Until recently, all of my channel crossings have been with P&O Ferries. It’s always seemed a reasonably decent and competitively-priced service, albeit with the same criticisms that seem to apply to all ferries these days:
- Lack of outside space
- Lack of indoor seating that isn’t in an eating place or bar
One of P&O’s best features, however, is that (in our experience) when you turn up a bit early at Dover or Calais, they will always just book you onto the next available ferry, no questions asked and with no extra costs.
This always struck me as a good deal for both parties – they’ve got space to fill on a ship that’s sailing anyway and I won’t have to kill time at Dover/Calais.
… vs. Sea France
We did discover one rather annoying difference. If you turn up early at Dover or Calais, Sea France won’t book you on the next available ferry unless you pay extra for them to do so. We turned up about 4 hours early at Calais on the way home (we’d had a long run up to Calais and didn’t want to cut it fine) and ended up caving in and paying £17 to book an earlier crossing rather than spend half the evening killing time in Calais (I’d forgotten what a dump it is…)
It wasn’t because the ferries were busy, either – ours was barely half full.
I don’t know if some ticket types do offer flexibility – ours were just booked through the Sea France website and were ‘normal’ as far as I know.
P&O and Sea France compete intensively on the same route, so it’s no surprise that the service they offer and the ferries they operate are broadly similar, as are their prices.
P&O’s apparent greater flexibility tips the balance for us, and we’ll be sailing that way next time (unless I can find some cheap Eurotunnel tickets – I’d like to try the tunnel and it’s quicker).
Do you have a favourite crossing route? Let me know by leaving a comment below.