Sea France vs. P&O Ferries – Which One’s Best?

P&O Ferries & Sea France ships together at CalaisP&O Ferries…

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

In May we went to France and used Sea France for the Dover-Calais crossing. The ferries were pretty similar – similar food, similar shops and similar car decks!

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.

Conclusion

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.

3 thoughts on “Sea France vs. P&O Ferries – Which One’s Best?

  • October 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm
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    We have used SeaFrance for many years now. We have never been charged extra for turning up early at Dover. We have sometimes been charged about £10 if we have turned up early at Calais – usually because it has taken us into a higher ‘band’. We used P&O recently, for a change. Won’t be doing that again: we arrived early for our return crossing and we were charged a massive amount extra to take an earlier boat (about £65). We were told it was because we had booked on the internet and had a special deal. Our SeaFrance bookings have often been of that type but we have never been asked for that much. SeaFrance seem to want to get you on your way – they will receive our custom in future (strikes permitting).

    Reply
    • October 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm
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      Georgina,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to see how your experience is the opposite to ours. I suspect perhaps it does depend on the time of day to a large extent – but we’ve almost always got on an earlier ferry with P&O without charge. We usually buy our P&O tickets directly from the P&O website, so I don’t really know what the answer is!

      We haven’t been on a Dover-Calais crossing this year, so maybe things have changed.

      Regards, Roland

      Reply
  • September 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm
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    weve sailed with seafrance and p&o in the past and both have been very good but personally i would choose seafrance because at the moment i can get my motorhome and my trailer with my VW GOLF on it out there for about odd £127 return as i am going on holiday in a few days but i havent checked p&o maybe i should have done that o well i will still use seafrance in future

    Reply

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