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Paul

Armorique 10th Anniversary

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I know some people like a full restaurant but be realistic, most sailings from Plymouth leave late at night, no need for restaurant, most sailings from Roscoff are in the afternoon so we always have a last meal in France and then self service is enough at teatime.  When on other routes it's always at quiet times, so is there the custom to make a restaurant worth while, we hear enough on here about the restaurants not having a buffet etc during these periods.  The Sunday mornings on PA we've used the restaurant for lunch but it's never really busy.

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Yes for Armorique but how dare you impugn the classic virtues of Bretagne?! All ships have their own character and appeal to some more than others although I will make an exception for Bretagne's car deck 5 which appeals to nobody.

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19 minutes ago, Seashore said:

Brittany Ferries can’t survive on the custom of BFE alone - I’m sure the overwhelming public opinion is that Armorique is clean, modern and an open plan layout, clean tidy and quiet cabins. Basically everything Bretagne isn’t.

Going on Bretagne for the first time last year was a real surprise for me having mostly sailed on Armorique and Pont Aven , Bretagne is showing her age from the cabins to the car deck even the amount of shops on her seems strange and a waste of staff and space , but each to their own , I’m still sailing on her in June but not overnight I’m sure I will find a quiet corner and dream I was sailing on Armorique 😉

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24 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

Yes for Armorique but how dare you impugn the classic virtues of Bretagne?! All ships have their own character and appeal to some more than others although I will make an exception for Bretagne's car deck 5 which appeals to nobody.

If classic virtues are dirty cabins, noisy engines, might have an a la carte but you have to share tables, a dated 80s interior design and down below and a car deck you feel you've been interned in (deck 5) then most people say you can keep it.

Public perception is a strange thing. I have friends who live in a £million house in Poole, always worked hard and own two quite diverse businesses, drive a couple of very nice cars, she's French and from Rennes. They go over every couple of months to see her parents and told me now they always go out Portsmouth to Le Havre on Etretat, wouldn't consider anything else. Odd I thought because they live minutes from the port and could take Barfleur but no only on the way back - the rationale: Etretat has better cabins in their opinion, no noise and the kids sleep better in them. What about Ouistreham I asked, no because we don't want to be thrown out of our cabin at what is ostensibly 5.15am UK time, all they want to do is sleep. Fair point.

So I asked why not Portsmouth to St Malo (one of their kids is called Malo, they used to travel through there all the time) overnight since the arrival time is similar to Le Havre. Reply I got was along the line of: Brittany Ferries normally keep their boats for 20 years then sell them on, the thing they have running to St Malo now is 30 years old and been kept well past it's time, it's an old tub. Customer votes with their wallet.

Edited by Seashore
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Fair point Seashore, Bretagne is indeed living on her memories to some extent and the cabins are certainly below par but she still has her attractions, a bit like an ageing movie star.

To be honest I find those ships of the BF fleet I have travelled on pleasant enough but none of them set the heart racing. Honfleur (if she arrives) will need to set new standards I think.

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I try to book on the Pont Aven sailings from Plymouth if I can and find that the restaurant is often very busy.

Early boarding is available on many sailings so there would be plenty of time for a meal if there were a restaurant.

As for the self-service. ..... We prefer taking a picnic.

 

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Honestly get a grip folks..Yes we like the Bretagne having used her many moons ago, but the main attraction is she sails to where we actually want to go, rather than using another vessel with better this that and the others, that drops us off not where we want to be. We are using it for very short term transportation purposes, not moving in for a fortnight. Yes deck 5 is a pain in the Ass, the rest if we are honest, doesnt really matter does it?

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3 minutes ago, Paully said:

Honestly get a grip folks..Yes we like the Bretagne having used her many moons ago, but the main attraction is she sails to where we actually want to go, rather than using another vessel with better this that and the others, that drops us off not where we want to be. We are using it for very short term transportation purposes, not moving in for a fortnight. Yes deck 5 is a pain in the Ass, the rest if we are honest, doesnt really matter does it?

