When I first booked a ferry crossing between Spain and England with my two little boys in October 2009, it seemed a daunting task. First, there was the 10-hour drive from Andalucia to reach the port of Bilbao (cue constant child squabbles on the back seat combined with “are we nearly there yet”); a pre-booked hotel near the port that had an unexpected infant supplement; a row over a lost map with their father, who had inadvisably joined the trip.

I remember our crossing on the P&O Pride of Bilbao vessel all too well (fortunately, we could never repeat this fascinating trip as the ship was later renamed the Princess Anastasia and sold off to Sweden).

On this occasion, the Bay of Biscay lived up to its reputation. The sea was rough. Old people were retiring to their cabins to lie down and/or throw up. Kids were being sick on the playroom carpet.

Excited by the curious listing motion of the ship, my ‘little dears’ – then aged one-and-a-half and three years – were rampaging around the self-service restaurant, trying to unplug the electricity supply to the nearby carvery. Old ladies were tutting and meanwhile, their father was defining the meaning of “booze cruise”. I can’t say this crossing was much fun!

Forward to October 2010. This time, I am with the boys (now aged two-and-a-half and four years) on the Brittany Ferries‘ Cap Finistere – a more salubrious vessel than the Pride of Bilbao, which had been withdrawn from service a month earlier.

The ferry is routed via Roscoff for a docking trial, resulting in a 10-hour delay to our arrival in Portsmouth.

Brittany Ferries kindly provided a discount on all food and beverages but, when unleashed into the ship’s eateries, the now bored and hyper kids are climbing on banquettes and upsetting the waiting staff. When I take the errant kids into our four-berth outside cabin, situated directly above the ship’s nightclub bar, they literally bounce off the walls.

Sailing with kids must get better than this surely? The good news is that it does.

Since October 2010, my small family has completed several enjoyable ferry crossings – and the little boys, now aged four-and-a-haf and six years, who have never plummeted the murky depths of “bored on-board” behaviour again.

Child-friendly ferries

During the past two years, we’ve found that the two Brittany Ferries vessels operating between England and Spain – the Pont Aven and Cap Finistere – cater well for single parent families.


Children dipping fingers in the salt water swimming pool
Children dipping fingers in the salt water swimming pool

In 2011, the Cap Finistere was fitted with a kids’ play area on a top deck, conveniently located near the salt water swimming pool and a sunbathing area favoured by adults. Her sister vessel, the larger Pont Aven, also has a salt water swimming pool. Both pools open from mid-April to September, depending on the prevailing weather and sea conditions.

Offering plenty of space to relax on the 24-hour crossing, the Pont Aven has become our top choice for sailing between England and Spain. The vessel includes a cinema, games room, a dedicated kids’ room with soft play area and – during the high season – kids’ activities take place in the nightclub bar. Although we’ve not yet tested this service, the Pont Aven kids’ club starts in mid-May or early June. Costing £4 for an hour or £7 for two hours respite, it enables parents to leave their offspring with the resident hostess, who is experienced at childcare.

Cinema on Pont Aven

The Pont Aven and Cap Finistere both employ a magician. We recently caught up with one of these on the Cap Finistere.  My eldest son became fixated on figuring out his card tricks. The young chap gamely tried to copy a card flourish trick for about 10 minutes, before realising that the magician’s deck was taped together so the cards couldn’t fall. He also won a round of ‘Play your Cards Right’ while Mummy made a bad choice and lost her chance to win a free drink from the bar. All great fun!

The boys have been similarly impressed with on-board activities including balloon animal construction, bingo and quizzes. On high-season crossings, they might also encounter face painting, hair braiding and the viewing of sea creatures.


children eating
Children enjoying a desert

When it’s time to eat, both the Cap Finistere and Pont Aven offer dining options ranging from self-service to a la carte.

On our recent Cap Finistere crossing, we enjoyed the poolside bar/restaurant that serves good-value pizza and burgers for around £8.

On the Pont Aven, our favourite daytime eatery is the comprehensive self-service restaurant that serves everything from salads to cooked meals, with prices starting at approximately £4.

Self-service restaurant on Pont Aven
Self-service restaurant on Pont Aven

More expensive with a two course meal costing £22.50 and a three course meal £28.50, the Pont Aven’s a la carte restaurant, La Flora, is the ideal place for a civilised dinner experience, and the buffet is impressive.

That said, I recall the occasion when my youngest son spoiled the “civilised dinner experience” (and the carpet) by upending a plate of fries smothered with tomato ketchup on to the floor. Single parents travelling with toddlers who haven’t yet refined their table manners could, conceivably, select their food from La Flora and then ask for it to be delivered directly to their cabin.


