Booking with P&O Ferries
Once you have decided to book P&O Ferries you can go directly to their website to book.
To get the best deals, you need to book off-peak and even better, book as early as possible. The later you leave it, the more expensive it will get. All the ferry companies are full on many days during the summer months, Easter, and the Christmas and New Year period, so plan ahead to save money. If you leave it too late, often the only remaining option is the Eurotunnel, which can be really expensive.
It has to be said that if you are taking the ferry to France, it’s well worth tackling the busy M25 and M20 roads at the crack of dawn, instead of leaving it to what many call a “sensible hour”. Not only do you save the stress involved with the possibility of missing your crossing, but you will be rewarded with lower fares too. This is particularly true of P&O Ferries.
If you are driving from say, the north of England, or Wales, I would recommend driving the evening before, and staying at a farm bed and breakfast anywhere in Kent. I have been laughed at over and over about this, but anyone who has tried it has been quick to thank me for this advice. The quality of the accommodation is brilliant, the kids will sleep properly, and above all it’s great value for money. In the morning, you’ll get a proper, home-cooked breakfast, and you’ll be ripe for another day’s driving to your holiday place.
If you are driving from London, like I did, you’ll need no reminding that tackling the Elephant and Castle at rush hour is plain daft. So leave early, or late in the day – especially on a weekend. If you decide to depart at 12:00 on a Saturday afternoon, then you will have no sympathy from me, you almost deserve to be late.
Arriving at Dover and Boarding the Ferry
Now that you are early for your ferry, you can arrive with casual grace to navigate the Port of Dover for your P&O Ferries check-in, which is about as easy as it gets to find. What’s really clever is that the person in the check-in booth already knows your reservation number by your car registration plate as you pull up. All I heard was “Mr. Phillips is it?” and before I knew it I was handed a boarding ticket, a lane number and I was on my way again. Dead fast.
Something else I strongly recommend is Priority Boarding. Priority Boarding means you get on first, and get off first, which I estimate saves you at least 40 minutes. It only costs and extra £6 or so, and if you decide to go Club Class, you can book it with that. When I parked the car, I literally walked into a lift and I was in the Club Class lounge within two minutes, with complimentary coffee and paper.
Each of the P&O Ferries’ five vessels has a similar layout, with a selection of cafes, bars and restaurant areas. It really is busy at some of these areas, so make sure you get to the port early if you are planning to eat on board without queuing a while. There are two Costa Coffee areas, and a larger canteen area with ample seating. There will always be plenty of space on these ferries for people to sit, besides, on a good day standing outside to wave the white cliffs of Dover goodbye is a rite of passage for many.
At the rear of the boat, there several benches and tables where you can eat a picnic or have a cigarette, making sure you dispose of the cigarette butt in a bin provided and not in sea. Even on a windy day, they are sheltered from the wind by Perspex screens.
If, like me, you’ve completely forgotten to get some Euros before leaving home, you can change money at the Bureau de Change which in my book was reasonably competitive. If you even more money to burn, then go to the duty-free shop to stocked-up with booze, cigarettes or even presents for your hosts.
Club Class, is, in short, travel by armchair. With P&O Ferries’ Club Class you have access to an enormous lounge area where you can literally sit and watch the journey from your chosen armchair or sofa. When you walk in, you hand over your Club Class ticket, take a paper, and before you know it, you have a drink of your choice with some nibbles in front of you. My experience was that the staff there could not be more helpful.
Many passengers, especially drivers, see this part of the journey as a chance to wind down and relax from a long drive to the port. This, along with priority boarding makes travelling by ferry a real luxury. You even have access to a private shower and toilets, which are immaculately clean. If you need to work, then there are five work desks with power points and WI-FI to work from.
You may be in the mood for some food, in which case there’s a bar menu, but if you’re really hungry there’s the Langan’s Brasserie next door, which serves fine food from an a-la-carte menu.
Arriving at Port
An announcement goes out to request drivers to go back to their cars about 10 minutes before disembarkation. Bearing in mind that P&O can carry up to 650 cars, having the chance to get off early can have its advantages – this is where the priority pass really shows its worth. Nevertheless, cars are shown off the vessel safely and quickly and before you know it, you’re on your way.