Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Jim

A weekend on the high seas...

Recommended Posts

First trip in a while over the weekend to St Malo. A few notes from the 13 of us across 3 cars who popped over for our annual Christmas trip

Although the Pont Aven was expected to leave an hour late, we received a text to advise check-in still closed at 19.30. The overall process through the port was painfully slow - having arrived at 19.15 we were amongst the last to board. All decamped to their cabins which were mostly on Deck 8 towards the front before heading to Le Flora where a quick tweet to BF about the size of our group had meant a table was kindly reserved. On our travels, we passed the reception desk where to celebrate the 'new logo' there were shot-size cocktails available. Unfortunately, the host couldn't tell us what was in them apart from 'new logo' - but it seems that said logo is made of grenadine, fruit juice and blue curacao. 

The service in the restaurant was, there's no way to dress it up, not great. After we'd all assembled we sat down for dinner at around 21.15 and ended up leaving at just gone midnight since it seemed entirely possible for the orders for 13 people to be forgotten. When they were all eventually delivered those who had opted for the duck (which wasn't cooked that well) had finished theirs by the time the salmon and the pasta turned up. For quite a few of the group this was the first time they'd joined us and the experience for them was, quite frankly, disappointing. 

As we had dinner, some heavy motion of the ship begun, so numbers began to dwindle. Given the late hour most of us forewent the planned trip to the bar and just went to bed for what turned out to be a sleepless night thanks to heavy corkscrewing motion of the ship. In the case of myself and Mrs Jim, falling asleep not long before 'les bing bongs' evicted us from the cabin. 

Exiting from St Malo was quick as we'd been parked on Deck 3, with a few Gilets Jaunes at the exit of the port being watched by the Police.

The weather had been so bad, and with worse forecast on the return, there was some debate around seeing if the return leg could be changed for Caen - but a trip to a phramacy to replenish supplies of sea-sickness tablets, as well as some breakfast, fixed that.

A pleasant day was had doing all the usual things - although our late afternoon visit to St Malo was postponed having driven through some protests heading towards down and discovering a larger group of the GJ's outside the port with a tractor and trailer seemingly ready to barricade. We'd taken precautions of having jackets out on the dash and with some waving and horn tooting we were waved through the protests.

Early boarding at St Malo was indeed that - it commenced at 18.00 and we were boarded relatively quickly up to Deck 4. After the previous night most of the group moved cabins either by upgrading to a larger one or requesting that their cabin was moved to somewhere more central. As an aside, it also meant having a fresh cabin since the mini-cruise cabins aren't serviced during the turnaround

We had a few drinks in the bar before heading down for dinner in the self-service which it must be said was very enjoyable. The Saturday menu includes roast ham which is a personal favourite. We spent the remainder of the evening in the bar where there was bingo, a name-that-tune quiz (we came 3rd, but we didn't cheat unlike some!) and a singer. The group depleted in number through the night, but whilst the winds were high the sailing seemed far more stable.

Arrival at Portsmouth was on time and disembarkation relatively quick - although border control once again was farcical. Vehicles were kept back from the border control queues in a number of lines which were released in various quantities (we did watch ourselves be overtaken by traffic off after us). There has to be a better way!

Overall, the return crossing was far more pleasant than the outgoing one, which whilst marred by weather was also marred by a pretty lousy experience in Le Flora. On both legs we'd been given flyers celebrating the new colours - but the ironic thing with the weather as it was and not having gone into St Malo? We never actually saw them!

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was alright, but a few of the group were somewhat wonky it must be said.

No noticeable changes to the interior - in fact, in Le Flora there were a few lightbulbs not working.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Jim said:

in fact, in Le Flora there were a few lightbulbs not working.

So it was described as duck, tasted a bit like duck but you were unable to see if it really was duck or not. Hmmm! Anybody ever tried seagull? 😀 Ed. 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more thing I should add. It seems that BF don't 'remember' the allocation of cabins. Not normally a problem, but a bit of a pain on a 'mini-cruise'.