I fully agree. For me the emotional aspect of any service is always outweighed by the practicality. Actually getting when I want to be, at the time I need is far more important than how I get there and paying for services that I may not have time to use. Hence my preference for NEX and to a lesser extent DFDS via Newhaven. Ed

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44 minutes ago, Paully said:

Honestly get a grip folks..Yes we like the Bretagne having used her many moons ago, but the main attraction is she sails to where we actually want to go, rather than using another vessel with better this that and the others, that drops us off not where we want to be. We are using it for very short term transportation purposes, not moving in for a fortnight. Yes deck 5 is a pain in the Ass, the rest if we are honest, doesnt really matter does it?

I have a full grip thanks, just don’t like her and grudge paying a premium for sailing on her, so I adapt my sailings to avoid sailing on her especially overnight sailings, as I’ve said it’s all about personal choice and weighing up what suits you, I suspect if we hadn’t sailed on superior newer ferries we might feel differently, it’s the usual discussion anytime these 2 shops come up thankfully nobody’s mentioned the other contentious ferry (yet).

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1 hour ago, BobCrox said:

As for the self-service. ..... We prefer taking a picnic.

 

I really don't understand what's wrong with the self-service restaurant. In my eyes, it caters for more tastes, (i.e. the average family) at a reasonable price and I almost always enjoy my meal. 

17 hours ago, nottingham said:

I don't  agree Neil, she is not really popular due to lack of ambience, abundance of 'plastic', not to mention the open deck parking and the much discussed restaurant issues.

Does the average person really choose Pont-Aven over Armorique due to too much plastic?!? Certainly wouldn't influence my decision. Also, I'd like to mention that all ships bar NEX, Pont-Aven and Bretagne have open deck parking. 

Overall, despite the fact they are very different, I like both Armorique and Bretagne a lot. I would happily choose to sail on both of them. But maybe I just enjoy travelling on ferries in general? 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, georgem7 said:

Also, I'd like to mention that all ships bar NEX, Pont-Aven and Bretagne have open deck parking. 

In fact NEX does. At both bow and stern. Ed

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All of the BF fleet are dated, some more than others. I'd also suggest that a traveller needs to experience most if not all of the fleet and a few other ferry companies ships before making a general comparison. 

In some ways the new breed feel colder, very monobloc with IKEA-esq modular furniture with not much use of carpet in the cabins, it's mainly composite flooring now, we had a suite on deck 8 of Viking Grace, no carpet.... The only reason you get carpet in the corridors is to cut down the footfall noise.Very minimalist, an evolution of Armorique if you like.

The Prides sailing from Hull have very small 'posh' restaurants which cater for the few, nearly all of the passengers opt for the main buffet which is really just an extension of BF's self service offering a huge unlimited choice and unlimited soft drinks. DFDS are very similar sailing from Newcastle, their A la Carte is usually 90% empty as again most opt for the large self service which is first class with langoustines, scallops, oysters etc and also offers free soft drinks, oh and there's unlimited Mr Whippy too!

We actually find on the whole that the dining choices aboard all of the BF fleet to be limited compared to others. For instance, a personal favourite, the 30 year old Viking Amorella has three restaurants - A la Carte, buffet and a steakhouse. There's also a choice of cafe/coffee shops plus the wine bars etc... I know she's a year older but I'd swap her for Bretagne tomorrow.

 

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Unfortunately I cannot compare with the Newcastle ships - they don't go to Brittany!

I continue to dislike Armorique and am certainly not going to change that opinion in the light of the comments made. I have travelled on all BF ships except Cap and NEX and the Economies

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19 minutes ago, jonno said:

A la Carte is usually 90% empty as again most opt for the large self service which is first class with langoustines, scallops, oysters etc

And that is why I like the restaurants on BF - the starter buffet is superb, the main course hot and in my view the deserts are awful (which is why we just do starter buffet plus main !). I understand that the breakfasts are also excellent value, however I am never awake in time.