Boys enjoying the view from the porthole
Boys enjoying the view from the porthole

On the topic of cabins, if you can afford the slightly higher fare, it’s well worth booking a Deluxe or Commodore cabin, instead of a standard cabin with bunks. More like a hotel room, the deluxe cabin provides plenty of space for younger family members to play, as well as offering a TV and DVD player, tea/coffee making facilities and breakfast served to the room. When residing in a bigger cabin, we tend to spend less time strolling around the ship and, in turn, spend less money in food areas and bars. This narrows the price gap between standard and deluxe accommodation somewhat.

For those staying in a standard cabin, a solid piece of advice is: don’t forget your laptop or portable DVD player. Even the most over-excited of small children can be entertained for several hours with a selection of kids’ movies, while you enjoy a well-earned rest during the crossing.

It’s also worth investing in the kids’ snack packs, costing £5.50, that contain reasonably substantial plastic toys. These keep the little ones amused for a while, at least, before they revert to watching ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

Families can obtain the best deals on Brittany Ferries crossings between Portsmouth / Plymouth and Bilbao / Santander by booking early on their website, which shows the cheapest fares.

Helpful hints for undertaking ferry crossings with young children

  • Remember to take their favourite entertainments on board. You can’t go wrong with a Nintendo DS, portable DVD player or laptop loaded with kids’ movies.
  • Remember your continental plug adaptor.
  • Don’t leave vital supplies in your vehicle. Access to the vehicle deck is not permitted after the ship leaves the port.
  • Try to book a larger, premium cabin if possible. That way, you can relax for longer, without the kids bouncing off the walls.
  • Avoid taking messy snacks into a standard cabin as it won’t take long for the cabin to look like a tip. Besides which, snacks are relatively cheap on board.
  • Don’t dose the kids heavily with sugary snacks and drinks if you plan to enjoy their company in a confined space.
  • Don’t forget where you parked your vehicle. You don’t want to be searching for on the lower decks, amongst articulated lorries, while your little ones breathe in the fumes.

23 thoughts on “The Challenges of Ferry Crossing with Children”

  1. London says:

    Hi, very nice website, cheers!
    Need cheap and reliable hosting? Our shared plans start at $10 for an year and VPS plans for $6/Mo.
    Check here: https://www.reliable-webhosting.com/

  2. Generally I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish
    to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it!
    Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  3. tinyurl.com says:

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa?
    My site discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit
    from each other. If you are interested feel free to send me
    an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!

  4. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish.

    nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same
    nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.

  5. This article is genuinely a good one it assists new internet users, who are wishing for blogging.

  6. At this time it appears like Expression Engine is
    the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  7. ps4 games says:

    What’s up, after reading this remarkable post i am too cheerful to share my
    knowledge here with mates.

  8. ps4 games says:

    I like the valuable information you supply to your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and test once more here regularly.
    I’m fairly sure I will be informed many new stuff right right here!
    Best of luck for the following!

  9. Hello, I read your blog daily. Your writing style is witty, keep it up!

  10. My coder is trying to convince me to move to
    .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of
    the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less.

    I’ve been using Movable-type on a variety of websites for about a year and am nervous about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about blogengine.net.

    Is there a way I can import all my wordpress posts into it?

    Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy
    to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a
    significant amount of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  12. Hi, everything is going sound here and ofcourse every one is
    sharing data, that’s in fact good, keep up writing.

  13. ps4 games says:

    May I just say what a relief to find somebody who really understands what they’re talking
    about on the net. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More and more people must read this and understand this
    side of your story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular because you surely have the gift.

  14. ps4 games says:

    Thanks for some other excellent article. The place else may anyone get that type of info in such a perfect approach of writing?

    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the look for such info.

  15. ps4 games says:

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is valuable and all. But think of if you added some great
    photos or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with pics and video clips, this
    site could certainly be one of the most beneficial in its field.
    Great blog!

  16. ps4 games says:

    I was very happy to uncover this great site.

    I want to to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!!
    I definitely appreciated every part of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new
    information on your blog.

  17. ps4 games says:

    Heya superb blog! Does running a blog such as this take a great deal of work?
    I’ve very little expertise in computer programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future.

    Anyhow, if you have any suggestions or tips for new
    blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject however I just wanted to ask.
    Many thanks!

  18. ps4 games says:

    We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a new
    scheme in our community. Your site provided us with useful
    info to work on. You have performed an impressive job and our whole group can be grateful to you.

  19. ps4 games says:

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and also the rest of
    the website is very good.

  20. ps4 games says:

    Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was
    super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted
    and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog
    blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any points for
    first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate

  21. ps4 games says:

    I don’t even understand how I stopped up right here, however
    I believed this submit was once good. I do not recognize who you’re however
    definitely you’re going to a well-known blogger if you happen to are not already.

  22. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest
    but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later.

    Many thanks

  23. Greate article. Keep posting such kind of info on your site.
    Im really impressed by it.
    Hey there, You’ve performed a great job. I will certainly digg
    it and in my view suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.