At check-in at Portsmouth we were asked who should be in what cabin people should go in - which was fine. Unfortunately, at St Malo this didn't happen and we appeared to be placed into cabins at random - both in terms of couples being split up and assigned a different cabin to the outbound (despite the idea being we should have had the same ones and could have left). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Jim said:

Arrival at Portsmouth was on time and disembarkation relatively quick - although border control once again was farcical. Vehicles were kept back from the border control queues in a number of lines which were released in various quantities (we did watch ourselves be overtaken by traffic off after us). There has to be a better way!

 

Bring Back the British customs Officer (probably officers, required now)  On board ?......

Am I  the only one who can remember this?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, alleeganger10 said:

Bring Back the British customs Officer (probably officers, required now)  On board ?......

Am I  the only one who can remember this? 

 

 

No I remember them on board Prince of Brittany in the 80's and having to go see them before disembarking in Portsmouth, it did speed up the process

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, alleeganger10 said:

Bring Back the British customs Officer (probably officers, required now)  On board ?......

Am I  the only one who can remember this?

 

 

Being pedantic, I don't see how customs officers would help with passport control! Although I'm too young to remember the need for customs officials.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

No they were immigration officers, I do remember them being on ferries many years ago.

That's interesting, how did the checks then work as you left? Presumably someone then needed to check you had seen them

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Long time ago but I think they just checked your passport and gave you a sort of ticket to show when you disembarked. It did speed things up at the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

Long time ago but I think they just checked your passport and gave you a sort of ticket to show when you disembarked. It did speed things up at the time.

Mind you in those days they just checked to make sure there was a reasonable likeness and it was in date. Today they all have to go through a computer to be checked which is what take the oodles of time. Same at the airports. Sadly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Jim for an honest appraisal,  though you have reinforced the opinion I made long ago - only to travel when there is a real need to get to an actual destination. I realise there are honest members on here who willingly sail across the Channel just for the fun of it - even in wild winter winter weather - just to look around the arrival port and come right back again, but I'm afraid that's not for me. But I'm glad you are back safely and I wish all the management team a truly happy Christmas.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, penguin said:

That's interesting, how did the checks then work as you left? Presumably someone then needed to check you had seen them

So .... everyone on board was required to present themselves to the British customs officer on board by queuing on the boat between certain hours, when you presented yourself on board and were then given an embarkation card which was then collected at the off ramp of the ferry.  

 

No embarkation card, No entry to the UK , simples .If something was not in order with your passport, as happened to me during the first use of my second or maybe first non family passport ( not sure which ) you were sent to the back of the queue to try again . in my case I had omitted to sign my Black ( note to all Brexiteers.... Not Blue) passport, all very embarrassing, and British Customs officers in that day were allowed sarcastic comments to ridicule little men like me . I still have the passport to this day.

Opposite the information Desk on Normandie (my Favourite] are 2 desks one was the Calvados Tourist information desk the other I believe was for the UK customs officer on board. However this method of entering th3 UK was abolished before Normandie was put into service. But. I certainly remember this on Prince of Brittany, Cornouailes, and Penn ar Bed, my wife remembers this was the  norm on Duc de  Normandie too.

So what is against Border force being on board complete with High speed Net connection provided by BF and the current  passport checks being carried out on Board.

As mentioned elsewhere,  similar passport scanning is carried out in  Ouistreham prior to entry into France and on leaving too.

customs searches were still carried out if shore based personnel thought you were a bit dodgy.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Immigration.... is (to me )  the checking of a persons eligibility to enter the UK.?

Customs is (to me) the checking that a person or vehicle entering the  uk is not carrying anything they should not, in those days  ie too many  spiriits, wine tobacco or other contraband. 

So so these were (as now) immigration checks?

Immigration checks as are carried out at Portsmouth and elsewhere, customs checks are  seldom carried out currently as  most  goods for personal use are in “free circulation”  so I can take whatever I want between my French home and my UK home except of course for knives which are forbidden, as I might choose to use one to threaten the ship which is taking me where I want / need to go ( go figure) .

Checks for such “dangerous” items, which are  freely available on board the said ship  and checked for by visiting a green shed in Portsmouth manned by  employees of a NGO  (ie a for profit non government organisation ISS?) where people travelling with dogs are not wanted./checked. (Again go figure).

In my recollection,  in those days customs checks  were carried out but not on every vehicle. As they could be now, otherwise why have the “Inspection Area” after the affformention UK Border.

