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kgst

Pont Aven/W B Yeats report

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As one of the many passengers affected by the Pont Aven rudder problems we were forced to use the W . B Yeats for the outward leg of our journey from Ireland to France on 6th June returning on the Pont Aven on 21st June. It gave us the opportunity [however unwelcome] to compare the experience on both IF & BF.

W. B Yeats:

Travelling from Dublin rather than Rosslare is much more difficult because of the access to Dublin Port & the volumes of traffic meaning you have to allow greater time when you hit the outskirts of Dublin – in this case taking over an hour to do the last 5 kms.

When we arrived at the Port the Epsilon was still on berth & meant that the W B Yeats had to wait until she finished loading & departed. The WBY then came in docked bow first & for some reason then went out again so that she could stern load. I assume that is because it is quicker to load that way but in any event the departure was delayed by over an hour.

As we were travelling with a dog on board we assumed that all vehicles carrying pets would be directed to any area where they would be easy access to the kennels but that was not the case & we were loaded with other similar vehicles . There were no staff on hand helping customers to find their bearings and no cards issued with the deck number etc so that customers would be able to find their vehicles on arrival in Cherbourg.

Fortunately we had ascertained in advance where the kennels were located but we had to bring our dog up the stairs with all other passengers. There was no insistence on muzzles or indeed restrictions on where you could go and with the very poor signage it would be easy to end up in passenger areas where you should not be.

The kennel area is an enclosed space on deck 7 & you can visit your pet at prearranged times during the crossing. It is more cramped & the kennel sizes are smaller than on the Pont Aven. The exercise area is a disgrace & consists of an area of deck outside the kennels about 1 ½  metres wide with a strip of artificial grass that extends for about 30 metres. Fortunately on our crossing the number of pets was small but I dread to think what it would be like when the crossings are busier.

We had a 4 berth club class cabin which we did not realise at time of booking makes quite a difference to the onboard experience because you have access to the Club class lounge & free soft drinks,snacks etc & a comfortable seating area.

The crossing was full & the other areas of the ship were crammed with people trying to find a comfortable place to sit . There is a “quiet seating area” on deck 10 but because on this crossing the cinema was out of action meant this could not be used & in any event it is a walk through area which could never be described as quiet.

The cabins themselves are adequate if somewhat small but would be fine if everything worked. In our case the TV would not work & the main cabin lights did not function. When we went to reception there was a queue of people trying to get problems sorted.  A staff member did come & fixed the TV but not the lights & the TV ceased to function again the next morning. The décor throughout the ship could be summarised  as 50 shades of gray with no colour  to lift it . The carpet design have been referred to by other posters but suffice to say they are already stained & the fittings are showing signs of wear- what they will be like at the end of the summer season I can only imagine.

Many of the crew have been transferred from the Oscar Wilde and do not like the new ship.

They work a 2 month on 1 month off roster and in the OW had their own individual staff accommodation whereas on WBY they are sharing  cabins & find there is inadequate space to relax when off duty. Several we spoke to are dreading the busy summer season because of the lack of entertainment for customers & their kids , only 1 bar where OW had 3 and they feel the ferry is more suited to the Dublin – Holyhead route that she will serve off season rather than a 19 hour cruise to France. Expect to see many adverse postings on Tripadvisor as several people we spoke to described it as a grey soulless ferry when compared with OW.

I cannot comment on the food as I would not be prepared to pay the prices in the Lady Gregory & it was evident that despite this sailing being full few people are. The self service was very busy with long queues formed but because there are only 2 tills in operation people were complaining the food was cold  be the time they paid for it.

Announcements from the bridge were regular keeping people informed & apologising for the delayed sailing & the late  arrival into Cherbourg. It would appear that either the ferry can’t or IF management won’t allow the crew to make up time on the journey because we arrived 1 ½ hours late into Cherbourg. Disembarcation was slow & was hampered by customers not be able to find where their car was parked.

The goods points on WBY and there are a few. It is a better seakeeper than the Pont Aven as conditions deteriorated as we approached Cherbourg but the ship handled it very well. The mattresses & pillows are much better than on PA. The Club class lounge [if you are prepared to pay for it] is a very comfortable place to sit & relax. The supply of snacks etc is plentiful and I think a few people worked out that they could get sufficient to eat certainly for breakfast without paying the exorbitant prices in the restaurants.

Pont Aven:

The return on the PA was pleasant & relaxing – when originally booked the sailing was full but I would have said that with cancellations it was less than half full. Despite that loading was slow but at least when you did board there were staff on the car deck giving out cards with your parking location & directing you to your cabin.