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The horrors that lurk in ferry carpets shouldn't be underestimated - if I put too much thought about it I'd be reluctant to step on in the cabins one barefoot so moving (back) to linoleum or introducing laminate is a sanitorial improvement if not always an aesthetic one.

The patterns on the cabin corridor carpets used to be designed to conceal the effects of fag-burns and puke stains which is why you rarely see single tone or light coloured carpets in these areas.

As for Armorique and putting to one side the restaurant issue, she's a great ferry but different in concept to other BF purpose-builds. She was outfitted to a relatively tight budget which is reflected in the way she looks in her passenger spaces (not her cabins). For any other company operating point-to-point ferry services with limited cruise element she'd be great. And that's apparently what the company wanted for Roscoff-Plymouth; but compared to BF's previous large newbuilds she is more basic in concept, budget and in what was asked of the designers so will always get some unfavourable reaction in comparison to other BF ships.

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1 hour ago, georgem7 said:

I really don't understand what's wrong with the self-service restaurant.

The hot food is nearly always overcooked and very dry. Have they ever changed the salad selection since the 1970s? The same large prawns over and over and over again.

I used to like the Val de Loire with some of the Basque dishes on the restaurant menu. I especially liked something called 'pudding' which was like a very light savoury mouse with often a fish or seafood base.

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The suggestion above that the timings Armorique operates to do not require a waiter-service restaurant may be true today. However, if you take a look at the new timetable starting in April there could, in my opinion, be an argument for such a restaurant in the future. If it subsequently transpires that this new schedule becomes the norm and there is a demand for such a service (especially if passenger numbers increase with people avoiding Dover and Portsmouth due to congestion - and that's by no means certain) then how can they satisfy that? Perhaps the solution would be to move Normandie over to the route and bring Armorique to Le Havre at peak periods and swap them around as required. Ed. 

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18 minutes ago, hhvferry said:

As for Armorique and putting to one side the restaurant issue, she's a great ferry but different in concept to other BF purpose-builds. She was outfitted to a relatively tight budget which is reflected in the way she looks in her passenger spaces (not her cabins). For any other company operating point-to-point ferry services with limited cruise element she'd be great. And that's apparently what the company wanted for Roscoff-Plymouth; but compared to BF's previous large newbuilds she is more basic in concept, budget and in what was asked of the designers so will always get some unfavourable reaction in comparison to other BF ships.

I quite agree although I'd go a little further. If we consider the state of the global crisis during 2008/09, Armorique has been constructed to a high standard and for the time many of her colours and features were quite a breakthrough in terms bold colours and of design simplicity as it's in this direction many new build concepts have headed. Easy to clean, cheaper and easier to maintain and an overall design which serves most if not all ports. Personally I think Honfleur has been designed using the same ethic only now the pockets are a little deeper.

The new floorings and fabrics are also far more heat & fire retardant than previously used carpet and upholstery. The biggest issue for fire aboard is smoke and toxic fumes, the modern materials now being used and considered half this threat. 

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39 minutes ago, jonno said:

I quite agree although I'd go a little further. If we consider the state of the global crisis during 2008/09, Armorique has been constructed to a high standard and for the time many of her colours and features were quite a breakthrough in terms bold colours and of design simplicity as it's in this direction many new build concepts have headed. Easy to clean, cheaper and easier to maintain and an overall design which serves most if not all ports.

I think looking at her in the context of the time she was built is right - Shippax in their celebratory guide observed that, "maybe it is pure coincidence but the ship's utilitarian character also takes advantage of the economic climate with passengers keeping purse strings tight".

Certainly the cycle of taste has moved on but I'd be surprised if the three newbuilds were similar in design scope and relative budget to Armorique given the routes they operate on (and the Stena pair are going to be some sort of Figura/AIA Frankenstein which sounds an almost impossible melding of ideologies). The Honfleur looks more sophisticated in design so far and hopefully more towards the designers' work on Mont St Michel and Piana whereas the Armorique arquably tends towards their later work on Berlin and Copenhagen.