The UK Border is that line you cross at the end of the huge  queue which traverses, at Portsmouth anyway,  the equally  huge queue of people who are leaving the UK, at the end of which is a person who inspects your  passport and requires you to open your only slightly  tinted windows so that he or she might inspect your human cargo more closely and compare them to the photo in the passport they carry even if they are less than 6 months old,  asleep and in a rearwards facing a baby seat. It is also highly  recognisable by  the place where ALL signage is in one language only .... English  despiite the fact that it is the entry point to the United Kingdom, arrogant and unwelcoming in extremis.

 

 

Edited by alleeganger10
Clarification

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Jim said:

First trip in a while over the weekend to St Malo. A few notes from the 13 of us across 3 cars who popped over for our annual Christmas trip

Although the Pont Aven was expected to leave an hour late, we received a text to advise check-in still closed at 19.30. The overall process through the port was painfully slow - having arrived at 19.15 we were amongst the last to board. All decamped to their cabins which were mostly on Deck 8 towards the front before heading to Le Flora where a quick tweet to BF about the size of our group had meant a table was kindly reserved. On our travels, we passed the reception desk where to celebrate the 'new logo' there were shot-size cocktails available. Unfortunately, the host couldn't tell us what was in them apart from 'new logo' - but it seems that said logo is made of grenadine, fruit juice and blue curacao. 

The service in the restaurant was, there's no way to dress it up, not great. After we'd all assembled we sat down for dinner at around 21.15 and ended up leaving at just gone midnight since it seemed entirely possible for the orders for 13 people to be forgotten. When they were all eventually delivered those who had opted for the duck (which wasn't cooked that well) had finished theirs by the time the salmon and the pasta turned up. For quite a few of the group this was the first time they'd joined us and the experience for them was, quite frankly, disappointing. 

As we had dinner, some heavy motion of the ship begun, so numbers began to dwindle. Given the late hour most of us forewent the planned trip to the bar and just went to bed for what turned out to be a sleepless night thanks to heavy corkscrewing motion of the ship. In the case of myself and Mrs Jim, falling asleep not long before 'les bing bongs' evicted us from the cabin. 

Exiting from St Malo was quick as we'd been parked on Deck 3, with a few Gilets Jaunes at the exit of the port being watched by the Police.

The weather had been so bad, and with worse forecast on the return, there was some debate around seeing if the return leg could be changed for Caen - but a trip to a phramacy to replenish supplies of sea-sickness tablets, as well as some breakfast, fixed that.

A pleasant day was had doing all the usual things - although our late afternoon visit to St Malo was postponed having driven through some protests heading towards down and discovering a larger group of the GJ's outside the port with a tractor and trailer seemingly ready to barricade. We'd taken precautions of having jackets out on the dash and with some waving and horn tooting we were waved through the protests.

Early boarding at St Malo was indeed that - it commenced at 18.00 and we were boarded relatively quickly up to Deck 4. After the previous night most of the group moved cabins either by upgrading to a larger one or requesting that their cabin was moved to somewhere more central. As an aside, it also meant having a fresh cabin since the mini-cruise cabins aren't serviced during the turnaround

We had a few drinks in the bar before heading down for dinner in the self-service which it must be said was very enjoyable. The Saturday menu includes roast ham which is a personal favourite. We spent the remainder of the evening in the bar where there was bingo, a name-that-tune quiz (we came 3rd, but we didn't cheat unlike some!) and a singer. The group depleted in number through the night, but whilst the winds were high the sailing seemed far more stable.

Arrival at Portsmouth was on time and disembarkation relatively quick - although border control once again was farcical. Vehicles were kept back from the border control queues in a number of lines which were released in various quantities (we did watch ourselves be overtaken by traffic off after us). There has to be a better way!

Overall, the return crossing was far more pleasant than the outgoing one, which whilst marred by weather was also marred by a pretty lousy experience in Le Flora. On both legs we'd been given flyers celebrating the new colours - but the ironic thing with the weather as it was and not having gone into St Malo? We never actually saw them!

