The grand-dame of the fleet, the Bretagne was the lines’ first cruise ferry and although now more than a quarter of a century old is as fabulous as ever. The style and feel is a nod to a former, glamorous era of sea travel when liners ruled the waves and the unique interior designed by the celebrated Scottish artist Alexander Goudie is a worthy tribute to Breton culture.
Portsmouth to St Malo is the most convenient route for us; it’s a busy one and well served by the Bretagne, bobbing back & forth every 12 hours for most of the year save a month or so in the winter when she has a rest and the flagship Pont Aven takes over.
Surprisingly roomy, the ship can accommodate over 2000 passengers and nearly 600 cars. As we’re frequent travellers we have to keep one eye on the budget so usually book an inside ensuite cabin which although small are well-equipped and more than adequate for a one night crossing. It’s probably against all the regulations but rather than one of us enduring the torture of the ladder to ‘top bunk’ we usually drag the mattress off onto the cabin floor (always remembering of course to put it back again to save the crew the task). During high days and holidays we’ll treat ourselves to the rather special Commodore Class accommodation and travel in style!
There are two main restaurants on board, Les Abers offers superb fine dining and La Baule is perfect for when you just fancy a quick meal, Steak Frites being a firm favourite. Both restaurants also serve breakfast or for something lighter there is the Cafe – La Gerbe de Locronan.They all have one thing in common though – great service and hospitality.
Of course no trip would be complete without a little tipple and we’ve spent many happy hours in the Yacht Club Piano Bar, it’s stylish, relaxing and perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail or when we take the day sailings we’ve found that it serves the best coffee onboard which you can take straight out onto the deck to enjoy the fresh sea air and soak up some sun…
After dinner it’s entertainment time in the Gwenn Ha Du cabaret bar; acts we’ve seen include some talented magicians and great singers; Lone Pepper Duo being the best yet. Just occasionally you get the odd turn that really isn’t very good, but even that adds to the fun of it all!
Two boutique cinemas with comfortable raked seating show a good selection of movies – a blessing during the daytime crossings which feel longer as you don’t have the break of a night’s sleep.
There are no less than 5 shops onboard; a Travel Shop for the all important gadgets and gizmos, maps and books; a handy Newsagent Kiosk; a tiny luxury goods Boutique; the main store sells the inevitable giant Toblerones, wines, beers spirits and a small range of clothing and finally the very fragrant Perfumery, great for gifts or just topping up supplies and cheaper than the High Street.
We usually make about a dozen trips a year and always look forward to the ferry crossing which also marks the start of some precious time off; naturally the Bretagne is showing a few signs of wear and tear, but for us this is one of the attractions; compare if you like to going home and popping on a pair of favourite slippers; comfy, reliable and totally relaxing!
It will be a sad day when this wonderful ship is retired from the fleet but rumours abound that the route may then be operated by the current flagship and rather stylish Pont Aven… not too soon though please!