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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond

Brittany Ferries


Plymouth - Santander - Plymouth

March 27 - 29, 2005

Photographs © John H. Luxton 2005

Some people might be wondering what a Voyage Report for the PONT-AVEN is doing on the Irish Sea Shipping web site. Well it’s quite simple, the PONT-AVEN sails the Celtic Sea, visits Ireland weekly and Plymouth several times a week, all places within the Irish Sea Shipping coverage area. Consequently, there exists sufficient grounds to include a voyage report. It also presents the opportunity to make comparisons with operations Irish Sea operations that I am familiar with.

When the PONT-AVEN entered service in 2004 she received rave reviews in the press and appeared to perform well until she blotted her copy book with a few technical problems, including the taking of a significant amount of water! However, these problems now appear to be behind her and hopefully she should settle down this year and have a successful season. 

It was on April 07, 2004 I watched PONT-AVEN return to Plymouth after undertaking an overnight press launch cruise. Later that same day I watched her depart from a vantage point on the cliffs of east Cornwall near Picklecombe Fort. This day has rather painful memories as whilst photographing her departure I was bitten by a critter lurking in the long grass which left me with a painful and very swollen leg for a couple of weeks!

This year I decided that it was time to break out from my usual Irish Sea sailing area. In the past I have sailed on BALMORAL, WAVERLEY, SCILLONIAN III and other small ferries and excursion vessels in the south and south west of the UK. However, I have never yet crossed the channel by sea. My two previous visits to mainland Europe had been by air on school trips in the mid to late 1970s! However, a few years ago I decided to renew my passport with a view to eventually sailing further a field.

I booked the PONT-AVEN trip on the Brittany Ferries web site. The booking system works well and one is given a choice of cabins. I was travelling with my father and opted for a four berth outside cabin which costs more but is worth it. On a couple of occasions when sailing overnight on the Irish Sea I have ended up with an inside cabin. These I find totally disorientating and virtually impossible to sleep in – I need a window!

When one books on line with Brittany Ferries a booking confirmation is sent by return. A while later the company sends an “e-ticket” in PDF format which you must print out. It is bar coded for scanning and the issuing of boarding passes. Excursion passengers also present their ticket when obtaining breakfast as it includes a credit of £5.50 – more than enough for a self service breakfast and it can be used as a credit towards the buffet breakfast in the Le Flora restaurant.

As I had spent a few nights staying on Dartmoor I ensured I was down on Plymouth Hoe fairly handy at around 12:15 to photograph the PONT-AVEN's arrival. The PONT-AVEN’s scheduled arrival time from Roscoff was 13:30. However, shortly after 12:30 a booming ship’s whistle caught my attention.

Running out of the haze and passing the breakwater lighthouse in the Western Channel approach to Plymouth Sound was PONT-AVEN. After she passed by Grand Parade and I had photographed her swing and going astern into Millbay Docks berth #2, I drove round to the passenger terminal.

Now whilst I have passed Millbay Docks many, many times I have never been up to the passenger terminal. However, I discovered that parking was easy and conveniently close to the building.  Parking prices were reasonable at £3.50 per day.  One wonders how Mersey Docks can justify £5.00 per day at Heysham and can't even provide a passenger car park at Liverpool!

Passengers enter the substantial Millbay Passenger terminal at ground level and ascend via and escalator, stairs or lift to the ticket office and check in desk.

The upstairs departure lounge is not unlike that at Dublin in configuration. Where it differs is that, like Douglas the lounge is in an open public area. There is a buffet, which appears to do hot snacks etc. Interestingly the terminal has a viewing balcony overlooking the berth.

Unfortunately security mesh makes photography difficult with cameras with pro diameter lenses. Small point and shoot cameras and compact digicams have no problems. Fortunately I had recently upgraded my phone. The new phone came with a built in camera a feature which I had not found a use for. However, its tiny lens conveniently fitted through the mesh! Apologies for the quality of this shot!

I wondered how long it would be before boarding commenced. Being used to the sometimes last minute boarding arrangements practiced by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company it came as something of a shock at around 14:30 when it was announced that embarkation would commence. Doors were opened and passengers were led downstairs to a security check point.

