Jump to content

PA vs Chinese Clones (maybe a little Plymouth vs Portsmouth)


Recommended Posts

 

I have just returned from Spain travelling both directions on the Plymouth to Santander  route on the Pont-Aven.  My previous trip was on the Portsmouth to Santander route on the Galica before Christmas and returning 3 months later.  It has been a few years since I’ve travelled on the Pont-Aven, usually ending up on the Cap Finistère  which I know is like marmite on here… you either like her or hate her.

So, the differences with the ports.  From Manchester it is about equal distance (about 300 miles) to Plymouth and Portsmouth (and the Channel Tunnel).   Plymouth has less motorways and excluding the M6 around Birmingham is an easier drive.  I guess the main difference is that with Portsmouth you do not have to travel into the centre of the city like you do with Plymouth.  Earlier this week it took me over an hour to get out of Plymouth!   I would also say that Portsmouths has slightly better check-in facilities and definitely more Border Force staff on your return.

Now onto the ships.  When I first travelled on Brittany Ferries about 15 years ago, the Pont-Aven was lovely and seemed to be a little more upmarket than other ferries at the time.  How times have changed.  The poor old girl is now feeling a little tired.  Once you have been on one of the Chinese clones, you realise how much nicer the cabins are .. a bed which is comfortable, a television which works (I travelled in a Club Cabin on the Pont) and a bathroom with a shower which the average human can fit in without flooding the bathroom. The new ones are lighter with more natural light and feel more airy.  It can’t be just her age as I’ve started using the North Sea Ferries route from Hull to Rotterdam and the Pride of Hull is about the same age as the Pont-Aven but feels fresher.  I understand she doesn’t get the same hammering as BF ships and I won’t mention how wonderful the ramp to the deck 8 car deck is.

I would say the area that the Pont-Aven does still has an advantage is the restaurant.  I know a lot of people on her moan about Le Flora but I actually like the food.  I really did not  like the self-service on the Salamanca, although I’m not sure if that is the normal service or just during COVID lockdown.   One thing I did notice is how much breakfast has gone up in Le Flora.  I know it has been many years since I last travelled with her but the full breakfast option was never over £20 a head.  On the Cap Finistère  I get everything except the fresh fruit, ham and cheese for about £10.  

I’ve also prefer the Cap Finistère  when the sea is getting a little rougher as I think she is the best sea going vessel in the fleet.  I’m not sure why but I’m sure the Pont-Aven has a tendency to corkscrew in not particular rough sea.  The new Chinese clones are soooo slow but seem to handle the sea better than the Pont-Aven.  I guess it does help that when it is very rough, you can bunker down in your cabin and watch a few movies on the new ships.  I guess it is also the 20 years of technical improvements in stabilisation technology.

Although the Pont-Aven is better than the Cap when it comes to parking, the Chinese clones do seem to have more room with less door banging.  Also they seem to have more lifts with larger capacity.  Not a big issue on this voyage as I was parked on deck 4 and the cabin was on deck 5.  It was also good to see both her bow and stern doors operational as it avoided the usual having to do have a lap of the boat when boarding.

I really do not like what they have done with the funnel on the Pont-Aven as it is so ugly.  I know they didn’t have a choice but it really doesn’t help her.  The Chinese clones might be all the same but they do look more modern (which I guess they would be as they are new).  I don’t think the Pont-Aven has aged well... when you look at her from a side profile she is a mismatch of windows.  Some might say it makes her interesting but if we all like the same thing, life would  be boring,

So what are my final thoughts.  I think BF really does need a new flag ship.  I think it might be about time the Pont-Aven was either moved to another route or sold.  I can’t see BF spending money on tarting her up … I’m not sure it is possible to do anything with the cabins.  Sailing on BF is never the budget option and in my opinion when you are paying £800+ for a crossing she no longer cuts the mustard.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We came back to Plymouth on Monday on the PA as well. We haven't tried the clones yet, as I'm put off by two nights and the lack of a proper restaurant. We chatted to our Commodore stewardess, who was quite uncomplimentary about the Galicia in terms of its open access C Club and lack of proper restaurant. I agree that the PA is looking a bit tired and as I geriatric retired prop forward I do struggle with the shower. However, as I think IanN has said, her USP is the 20 or so hour crossing to Spain, rather than the drag on Galicia. I hope they keep her going on that route for some time to come, at least until I'm too old and incompetent to drive round Spain.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice review, thanks for sharing.

