Travelling With Brittany Ferries Post Lock Down
Like many of us, I was dubious about travelling during a worldwide pandemic, especially with a toddler. However, as we had an urgent trip to make I decided to document my journey both ways travelling with Brittany Ferries.
As the travel and tourism industries starts to resume, we’re welcoming the reinstatement of cross channel ferries services between France and the UK. This week we have travelled between the two countries using Brittany Ferries. Our first trip, Travelling from the port of Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth took place on the first day of re-opening (29th of June 2020) for Brittany Ferries Passengers and our second trip (the return journey) took place on Saturday July the 4th.
originally wrote this post after our first journey, however after a few differences during our return trip I have updated to reflect the changes and split each section into France-England/England-France.
With regards to the 14 day self isolation we followed all the guidelines laid out by the UK government here:
Check in procedure:
From guidance on our booking we knew to arrive at least 90 minutes before the boat was due to depart, this allows for any extra checks that are currently taking place.
France-England: At check in, the signs stated wearing of masks are obligatory so that meant both of us had ours on in the car as did the Brittany Ferries kiosk worker. We were handed the cardboard hanger for our rearview mirror, which, unlike usual, now had a bright pink sticker on, cabin keys (also with pink stickers on – I’ll explain their use in a separate section ), a leaflet explaining their Covid19 safety protocols and a map/guide of the Mont St Michel car ferry we were travelling on.
Our check in, on the 29th of June, was quick and easy with little to no queues. this was probably due to the lack of travellers on board.
England-France:The check in at Portsmouth couldn’t have been much different from our check in last week. There were no signs to suggest masks to be worn (although we were told to put them on through security) and the queues were a LOT bigger/longer. It took 40 minutes to get to check in then another 25 minutes to get through security and then around another 15 minutes to get on board.
This time our rear view mirror sticker and keys had blue stickers on – although, unlike last time, they didn’t seem to serve much purpose.
Do I Have To Wear A Mask On Brittany Ferries Sailings?
Wearing a mask is obligatory in all public areas on Brittany Ferries post lock down. You must have your mask on from the second you arrive at the departure port until you leave the arrival port. Of course, when eating or drinking this is difficult so you can obviously take it off for that. We also were able to remove our masks once in our cabin.
Babies and young children obviously cannot wear masks. However, older children, I imagine, would be expected to.
France-UK: Everyone we saw on board had their masks on whilst walking around the boat or sat in a public area. In the self service restaurant unless eating or drinking people had their masks on.
UK-France: I don’t think the British people on board today’s crossing quite understand the whole wearing of a mask in public areas situation. Not only did I see a mother and child sat in a foyer without masks, I saw people walking around with their noses sticking out and even one woman who was using an eye mask over her mouth. I actually couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
Please, please, please if you are coming to France, pack a mask (and better yet – WEAR IT!). They are necessary in so many shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, etc here in France.
Driving On To The Car Ferry
France-UK: Before driving on to the car ferry, we were told by a staff member to put our masks. I assumed because we were in a car outside we would have been allowed to take them off, but this wasn’t the case. Once on board and in the car garage, we were parked in small groups of around 9 cars with gaps between to the next set of cars. We were advised to wait in our cars until the Brittany Ferries staff loading us on told us we could get out.
UK-France: This time, with more passengers on board, there were no gaps between cars. There was a socially distanced queue of passengers waiting to get the lift/stairs up to their deck and we were advised by the parking garage staff when to leave our vehicle.
It definitely seemed a lot more hectic with regards to passenger numbers and social distancing. I felt a lot more claustrophobic than previous times and I certainly didn’t feel like everyone was keeping their 2 meter distance.
Once on Board
France-UK: From the parking deck we were advised to go straight to our cabins. Everyone on board had their own cabin, as booking one is currently an obligatory requirement. Once in our cabin, we heard a series of announcements advising us, where possible, to stay in our cabins to minimise movement around the boat.
Around the car ferry there are arrows on the floor controlling the flow of passengers and ensuring people are safely able to maintain a 1m minimum distance between one another.
UK-France: From the parking deck, after joining the queue we went up the stairs and headed straight to our cabin. Fortunately we didn’t cross anyone on the stairs and I think almost all passengers went straight to their cabins.
As I previously mentioned, according to Brittany ferries every passenger will have their own cabin (it’s even mentioned in the video I have shared in a section below), however, I saw some passengers who definitely didn’t seem like they had a cabin. You know the ones, falling asleep on the sofas…perhaps they had a sleeping baby in the cabin or a seasick passenger?
Speaking of seasick passengers, our crossing was pretty horrendous and I imagine plenty of people were feeling it. I’m quite disappointed in the person who vomited all over a sofa and then left it. But, I’m also disappointed that I couldn’t find any staff to report it to! On our ferry from France to the UK I felt like there were plenty of staff but on this one, a busier crossing, I couldn’t find anyone. I imagine that’s why a few people were breaking the rules on masks.
To be honest, the boat didn’t seem overly busy and was quite possibly running at less than 50% but it was significantly harder to social distance and I did find myself crossing paths with more people than I would have liked while on my way to the bar or restaurant. Based on the amount of cars I saw boarding I would say that most people stayed in their cabins as much as possible.
What do the coloured stickers mean?
France-UK: Brittany Ferries way of managing the crowds on board.
UK-France: Seemingly absolutely nothing…
France-UK: These stickers, which you find on your rearview mirror and your key cards were really handy in managing who goes where and when. When we first arrived on board there were a series of announcements explaining which colours were allowed to the restaurant at which time.