Security checking was performed on a sample basis, and my father and I were waved through unchecked.

Exiting the building there is a covered walkway which leads to the bottom of the steps leading to the ship's gangway. There is a gap he covered walkway protected by barriers to keep passengers separate from discharging vehicles.

Not knowing what to expect I imagined there would be a lengthy queue for cabin key cards as I have encountered when travelling with Norse Merchant Ferries and Irish Ferries. However, when presenting my ticket at the reception desk I was pointed in the direction of my deck 6 cabin. and informed that cabin keys were to be found in the cabin and the doors were unlocked.

Despite having studied deck plans of the ship, albeit without cabin numbers prior to the trip, I managed to get lost. Finding myself outside again at the stern, I was spotted by one of the officers and who pointed me in the right direction. My father and I were soon in the cabin and located the quay cards in the holder by the door. The cabin locks are electronic, made by Messerschmitt a company more usually more associated with aircraft! You have to swipe the cards at just at the correct speed to unlock the doors. A problem which appeared to be facing the occupants of the adjacent cabins until the developed the knack of how to do it correctly.

The cabin was spacious being configured for day time use. One bed folded to the wall, the other converted in to its day time role as a sofa. If used by four people the upper two bunks fold down from the deck head. When not in use they are retracted completely out of the way and are invisible apart from the recessed release catches.

The outside standard 4 berth cabins offer quite a lot of space for two people travelling together but I briefly dropped the two upper berths and found that there was very little space should four people try to use these cabins. Four adults would surely feel rather uncomfortable!

The cabin was impeccably well turned out. There is a small clock radio which is tuned into three channels with a choice for every taste, well almost!

There are two power points [remember the continental adapters!] a luggage rack, desk with reading light, mirror and a chair as well as a WC/shower cubical.

The window is a port hole, but it is huge! As the cabin was located on deck 6 the exterior promenade deck runs past the window. However, heavily the tinted windows restrict views into the cabins from outside. Lights either side of the window double as bedside lights when the beds are in position.

It should also be noted that the cabins on PONT-AVEN are well sound proofed. No noise appeared to enter from the occupied cabins either side or from the Fastnet Bar above.

The sleeping berths also appear to be well anchored. I recall a night spent on DAWN MERCHANT a few years ago when a noisy and constantly moving passenger in an adjacent cabin kept disturbing me. Each time they moved on their berth my berth appeared to move suggesting that there existed only a thin partition and possibly a common framing. None of this was apparent on the PONT-AVEN.

After settling in it was time to explore the ship. During the past year much has appeared in print about the PONT-AVEN and the facilities on board. I will not give a deck by deck account of facilities as these have been well covered in previous accounts.

I started a top down approach to my exploration commencing on the top deck 11 and working down. Open deck space on the PONT-AVEN is copious. There are free to use binocular telescopes dotted around.

Benches to sit on and a large number of plastic deck chairs can be found for use if the weather is nice.  At the time boarding it was hazy but warm and quite a few passengers were making good use of the chairs.

On the topmost deck – 11 there is a sheltered area above the bridge protected by glass screens designed to the wind. A long bench seat can also be found here.  Deck 10 is located behind the funnel this is where the ship's kennels are located as well as open deck space available for dog walking.

On Deck 9 the swimming pool bar which is towards the forward end of the ship has large sliding patio windows which can be pushed right open on a fine day.

It was whilst exploring this area that I discovered that the ship stocked Laphroaig Whisky! Reasonably priced too compared to some bars! There is one way to my heart and that is a good supply of this peaty Islay Malt!!

Whilst I had been enjoying the whiskey I realised that I had left my binoculars in the cabin and went to retrieve them. Good job I did, as I discovered a long queue had formed at the desk in the Fastnet Piano Bar for Le Flora Restaurant tickets.

I joined the queue and waited. Fortunately I received my ticket just before the PONT-AVEN's deep whistle blew to announce departure.

She moved off the berth at 16:05 under the command of Captain Savidou.