9 minutes ago, Northern_Si said:

I’ve also prefer the Cap Finistère  when the sea is getting a little rougher as I think she is the best sea going vessel in the fleet.  I’m not sure why but I’m sure the Pont-Aven has a tendency to corkscrew in not particular rough sea.  The new Chinese clones are soooo slow but seem to handle the sea better than the Pont-Aven.  I guess it does help that when it is very rough, you can bunker down in your cabin and watch a few movies on the new ships.  I guess it is also the 20 years of technical improvements in stabilisation technology.

...

I don’t think the Pont-Aven has aged well... when you look at her from a side profile she is a mismatch of windows.  Some might say it makes her interesting

You're being too kind to the PA (the Cap Fin and Bretagne for example are older ships which have infinitely superior motion at sea). Unfortunately the PA was a bit of a dog's breakfast in both hull form and external profiling, the latter only compounded by the scrubbers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, AmigoCirculo said:

We came back to Plymouth on Monday on the PA as well. We haven't tried the clones yet, as I'm put off by two nights and the lack of a proper restaurant. We chatted to our Commodore stewardess, who was quite uncomplimentary about the Galicia in terms of its open access C Club and lack of proper restaurant. I agree that the PA is looking a bit tired and as I geriatric retired prop forward I do struggle with the shower. However, as I think IanN has said, her USP is the 20 or so hour crossing to Spain, rather than the drag on Galicia. I hope they keep her going on that route for some time to come, at least until I'm too old and incompetent to drive round Spain.

The 22 hours crossing is the winner.    Although I guess the Chinese Clones should be able to do Plymouth to Spain in 25 hours?  The 30 hours crossing isn't too bad in a smooth crossing as it means we can leave Manchester at lunch to catch the ferry and you are thrown off at 8am when you arrive in Spain.  The negatives are if it is one of those crossing which is so rough you just want it to end ... you are stuck and on the return it is a late arrival especially with a drive back to Manchester.

The C Club is quite big and I enjoyed it... of course the ferry was pretty quiet in Dec/March.  Not sure what it would be like in August.  I also like the main bar which is basically a bar rather than a show bar.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, hhvferry said:

Nice review, thanks for sharing.

You're being too kind to the PA (the Cap Fin and Bretagne for example are older ships which have infinitely superior motion at sea). Unfortunately the PA was a bit of a dog's breakfast in both hull form and external profiling, the latter only compounded by the scrubbers.

I didn't want to be shouted at too much by some on here 😁

Monday was only 3 to 4 metre waves but felt a lot more.  I would not want to be on her in 10m waves ... even laid against a bulkhead in cabin full of seasickness pills.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

50 minutes ago, Northern_Si said:

The poor old girl is now feeling a little tired.  Once you have been on one of the Chinese clones, you realise how much nicer the cabins are .. a bed which is comfortable, a television which works (I travelled in a Club Cabin on the Pont) and a bathroom with a shower which the average human can fit in without flooding the bathroom.

The advantage is the 20 / 22 hour crossing. If the food if not great then wait till you get to Spain. The Cabins apart from perhaps the Commodore's are to sleep in. Its a Ferry to get from A to B.  We had two night including breakfast at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela  for 329 Euro's in June about the same as the Commodore for one crossing on The PA which I believe was £304. I know what I think was the better value. Yes she is looking a bit tired in places but you get on late afternoon and are off next lunchtime and in 17 years time will the Chinese boats looks as good?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, IanN said:

The advantage is the 20 / 22 hour crossing. If the food if not great then wait till you get to Spain. The Cabins apart from perhaps the Commodore's are to sleep in. Its a Ferry to get from A to B.  We had two night including breakfast at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela  for 329 Euro's in June about the same as the Commodore for one crossing on The PA which I believe was £304. I know what I think was the better value. Yes she is looking a bit tired in places but you get on late afternoon and are off next lunchtime and in 17 years time will the Chinese boats looks as good?

