Cross Channel Ferries Review – DFDS Seaways
I recently took a trip by car to Europe (and back) and as promised I used DFDS Seaways and here is my review:
Why did I choose DFDS?
There were two main reasons for choosing DFDS Seaways, these were price & location. There are two ways to take your car to the continent – by ferry or by train (through the tunnel). I ruled out the Channel Tunnel immediately because it was consistently about twice the price of the ferries and when you are on a tight budget a choice between £50 and £100 is a no-brainer. The other ferry alternatives were P&O and SeaFrance, both of these were also more expensive than DFDS. The other point was that as it turned out DFDS Seaways went from Dover to Dunkerque whereas the other choices went to Calais (the tunnel slightly further west of Calais). As I was heading off towards Belgium the option to go to Dunkerque was great because it is closer than Calais. It is also a lot quieter!
Ferries seem to have gone the same way as airlines, that it prices change frequently and without warning! I booked my Dover-Dunkerque ferry about a week in advance and it cost me (car + driver + passenger) £36 to travel on the midday ferry. I thought that this was very reasonable for the time of year. On the return leg I had to book the ferry first thing the same morning (I was in south Germany at the time and had no idea when I would arrive at Dunkerque) and gave myself plenty of time to get there – the ferry was for 10pm. That ferry (same details) cost 56 euros, so more expensive and a less convenient time. I put the change down to middle of August, weekend and same day booking. I have no idea whether this theory is right though.
Checking in was easy. Dover is a busy port but it was clear when we went, Dunkerque was slightly busier but it was a weekend. When we got to Dover we were early and it turns out that we could have got the earlier ferry but it was full. The same happened at Dunkerque, we go there really early, the 6pm was full though but they let us on the 8pm for the same price. This was great because I vaguely remember that the 8pm was more expensive than the 10pm which we booked.
At Dover there was a building which housed the facilities such as food and toilets. I didn’t go into it but if you do make sure you follow the path – it looked very dangerous with lorries moving around all the time. At Dunkerque DFDS Seaways have their own building BUT the cafe and vending machines are only available once you have checked in. They are in the same building as the information desk but you can’t access the upstairs refreshments area from there.
Getting on and off the ferries was straightforward enough and there are plenty of signs to and from the terminals. There are lots of border controls where you will need to show passports but if you are a normal passenger you should be fine. They choose people at random for indepth car checking and most vans are checked to see what is inside.
Onboard the ferries there is all the usual facilities – restaurant, slightly more upmarket and quieter Bistro, a couple of bar areas, shop, childrens’ area, games room, first class area and lorry drivers’ lounge. The main restaurant I wasn’t particularly impressed with. The food was a overdone and not great for the price. The restaurant was too large, it would be much better to have a smaller restaurant and more seating (not combined). The Bistro was fine for the price but a little untidy. On the whole there needed to be much more general seating as people were sitting on the floors. The best bet is to get in somewhere early and stay there, but this isn’t possible if you are boarded last. This is the only real downside and I can’t comment against other carriers.
All in all for the price, quickness, ease of changing crossing and location I would say that DFDS were great. Lack of seating is my only complaint, but I would definitely use DFDS Seaways again.