Unfortunately the cloud had thickened whilst I was down below. I returned to the top deck 11 for departure and a grand stand view from the part of the deck which does not have the glass screens.

This was the first time I have been able to view the Plymouth waterfront from such a high vantage point, previous journeys in this area have been on the diminutive vessels operating Saltash, Calstock and dockyard sailing's.

PONT-AVEN quickly made her way around Drake’s Island to gain the Western Channel RFA BLACK ROVER and RFA BRAMBLELEAF were at the anchorage.

Rounding Plymouth Breakwater at 16:25 - in the distance I could see Picklecombe Fort on the cliffs near the twin villages of Cawsand / Kingsand from where I had first watched PONT-AVEN depart 50 weeks earlier.

Rame Head was passed at 16:30 and we accelerated away in what appeared to be a south, south westerly direction.

Further exploring of the ship followed, including the extensive shop on Deck 8 well stocked with a range or reasonably priced wares. In range of goods terms the nearest Irish Sea Equivalent is that on board ULYSSES. However, prices in the PONT-AVEN’s shop are very competitive when compared to other operators and there are genuine savings to be had when shopping on board. Tasting sessions for drink and food products are offered at various times – these being announced over the ship’s public address system.

An impressive feature of the PONT-AVEN is the central atrium complete with a pair of glass panelled elevator cars. Whilst these are the two principal elevators there are others around the ship. It should be noted that the PONT-AVEN offers complete access to virtually all areas for disabled passengers. The only area which appears non accessible to disabled passengers is the upper open deck 11 and the other upper open deck - deck 10 where the kennels and dog walking area is located. 

Time rapidly clicked by and soon it was time to present ourselves at the doors of La Flora Restaurant for the first 18:15 sitting. Advice from other Brittany Ferries travellers revealed that the best meal option was the buffet which is £18.50 per head.  Before the doors opened I could see the well stocked buffet and what a selection of food there appeared to be!

Just before opening time the chief steward appeared and wandered out of the bar to the baby grand piano located in the adjacent Fastnet Piano Bar, on opening a box at the side, the Piano went off playing a repertoire of music on its own much to the bemusement of myself and several other passengers. A broad grin on the steward’s face as he walked back into the restaurant suggested that he was aware that the piano must be something of a talking point amongst first timers!

At 18:15 prompt the doors were opened. My father and I were shown to our tables by a cheery oriental waiter.

We told him we were opting for the buffet, ordered a bottle of wine and went off to help ourselves.

What a delightful offering of goodies, including salmon, prawns, langoustine, meats, olives, egg mayonnaise, etc.

My father and I both ordered beef served with vine tomatoes for the main course which is waiter served, this was nicely presented and tasted fine.

Course three was a selection of French cheeses. Again help yourself. Had to try a bit of each!

The fourth and final course was followed by dessert I opted for the fresh fruit salad again very tasty.

However, observing the actions of other diners at the buffet it was interesting to consider what I had helped myself to was somewhat modest by comparison to the mounds of food they were heaping up on their plates!

Dinner took around 2 hours and was delightfully unhurried. Batches of diners were fed into the restaurant as the evening progressed. It was quite full when my father and I left shortly after 20:20. Just before leaving the waiter who was serving in our area came out with a small birthday cake with candles singing “Happy Birthday” and presented it to a chap on an adjacent table amid applause from other diners – a nice touch.

It was then time to get my jacket and go for a constitutional around the decks, which by now were almost completely deserted, apart from some dog walkers exercising their hounds in the area behind the funnel.

Visibility was still only moderate; however, my mobile phone had switched from the on board system to Orange France which suggested we were close to the Brittany coastline. As lights could be seen I reckoned that our position was between the mainland and Île d’Oussant.

At around 22:00 I returned with my father to the piano bar where the piano was now actually being played by a member of the crew rather than running on "auto pilot".

After a few of bottles of Normandy Cider it was time to turn in. My father and I had considered watching the Aviator movie in the cinema which we passed on the way to our cabins however, given that it wasn't due to start until 23:00 and had a running time of 160 minutes we decided to wait for the DVD release and retreated to the cabin.