La Flora was doing a reasonable trade & when you consider the pricing compared to the offerings on WBY is it any wonder customers choose BF.

There have been comments recently about the cleanliness of PA but I noticed that on numerous cabins there were notices on cabin doors advising customers to go to reception to be allocated new cabins so I assume that with a quiet sailing they were taking the opportunity to sort out issues.

As a dog owner I was up early to visit the kennels & it was interesting to see two officers walking around the decks with notebooks taking notes of items that needed attention. Also at 6:30 in the morning crew members were out hosing down the decks  & the public areas were completely clean & free from the debris from the previous night.

However all is not perfect and the handling of transfer of pet from kennel to  car spoiled the trip for us. The transfer to the kennel was fine with a staff member in attendance but we asked the arrangement for transfer back to the car in the morning & they did not know. After a long conversation on the phone we were advised to go down on our own ½ hour before docking and the deck would be accessable.

In the morning we did as instructed but the lift on deck 9 which is the only access for dog owners was being used by other passengers & took 10 minutes to arrive on Deck 9 . It was already half full of passengers who were not happy about dogs being piled on top of them. When we arrived at deck 3 the stairwells were already full and no access available to the car deck. We had to wait 25 minutes for the deck door to be released & during that time we had stressed animals ,stressed customers all because BF can’t provide a staff member to aid the transfer.

In summary I would say BF are providing a better service  with the Pont Aven as a proper cruise ferry wheras IF with the WBY  have a functional ferry which is more suited to short crossings to the UK rather than trips to France.  Many regular BF customers had to use an alternative because of the PA’s problems but I would say provided there is no regular disruption they will return to BF but that company should learn for the future better more timely information in the event of disruption as it was badly handled this year

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12 minutes ago, kgst said:

In our case the TV would not work & the main cabin lights did not function.

Thanks for that great comparison. In relation to the above, I wonder if that's one of the reasons for the delay in delivering Honfleur. If they are having similar cabling and networking problems then it means dismantling a lot of preassembled structures to effect repairs. Ed. 

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I'm afraid that is a very fair summing of the WBY. Management realise there are many points needing urgent attention and to be fair I think passengers will see changes over the coming months, but there's no way all the inherent problems will have been addressed this season. She has the potential to be a pleasant vessel but until the time comes that someone injects some soul into her she will remain an underwhelming experience.

Regarding delays she apparently is difficult to load and invariably departs late. I've regularly seen her doing close to 25 knots on AIS to catch up, at that speed her fuel bill will be huge. I've already heard through the grapevine there is a possibility she could revert to Rosslare for that reason, it would make financial sense and with the road infrastucture from the capital down to the south-east corner almost complete it would avoid the problems many people are having just getting to Dublin Port.

Chris

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Great comparison, I always enjoyed traveling to France on the OW. Always found her to be a very pleasant trip, interesting to hear that some of the crew miss her. 

Also interesting that they could end up back in Rosslare!

 

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3 minutes ago, VikingVoyager said:

How do the crossings compare cost-wise?

in our case 2 adults 1 dog club 4 berth inside €376 on WBY and the equivalent on BF was €501 which was refunded. 

the prices in low/mid season on IF [this year] are considerably cheaper than BF but in high season that reverses with IF considerably dearer

In my opinion BF never really competed on price on the Irish route as they seemed happy with the loadings without cutting prices.

Maybe IF were using some of their compensation from FSG to get people onto the WBY because the amount of media advertising they are doing this year is way beyond what they normally do. 

If I hear "travel in style on the most luxurious ferry on the Irish Sea " one more time  I will scream ! or complain to the advertising standards board

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This report published on the Irish Ferries Forum gives some more details about the defects on board and the action points that need to be addressed, hopefully before the peak season kicks off this weekend. I really hope that the materials being used on the interior of Honfleur are better quality than on W B Yeats as this level of wear and tear on a ship so young is unacceptable. 

https://www.irish-ferries-enthusiasts.com/forum/discussion-board/w-b-yeats-disappointment/

Ed

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57 minutes ago, Cabin-boy said:

This report published on the Irish Ferries Forum gives some more details about the defects on board and the action points that need to be addressed, hopefully before the peak season kicks off this weekend. I really hope that the materials being used on the interior of Honfleur are better quality than on W B Yeats as this level of wear and tear on a ship so young is unacceptable. 

https://www.irish-ferries-enthusiasts.com/forum/discussion-board/w-b-yeats-disappointment/

Ed

You would hope they will take action & provide entertainment for families on the 19 hour crossing & create a bit of craic. They also need to get their crew onside and address their grievences. The  crew on OW took pride in their ship and it showed and the same crew on WBY don't and it apparent.  I wonder are the crewing levels sufficent PA has 184 crew & to my knowledge WBY has 135 even though it is a bigger vessel- maybe this is because there is less hotel staff needed as the freight volumes would be greater but in the summer months WBY has 1200 cabins & PA has 650 & they will surely need extra staff ?

