferries à Vélo But this was not be the end of my relationship with Brittany Ferries. One of my passions is cycle touring. I cycled extensively in Europe, but France and Spain remain my favourite destinations. So, from Dublin, I would fly to Nantes or Tours and cycle up to Caen. (Yes, you probably guessed it MSM is one of my favourites) From there it would be a hop over to Portsmouth to meet the PA or CF which take me down to Spain. Sometimes, if I had time to train at home, I would start in my trip in Mediterranean Spain and cycle up to Bilbao or Santander. The four or five days spend cycling across the verdant fields of Pays de La Loire and Normandy were always a delight. Not being too hot, the gently rolling hills made it a perfect for a warm-up trip for the more demanding Spanish terrain and weather. One year, I was a little bit behind schedule and did Le Mans to Caen in one day. Except for a quick coffee stop, I did it more or less non-stop. I remember arriving on the outskirts of Caen lying on a grassy patch beside some industrial estate absolutely knackered. But I still had the Ouistreham Canal to cycle. I eventually made it to the terminal with about 20 minutes before check-in closed. Drinking a pint of cold Murphys under the warm funnel of the Mont-St-Michel as we pulled away from French terra firma was probably one of the nicest pints ever! (Followed of course by a few more in the Blue Note bar). The next day in Portsmouth was a scorcher. My aching muscles had a chance to recover chilling on the deck on Pont Aven as she steamed down to Santander where the second leg of the trip would start. Over the years, I did many a hybrid Franco-Spanish cycling trip, getting to know northern France and deepest Spain very well in the process. Having friends in Spain and the UK, I would often try to sneak in an Autumn trip on BF. Conversations in the Grand Pavois I have great memories of the interesting conversations with fellow travelers in the Grand Pavois bar. Like one lady who was spending a week on the Pont Aven as her main holiday. She would arrive in port, get off, walk around Santander, Plymouth or Portsmouth and then check her herself in again! “People at work think I’m crazy” she said. I told her there was online forum that could help her… Another gentleman I got talking was convinced that Brittany Ferries was partly owned by the Mafia. Nothing would convince him otherwise. Conversations with some more mature couples could also be quite poignant. Some of the them realised that their days of taking foreign holidays were probably numbered. They were just enjoying life while they could. I remember many historic events also co-inciding with a crossing. The first time I was on the Pont Aven was the same day as the London Bombings. That morning every café-bar in Santander has pictures of partially destroyed red buses on their TV screens. I remember tuning in to RTL2 on the PA in-cabin entertainment system getting the latest updates. Au Revoir and Adios to BFEnthusiasts Mk I Anyway, I could go on about BF all night… I’m pleased to say that I’ve never really had a bad crossing with BF. All them were great! I’m very sad to see this forum disappear into the ether. A couple of years ago I read a comment here where one poster commented how this forum was was “better than a lunch break”. And I could not agree more! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here and hope to see most of you over on one of the new forums. A massive thank you to Andy, all the moderators and of course the members for making BFEnthusiasts into a really unique online community. Thank you and as they say onboard “we ope to see you on Brittany Ferries again”. PS: I never did get to see Medicine Man, it’s really amazing how 29 years can fly by in a heartbeat.
  2. That's what the media said about Germany and some Eastern European countries in the early days of the pandemic. However, while the media has been gushing about Jacinda Ardern, they are likely to turn on her - just as quick. This pandemic can upset even the most perfect of playbooks.
  3. That's right and I asked them "how much does IF pay you for doing this?" and Paul said "Not a lot"
  4. Yes. It's a sight to behold. Passengers don't know what hit them. They go to bed with sheets and a pillow and wake up sans sheets and a pillow. It's not really room service rather a conjuring service.
  5. BF really need to realise that people who pay for an expensive Club Class cabin expect a more deluxe experience. Seriously, that "presentation box of toiletries" is like something you would get in a 2* hotel. I know BF have more serious issues to deal contend with but it's small tangible stuff like which sends out the wrong signals to customers. And yeah, getting chucked out 30 minutes before detracts from the experience esp. if its an early morning arrival. Irish Ferries have a nice setup where they collect sheets from cabin whilst allowing passengers to stay in their cabins. I'm glad that the crossing was busy at this time of year - it will help fill the BF coffers a bit.
  6. This sounds like the plot for a TV drama. A sort of Agatha Christie drama at sea, involving a ferry, 2 dogs and some motorhome tourists. You could have a Poirot-type detective saying "Monsieur, I hav a profile of de killer...ere it iz" I wonder would Netflix be interested...
