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den herraghty

Voyage Report - St Malo (Terminal Building!)

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I had an unexpected long weekend last week (Feb 3/4/5) and decided to do something ‘constructive’ rather than sit in watching television. My last proper sea trip was back in the spring of 2017 to Cherbourg/Guernsey so it was obviously time to rectify that. Accordingly a short trip to St Malo was booked (via BFE of course!) on ‘Pont Aven’ – a ship I have not been on for quite some time.

I’ve done this trip a few times before on ‘Bretagne’ and know that there is enough time to walk into the walled city, have a quick coffee, search for any new ship related postcards and get back in time for boarding so I wasn’t too concerned when I received texts and e-mails advising me that the gangway would be unavailable and that footies would disembark via the car deck obviously taking longer than normal.

Late Sunday afternoon and I take the ‘long way’ round from my flat (near Gosport) to Portsmouth International Port using First Solent E1/X4 services arriving just before 18.00. I am checked in reasonably quickly although the staff seem to be having ‘one of those nights’. One has a long discussion with a group of four; her colleague has difficulty in persuading all members of another party to be at the desk whilst presenting their passports. The third agent warmly welcomes me, sorts out my boarding card, advises me again the ‘the gangway etc….’ and informs me that boarding will commence at 18.15. WOW! (My reservation did indicate this but I always understood this to be for cars – not footies. Nice little surprise.)

Once on board it was a little disappointing to find out that both of the lifts in the main foyer were out of order – not that it really mattered as my cabin was only one deck down on 5 deck, an inside two berth rigged for one. After enjoying its welcoming warmth for a little while, I complete my ritual of checking escape/muster station routes before re-acquainting myself with PA. On 7 deck ‘Le Café Festival’ is closed and the temperature difference is quite remarkable compared to the adjacent ‘La Belle Angele’. Back aft, the piano plays away to itself, with only the restaurant staff for an audience. Up to 8 deck, where I buy my customary departure pint, then onwards to 9 deck to witness our slightly early departure at 20.00. The transit of the dockyard and out to OSB is accompanied by the protests of canine friends being left in an unfamiliar surroundings and, on return to my cabin, an ever changing litany of car alarms.

Dinner was taken in ‘La Belle Angele’ and was good value at £ 10 for a main (ok-ish cod and fresh cooked chips) and dessert (large slice of chocolate and cream cake which had a surprise layer of pears!) accompanied by a bottle of red and overhearing a very interesting discussion by a group of NHS workers at the table beside me. I also learned (from the chef) that there were only 300 pax on board. Bed follows and it is a more than welcome feeling to be asleep at sea again.

The best sleep I’ve had in a long time is interrupted by the wake up music doing its intended job. Dawn is still trying to make its presence felt as we dock on time. Announcements are made for car passengers on 3 deck to proceed there and ‘passagers pietons’ to assemble at reception on 6 deck. We are advised (again) that the gangway cannot be used due to tidal conditions and there will be a delay. At 8.45 we are informed that we can now disembark and proceed to 3 deck. At ‘C’ lift, several passengers are advised that they can use the stairs for this, however both ladies in front of me individually ask which deck they have to go to……..

The bus has an abortive attempt to reach the terminal building as some more footies arrive. Once there immigration is quite swift and I am checking in for the return journey just before 09.00. My suspicion that the only part of St Malo I will see today is the terminal building is confirmed by the (now familiar) information that ‘the gangway…..’ and boarding will commence at 09.30 – hence the title! Thirty minutes is obviously not enough time considering the lock is in demand (I had observed the movements of vessels during the wait on 6 deck). I wander outside into the car park to watch the sun make its presence felt on this cold morning.

One coffee in the bar later and it’s the earlier process in reverse! My cabin this time is 6164 which is an outside cabin on the inside! Confused? – I was a little bit initially but quickly liked the idea. The cabin is situated port side forward with a window looking out onto the wrap-round walkway which is a feature of the ship. The window, in turn, marries a corresponding one on the ships side. Simples!

