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Portsmouth-Saint-Malo-Portsmouth: Bretagne, Pont-Aven


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Back in October, we had the phone call that all parents fear: "Your daughter is in our Critical Care Unit and her condition could change at any moment. You may want to consider coming to see her".

And so the phone was hot, amongst other things for booking crossings. Outbound we had to settle for Dieppe to Newhaven, and the little Transmanche ferry coped valiantly in the wild seas that night.

But as our daughter's condition improved over the following weeks, we granted ourselves a ten-day return home, sailing in each direction aboard Bretagne - our first crossing on board this vessel.

It pains me to read elsewhere on the forum that this fine ship is due for replacement. No other cross-Channel ship we've been on attains this class of public space. The central atrium with its beautiful portrayal of Breton customs was nothing short of stunning. The merits of Les Abers restaurant are well-known to members here, and I can only reinforce the impression of beautiful French presentation and cooking, with frankly excellent value in the buffet menu. The professionalism of the dining room staff is a sheer delight - how wonderful to have food and wine served so correctly, especially after the amateur sloppiness encountered so often in UK hotels and restaurants. (During one short break we took near Chester, in a three-star hotel aspiring to greater things, the Maître d' couldn't even find a corkscrew, and I had to lend him my Swiss Army knife!)

Brief wanders around the ship revealed the tasteful fixtures and fittings, and quickly established Bretagne as a strong favourite. She had actually struck up an emotional attachment with us! She has a character of her own.

This last weekend, we again returned home to France from Portsmouth, but this time travelling aboard Pont-Aven. Again, this was a first experience of this ship.

The La Flora restaurant struck us as pretty much the same as Les Abers. In fact we recognised some of the same staff from Bretagne, and indeed at breakfast this lead to a shaking of hands. We ate very well, enjoying the same high standards of cuisine and service for both dinner and breakfast.

But outside the restaurant we felt that Pont-Aven was less charismatic than Bretagne, with the dull brown showcases running along the decks more functional than decorative. She seemed to be more of a mass-transportation device than Bretagne, with a far less impressive central area, where neither lift was operational, unfortunately.

Aboard Bretagne we used 2/4-berth outside cabins; on Pont-Aven we had a Club cabin (5488, I remember). I don't really consider the Club cabins to be worth the extra. My wife watched one TV programme, but we didn't use the tea/coffee making facility at all.

So BF have two new fans for Bretagne; Pont-Aven we liked, certainly, but she remains more anonymous. I certainly hope we'll have more crossings on Bretagne. We'll be back in the UK for our daughter's discharge from hospital, to help ease her in to domestic life and help her feel safe with stairs and using the bathroom. That's going to be within three to five weeks, we think. Sadly, Bretagne doesn't take up the route again until 28 March. Looks like we'll have a second opportunity to get to know Pont-Aven better.

Edited by Jardinier
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Back in October, we had the phone call that all parents fear: "Your daughter is in our Critical Care Unit and her condition could change at any moment. You may want to consider coming to see her".

This is a fascinating discussion. Is the demographic for the Saint-Malo route different from the demographics of other BF routes? Looking around us on our recent three crossings, the clientèle ce

We are on Pont on the 9th of March ,I was wanting to have a shot on Bretagne as we’ve been on the Pont numerous times but Bretagne will have to wait until September, I can understand your point of view of the Pont ,I’ve got a cabin that I’ve had before so I should get a good night sleep which is important along with that and a good slap up meal , hope your daughters out soon.

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Yes, very pleased to hear your daughter is OK, must have been really traumatic.

Fully agree that Bretagne is one of a kind and unlikely to be repeated. Originally she was a 'statement' from BF and I recall at the time just how much admiration she attracted when she entered service. The interior design is something special and has not been matched by subsequent vessels.

 

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24 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

Yes, very pleased to hear your daughter is OK, must have been really traumatic.

Fully agree that Bretagne is one of a kind and unlikely to be repeated. Originally she was a 'statement' from BF and I recall at the time just how much admiration she attracted when she entered service. The interior design is something special and has not been matched by subsequent vessels.

 

Goudie had was a unique artist I don’t think there’s been anyone like him since.

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Thanks for the kind comments.

I should perhaps have added that on all three BF crossings we slept as well as can be expected on a ferry! Apart from the provision of a luxurious king-size bed, it would be hard to improve on the cabins - short of someone inventing duvets that don't slide off during the night!

The Dieppe-Newhaven crossing was interesting because of the weather. I believe we caught the trail of ex-Hurricane Ophelia and the imminence of Storm Brian. At any rate, Côte d'Albâtre was tossed around fearsomely that night, and on arrival at Newhaven there was an hour's delay before disembarkation because the bow doors were refusing to open.

