A couple of weeks ago we headed off on our Jolly Holidays – and thanks to Brittany Ferries we were able to start the holiday practically on our doorstep, taking the Condor Express (which is the Sea Catamaran) across to Cherbourg (mind we still had another 7 hours to go when we landed, but it was a very good start).
We used Brittany Ferries last year, so when they asked if we’d like to review again this year we snapped their arm off. The ferry is fast, comfortable and oh-so-easy to use. This year we wanted to take the dog with us to France – which turned out to be no problem at all. As long as the pet passport is up to date, they can stay in the car for the journey and you can pop down and check on them during the journey. Check in is simple – and we had no need of the muzzle we’d bought according to the instructions, either (the ticket says that dogs must be muzzled for check in, and we had one with us but we were never asked. Possibly due to Blue’s habit of lolling around looking as ferocious as a caterpillar high on catnip).
I don’t know if you’ve ever used the Condor Express service, but we found out later that unlike ‘normal’ car ferries that sit heavily in the water, the fact that the seacat skims across the surface makes it really feel the swell in a rough sea. And our journey out was… rather interesting. I believe the captain mention a warning of a ‘decent swell of 4-6 metres’ in the middle of the channel.
This didn’t bother us unduly – none of us are prone to seasickness. But as we headed into open water we began to understand what a ‘decent swell’ felt like.
Seriously – it’s… interesting. Not alarming, but very fairground-ride-ish.
And as the boat settled into it’s rolling up-and-down swing, I noticed a quiet flurry of movement. Just as I was wondering why I could suddenly see more members of staff there was a dash from the table beside us. Daughter, maybe 5 years old, leaped past us, Dad hot on her heels… they made it to the end of the food area, and quick thinking Dad grabbed a tray JUST in time, managing to contain her stomach contents to it. Smart man.
He yelped for his wife, but the Brittany Ferries staff were quicker – just seconds behind Dad, they arrived equipped with cleaning spray, a roll of paper towels, and some gentle soothing words for the poor daughter.
As I tried not to watch the scene unfold to my left, there was another flurry of activity to my right as another family leaped into action. And then another table further over started off… and then another… the chain reaction once one poor little girl had emptied her stomach contents was something to behold.
But the Brittany Ferries staff were bloody fantastic.
Honestly Brilliant. And had clearly done this before – they swept into action like a trained team of acrobats.
There were those with large bin liners for the… um… offensive material. There were those armed and ready with clean-up tools. There were those in charge of distributing the sick bags – not waiting to be asked, but sensibly pre-empting the need. And there were others at the ready with blankets who created spaces for those affected to lie down quietly and wait for the boat to stop with its rocking and its rolling. At no point was there any fuss or bother, the smell I expected never occurred, and there was a generally quiet atmosphere as the floor became dotted with poorly children curled up in blankets with not-much-healthier-looking parents sitting beside them.
Let’s face it, there’s not many things more miserable than being sick in public. But thanks to the Brittany Ferries team, the experience was made as bearable as possible. I chatted briefly with the Mum of girl No.1 (who, whilst dad had been looking after their daughter, had been curled up on the floor with her equally-poorly son for most of the trip), and she had nothing but praise for the loveliness of the staff and their efficiently gentle handling of the mass outbreak of sea-sickness.
Well done Brittany Ferries!
ETA – In 2013, the fast-craft service was replaced by Barfleur operating between mid-March to early November, making the Poole-Cherbourg crossing into a 4 1/4 hr mini cruise. Ah well – probably less need for the sick bags at least. And you do still get the fast service from Portsmouth!