Is an overnight cross-Channel ferry with small children a good idea? We review Brittany Ferries

Is an overnight cross-Channel ferry with small children a good idea? We review Brittany Ferries

Read our report on a Brittany Ferries trip to France

A ferry can be a great way to travel with children – it breaks up a long journey, is (fairly) relaxing, you get to keep your own car on holiday plus you can pack loads into it.

The four of us have used ferries to cross the Channel for holidays to France and Denmark.

Here we review a crossing with Brittany Ferries, which operates between the UK and France, the UK and Spain and Ireland and France. We travelled between Portsmouth and St Malo.


Boarding was smooth and quick at both ports. Yes there are a lot of cars on board – our ship, the Bretagne holds 2,000 passengers and 580 cars – but it didn’t take more than 20 minutes to disembark in a well drilled operation.

One word or warning, there can be a lot of steps to climb up from the car park to the higher decks if you have small children.

a cabin on a Brittany Ferry with four single beds

A four-berth cabin on board Brittany Ferries

The cabins

We booked a four-berth club cabin and our children loved it, it was a real adventure for them.

There were bunk beds on either side (the top one folds back when not in use to give more space), a small television on the wall and an en-suite with shower and toilet.

We found it cosy and very well soundproofed and both children slept well.

Cabins are not just for night times though, it is also worth booking a cabin for a day trip if you have small children. It is good to have a base and somewhere to relax (for parents as well if you have been chasing them around the ferry). Plus they are great if your child still naps.

The food

There was plenty of choice for all budgets. There is an à la carte restaurant, self-service restaurant, cafe, and a bar.

We ate at the self-service La Baule – breakfast on the outward leg and a dinner coming home to England.

The price is reasonable and drinks at the bar aren’t bad value either.

a pantomime on board a Brittany Ferries ship

The ferry has children’s entertainment

Children’s entertainment

Early evening shows for children kept ours entertained. There was a children’s entertainer with a good line in balloon animals, a mini disco and in high season they put on a panto.

There are also two cinema screens showing  family films. The screens aren’t full size but it’s a nice way to while away a couple of hours.

There is also a video games room and soft play area.

The feeling

We were fortunate to enjoy good weather in both directions and it was fantastic to go out on the sundeck and watch Portsmouth harbour disappearing into the distance.

Our children loved seeing the wake caused by the huge engines, spotting the Channel Islands as we motored past and walking around the outside of the ferry.

The whole trip felt like an adventure for them and a memorable part of the holiday.

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We travelled as guests of Brittany Ferries for the purpose of this review. For more information and bookings visit their website.

We take our children on a DFDS Ferry across the English Channel – read our review here

We take our children on a DFDS Ferry across the English Channel – read our review here

We try out the world’s leading ferry operator to cross the Channel to France.

DFDS runs frequent ferry crossings to Europe –  to France and Holland​ and mini cruises to Amsterdam.

We travelled on the Dover to Dunkirk route with our two young children.

Check-in and disembarkment

It was a bank holiday so we made sure we got there early, but we got frustratingly stuck in a huge, slow queue at customs in Dover.

But once through and with seconds to spare, DFDS staff worked wonders to get us on the ferry quickly.

Staff swiftly processed our paperwork, there was clear signage and parking on board was easy.

Disembarking both ends was also very fast, making it a smooth process. Arriving at Dunkirk and watching the ferry dock is great entertainment from the huge windows at the front of the ship.

The food

On our ferry there were three options.

There was a main self-service restaurant with a couple of hot meal options, sandwiches, toast and snacks.

A smaller cafe bar served food like croque monsieur and there was a snack bar as well.

Plenty of choice at a reasonable price, the only criticism we had was that they could stock more simple sandwiches for children.


There is a small children’s play area called Pirate’s Island where little ones can burn off a bit of energy.

Elsewhere there is a small arcade with half a dozen racing games and video games.

The ship

Our ship from Dover to Dunkirk had 1,000 passengers and 250 cars on board.

It was peak season but other than a bit of a scrum to get back to the cars on arrival in Dunkirk, it felt like there was plenty of space.

There were nice seating areas, the decor was light and bright. There was also some good outdoor space to watch Dover’s white cliffs disappear into the distance.

two ferries cross each other in the English Channel in Dover

You can watch the white cliffs of Dover from the viewing balcony on board DFDS ferries

The on-board shop

The shop is well stocked with all the essentials you need for driving abroad, plus the usual snacks and some toys.

Very handy if, like us, you have forgotten your obligatory GB driving sticker and don’t want to be pulled over and fined by French police.

In conclusion

This was a quick, pleasant and efficient way to cross the channel.

Fares start from £35 with 24 crossings a day.

We travelled as guests of DFDS from Dover to Dunkirk. All views are our own.