It will be interesting to see how the interior décor of Honfleur is conceived. Class, as in Bretagne, or smart functionality, as in PA. So long as the restaurant is just as good, we shan't mind too much.

 

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I think that the best we can hope in the future is smart functionality. Bretagne was a one off and absolute premium quality for her day as is evidenced by her continuing popularity. Some ships stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries and Bretagne is an example.

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Useful little opportunity for me to re-plug my suggestion for BF about how they should use Bretagne once displaced as the main St Malo ship!:

http://bfenthusiasts.com/bfe/topic/11202-bf-cork-operations/?tab=comments#comment-172152

Just in case any one from BF Towers is fishing for ideas, you understand.... I mean, why not, they picked up the Cork-Santander idea after all, so there is hope.....! 😀😀😀

Edit:....although, that proposal now slightly conflicts with the new Connemara schedules at Cork, but hey-ho, it's the principle that counts! 😁

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5 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Useful little opportunity for me to re-plug my suggestion for BF about how they should use Bretagne once displaced as the main St Malo ship!:

http://bfenthusiasts.com/bfe/topic/11202-bf-cork-operations/?tab=comments#comment-172152

Just in case any one from BF Towers is fishing for ideas, you understand.... I mean, why not, they picked up the Cork-Santander idea after all, so there is hope.....! 😀😀😀

Edit:....although, that proposal now slightly conflicts with the new Connemara schedules at Cork, but hey-ho, it's the principle that counts! 😁

The key thing is that she needs a long route to allow people to get the full cruise experience she offers. Therefore providing extra sailings between Portsmouth and St Malo at the weekends makes perfect sense (with PA doing the ex-UK Friday-nighter given her capacity and Bretagne offering a parallel crossing from France which is currently missing from the schedules (unless you are prepared to take the late, short crossings from Caen or Le Havre). Then a single crossing to Cork per week (and preferably mid week) would be a good way to complement the weekend PA crossing. Ed

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St Malo is strange route, Definitely focused more on the holiday maker and with the light freight loads suited to a cruise ferry rather than a RoPax.

Could or would BF replace her with a younger vessel of her type. There's not really any choice out there unless you consider Viking's very well cared for Amorelia which will be for sale in 2020 when Grace's sister joins the fleet but she's a year older than Bretagne. Try prising the 1700 bed Excelsior out of GNV's hands and even she's 18 years old?

Unless something striking and shiny looms large on the horizon I think that option wouldn't be popular.

Would Pont Aven be wasted on the route with an even larger capacity, yes probably, maybe but she's been seen as the lady in waiting for some years now as is possibly expected... Bretagne is still seen in many quarters as the bride with the Pont Aven for all her grand spaces and balconies, the bridesmaid waiting to catch the bouquet.

I personally don't want to see the route covered by a vessel built as a Jack of all Trades, I'd be happy with MSM at a push but again she'd be wasted and is the queen of her Caen route.

It certainly won't be a 240m disguised PEGASIS replicant E-Flexer.

The romantic in me says build another Bretagne, longer, and a bit wider opening up the galleried walkways even more and give her a grander deck 7 starboard thoroughfare....

No... It'll be Pont Aven and then maybe I may just get adulterous thoughts and begin to like her a bit...  

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If anyone made an offer of any substance for any of the GNV ships I imagine they would get a very warm reception. But they're all far too freight-heavy for St Malo and would be a real challenge to operate economically on the Spanish routes.

Viking Line were by all accounts glad to be rid of Isabella; after 20+ years sailing the Stockholm-Mariehamn-Turku route (where she was on the move 22 hours out of 24) her engines were, in the words of one of her engineers "baked". Amorella may be similarly challenged.

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I think it’s fair to say BF have kept Bretagne going longer than they would like to in an ideal world but judging by the comments on here by knowledgable people , probably a couple of years not much longer IMO, maintaining her and general running costs will be her downfall.

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1 minute ago, imprimerie said:

I think Amorique would be ideal would do well on this route.She's different from Bretagne but has a lot to offer.

But it's not got a R....... you know everyone on this route wants that.

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1 hour ago, Solo said:

But it's not got a R....... you know everyone on this route wants that.

Well, we certainly do. It's the highlight of getting on for 24 hours' travelling.

We are yet to make the acquaintance of Armorique - partly or perhaps mainly because she has no R....

Neil, if Bretagne has only a couple of years of service left with BF, we'd better fill our boots.

Earlier posts have left me wondering what would happen to all the Breton-based décor if she went to the Med, as suggested. Or elsewhere, come to that. Obviously the smaller art works could be retained and stored for later use by BF, but that wonderful frieze in the atrium? I suppose it can be dismantled in pieces, but one would hope the entire thing would find a suitable new home.

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