There had been some motion whilst we were away and we discovered that some towels had fallen off the towel rack and down the toilet pan! Fortunately only the bottom one becoming wet and with an ample supply provided there was no danger of actually running out.

I woke up around 06:15, and about 06:45 I started for a tour of the ship which was just waking up.

One of the problems of night travel on the Irish Sea is the number of passengers who sprawl around the passenger accommodation on night crossings. With almost all of the PONT-AVEN's passengers either in cabins or the ships Pullman lounge it was pleasing to find only one "vagrant" huddled in a sleeping bag on a seat in bar.

Venturing up to the swimming pool area, the water had obviously been swilling around during the night, and some had clearly splashed out. Outside I noticed the rain which had become apparent the previous evening had gone off.

However, whilst standing at the stern I suddenly became aware of what at first I thought was rain, but looked up to discover it was a crewman on a higher deck hosing down the deck.

Wandering around I now became aware that quite a few crew had appeared on deck and were setting up hoses to clean their areas.

At around 07:45 I returned to Le Flora Restaurant for breakfast.

The excursion fare to Santander includes a £5.50 credit towards breakfast. The Buffet breakfast costs £9.20 but is well worth the extra.

In addition to the coffee / tea brought by the waiter one has a sumptuous buffet to help oneself to. I decided it would be more cost effective to eat for lunch now and made sure I had my fill as others were plainly doing!

Muesli, followed by smoked salmon and ham and boiled eggs, then the usual "fry up" presented buffet style. To date the previous best breakfast experience I have encountered is the buffet offering at the Sefton Hotel, Douglas, which is excellent. However, this was incredible!

By the time my father and I had completed a leisurely breakfast which took about an hour visibility had improved and the coast of northern Spain was visible, the sunlight catching the snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Cantabrica. We spent some time watching it get closer from the forward shelter area at the bow.

As we approached Santander it was time to go up on to decks 9 and 11 for a grandstand view of our approach. Most of the passengers had decided to do likewise. However, so vast is the PONT-AVEN's open deck space it was not difficulty to move between various vantage points something which can be frustratingly difficult on smaller ships.

Off the coast at the entrance to Santander's natural harbour "Bahia de Santander" could by seen the low air draught Russian freighter with a name which looked like NADYN.

Running into the harbour the PONT-AVEN passed the Isla De Mauro crowned by its lighthouse. A local guide relates that is was automated as early as 1921 due to the keeper's accommodation being untenable in bad weather.

PONT-AVEN was soon abeam of the Magdalena Peninsula. This is crowned by Palacio de la Magdalena, which was presented by the town in 1977, having been built as a summer retreat by King Alphonso XIII.

A pilot boat passed by heading outbound at 10:02.

As PONT-AVEN ran along the waterfront a bucket dredger DRAGA LORETO could be seen in the Gamazo Dock this is apparently preserved by Puerto de Santander and is rather like similar vessels which have operated on River Mersey in the past.

As the ship approached the terminal clear instructions were given to excursionists advising every one to be back at the Sea Terminal at 13:30 BST to ensure people didn’t miss the sailing which was at 14:30 BST or 15:30 local time.

During breakfast someone had been round the cabins occupied by excursionists hanging on the door handle a yellow plastic card.

This card informs the cleaners who board at Santander and the onboard crew that passengers will be returning to these cabins. One is therefore able to leave travel bags etc behind.

The PONT-AVEN swung round to face back towards the sea and berth bow on to the ramp. As PONT-AVEN swung the familiar lines of an Arklow freighter could be seen about a mile away. Ropes were on at 10:25 and the gangway a few minutes later.

However, there was a short delay whilst the shore crew came on board.

At around 10:35 disembarkation commenced after crossing moveable gangway which passes over the exit route for vehicles one enters a short elevated walkway which leads to an escalator, stairs and lift. One descends to a lower level and then down to ground floor level

A short walkway leads to an escalator followed by a short walk to a further escalator which took one down to ground level. We had to queue for a while whilst a sole representative of the Guardia Civil checked passports.

Wandering on to the concourse on the right was the Brittany Ferries ticket office and check-in desk, alongside was the freight office.

