Dover to Calais is like a bus route with buses of various companies covering the route. The problem is which one to choose!!!!!
Having just completed the return crossing with award winning DFDS I have to admit at being impressed. Arriving at Dover the Delft Seaways was already at her berth awaiting my arrival. Through customs and onto the ship to be welcomed by smiling members of staff certainly makes for a good start. Carrying up to 200 cars and nearly 800 passengers this ship ply’s her trade on the Calais – Dunkirk route several times a day. Decks 4 and 5 are for lorries and cars whilst the passenger area is spread out over decks 6 and 7. Up to deck 6 where the passenger is presented with the ships reception desk, bureau de change, ‘Food Express’ which as the name implies is fast food outlet together with ‘Cuppa Joe’s Café Bar’ & La Veranda, a comfortable bar with large picture windows giving views over the sea. Children are not forgotten and have their own play area and for those wanting to purchase bottles of alcohol or perfumes and after shaves there is the ‘Sea Shop’.
Move up to deck 7 and ensconce yourself in the Sea View Lounge, a premium lounge that allow passengers for just £8 per person to travel in true comfort, enjoy complimentary hot & cold drinks, complimentary fruit & biscuits, TV, free Wi-Fi & plug points and the latest newspapers. Furnished with comfortable chairs and settee’s this really is the way to travel.
Two hours later we are arriving into Dunkirk with the sun still shining and the temperature a couple of degrees higher. Here in Dunkirk DFDS has its own newly opened passenger terminal occupying 2 floors built with passenger comfort in mind.
It’s now time to make our way to Calais for the highlight of the day, the inaugural sailing of the latest DFDS acquisition, the Cote de Flandres but first some sights of Calais. 40 minutes later we are met by a representative of the Pas-de-Calais tourist board who takes us to the Museum of Lace and Fashion. An exhibition laid out in galleries over 3 floors giving the visitor a trip through the history of lace making in the region. This is a place to linger over the lace weaving looms, admire the magnificent designs that have been part of the fashion scene for many decades. Open every day with the exception of Tuesday and bank holidays with an entrance fee of 7Euro. Now for us, back to the coach for a further tour of the city showing there is much more to Calais than a trip to stock up on wine for that special occasion. Did you know that for 5 Euro you can take a lift to the top of the famous Calais Town Hall from where on a clear day you can see the white cliffs of Dover, no neither did I.
Arriving in the busy harbour area and the Cote de Flandres has not yet berthed from her final sea trials that have been carried out over the last several days. Eventually there is a rush forward of photographers and well wishers as the Cote de Flandres quietly glides onto her berth. A large ship, nearly 34,000 gross tons, over 600 feet long, 91 feet wide and capable of transporting 1900 passengers 120 lorries or 700 cars across the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel at up to 24 knots. The forward loading doors open and gradually the freight mix of large lorries and small cars are driven on board to be absorbed onto the vast vehicle decks. I wonder how many realise they are on the ships first passenger carrying voyage with DFDS.
Having been totally refitted the Cote de Flandres as to be expected is in pristine condition. The hull and superstructure in the new DFDS livery reflect the rays of the setting winter sun and even the floor of the car deck is gleaming. With the refit has come refinement, ‘Road Kings’ a dedicated area for commercial drivers who are an important part of the DFDS operation. A modern restaurant for hot meals, shower facilities, areas for relaxation including recliner chairs and an open deck space. The car or walk on passengers are extremely well catered for, the new 7 Seas Restaurant with a comfortable mix of rounded and dining chairs in pale greens and browns accompanied by light pastel shades of off white and creams highlighted by large picture windows makes for a delightful bright and airy dining venue. On the deck below is the Horizon Snack Bar with modern moulded chairs and again decorated in light pastel colours with views of the sea. For the children, Pirates Island, a safe play haven encompassed with soft walls and barriers to protect against injury. Having eaten visit the Sea Shop, a vast area selling fragrances, alcohol, confectionary and much more. For the passenger who just wants to travel in peace and serenity there is always the Sea View lounge for a small additional charge. Large comfortable chairs and settee’s, free wi-fi, snacks, newspapers and commanding views of the sea.
Carsten Jensen, senior vice president at DFDS, comments; “We are always striving to ensure that customers are at the heart of everything we do. Our new Calais ships, which are purpose-built for the Channel, form a key part of our commitment to provide customers with a high quality, frequent and reliable cross Channel ferry service.”
So why should prospective passengers choose DFDS? Max Foster, passenger director says there are 3 main reasons. One, they have the youngest fleet of ships operating the routes across the Channel, Two, they pride themselves on punctuality and reliability, and Three, their customer service.
Certainly my two trips on the DFDS ships proved an enjoyable experience. From the moment of being welcomed on board by smiling staff members to disembarking at both ports made this a memorable crossing of the English Channel, twice.
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
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