We used the new "no-frills economie" return Portsmouth-Santander service. In fact there is nothing "economical" about this service at all. If you take the car/cabin option you will pay typically between £600 and £800 for two people. Opting for the "reserved seat" - no cabin works out at £250-£300 cheaper for two, but you will have a nightmare crossing on seats that are deliberately designed to prevent you lying across two of them, even though typically there are huge numbers of seats free. The arm rests are solid, hard and fixed.
They also lock the restaurant in an additional demonstration of mean-spiritedness to prevent you lying down on the soft bench seats overnight You can just about lie down (illegally) on the bar bench seats, blinded by the bar lights which blaze on all night even though the bar is closed (another attempt to stop you lying down). The seats are unbelievably uncomfortable and no-one will be able to sleep in them.
There is nothing wrong in principle with no-frills, but on this service you are still paying a premium price for extremely poor food. This is the first time I have seen a GREY tomato...I'm not kidding....it had been reheated so many times (as were the potatoes) that it actually had lost all evidence of being red and had actually turned grey.
During the night the crew turned off the heating in the seating area. It was absolutely freezing (in April). I asked at the reception for the heating to be switched on, which was met with an "impossible" and a shrug. After several requests I eventually phoned the bridge and asked to speak to the captain....the heating was turned on. This happened again on the return journey.
What I find extraordinary is that Brittany Ferries seems to think "Economie" means deliberately making your journey as uncomfortable as possible as some kind of punishment, whereas they could actually make more profit by providing catering and other services you would willingly pay for if they were half decent.
This no frills service is just awful, and does not justify the saving. Every aspect of the way the ship is run is sub standard. It is NOT a question of "you get what you pay for". If I drive an economy car it still has comfortable seats and often has air conditioning and electric windows etc. Brittany Ferries thinks "economy" means third world facilities.
In a bizarre episode I wanted a coffee after giving up trying to sleep. The machine (on a FRENCH ship) only accepted Stirling. So I asked reception for Euros. The reply was "we do not have a bureau de change"....while I was actually staring at an open till full of Euro notes and coins! The crew were polite enough but I suspect are poorly paid and hence have little incentive to be helpful.
The ship itself - The Etretat - is the renamed Norman Voyager, a tin can of a vessel which is devoid of anything desirable except it floats. The promised wi fi kept cutting out, was largely unusable and the only half decent signal was in the reception area. Everything about this ship is poor, except that the floors are reasonably clean.
This operation is absolutely dire in every way, and given the past quality of Brittany Ferries, is a bleak contrast to their usual but very expensive services. This economie route is a cynical attempt to provide an extremely poor quality of travel at a price which no-one could possibly describe as giving any discernable value. The prices are gauged entirely in line with a monopoly service on this route which is in fact very expensive.
Please do not attempt, Mr PR man from Brittany Ferries, to excuse or explain this away. There are no excuses available to you for this utterly dire service for which BF should hang its head in shame.
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