There appeared to be other former ticket windows which were blanked off. One set appeared to be used by the Police, whilst the other looked unused. Whilst not a large terminal, in building size say compared to Douglas it is well laid out.

One exits the terminal to be confronted with traffic disembarking the ship by an exit road which passes in front of a building. However a local policeman helped foot pax cross this exit road by stopping the traffic. There were a number of local people handing out leaflets promoting various shops, especially those promoting discount wines and spirits as well as tobacco – certainly enterprising!

Once you have crossed this access road one finds oneself on a landscaped pavement with a water feature and seats immediately in front of the terminal.

My father and I wandered northwards in the direction of the sea and reached the roundabout where the vehicle exit route from the terminal joined the main road at a round about.  A local policeman was directing traffic and helping pedestrians cross with much whistle blowing.

Wandering down the promenade, once past the vehicle marshalling area which does appear luxuriously large for such an infrequent service, one reaches the open quay.

There is a distinctive grey crane known as the "Stone Crane" which is preserved by Puerto de Santander as a local landmark - it was constructed in Leeds and was once used for loading cargos of stone hence the name.

After stopping for a while and admiring the view across the harbour my father and I wandered on a bit further to the former Customs and Excise Offices "Palacette del Embarcadero" now used as an art gallery.

Adjacent to this building is a slipway from which the harbour ferries and cruise boats operated by Los Reginas depart.

Given my non existent knowledge of Spanish and the fact the phrase pages I thought I had thoughtfully downloaded into my pocket PC had for some reason not been saved, I decided to watch but not ride.

It would have been a bit awkward to watch the PONT AVEN sail with my baggage on board. However, observing one of the boats suggested that a quick trip would be possible. So that is something for next time.

There was a small café in the Harbour Ferry terminal building so my father and I decided to have a drink.

On the counter were some unusual bottles of Murphy's Red Beer. In my regular visits to Ireland I hadn't come across this. It tasted very good, but then I discovered why I had not come across it in County Cork - the home of Murphy's - it was brewed in the Netherlands! [I have discovered it is to be launched on the Irish Market in 2005 though has been available on the European Mainland and USA for some time.]

After another wander along the promenade, it was now quite warm and sunny I crossed over to take a look at the attractive Pereda Gardens, dedicated to the memory of a local author. Featuring a bandstand, ornamental pond and a mixture of palm and ordinary trees it also boasted a pavement café and a fairground Galloper Ride.

Nearby was the impressive edifice of the Santander Bank. Further exploration took me down the road to the twin railway stations and around some more side streets.

Glancing across to the ship at around 13:00 [BST] I spotted passengers starting to arrange seats on deck 9 outside the swimming pool.

Venturing back into the terminal I discovered that boarding had been due to commence at 14:00 local time. Given it was nice and sunny I decided to check in again and get back on board.

Boarding at Santander was rather Douglas style - all passengers pass through a metal detector and their bags are x-rayed. This is undertaken by a security guard and Guardia Civil officer.  However, there certainly appeared fewer people involved in this process than the half dozen or so that regularly turn up for security screening at Douglas!

The other Guardia Civil officer who had checked my passport on arrival waved me past and I was soon back on board.

Preceding up Deck 9 it was discovered that the swimming pool had been drained. A notice announced that the swimming pool was closed due to forecast bad weather!

With it warm and sunny and the boarding passengers grabbing deck chairs it was time to stake a claim on some deck space get a Laphroaig and ice and watch the hustle and bustle outside the terminal and the procession of trucks waiting to board from the freight marshalling area on the right.

By now all the plastic deckchairs had been claimed and passengers were removing the wooden chairs from the swimming pool bar, some taking them up to deck 11.

Not surprisingly most of these people showed a distinct reluctance to return them one it became bit chilly and they ventured in doors.

At 15:25 local time the gangway was withdrawn. However the bow doors were not closed until a few minutes later.

Ropes were off at 15:37 and with a long blast on her whistle PONT-AVEN moved astern and swung off the berth.

PONT-AVEN slowly slid out of the harbour passing the Royal Sailing Club which looks appears to boast architecture something akin to a 1930s terminal building.

