It was a long and at times worrying journey to Spain on the ferry with Brittany Ferries. The rough sea and weather we faced was enough to turn even seasoned veterans green. We know that because we met them! This was all part of our journey to get to Galgos Del Sol to start our volunteering time.
The 24 hour crossing from Portsmouth to Santander was delayed by two hours because of the weather. Where we were supposed to leave at 5 pm it was actually gone 7 before we set off along the English channel towards Spain, via the Bay of Biscay.
When we arrived at the ferry terminal, excited to reach Spain, drove to a booth that took our reservation details and registration number. They gave us our boarding passes and a ticket to put on display in the windshield. From there we were ushered down to a multi laned waiting area. We were able to get out, stretch our legs and have some lunch before we would board.
Only we could decided to get a ferry to Spain during a Tornado warning! We knew that if Brittany Ferries felt it was too rough to sail that it would be cancelled, however we hoped that we could sail. From the outset we knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant crossing. We have heard too many stories of rough crossings in the Bay of Biscay, or the Bay of certain death as one lorry driver told us!
Map the route
Although we had an idea of the journey we were taking (we had looked into toll roads etc) we took this time to look over the large European map that we had with us and carefully studied the roads we would be using. They all seemed to be main roads and hopefully wouldn’t lead us down narrow lanes!
It was only the day before that we had heard of a van conversion missing a sign for a narrow road. They needed a police escort to get them unstuck and out of the town! We don’t want this to happen to us so it is best to look at a map and not trust the sat nav as she forgets we are larger than a car!
Boarding the ferry to Spain
When prompted, we drove Chewy onto the ferry easily and followed instructions to get her parked. We were able to see her from the decks which gave us great comfort to know we could see her. The ferry was a large one called Cap Finistere. She sails this route on rotation with her other trips from Portsmouth to Bilbao.
After boarding the upper decks where passengers would travel, we were welcomed aboard by the Brittany Ferries crew. All were very helpful in showing passengers around the boat to their cabins. We were located on Deck 7, the same deck as the main bar and restaurant, spa and shops.
A lovely twin room with a TV and an en suite bathroom and shower waited for us as well as a bowl of fruit, complimentary cocktails and sweets in the room. The decor was basic but adequate. A European plug socket was available. It would have been great if we had thought to bring an adaptor but that is a learning curve!
Getting our bearings
Once we had put our overnight bags in the room, we decided to have a look around the ship. We started at the top (deck 10) where we found a play area for children one side and a dog exercise area on the other. A cafe shielded by perspex panels was also situated up here and a set of stairs down to level 9.
From here we could see Chewy from the back of the boat and took a while to watch the view as we sailed into the channel in darkness. The bulk of the cabins were on decks 8 and 9 and the boat was easy to navigate once you had your bearings!
On deck 7, we found a nice bar at the back of the boat with cosy, informal seating areas and tables. Lovely mood lighting and entertainment greeted us there. Getting ourselves a drink, we relaxed here for the evening with live music, bingo and a music quiz. It was much more than we expected as the website said the ferry to Spain was a no frills journey. We were very surprised by the standard of luxury we had.
There was also a fine dining restaurant, an informal cafe, duty free, clothing store and a shop on board. Lounge areas with TVs were located all around the ship so there was plenty of choice and space for everyone.
By that time we were getting tired as it was about 10pm and we had been up since 6am and driven over 400 miles to Portsmouth. We headed off to see if we could get any sleep as the sea just got rougher and rougher.
The weather was awful. The waves were crashing against the boat and we were swaying from side to side. Having taken our sea sickness tablets a few hours ago we were glad of the drowsy side effects. Feeling a bit dopey, we decided to see if we could sleep through it. It felt at times like we were going up in a lift and then being dropped as the boat crested over the massive waves and landed again. It kept us awake worrying about how the van was. Had she fallen over or bounced overboard as they hadn’t strapped the vans down.
A Rough Night on the ferry to Spain
There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t get up and check as they doors would have been locked to the deck for safety reasons. We were also just too drowsy from the tablets. If the boat had started to sink I don’t think we would have been able to do anything about it! It was a very long night of rocking and swaying. It took a long time for us to settle into a proper sleep. Around 10am when we finally woke up the next morning and a quick look on google showed our ferry heading towards Spain, in the Bay of Biscay.
It took us ages to get over the effects of the travel sickness tablets, but I managed to stagger to the bar and order tea and coffee for us to get us going. Although the sea was still choppy it was much better than last night where the waves had been battering our window on deck 7!
We took a walk around the boat and went outside to get some fresh air. A lot of people were grey or green as they all felt sick from the storm. All hanging on to the railings and looking like they had seen better days! Chewy was where she was supposed to be and all looked a bit better in the light of day,
By late afternoon we had almost reached Santander and excitement was brewing about the next stage of our trip. We packed our belongings up and headed for the lounge to relax and wait for instructions. We were delayed coming into the port so pulled up at dusk as the sun was setting.
Santander port is beautiful. With lighthouses welcoming you to the Spanish mainland and a bustling port town with hotels, bars and restaurants all lit up, it look breathtaking against the colours of the Spanish sunset.
It wasn’t long before we were docked and advised we were able to access the garage area to prepare for disembarking via passport control. We were so happy to be getting off of that boat and swore never to do it again!
The crew on board were incredibly helpful and went out of their way to ensure all passengers were happy. Nothing was too much trouble for them and even though they were tired and also feeling the strain of the storm, they delivered an exceptional service.
Would we use Brittany Ferries again? Yes – but on a calmer sea for sure!
About Cap Finistere
The boat was made in 2001, originally being used by a Greek company and transferred to Brittany Ferries in 2010. She is 204 meters long and has a crew of 86.
There are 265 cabins. Enough room for 500 vehicles. Free WiFi in public areas. A cinema, spa, shop, restaurant, multiple cafes and a bar (on 2 decks).
It has pet friendly accommodation and kennels on board for those taking their dogs. There is also a heated outdoor swimming pool in summer months using sea water! If you are going to get the ferry to Spain, it is a lovely boat to travel on!