Saturday, 1 October 2011

Cheap Ship Ahoy!

Yesterday I renewed our family's annual Brittany Ferries subscription.  At one time this seemed to buy membership of an exclusive brigade. To join you had to produce paperwork to show that you had a pad on the European mainland.  The company then relaxed the rules to admit those ruffians, like the Lovelygrey family, who only aspire to this dream.  Until recently the  old name, the Property Owner's Club, remained.  However recently it's been rebranded as Club Voyage.  Separate subscriptions normally apply  if you want to access both  French and Spanish routes and receive the maximum discounts although there is some provision for transferring membership between them mentioned in the terms and conditions.  Brittany Ferries France also has its own similar scheme for routes from France to the UK and Cork.  I assume that  the  Irish could take advantage by joining via the French site  given that there is no mention of the club on their own. 

One of the things that  I wanted to highlight was the potential savings associated with this membership, up to 30% off the cost of crossings.  This isn't some vague promise with lots of strings attached.  We often receive this rate.  There's also other benefits too which include free day crossing cabins, restaurant discounts, the captain at your beck and call and a breakfast allowance for each party member that definitely covers the cost of an early morning fry up.  One of these is a lie but I'll leave my intelligent readers to work it out!  With this type of discount joining is sometimes worthwhile even  if you only make one annual return trip.  In our first year, which involved paying an additional one off registration fee we easily recouped the cost on the first motorhome holiday booked.  There's an associate membership scheme too but this  only needs to be considered this if a friend or family member travels abroad independently or take two cars.

The routes to Brittany and Normandy from the South West are more expensive that the cross channel sailings in the South East  because they're longer. For example, Plymouth to Roscoff takes just under six hours on a day crossing.  Compare this to Calais from Dover where you can almost see the mooring berth at the french port as you're leaving Blighty.   To compensate for taking up your time, the ferries are  stylish  and a pleasure to travel on. Onboard costs are reasonable  too. Consider forking out the extra if  cutting the overall driving time to your final destination  comes into the equation. The lengthier but more sedate sea journey is also worth considering if  seasickness has a bearing on the decision.  The only time that Louis has refused chocolate is on another company's bouncy high speed fast service!

However, in case other routes are more convenient or the costs don't weigh up here's some other companies which have their own discount schemes from different British ports. 

Condor Ferries with routes to the Channel Islands and France have a "Frequent Traveller Club".  Annual membership for individuals is £80 which can be upgraded to include a spouse for £28. A group of four adults can join for £160.  The basic deals is 15% discount off bookings and upgraded seats and cabins. 
LD Ferries, Stena Line  and Fastnet Line each have  loyalty schemes that work  similarly to Air Miles.
DFDS, P&O, Seafrance and Eurotuunel all reward purchases of a batch of tickets with discounts, but all having varying conditions. For example DFDS allow their's to be transferrable so a group of friends could all benefit from savings.  Seafrance tickets cover travel costs for up to nine people and the same discounted rate applies to motorhomes.

For all of these option savings are only possible if you make multiple trips.  Could this be the perfect excuse to get away and sample the wonderful treats that our European friends have to offer a little more often?

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