Turns out there were quite a few BFE-ers on-board this weekend! Jim's covered most of the eventualities (although we had a little more luck in the restaurant!). The Christmas fairies did their work whilst in St Malo, with the ship beautifully decorated for the return sailing. Couldn't really see any evidence of works conducted in refit, although the use of pre-recorded announcements on departure and arrival was new. All in all a very pleasant weekend, despite the inclement weather! Here's a pic of the 'nouvelle boisson logo' :)

IMG_0629.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, alleeganger10 said:

Immigration.... is (to me )  the checking of a persons eligibility to enter the UK.?

Customs is (to me) the checking that a person or vehicle entering the  uk is not carrying anything they should not, in those days  ie too many  spiriits, wine tobacco or other contraband. 

So so these were (as now) immigration checks?

Immigration checks as are carried out at Portsmouth and elsewhere, customs checks are  seldom carried out currently as  most  goods for personal use are in “free circulation”  so I can take whatever I want between my French home and my UK home except of course for knives which are forbidden, as I might choose to use one to threaten the ship which is taking me where I want / need to go ( go figure) .

Checks for such “dangerous” items, which are  freely available on board the said ship  and checked for by visiting a green shed in Portsmouth manned by  employees of a NGO  (ie a for profit non government organisation ISS?) where people travelling with dogs are not wanted./checked. (Again go figure).

In my recollection,  in those days customs checks  were carried out but not on every vehicle. As they could be now, otherwise why have the “Inspection Area” after the affformention UK Border.

The UK Border is that line you cross at the end of the huge  queue which traverses, at Portsmouth anyway,  the equally  huge queue of people who are leaving the UK, at the end of which is a person who inspects your  passport and requires you to open your only slightly  tinted windows so that he or she might inspect your human cargo more closely and compare them to the photo in the passport they carry even if they are less than 6 months old,  asleep and in a rearwards facing a baby seat. It is also highly  recognisable by  the place where ALL signage is in one language only .... English  despiite the fact that it is the entry point to the United Kingdom, arrogant and unwelcoming in extremis.

 

 

If you find Britain so bad have you thought about spending all your time at your French house instead??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The steps taken by, not just the UK Border agency but also their French etc counterparts, to stop child smuggling are very important.  Every time we have been through, and my little ones have been checked, I have felt profound gratitude for their vigilance.  Gives me confidence that someone could not steal / kidnap my children and take them out of the country.  Very surprised anyone would resent the steps taken by the border authorities to combat that.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In theory, with all the electronic data being passed around it is possible to clear everyone electronically - but at the end of the day there's no substitute for human to human eyeballing and checking out the vehicle/company which a passenger has upon arrival.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Paully said:

If you find Britain so bad have you thought about spending all your time at your French house instead??

Don’t worry Paully it’s under consideration, 

These are simply the musings of a somewhat Autistic frequent Traveller!

UK citizens have it seems 2 major pre occupations these days,  “Our” NHS, and “Our” Border.

I guess I am no different in that respect. IMHO the UK not as secure as Joe public would believe.

I agree with Jim re the PIP queueing system, there are many things bad about PIP, not the least of which is it’s location.

In Ouistreham yesterday it was  Douanes ( Government Agents) who checked outgoing passports, but incidentally another Douane who kept the queue moving swiftly and fairly towards the boat and the UK. 

 

19 hours ago, Gareth said:The steps taken by, not just the UK Border agency but also their French etc counterparts, to stop child smuggling are very important.   Very surprised anyone would resent the steps taken by the border authorities to combat that.

Gareth, 

i do not resent such checks, over the years  it’s been our pleasure to welcolme and even bring Family members, from a very young age,  to and from the UK, for holiday visits, or to see Pappy and Mammy,  some even in the days of the Immigration officer on board.

Baby passport can be a bit silly, but you have to start somewhere!

One Anomoly though, at 16 years one can marry in the UK, and yet EU law requires the checks you describe for “children” till they are 18 and hence parental permission to travel,  This is checked where? ..... Always on departure from France, by the Douaines who will willingly and politely explain the reasons. At Ouistreham there is a separate Queue for cars with such minors. Such checks are never ever made at Portsmouth ex the UK for Car passengers (in our experience) it’s obviously not written into BF service agreement with Border Force, For at Portsmouth it’s BF who check Car passenger Passports leaving the UK.

Sorry to Jim for taking this thread off Topic.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×