I just have enough time to get my pint and onto the open deck to witness the ropes coming off and our departure. A beautiful morning quickly changes as a squall comes through and it’s back into the warmth of the bar. In daylight this area is transformed from the gloominess of last night with the full glory of this two deck high space displayed – even though it is a bit grey outside. Although the marshalling area seemed quite busy, there are less people on board now (250) than last night.

A quick snooze and it’s time to think about lunch. I dally with treating myself to ‘Le Flora’ but the only option that appeals is the Burger…..which I feel is cheating a bit on fine dining. (A quick question for any ‘La Flora’ regulars out there – why does a buffet/main course selection cost more than buffet/main/buffet selection?). Needless to say I had a delicious salmon main/lemon meringue combination from the self service and a pleasant afternoon drinking wine/book reading/(very few) people watching.

I noticed some signs adjacent to ‘le Grand Pavois’ bar advising that “Alcohol/Tobacco sales are not permitted within 20 mins after departure/before arrival into Plymouth” but there seems to be no restrictions at Portsmouth. Does anyone know why?

 A couple of lumps and bumps/short,fierce squalls during the crossing and all too soon we’re back in Portsmouth. Disembarkation and Border formalities are quickly done and then it’s off home.

I’ve enjoyed this unexpected trip – even though I didn’t achieve my initial aim. Being on PA was a nice little treat. The daytime element of the journey certainly showed how light and airy she is. The crew were wonderful and the information flow regarding the gangway situation cannot be faulted. Cabin 6164 I would happily have again – even to Spain.

Thanks BFE for the offer and, as always, comments are welcome

Den

 

 

 

 

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Good report we are on her in a couple of weeks time I'm hoping its as quiet then will definitely be in Le Flora outbound and maybe inbound as well, we had a cabin like you described in August although it was that warm we were hardly in it and it was a 4 berth.

4B71251E-0F7B-4F8C-A1F5-CB12F7AEE3C5.jpeg

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You need a full day in St Malo. OK not so easy for footies but over the years we took our car and it is amazing just how much you can cram in between a morning arrival and an evening departure.

Latterly our itinerary was to disembark at around 8:30am, drive across the Rance to the Intermarche at La Richardais and stock up with wine and goodies and then carry on to Erquy for a coffee in one of the harbour front bars followed by a look around the local market if it was a Saturday. W e still have some very nice cheap watercolours of the area we picked up there and which adorn our living room walls. Then it was back to St Malo for a leisurely lunch followed by a walk around the ramparts and then a browse around the Intra Muros shops before early boarding and a light supper on the ship. Superb value for money.

Other options were to head east taking in Cancale and Mont St Michel before returing to St Malo for lunch etc.

Sometimes we varied the agenda by heading up the Rance to Dinan and getting a baguette to enjoy in the English Garden.

Pretty difficult to cram in so much quality time on a day visit really. And you can still do it which is why just getting off the boat and straight back on just doesn't cut the mustard for us.

Colin

 

 

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Yes, with overnight out and overnight back being an option that is easily available out of season (unlike, at present, in-season), it was probably an unfortunate choice of day to sail out.  Any other day of the week, apart from Sunday, on which there is a sailing from Portsmouth would have enabled the full day in St Malo that Colin referred to, before sailing back the following night.  As Ed hinted at, though, I don't know how much of the intra muros is open in the middle of February.

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Erquy Saturday market is in the middle of town. When driving from St Malo to Erquy the scenery is fantastic if you take the coastal route via Cap Frehat. If you have time then stop off at Fort La Latte which is a fairytale castle even if you don't set foot within it.

To be honest, the coast between St Malo and La Val Andre is incredibly scenic with all the interim places such as St Luniere, St Briac, St Jacut and the impossibly romantic Chateaun du Guildo just off the main road.

We have travelled extensively and this stretch of coast is up with the best by any international standards.

Colin

 

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Just now, cvabishop said:

Glad you enjoyed the trip but going all that way and not getting any further than the terminal sounds awful when the delights of the Intra Muros are so close.