  7. Agree, you will look at the BF fleet in a different light! The Viking Grace definitely feels more cruise-like. The duty-free store is like one you would find in a medium-sized European airport. This is a high ceiling ship as well giving the passenger areas a very airy and spacious feel. And even the standard Seaside-class ?(standard) cabins are two or three notches above the Stena Hollandica.
  8. Aside from the booze cruisers, continental travelers to Scotland are the main market for DFDS on their Amsterdam to Newcastle route. Nobody wants to go to England!
  9. How comes anytime an American company takes over a European one they start tinkering with the product usually in a bad way. This inevitably results in poorer product quantity or the quality being reduced. Or, like this case, it can result in "brand extensions" which are usually dire bastardisations of the original product. Orange Toblerone being a classic example. Here is what Mondelez International did to Toblerone back in 2016. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37904703 If Uncle Sam got his hands of BF, I can only imagine what they would do to it!
  10. And here is a video of the old girl back in 1990 just after being launched on the Rosslare to Fishguard route. Notice how the threat of airline travel is being discussed even back then. This was when legacy airlines still ruled the roost in Europe. https://www.rte.ie/archives/2015/0402/691752-launch-of-felicity/
  11. That is interesting and certainly gives some perspective on the BF / CMA-CGM deal. Maybe the latter are looking for feeder services to their main ports. BF's frequent sailings to Spain and France could help CMA-CGM make their supply chain speedier and more integrated. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how this pans out.
  12. I really hope this works out too! But it can be a very tricky to get two corporate cultures to mesh. In addition, corporate history is littered with business mergers or partnerships which never produced the synergies as originally envisaged. Does BF need to be more freight oriented? - most definitly yes. But, it's key strength has always been offering a premium short-sea transportation service to continental Europe for motorised passenger traffic. Let's hope this key strength never gets lost at the expense of freight. Because then, from a strategic point of view, BF could end up in a sort of no-mans land. A poor freight base and a reputation for offering a mediocre service among the public could be catastrophic. Growing or maintaining market share among two very different market segments simultaneously can be difficult. Let's hope BF can pull through this and make it to the other side.
  13. And not forgetting of course the Nordic Noir series "Trapped" which features the venerable M/V Nörrona. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2016/mar/07/trapped-icelandic-thriller-tv-hit-of-the-year
  14. If BF is going into partnership with a container shipping company for freight and passengers, this could bring a whole new meaning to an Économie crossing...
  15. I think this was filmed onboard the Quiberon. Not 100% sure though. Go to 29:55.
  16. Yes, rumor has it that Pierre Le Bear (real name Jose Sanchez, but now called Steve) was involved in a host of nefarious activities (mainly narcotics) in his native Columbia. After nationwide manhunt, he ended in up Peru which had conveniently no extradition treaty with Columbia. On a false passport traveled to Madrid and then on to Santander. Transpired that the that qualities that made him a good dealer also where the same qualities needed as a ship's entertainer! And they the rest as they say is history. Employing him was a canny strategic move which helped turn the fortunes of BF around….
  17. Every business must adapt to survive and Brittany Ferries is no exception. The latest pivot of BF has been a plan for partial stardardisation of the fleet. But in your estimation, what have been the other main strategic pivot points for BF since 2000?
  18. Regrettably, this could be very true. Even when this pandemic does subside BF will probably still have over capacity. This could be the beginning of the end for the once beautiful Bretagne.
  19. Maybe the restaurant owners across Europe are enjoying the break from people who "Tripadvise". I see where the OP is coming from but Tripadvisor should not be used as barometer for tourist activity. Even during during non-covid times, I've seen some busy hotels and restaurants only get 2-3 reviews a month.
  20. You've summed it up very well. Standardisation is going to make the operations of BF - everything from crewing, maintenance, IT systems to catering much more efficient but unfortunately with less character. The fleet will probably be like a couple of floating IBIS hotels but at least it should put BF in a much more stable position financially. Better some BF than no BF!
  21. Ed, you must of got one of those special edition Van Gough themed face masks. You know how the French love to mix art and commerce....
  22. You have a point. The type of traveler does determine the speediness of emergency evacuation. Statistically, in an emergency situation, it has been recognised that evacuation of an aircraft will be quicker when there are business travelers onboard. This can probably be attributed to less luggage, more familiarity with aircraft layout and overall less pfaffing about. So, yes, the type of fellow passenger does impact the swiftness of evacuation. In the coming years, I would less concerned about pet owners and more concerned about electric cars. It's inevitable that in the next few years, even with fail-safe mechanisms implemented by car manufacturers, we will probably see some electric car fires. Onboard a ferry it could be catastrophic.
  23. Globalisation gone mad. Irish Ferries on the Dover-Calais route. SNCF trains now running between Madrid and Barcelona. What next? Brittany Ferries going to Portugal. Oh wait...
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