Up on the hill could be seen the Hotel Real built to accommodate followers of the Spanish Court and now the finest hotel in the city. Continuing out and passing former royal palace we were soon out of the harbour area passing the Isla De Mauro. The Russian freighter was still at anchor, but she had been joined by another two ships. Another unidentified freighter and the UECC car carrier SETUBAL [1978. 20,248 grt]

As PONT-AVEN accelerated to full speed, passengers gradually started to desert the open deck, at a south bound freighter passed by around 1630. By now I had the deck almost to myself. The barman from the swimming pool bar started retrieving the errant chairs which the sun worshippers had conveniently forgot to return.

Whilst my father had retreated into the bar area I remained outside with a Laphroaig refill until around 17:00 when I went for a wander to discover the entire upper deck area completely bereft of passengers.

Of course the reason was not hard to discover. It may have been the increasing cold but more likely the quiz cash bingo which had been called and was taking pace in the main bar area - Le Grand Parvois. Peering down from the deck 11 roof lights almost all seats were occupied by passengers eagerly marking their cards!

Once again I had opted for an 18:15 sitting in Le Flora Restaurant. This time we were lucky and secured a window, though with rain now falling there was noting much to look at than the grey waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Unlike the previous evening when I had been somewhat restrained in my selections I really went to town and followed the actions of the other diners and tried almost everything on offer at the buffet though my father was somewhat more restrained! For the main course my father and I tried the lamb which was nicely served, and then it was off the cheese. Finally, I decided to try just about every other dessert on offer with the exception of the fruit salad which I had had the previous evening.

On the return trip we concluded the meal with coffee. This was served not with sugar lumps but swizzle sticks.

After another wander around outside and some work on the voyage report in the cabin my father and I went off to do some shopping. There were some really good deals on available on a wide range of products. What caught my eye was an offer of three one litre bottles of Laphroaig Malt Whisky for the price of two. With the 1 ire bottles selling for just a little more than their 70cl counterparts found in the shops the extra bottle really was free! I also bought a number of other items which brought my purchases above £50 – this then entitled me to a bottle or red Champagne for half price! With my father also buying some goodies it was clear to see we would need a luggage trolley when disembarking.

After shopping it was back to the Fastnet Piano Bar for drinks, before turning in at around 23:00

I was up fairly early again around 07:00, and went for a wander around the ship. Given our earlier arrival at Plymouth more passengers were stirring. Also given the fact it had rained through the night the crew did not appear to do any deck cleaning.

It was also interesting to note that the bad weather, which had led to the swimming pool being closed, had not materialized, or if it had, it had occurred in the night. There certainly had been some bad weather off Cornwall that evening. Back on shore Radio Cornwall reported that Lizard Lifeboat has been out to assist a yacht during the night with winds at one point almost reaching gale force.

Le Flora Restaurant opened for breakfast again at 07:30 and another superb start to the day was assured. After tidying up the cabin and gathering stuff together I went outside for the final run into Plymouth.

As PONT-AVEN approached the Cornish Coast, visibility remained only moderate to poor. Neither outbound or on return was it possible to see the Eddystone Lighthouse due to poor visibility.

At around 08:35 an RFA Fort Class vessel was spotted, it appeared to be A387 FORT VICTORIA – however, given the poor visibility and the fact that the ship was a good distance off I could not be 100% certain that I had made the correct identification. One of the main nearby binocular telescopes refused to turn in the direction of the Fort Class ship!

At 08:43 Type 23 frigate F229 HMS Lancaster passed outbound quite close by, four minutes later the Swedish Chemical and Oil Products tanker MATVIK followed though she appeared to be setting a course to take her along the Cornish coast.

Water was flowing across the top the Plymouth Breakwater as the PONT-AVEN passed the light house to enter Plymouth Sound by the Western Channel at 08:59.

At this point an officer appeared on deck and asked me to move down to the stern as they rope off the starboard side from the stern to the cabin area access doors prior to arrival

As the PONT-AVEN swung to sail past Plymouth Hoe my father and I vacated the cabin and made our way to the atrium to wait berthing. We were along side at 09:22. It took several minutes to position the gangway and allow the shore crew to come on board. By around 09:35 we were going off via the high-water gangway.