 

Just now, Gareth said:

Yes, with overnight out and overnight back being an option that is easily available out of season (unlike, at present, in-season), it was probably an unfortunate choice of day to sail out.  Any other day of the week, apart from Sunday, on which there is a sailing from Portsmouth would have enabled the full day in St Malo that Colin referred to, before sailing back the following night.  As Ed hinted at, though, I don't know how much of the intra muros is open in the middle of February.

CVA - Thanks for reading. I agree however my disappointment was offset a bit by being on PA. It's one of life's travel curveballs - didn't mange to dodge this one!

Gareth - Only informed by my line manager (insert several ?????????) just before I finished my shift on Friday at 14.00 that I was off on monday as well (it was my normal w/e off). I've only done the trip on Bretagne before and always been to get  coffee - but then again that's a bit later in the season.

Thanks for your comments and feedback

Den

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I'm sure the 24 hour cruise on Pont Aven was worth it in its own right......and in the circumstances, pity you had to get off.  A non-landing cruise, like of old, admiring the scenery into and out of Brittany and being able to relax in your cabin in between, would have been very pleasant.  Sadly, though, I believe non-landing is a thing of the dim and distant past!

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3 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Sadly, though, I believe non-landing is a thing of the dim and distant past!

Is that simply because the port will want to register the maximum number of passengers transiting through it for statistical purposes, or some other reason? Ed

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Just now, Gareth said:

Key question - was the menu in Le Flora the same or different on the two passages?

Sorry Gareth - i'm not sure. Ex Portsmouth I only had cursory glance at the menu and it seemed that the right hand side was titled 'Quatre des Saisons' or something like that.   I wasn't paying too much attention as I was intending to eat on the return. (Plus the piano was spooking me out - I don't spook easily. Stupid - I know)

Den

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Just now, neilcvx said:

@den herraghty how do the Ponts cabins compare to the Bretagnes equivalent ones?

To be honest my first impression when I entered cabin 5331 on PA was "wow - an actual single cabin" then I remembered this site and the fact that extra berths are in the deckhead rather than just folded up as in Bretagne. It really does make a difference. I don't know why there is a gap between the berth and the bulkhead in this particulr cabin - the pillow doesn't really fit it but I got  a good sleep! Breintagne's outside cabins  I seem to remember as being quite good - however the 'outside-inside' cabin in your post and mine facinates me. As an aside - the last time I was on PA I had a port side balcony cabin....

Den

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Pont's cabins are more modern and, I think, a bit bigger and more comfortable than those on Bretagne as you might expect. Not a huge difference though. Adequate for a night crossing on a ferry but not exactly cruise ship standards.

Personally, on an overnight crossing I'm not too bothered. As long as I have somewhere to sleep in tolerable comfortwith en suite facilities then that will do as long as it doesn't cost too much. Generally I prefer to sleep much of the crossing away rather than sit around during the daytime although it usually turns out to be a bit of both for us as we often take the afternoon Caen sailing home.

 

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Just now, Gareth said:

I'm sure the 24 hour cruise on Pont Aven was worth it in its own right......and in the circumstances, pity you had to get off.  A non-landing cruise, like of old, admiring the scenery into and out of Brittany and being able to relax in your cabin in between, would have been very pleasant.  Sadly, though, I believe non-landing is a thing of the dim and distant past!

Gareth

Not cabin wise, I'm sure P+O still do lunch cruises from Dover to Calais. Return trip, Club Class one way, Three course meal all for about £ 30

Den

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@den herraghty all the cabins I have been in on Pont have that gap from memory , I think it probably looked good on paper, the fact that the beds fold into the ceiling does make a difference to the size and it’s nice to sit on the sofa in a four berth club one with a nice cuppa and have plenty head room. (It doesn’t look like there’s a gap in that club cabin Sunday morning sailing  so I wouldn’t have slept.)

08A969F3-03A0-4981-8FC9-2630F6778F18.jpeg

Edited by neilcvx
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8 minutes ago, colin said:

Saturday market in Dinard is one of the best in the region. There is also Rocabey market in St Malo.

Cheers Colin hopefully be a nice dry day for a good look around.

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