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Back to food, it seems getting to the root of any issue is that it's not the presence of (or otherwise) that is an issue but rather the quality of options in the self-service. With a bit of thought and some experienced folk (passengers and crew) they could easily trial a pile of langoustines in the self-service if that's your thing. The overall self service concept is a little dated - compare it with the self-service on the aforementioned DFDS and P&O North Sea ships as well as Taste on Stena Hollandica/Britannica - with pushing trays along a shelf between stations like a factory canteen; it's not something you see on the high street dining in the UK (where 85% of their customers come from) and it's getting rarer in France.

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There’s always been a massive bowl of langoustines in the self service every time I’ve been on Armorique the self service offering is good I usually have a good pick n mix from the salad/buffet selection.

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3 hours ago, David Williams said:

And that is why I like the restaurants on BF - the starter buffet is superb, the main course hot and in my view the deserts are awful

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that.  Agree with everything that’s been said about the starter buffet - it’s outstanding (although I’ve gone off the langoustines in recent years - the freezing and defrosting of them ruins them, and they are not a patch on the fresh langoustines so readily available on the Breton coast).  But, I agree, the dessert offerings are, on the whole, underwhelming.  Which generally doesn’t matter hugely, because the cheese selection is also excellent, and by the time that is done there is generally no room for dessert anyway.  Dessert has been more satisfying since I’ve discovered the (raspberry and mango?) coulis bottles.  And I do have a soft spot for that white one with a raspberry middle, the green (pistachio?) one and the lemon meringue pie.  But most of them are just different ways (and colours) of getting cake on a plate.

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10 minutes ago, Gareth said:

the cheese selection is also excellent

The trouble is, it is not a patch on the cheese boards of some of my favorite restaurants - it is not only about the quality of the cheese but keeping it well and presenting it at the correct time - Calvados has 3 excellent cheeses.

I am glad you have found some decent deserts, I generally find them full of artificial cream or  glow in the dark !

I have been known to use the money that I save to get an ice cream at the bar !

However the beauty of the restaurant is that one can choose, return and get more (including bread rolls) and basically relax. The waiter bit is a bit incidental.

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I didn

23 minutes ago, David Williams said:

I am glad you have found some decent deserts, I generally find them full of artificial cream or  glow in the dark !

I didn’t say decent - just that I had a soft spot for them.  In that.....those are the ones I go for because I feel duty bound to have something and they are the best of the bunch and the ones that are mildly palatable.  But the whole selection is underwhelming considering France’s reputation for world class pastry.

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Clearly there's no issue regarding price and as Gareth has kindly pointed out to us, having a commodore cabin means breakfast costs next to nothing. The starters and mains are good but deserts could do with a bit of attention. I imagine the wine list is varied and of decent quality too?

Considering the popularity of both dining options, A la Carte and self service, is there any mileage in suggesting both could actually be a little bigger offering more choice and catering to those with special dietary needs, say a more DFDS/P&O styled self service especially aboard Armorique and more covers in the restaurant?

BF lag behind in terms of diet too. My missus can only really eat the salads or a standard meat dish without any of the sauces aboard a BF ship which is a bit poor when spending a grand sailing to Spain.

Maybe those who say BF have become a little blasé due to the lack of competition have a point when the cleanliness of many of the cabins & loose light fittings are also considered?

To answer @Seashore...I see your point but the clue is in the title, 'self service' what sets DFDS & P&O apart is the range on offer... traditional fayre of the carriers origin, British, Indian, Chinese, vegetarian, gluten free. You don't really need to push your tray along either, you do a fly by then just target the areas you want to invade!

I mean, why follow the crowd and stand in the queue in front of the Chinese selection when you want the roast beef and Yorkshires or a seafood selection around the corner?

 

 

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