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11 May 2015 The Baie de Seine entered service, in a freight only mode, with an overnight sailing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth on the 7th May. She then sailed to Bilbao and back ahead of her first passenger carrying crossing to Le Havre on Monday 11th May. The first sailing was to be a busy one, thanks to the transfer of Caen passengers due to industrial action. Once through check-in we were directed straight through security and onto the lanes beside berth 2, on which the Baie de Seine was moored, and after a short wait were directed onboard. Her vast stern door reveals her cavernous garage, and fixed internal ramp to the upper deck. We were then positioned on the mezzanine deck - where car’s were parked in a similar manner to that of the Bretagne’s deck 5. This is where the majority of passenger vehicles were positioned in here DFDS’ days, but on this sailing the majority of the upper deck was dedicated to passenger vehicles. Cabins are located on decks 6 – 10, and are considerably larger than those found on other members of the fleet. They had fresh new bed linen and towels, and there was a hairdryer located in the bathroom. More than adequate for an overnight sailing to Le Havre (or Bilbao). At the forward end of deck 7 is the Café. This is a nice cosy area overlooking the bow, and offered an alternative lounge to the bar. The Café was unfortuantely closed for the overnight sailing, so the majority of passengers favoured the bar located one deck above on deck 8. Opposite the Café is the Shop and Peitit Marche. The space has been divided into two (from her DFDS days), but the shop still stocks a good range of products and is certainly much larger than that found onboard the Etretat. The Petit Marche offered a slection of pre-packaged meals (as found on the Normandie Express and Cap Finistere), along with drinks and snacks. There is also small children’s play area located on the port side. Up on deck 8 is the information deck, in front of which is a small seating area. Forward of here you find the ‘la Forumle’ self service restaurant, which is divided in two with a walkway in between. A selection of hot dishes were available, along with a cold buffet option. Further forward is ‘le Bar’ which again overlooks the bow and was where the majority of passengers had settled. Going up, on deck 10 you can find the Economie Plus cabins and Reading Lounge. This area is furnished to a high standard, reflecting its former life as a Commodore Class area. The cabins are very spacious, and offer a tv in addition to tea and coffee making facilities. The reading lounge is an impressive space and offers panoramic views over the stern of the ship. It’s certainly not the something you would expect to find on an ‘economie’ service. There is a coffee vending machine here for refreshments. Baie de Seine offers lots of outside deck space, and it was from this overlooking the stern that we observed the loading operation in full swing, along with a nice glass of red! The departure was delayed due to the volume of traffic on this first sailing, but the arrival into Le Havre was ontime. It was a smooth crossing, with only minimal announcements made over the PA system, and the beds were very comfortable (and wider than the norm too). Disembarkation took a little time, particuarly as were on the mezzaine deck, but it was French passport control that were causing the cars to back up through the port. The Baie de Seine has certainly risen the bar for the economie brand, and would be by far my preferred choice over the Etretat. Whilst offering a high standard, the ship does still fit into the economie brand in comparison to the Caen service, with the former ‘full frills’ DFDS service having been removed. The Baie de Seine offers an attractive overnight option for sailing to France, and with her 08:00 or 08:30 arrival time, also allows a longer lay in at the other side!
I just wanted to share some photos from my new vantage point in Gosport since I started working for the National Coastwatch (NCI) based in Fort Blockhouse. 'Pont-Aven' departing Portsmouth for Santander (21/03/17) 'Baie de Seine' departing Portsmouth for Le Havre (21/03/17) 'Mont St Michel' departing Portsmouth for Ouistreham (06/03/17) 'Amorique' arriving in Portsmouth from Ouistreham (05/02/17) More to follow as I get them....................!
Having only travelled on the Baie de Seine once before, on an overnight sailing, the winter schedule provided the ideal opportunity with her 1045 departure from Portsmouth on Tuesday. I had originally booked for the 7th March but bad weather resulted in this sailing being cancelled, so it was moved to the 21st instead. The weather felt like spring on arrival in Portsmouth, which made a change from the downpours of the previous days. It was a very lightly loaded sailing, with only 40 passengers onboard and a handful of freight - this being more of a passenger carrying ‘positioning trip’ to enable a crew change to take place in France. Despite it being quiet on our sailing Portsmouth port was bustling with passengers who were travelling out to Santander on the Pont-Aven, which was berthed beside us. Once through the security controls we were directed straight onboard, driving up the upper deck and was parked underneath the mezzanine decks, which were not in use. An extremely friendly crewmember then instructed us which was the closest door and to turn off the alarm etc. No handy card but much more interaction than on the other ships. We departed slightly ahead of schedule and began our voyage down the harbour, passing the recently named ‘Princes Royal Jetty’ where the dredgers were still busy preparing for the arrival of the new carriers. My favorite bar, the Still and West, has recently undergone a refurbishment and was sporting revised branding as we sailed past. Once out of the harbour most of the passengers who has been out on deck had headed inside as the wind picked up (as did the motion of the ship!). The majority settled in 'Le Bar', located at the front of the ship. The advert for the 'cocktail du jour' signaled that Prosecco has finally reached Brittany Ferries (or is that economie champagne?!). The bar does have a touch of the Val de Loire about it, thanks to the use of artwork from the former 'Rabelais bar'. 'Le Cafe' remained closed on our sailing, and as the windows had their storm shutters covering them the space was somewhat gloomy and not at all inviting. The Shop and Petit Marche remained open, but with very few visitors. The most popular spot, and rightly so, must be the Reading Lounge (formerly the Commodore Lounge). The space is decorated as a library with numerous pieces of nautical memorabilia scattered around, including a book about Esbjerg - in a nod to her past. Lunch was served in ‘La Formule’ from 1230 until 1430. There was an instruction poster displayed indicating how to order and pay for your food: - Please take a tray - Select your combination of starter, main course and dessert - Choose a drink - Find a table and enjoy your meal - Your waiter will bring the bill to you - Please pay at the tills as your leave There was a small selection of starters, in a buffet style layout and a few desserts on the port side along with the drinks cabinets. On the starboard side a very cheery chef advised what was available, which was at least 6 options, before settling with the lamb chops. Towards the end of the meal a waitress came over to tot up what we’d had and gave us a ticket to present at the till when leaving. The system actually worked quite well, as was reflective of the relaxed atmosphere of the ship. On a different note, there is new onboard branding for 2017 was present onboard, replacing the previous ‘ribbon’ design of which I was never the greatest fan! It’s a very clean minimalist look – photos attached – thumbs up from me! There was quite a heavy cross swell as we headed south causing the Baie de Seine to roll quite heavily at times, but those onboard remained in good spirits! The ships 'roadsweeper' was working hard on the outside vehicle deck, gaining quite an audience both by passengers and crew - perhaps the subtly placed Ferrari logo . As we approached Le Havre the sea conditions calmed and most appeared out on deck to photograph our arrival. The Aida Prima was alongside the adjacent cruise terminal - provoking a mixed reaction with her looks! Arrival was right on time, and with so little onboard, was swift. Cars were, however, being directed via the freight exit controls rather than the car booths which meant that the officials had to get out of their booths to reach down for the passports - I'm sure there was a reason why, but it did seem bizarre. Overall impressions? The Baie de Seine is a pleasant ship, and gets you from A to B with the minimum of fuss. Yes she does not have all the bells and whilstles of the full BF experience, but nonetheless offers a good service at a good price. Finally, a word of warning for any Three Mobile customers out there. Up until this year roaming did not work onboard the ships mobile network. This no longer appears to be the case, so remember to turn off data roaming when onboard - rather than learning the hard way!