 

Who knows if the Chinese boats will look as good.  Have BF bought them or leased them?   The problem with the PA is that it needs money spent on it but I guess it is beyond economical to do it now.  

If you compare PA to the Pride of Hull / Pride of Rotterdam, the North Sea Ferries have aged much better.  The cabins are much nicer.  I don't need a Hilton hotel room experience, more of a Travel Inn experience.  The beds on the Galicia are much more comfortable.  Wider and softer with better pillows and duvets.  Why does the flagship of the BF fleet not have similar quality?   I think the cabins on Cap Finistère are better than the PA.  She also needs a damn good deep clean as I don't believe the cleaners are doing a fantastic job which is worrying during a time when cleanliness is supposed to be a priority.

When I'm paying over £1K for a return crossing with 2 cabins, including discount Club Voyage, I just expect a little better.  If I wanted budget I would have travelled on the old budget ferries they had.

I love dinner in Le Flora ... I had a fantastic steak on Sunday night.  Better not mention the English Breakfast as that is another thread.

The Parador in Santiago de Compostela ... is that the one basically built onto the cathedral? 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Northern_Si said:

She also needs a damn good deep clean as I don't believe the cleaners are doing a fantastic job which is worrying during a time when cleanliness is supposed to be a priority

Agreed

The hotel I believe dates back to the 15th century.  Just thought what will PA look like in 600 years😀

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Northern_Si said:

She also needs a damn good deep clean as I don't believe the cleaners are doing a fantastic job which is worrying during a time when cleanliness is supposed to be a priority.

I don't think they ever have done. 

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think service levels are descending to the lowest common denoninator and the traditional BF individualities which were  much valued are now being lost in an average ferry product which benefits the suppliers but results in a very standardised product.

Having said that, if the product results in a comfortable if not exciting experience then most passengers will be happy enough with it.

BF now is a long way from the experience offered in years gone by with its 'HolidayFleet'. Wonderful days but no longer appropriate now perhaps. I'm just grateful we experienced BF at it's best when holidays to Briittany had that romantic dimension which just seemed to add that so much extra to our enjoyment. Looking out of the cabin window when approaching St Malo on an early sunny summer morning was nothing less than magic with a wonderful holiday to anticipate.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

To put it bluntly then... Pont Aven is ok just because her crossing and arrival times are convenient?

I find that rather sad considering BF's history of quality and she's less than 20 years old.

BF were happy to spend nearly 180m euros on a glorified wagon mover in Honfleur, for around another 20m the Chinese could give them a new flagship to rival Viking Glory which, in photos anyway, looks absolutely stunning. Her older sister, Grace is no slouch either but she was a bit more pricey.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, jonno said:

BF were happy to spend nearly 180m euros on a glorified wagon mover in Honfleur, for around another 20m the Chinese could give them a new flagship

But would they have got that funding from European sources for a ship built in China ? Surely the money was contingent on it being built in an EU yard.

Ed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

But would they have got that funding from European sources for a ship built in China ? Surely the money was contingent on it being built in an EU yard.

Ed

Well the Chinese have been known to build things in another country using their subsidies bringing in their own workers. 

It is a shame BF are no longer using EU (especially French) ship yards. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

10 hours ago, jonno said:

To put it bluntly then... Pont Aven is ok just because her crossing and arrival times are convenient?

I find that rather sad considering BF's history of quality and she's less than 20 years old.

 

I do wonder what the working life of a half decent ferry is … 45years?

I went on the Pride of York to Zeebrugge a few years back and she did feel tired but I think she was best part of 35 years old and she has just be sold to an Italian ferry company.   It was quite funny being given physical keys for the cabins. 

I do sense that BF has lost its way a bit.  It sold itself as 24hrs to Spain and a premium product.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware they are RORO ferries and not glorified cruise ships (although it seems some customers onboard think otherwise) but standards have just dropped.

Even with the drop in standards…. I still prefer to go by boat then go Ryanair.

 

 

 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Northern_Si said:

  It was quite funny being given physical keys for the cabins. 

I

Connemara has physical keys, they are just left in the cabin, Etretat had codes on the cabins which you had to get at the information desk, these are both young ships !