All in all I had been very impressed with the whole experience.

The PONT-AVEN is a superb ship, we have nothing really like it operating on the Irish Sea, though ULYSSES is probably the nearest. However, she lacks the overall passenger space and enhanced facilities found on the PONT-AVEN. ULYSSES retail outlets offer a good range, but not at such value for money prices and neither is her restaurant as competitively priced as that on the PONT-AVEN.

The PONT-AVEN basically offers something for everyone. The ship appears split into two distinct halves when it comes to passenger facilities separated by the atrium. Forward of this area are the livelier and noisier parts of the ship including the swimming pool, the main Le Grand Pavois bar etc. A wide range of entertainment is available in the Le Grand Pavois including live music with a DJ, the ships band which appeared to be playing mainly Jazz tunes and an evening magic show.

An entertainment programme is published daily and available from the information desk.

Aft of the Atrium there are facilities for those who like the quieter things on a journey – the piano bar, restaurant, some quiet seating in an area decorated with artworks and Breton pottery.

Children are well catered for on PONT-AVEN in the provision of a” Kiddies Club” which operates from 16:00 to 19:00 and 20:00 to 22:30. There is also a play room and games facilities. For parents wishing to get away from the offspring there child minding service is available in the evening.   

All PONT-AVEN crew I encountered were cheerful, helpful and very professional.  I felt there was a genuine friendliness that is often lacking in this age of standardized script cards. That is not to say these aren’t used on the PONT-AVEN, however, there are other little things which count. 

What really summed this up and added a final touch occurred whilst disembarking at Millbay. At the bottom of the steps a chap who had been working in the shop the previous evening and with whom my father and I had been speaking said to us as he collected some stores – “Do come back and see us again soon!”

He won’t be disappointed – I am already working out where I can fit my next trip or two in THIS year!

In concluding I would wholeheartedly recommend a trip on the PONT-AVEN either as a means of transport to Spain or just for the pleasure of the cruise in itself.

There appeared to be quite a few regular excursionists on this trip and I am not surprised. With excursion fares starting at just £79 including a £5.50 breakfast credit for each of the days on board a trip on the PONT-AVEN is a mini break in itself.

Go to now and find out more - now!

Departure time from Plymouth is 16:00 and arrival time back is 09:30 – very convenient for those who may travel from the North West of England!

Plymouth Millbay Terminal


Cabin 6410

Linkspan at Plymouth

Plymouth Hoe

Leaving Plymouth Sound


Plymouth Breakwater


Atrium and elevator cars


Fastnet Piano Bar - Le Flora Restaurant [Left]

Deck 11 above bridge










Le Flora Restaurant

Fastnet Bar - the automatic Piano can be seen.


Le Grand Pavois Bar


Swimming Pool

Stern - deck 7 Restaurant Left

Forward shelter deck 6 

View over the bow

Cordillera Cantabrica viewed from shelter deck. 

Approaching Santander

Isla De Mauro

La Magdalena Peninsula King Alphonso XIII Palace can be seen along with Faro de la Cerda

Pilot Boat passes Playa de Biquinis

PONT-AVEN on the berth

Stone Crane and PONT-AVEN 

Naval Memorial to the 1733 Disaster which befell the Treasure Armada off The Florida Keys and resulted in teh sinking of over 20 ships.


Los Reginas Harbour Ferry

Pareda Park

Banco De Santander

Memorial to the victims of the Great Fire of 1941 which destroyed much of the city outside the vehicle entrance to the terminal.


Taking in the sun - deck 9


Estación Marítima 

Swimming Pool and Bar through French Windows.


Theatre Palacio de Festivales which takes its design inspiration from a floating dock at Puerto Chico. DRAGA LORETO can just be seen.


Deck 10 - Dog Promenade 

Deck 9 helideck - deck 10 up steps


High tide sweeps across Plymouth Breakwater.


Picklecombe Fort, Cornwall. One of the forts which guarded the Plymouth approaches.


Back on Berth #2




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