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Andy

Baie de Seine - Portsmouth/Le Havre - 21/03/17

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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! :S

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She seems a decent ferry to travel on  , we had a fair bit of prosseco last year on our trip on the Pont Aven seemed a bit odd on a French ferry but more fashionable than the Cremant they used to serve.

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Great report and lovely photos, the Still and West is also my favourite pub ;)

I'm sure that BF have and will continue to make good use of the Baie de Seine, but I'm afraid for me she will always be the Dana Sirena and until such time as she is suitably refitted, I wouldn't really want to travel on her, certainly not to Spain anyway. I think I would sooner have the Cap Finistere any day.

Seeing that excellent shot of Pont-Aven reminds me I shall be on board again in just over 24 hours, can't wait.

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Great report and great photos.  I'm with Ryan, I'm not tempted to travel on her, but I'm surprised to see how lightly loaded she was for the crossing to Le Havre.  Did you come back on the overnight return, Andy, and if so was that sailing better patronised?

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Great report Andy - lovely pics.

Love the meal instructions - reminds me of the signs in the toilets in the Plymouth terminal giving you instructions as to where the flush is :)

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We have travelled on her a few times to and from Spain and although facilities are not on par with PA or CF we had no complaints at all bearing in mind the very reasonable fare structure

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27 minutes ago, hf_uk said:

Great report Andy - lovely pics.

Love the meal instructions - reminds me of the signs in the toilets in the Plymouth terminal giving you instructions as to where the flush is :)

Yes, it wasn't clear to me from those instructions whether you had to carry your own food to the table or whether it was taken there for you.  If the former (which would be the implication of the trays) then the sole function of the "waiter" would appear to be to carry your bill to you!  Very thoughtful! :D

Edited by Gareth

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3 hours ago, Manxscorpio said:

We have travelled on her a few times to and from Spain and although facilities are not on par with PA or CF we had no complaints at all bearing in mind the very reasonable fare structure

Last time I looked I didn't see a massive difference in the fares , maybe it's more seasonal?

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3 hours ago, Gareth said:

Yes, it wasn't clear to me from those instructions whether you had to carry your own food to the table or whether it was taken there for you.  If the former (which would be the implication of the trays) then the sole function of the "waiter" would appear to be to carry your bill to you!  Very thoughtful! :D

The problem with La Formule, unlike other BF self-service restaurants, is that there is nowhere to rest your tray while you queue up to pay. So it's a bit of a problem to get money out as you need both hands to hold the tray. I ended up putting the tray down on a nearby table then going back to retrieve it when it was my turn to pay. This new system sounds like a much-needed improvement and I hope it's still in place next time I'm on Baie de Seine at the end of June. :)

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2 hours ago, neilcvx said:

Last time I looked I didn't see a massive difference in the fares , maybe it's more seasonal?

We tavel a couple of times each year to Spain and back (albeit not often on B de S) however we always find the fares lower than PA and CF as Club Members discount with two adults, a cabin, a 4x4 and a dog !

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