Link to comment
Share on other sites

58 minutes ago, Northern_Si said:

 

I do wonder what the working life of a half decent ferry is … 45years?

I went on the Pride of York to Zeebrugge a few years back and she did feel tired but I think she was best part of 35 years old and she has just be sold to an Italian ferry company.   It was quite funny being given physical keys for the cabins. 

I do sense that BF has lost its way a bit.  It sold itself as 24hrs to Spain and a premium product.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware they are RORO ferries and not glorified cruise ships (although it seems some customers onboard think otherwise) but standards have just dropped.

Even with the drop in standards…. I still prefer to go by boat then go Ryanair.

 

 

 

But RyanAir is not the only alternative.  

Would I choose a winter sea crossing to Santander and then a 600 mile drive over the high plateau to southern Spain ….or a flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Malaga in three hours …for £60 return?  You see we don’t have a dog.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Northern_Si said:

Well the Chinese have been known to build things in another country using their subsidies bringing in their own workers. 

It is a shame BF are no longer using EU (especially French) ship yards. 

They did try to use one quite recently...and many others have big order books. 

I last went on PA in December 2019 and thought she looked fine, a couple of months earlier I was on Pride of Rotterdam and Hull and they looked very good too, they are 4 years older, but as you say, somewhat less worked. 

Will be interesting to try the new boats as the newest I've been on is Armorique, and her club plus are excellent, different world from the club on Bretagne really. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, wortley said:

But RyanAir is not the only alternative.  

Would I choose a winter sea crossing to Santander and then a 600 mile drive over the high plateau to southern Spain ….or a flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Malaga in three hours …for £60 return?  You see we don’t have a dog.

 

How I wish BA would fly from Manchester.

The Bay of Biscay can be as calm as a mill pond in December .... or as I've done a few times ... you end up with the best French restaurant in Santander while the ship is stuck in port waiting for the weather to calm down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a costing summary of traveling on Brittany Ferries primarily on the Pont-Aven.  It seems that BF prices haven't increased too much in the last 3 or 4 years. (In fact I'm pretty sure I was paying around £1K for the same route 10 years ago but I haven't kept my old receipts).   So small increases in the pricing to stay competitive may reflect a lack of improvement/remodelling work during the Pont-Aven's refits. 

Previous sailing:

June 3rd 2018 ~ Pont-Aven Ex Plymouth, Car + Deluxe Cabin. 

4th July 2018. ~ Pont-Aven Ex Santander, Car + Deluxe Cabin

Cost in 2018 £1086.00

Next year's booking:

September 4th 2022  ~ Pont-Aven Ex Plymouth, Car + Deluxe Cabin.

October 9th 2022 ~ Galicia Ex Santander, Car + Commodore Club Cabin

Cost for 2022 £1101 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

But would they have got that funding from European sources for a ship built in China ? Surely the money was contingent on it being built in an EU yard.

Ed

You mean the nigh on 70m to plumb in the LNG and electric motors? Probably Ed but it's worth bearing in mind that financing is easier in China even from German and Finnish banks plus the Xiamen shipyards price For Viking Grace was 194m euros, the next price which was from a European yard was 300m euros. European yards are expensive and most European yards don't want to build ferries.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, wortley said:

But RyanAir is not the only alternative.  

Would I choose a winter sea crossing to Santander and then a 600 mile drive over the high plateau to southern Spain ….or a flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Malaga in three hours …for £60 return?  

 

I must confess that we are put off by Biscay in winter, despite Northern Si's experience. I do recall a couple of years ago that the A67 was suddenly blocked by snow and drivers had to be rescued and put up locally. Since then the authorities have erected snow poles along the motorway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, jonno said:

You mean the nigh on 70m to plumb in the LNG and electric motors? Probably Ed but it's worth bearing in mind that financing is easier in China even from German and Finnish banks plus the Xiamen shipyards price For Viking Grace was 194m euros, the next price which was from a European yard was 300m euros. European yards are expensive and most European yards don't want to build ferries.

If I were to suggest we consider why Chinese yards are so much cheaper ... no, no, no. That would open up a whole new can of worms about political freedoms, human rights ... Better just knock BF. Goes down much better here.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
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
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...