For the breakfast buffet service, entry times were given based on your colour code. For example, on our first trip Yellows and Blues could go for breakfast between 8:30am – 9am and Pinks and Greens could go between 9am and 9:30am. I imagine for busier services it will be one colour at a time.
The coloured stickers were also relevant when it came to going back to your car. You were called back to the parking bay based on your colour. Our colour, pink, was the last colour to go back to our cars.
UK-France: I was disappointed to find that, although we were given a colour code at check in, it seemed irrelevant. Instead of going by your colour code, passengers were to use their floor number instead.
Deck 7 to use the restaurant between 19:30-20:15
Deck 9 to use the restaurant between 20:15-21:00
This system seemed really counter productive to me, because surely this meant lots of people congregating from one place and all heading somewhere together. Surely a few travelling at a time from each floor would have been better than herds all flocking at once?
Were the Facilities aboard Brittany ferries open?
France-UK: Our first ferry had very minimal passengers. We didn’t see any facilities except the self service restaurant open. I’m unsure if everything was closed for corona virus related reasons, or if it was due to the lack of passengers. I did check the opening days/times of the bar and it should have been open but it wasn’t.
The usual opening times are:
The kids soft play was closed, the arcade upstairs was switched off but not cordoned off, the nice restaurant was closed, cinema was closed and we didn’t see the shop open during our trip (but I do think it was open, just not at the times we went).
Personally, I don’t think it’s great to be paying around £200(plus extra for the obligatory cabin) one way for there to be nothing available during our crossing but that’s just me. I guess I’m not used to paying so much money because we normally fly. Ferry+fuel+tolls = a lot of money and time when compared to cheap Ryanair flights.
UK-France: The bar was open! It’s also nice to sit down, people watch and use the free wifi which is available throughout public areas. The barman had a mask on and card payments are preferred over cash payments. Masks must be worn when moving around the bar area but can be removed whilst you are in your seats drinking.
The shop wasn’t open when I went to have a look, however there was a sign outside saying the opening times were:
I think it was around 7pm when I went to look, so I must have missed it being open. It definitely looked as though it was running though as there was a glass screen around the counter and arrows on the floor directing passengers.
Just like the other day, all other facilities (minus the self service restaurant) were closed.
What was the procedure in the self service restaurant?
Before entering the self service restaurant on board the Brittany Ferries Mont St Michel car ferry we were advised to wash our hand with the hand sanitiser at the entrance. Wearing a mask is obligatory whilst moving around the restaurant (and actually, around all public areas), but of course we were allowed to remove them in order to eat.
France-UK: Our crossing was at breakfast time so we headed down during our allotted time to see what was on offer. The pain au chocolates and croissants were bagged up in individual brown paper bags. I assume this is to stop cross contamination between customers. The full english breakfast was served up by the kitchen staff and the Brittany Ferries worker behind the counter was surrounded by a plastic screen. Card payments are advised and very much preferred.
I think we saw one, maybe 2 other people in the restaurant during this journey. It was really quiet so there was no problem with finding a table even though, In the seating area, every other table was cordoned off with tape and the seats removed to enable families to maintain social distancing.
UK-France: This time the self service restaurant was a lot busier. I went at around 4pm to get a drink from the machine and there were around 6 families there but at 8.30pm almost every table was full. However, there was enough room and everyone was safely distanced thanks to the cordons in place.
What are the safety procedures on board Brittany Ferries After Lock Down?
The leaflet we received at check in gave us all the details on what is expected of us during our voyage and what safety procedures are in place for us on board the Brittany Ferries car ferry post lock down. These were based on a “protect yourself, protect others” thesis.
- Masks must be worn at all times in public areas including the parking garage
- Wash your hands regularly and use the provided hand sanitisers (we saw lots of these dotted around during our travel).
- It’s recommended to stay in your cabin/reserved seat as much as possible
- Respect physical distancing guidance in all public areas
- Fresh sea air is provided in all public areas including cabins
- Enhanced cleaning with virucidal cleaners to take place between sailings
- New safety protocols throughout all public areas
- On board health service will see you if you develop any covid symptoms and they even have a designated isolation area.
- Payment by credit or debit card is recommended
Were Brittany Ferries Staff Accommodating With Regards to the Post Covid Lock Down Rules?
France-UK: We found the Brittany Ferries staff fantastic during our sailing. They went above and beyond to help us get our head around the new measures in place. They were not rude if you didn’t understand and seemed very considerate of the situation. They all wore masks and we saw them regularly using the hand sanitisers available.
UK-France: If I’m honest, I hardly saw anyone. The ones I did meet (the bar man, the garage workers and the staff in self service restaurant) were all wearing masks and were nice and friendly. But, I have to be honest I was disappointed with the amount of staff around the boat. I definitely thought there would be a few people walking the floors ensuring that rules were being followed and that everything was maintained. Perhaps they were, maybe I just missed them.
Can Foot Passengers Use the Ferry?
At the time of writing, foot passengers were unable to use the Brittany Ferries service. However, I believe that has all changed now and they are once again ok to sail.
Other Helpful Brittany ferries Hints and Tips:
Usb plugs, British Plugs and European plugs are available for use throughout the Mont Saint michel car ferry and these were not cordoned off.
Definitely get a cabin (I did think they were obligatory but now I’m not sure) if you have young children that need to nap. I can’t imagine not having one now we have a baby.
Learn how to turn your cars alarm off. When boarding you are advised to switch off the engine, park in first gear, lock car and turn off the alarm.