Like the Eurotunnel, and Eurostar, you have to be at the port at least 30 minutes before your ship is due to sail, otherwise you won’t be on board. To be honest, once you’re lined up, ready to board, the time goes by relatively quickly, and before you know it, you’re driving on. The crews are very experienced at handling loading and unloading, with the spaces not too tight.
Once you’re parked, you have to remember to take absolutely everything you need with you, as you won’t be seeing your car again until the ship arrives in Calais, France in around an hour and a half. As you leave your car, just like parking at Disney, make a note of where you’ve parked. Fortunately there are no row numbers or characters to remember here, just a color, which makes life a lot easier.
There are elevators to take you up to the passenger decks, but with so many people swarming on board at one time, there tends to be a long wait for them, and taking the stairs, if it’s an option, will be much quicker. Every ferry differs slightly, as we found out during our recent couple of trips. We were lucky enough to be on one of the brand new P&O ferries, Spirit of France, and this really is a new generation of traveling.
We were blown away by the images of Paris in glass, and the sleek appearance of the ship. In truth, the facilities on this ship were very similar to those on the earlier ships, but it just felt much more new, and had a fresh look to it. It’s a bit like when you get a new ride at Disney, and suddenly the others around it look that little bit older.
Each ship comes with a food court-style restaurant that doesn’t serve bad-quality food, although like any space with a captive audience, you’re going to be paying theme park prices for it. There’s also a more upscale restaurant, although with a "buy one, get one free" offer on breakfast in the food court, we couldn’t be persuaded away from that. By the time of our return trip in the evening, we were already pretty stuffed from the amazing food we’d sampled in France and Belgium earlier in the day.
Of course, there’s also a bar, and a family bar area, which is a nice touch for those with children. Along with some basic amenities, such as a currency exchange and a cafe, there’s the obligatory duty-free shop. In days gone by, before duty-free limits were abolished within Europe, the British were well known for their one-day booze cruises across to France to stock up on cheap wine, and that’s still very much part of the day.
The other lovely part of our sailings that we really enjoyed were the views. It’s only around 25 miles from Dover to Calais, and on a good day, you can see from one side of the English Channel to the other. The famous White Cliffs of Dover are an amazing sight to be seen from the water, and one you just have to photograph. Sadly, and this is not intended to be an anti-French comment at all, despite the British’s well known love of our neighbors, the vista that greets you as you arrive in Calais just can’t compare.
The ferry crossing is a lot of fun, and it’s a pleasant break for anyone who has to drive a long distance at either end of the crossing. However, nice as it is, if you’re not great sailors like us, you may need to pick your dates carefully. We were very lucky, and ended up with near-millpond conditions, but in more of a swell, I’m not sure I’d have been so keen to be on that ferry.
The other issue is the time that the crossing takes, particularly on the way over, as you're already losing an hour when you move from the UK to Europe, which is ahead of Greenwich Mean Time by an hour. On our first trip, we were on one of the first sailings of the day, but despite that early start, we still weren’t on French soil until after 10:00 am local time, which felt like we’d already lost a lot of the morning. With a three-hour drive to Disneyland Paris still to come, time is very precious.
So would I use the ferry to head to Disneyland Paris in the future? I’m not sure if I would. As enjoyable as it was, I don’t know that I want such a slow crossing, and to take the risk of being sick on the way over. I think I’ll probably end up being a coward, and opting for the tunnel for our next foray to the magic, but for a more relaxing way to cross the channel, I have to admit, you can’t beat the ferry.
Note: If you are interested in learning more about going to Disneyland Paris, check out our 204-page e-book, PassPorter's Disneyland Paris by Sabine Rautenberg.
Ferry to Calais - looking back to the UK
The famous white cliffs of Dover, as seen from the ferry to Calais. - photo by chezp
About the Author: Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!
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