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39 minutes ago, kgst said:

You would hope they will take action & provide entertainment for families on the 19 hour crossing & create a bit of craic. They also need to get their crew onside and address their grievences. The  crew on OW took pride in their ship and it showed and the same crew on WBY don't and it apparent.  I wonder are the crewing levels sufficent PA has 184 crew & to my knowledge WBY has 135 even though it is a bigger vessel- maybe this is because there is less hotel staff needed as the freight volumes would be greater but in the summer months WBY has 1200 cabins & PA has 650 & they will surely need extra staff ?

Depends what they are prepared to pay for.. Shipowners since the days of sail have been notorious for reducing crew and conditions of service. Little has changed since then.

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It seems as though the consensus on here is that W B Yeats isn't suitable for the Cherbourg sailing, but perhaps is for the Rosslare sailing. Are the Irish Ferries unaware of this existing situation or are they perhaps thinking it is the best out of an unsuitable bunch for the Cherbourg sailing? Would like to hear people's thoughts.

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On 24/06/2019 at 14:12, kgst said:

 I noticed that on numerous cabins there were notices on cabin doors advising customers to go to reception to be allocated new cabins so I assume that with a quiet sailing they were taking the opportunity to sort out issues.

 

We have experienced this on the Caen boats, In our case it was cause by non BF engineers travelling on the ship, to save having to move them every time the ship docked.  So maybe in view of  the new parts/systems fitted this could have been the case?.

You would have thought the ship spent that much time alongside in Brest that any minor defects were fixed then.

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45 minutes ago, alleeganger10 said:

We have experienced this on the Caen boats, In our case it was cause by non BF engineers travelling on the ship, to save having to move them every time the ship docked.  So maybe in view of  the new parts/systems fitted this could have been the case?.

You would have thought the ship spent that much time alongside in Brest that any minor defects were fixed then.

Maybe that was the reason  as I noticed that as soon as we docked in Cork several men appeared with the Shipyard logo on their overalls and were standing around waiting for the offload to be complete

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I find it odd that as highlighteed in the great report and summary above for example, people say W.B.Y is more suited to shorter crossings and not as apt at 24+h voyages like PA, and yet she has about 11 classes of cabin all of which are what I would consider deluxe/luxury, and a great proportion of which are far better equipped than PA comparable ones (although admitedly a small part of that is purely down to age). I would love to see the occupancy rates of the W.B.Y range of 'suites'.

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15 hours ago, hf_uk said:

I find it odd that as highlighteed in the great report and summary above for example, people say W.B.Y is more suited to shorter crossings and not as apt at 24+h voyages like PA, and yet she has about 11 classes of cabin all of which are what I would consider deluxe/luxury, and a great proportion of which are far better equipped than PA comparable ones (although admitedly a small part of that is purely down to age). I would love to see the occupancy rates of the W.B.Y range of 'suites'.

I don't think it is the cabins that are the issue on WBY as there is a great choice and the occupancy on the suites seems to me reasonably high - though paying €899 one way  is an awful amount of money.

I think it is the public areas, lack of seating  and outside seating areas that let it down. Also up to now their is no entertainment for families & only one main bar . On OW there was 3 bars & entertainment provided for adults & kids which was a big part of "the holiday starts on board". Remember also that the trip from Dublin to Cherbourg is 19 hours which is a long time to fill in without a bit of diversion !

I think if they can work on crew morale then the situation will improve - on OW they had a pride in their ship & despite its age it was well looked after by the crew. ON WBY you sense that they are fed up with all the teething problems they are having- when you report an issue the eyes get raised to heaven as much to say here we go again....

I sincerely hope that BF with Honfleur that the standard of build is better and you would be concerned that with FSG in financial trouble that corners will be cut and it will end up with items not working causing customers to be dissatisfied. You sense that BF may have learned from what happened with WBY & they have a bigger team resident in the shipyard keeping tabs on what is going on.

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