Sailing to Europe? It's such a breeze now ferries are back in business

Sailing to Europe? It’s such a breeze now ferries are back in business as the holiday season finally bursts into life

  • Regular sailings to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain are restarting
  • Bookings are also shooting up for trips to Belfast and Dublin from Welsh ports
  • Numbers will be limited on board to comply with social-distancing requirements 

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: why ferries to Europe are set to win new fans this summer.

Ferries are back in business as the holiday season finally bursts into life.

Regular sailings to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain are restarting from ports such as Portsmouth, Dover, Hull and Newcastle. Bookings are also shooting up for trips to Belfast and Dublin from Welsh and west coast ports including Liverpool.

Back in business: Regular sailings to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain are restarting from ports such as Portsmouth, Dover, Hull and Newcastle

Book soon and last-minute fares to tourist hotspots – from Amsterdam all the way down through France to Bilbao in northern Spain – may be lower than they were last July and August.

A family of four in a car can go from Newhaven to Dieppe from £97 each way with DFDS, from Dover to Calais from £90 with P&O, or from Harwich to Hook of Holland from £132 with Stena.

Sadly, due to the coronavirus, children’s play areas, self-service buffets and a la carte restaurants will probably be closed. Spas and cinemas on ferries to Holland and Spain will be off-limits and face coverings are mandatory on all routes.

The good news is that passengers will have more space on board as numbers will be limited to comply with social-distancing requirements. On P&O’s flagship route from Dover to Calais, for example, foot passengers are temporarily excluded, so drivers and their passengers have the run of the ships.

Want to stay in your vehicle? That is possible only on the shortest car-ferry trips to places such as the Isle of Wight. But you can create a travel bubble for your family on longer journeys by booking an en suite cabin with Brittany Ferries, Stena Line and others.

All passengers can also take advantage of what ferry companies hope will be their other big selling point of 2020: extra seating set out on large, outdoor decks.

Take in the fresh air on board before a visit to Bilbao’s Guggenheim

Inside, while some food outlets will be closed, the service in the remaining cafes is set to be more personal. Many ferries are reintroducing table service to reduce movement around dining areas, and several aim to cut queues outside restaurants by asking passengers to pre-book tables for breakfast and dinner.

Brittany Ferries and others are also focusing on a limited list of popular food choices to speed up ordering and get passengers to their tables faster.

At either end of the journey, staff will stagger how passengers get to and from their cars. But early indications are that any time lost waiting to return to a vehicle is made up by ending the old ‘stop start’ drive off the ramp and on to dry land.

The final selling point of ferries this summer is the variety of destinations and holiday types they serve. More than a dozen firms have joined forces to offer inspiration at discoverferries.com.

As well as advice and route maps to Europe, its blog includes six ‘socially-distanced’ trip ideas, including puffin-spotting after taking P&O and Stena ferries, camping and walking holidays at the end of Brittany Ferries routes, pancake-flat cycle routes in Holland after DFDS, P&O and Stena journeys, and foraging and fishing tours on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way after an Irish Ferries, P&O or Stena trip.

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