Portsmouth-Bilbao Ferry Crossing – Spain & Portugal Tour 2009

We recently completed a month-long motorhome tour of Spain & Portugal. Now we’re back in the real world, I thought I would share with you some of the highlights of our 2,800 mile trip.

The trip started with a long journey from the north of England down to Portsmouth. In fact, UK driving to and from the ferry accounted for 600 of our 2,800 miles. We’d decided to treat ourselves to P&O’s Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry crossing – something my wife had wanted to try for ages – and cut out the drive through France.

The Pride of Bilbao is a roll-on, roll-off ferry, so no awkward reversing required
The Pride of Bilbao is a roll-on, roll-off ferry, so no awkward reversing required

This ferry crossing takes around 36 hours and leaves Portsmouth in the evening, giving you two nights and a full day on board and arriving in Spain on the morning of the third day.

Our cabin on the Pride of Bilbao - small, but perfectly formed!
Our cabin on the Pride of Bilbao - small, but perfectly formed!
Sunset at sea - leaving Portsmouth on day one
Sunset at sea - leaving Portsmouth on day one

Having expected a day of boredom on day 2, we discovered that the Bay of Biscay is home to one of the most diverse selections of dolphins and whales in the world. P&O run a scheme in conjunction with the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme, a charity which monitors and campaigns to preserve these endearing and often endangered species.

Whale watching information board on the top deck of the Pride of Bilbao
Whale watching information board on the top deck of the Pride of Bilbao
The top deck of the Pride of Bilbao - perfect for whale watching (or giant chess!)
The top deck of the Pride of Bilbao - perfect for whale watching (or giant chess!)

Following an interesting presentation from the charity’s on-board wildlife officer, Clive Martin, we spent much of the afternoon on deck waiting for a sighting, although to be fair he did say that the best chances would not be until after 4pm as the ship entered deeper water (as in 1000m+).

We saw some dolphins and narrowly missed some pilot whales
We saw some dolphins and narrowly missed some pilot whales

In the event, we saw a few dolphins and narrowly missed seeing some pilot whales, just as we had given up and gone in for our tea…

The third day started early(ish), and by 0830 Spanish time (0730 UK), we were rolling off the ferry into the port area of Bilbao. There was some morning traffic, but the port is close to the motorway and navigation is fairly easy and well signposted. Once away from the city, traffic dropped to normal Spanish levels – i.e. almost none.

Ready to roll - disembarking from the Pride of Bilbao
Ready to roll - disembarking from the Pride of Bilbao

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