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Written by frangliz on 18 Oct, 2009
Visiting LD Lines' website in June, I found that the only destination from my home town of Portsmouth was Le Havre, and that there was just one crossing per day in each direction: a night crossing leaving Portsmouth at 11pm, arriving in Le Havre at…Read More
Visiting LD Lines' website in June, I found that the only destination from my home town of Portsmouth was Le Havre, and that there was just one crossing per day in each direction: a night crossing leaving Portsmouth at 11pm, arriving in Le Havre at 8 o'clock the following morning, and a return journey leaving Le Havre at 5pm and arriving back in Portsmouth at 9.30pm. This actually suited me, as it meant being away for just twenty-four hours but having the whole day in France without needing to book a hotel for a night.I found it extremely easy to get a quote for two foot passengers on 26th August, returning the following day. There were no longer any two-berth cabins available, but I thought we could put up with a night on sleeper seats as we were not going for long and neither of us had to drive on arrival. So I made the booking and paid by credit card, the total cost being £102.42 for the two of us. I very soon received a booking confirmation by email giving details of the journeys and reference numbers which I printed out to take on the day of the trip. There was a note that the fare is not refundable once booked, and another giving telephone numbers to use if you need to make amendments, updates or changes, for which there is a minimum charge of £10. An email address is given for those who require assistance with car hire, or booking flights or hotels.The evening finally arrived and we took a taxi from Southsea to Portsmouth's Continental Ferry Port. The passenger terminal was easy to find, but on entering it I was surprised that there did not seem to be any sort of check-in desk. We had been advised to arrive ninety minutes before the scheduled departure time and it was bang on 9.30pm, so we just sat ourselves down and waited. It wasn't until about 10.15pm that an announcement requested passengers for Le Havre to proceed to a particular door. All we had until then was the print-out of the confirming email that I had received at the time of booking, but I could see that the other passengers had something that looked like a boarding pass. We were asked to stand to one side and had to wait until all the other passengers had passed through; only then were our names checked on the list and our boarding passes issued. We then had to have our hand luggage checked and walk through a metal detector, just as one does at an airport.A bus was waiting outside to take all foot passengers onto the ferry. Eventually the bus drove onto the ferry and there was then a choice of lift or stairs to the upper levels, and we decided on the stairs. We stopped when we reached a deck where there were cafes, bars, a lounge and a shop, and we had a look around before finding reclining seats in the Horizon Lounge. It was extremely quiet, with just a small number of passengers getting out sleeping bags on the floor. An announcement was made that the ferry would not set sail until midnight because of a problem with a ramp, but that since plenty of time was allowed for the night crossing we would not be late arriving at Le Havre.I realised that our seats would indeed recline, but there did not seem to be a proper footrest or any kind of partition, both of which I had seen on the website at the time of booking. I wasn't convinced we were in the right area, so I left my son with our bags and went off to investigate. I found a plan of the various decks and then realised that the sleeper seats were in fact on the level above us, along with the cabins. So up we went and found a much smaller, quieter area with sleeper seats arranged in twos, a half partition, and a footrest that lifted up to meet the seat and thus form a horizontal bed that is 2.10 metres long. There was plenty of room to store hand luggage under the footrest or under the head area, but I decided to keep my handbag next to me, inside my sleeping bag. Toilets were situated just a few yards away from our seats (close enough to hear them being flushed!) and there was a refreshment area right alongside us. We soon settled down in our sleeping bags. My son was sensible enough to accept the offer of a blanket which served a useful purpose as a pillow. There was a small amount of light, enough to enable you to find your way to the toilet, but not too much to hamper sleep. I awoke at around 6.30am, and by 7am a number of passengers were queueing up at the refreshment bar. Announcements soon were made for drivers of lorries and then drivers of vehicles to make their way down. Foot passengers were the last to be called. We were asked to wait in the Horizon Lounge where we had initially sat on the previous evening. We did indeed dock in Le Havre on time, at 8am, and after a few minutes we were requested to go down to board a bus. Again, a lift is available but we chose the stairs. The astounding thing about the bus was that it travelled backwards for a considerable distance – a female driver, I might add. Nevertheless we arrived safely on French soil.Our return crossing was due to leave Le Havre at 5pm and we were again requested to arrive at the terminal ninety minutes earlier, but as we had sat doing nothing for forty-five minutes at the Portsmouth terminal the previous evening we thought it would be alright if we were back at the terminal by about 4pm. We actually arrived at the ferry terminal at around 4.20pm. The place was deserted apart from the staff, who informed us that the ferry was due to leave half an hour early because of the problem of the ramp in Portsmouth! We were shunted through passport control and onto the bus, which was already full. We may have been the last foot passengers to arrive, but cars were still rolling on. I couldn't understand how they could bring the departure time forward if lorries and probably passengers were driving up from the south of France or even Spain. For the return crossing the Horizon Lounge was our designated seating area, and it was much busier than it had been the night before. After a while my son decided to try out the showers, for which towels are available on board. He gave them the thumbs up, but I decided to wait until I got home. Young children nearby began to get more and more fractious, probably in need of sleep. We felt in need of a change of environment and decided to have a look at the restaurant and cafe. The restaurant wasn't much less noisy than the lounge, so we went off for drinks in the cafe. This was so popular that all the tables were taken and we had to sit on high stools at the bar. I wished that I had spent an extra £12 each for seats in the Club Class Lounge – I would definitely do so if there is a next time. It wasn't long before we were skirting the eastern side of the Isle of Wight and could see the lights of Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower. Once again we arrived on schedule, and as before foot passengers were requested to wait until the drivers had proceeded to their vehicles before being instructed to go down to the bus. As we walked back through the terminal I looked again for a check-in desk but saw none, so that procedure remains a mystery. On arriving home I decided to check my emails whilst my poor lonely cat had a snooze on my lap. I was understandably surprised to find a message from LD Lines that had been sent about 9.30 that morning and was marked 'Urgent'. It informed me that the 5pm crossing from Le Havre to Portsmouth that we were booked on would be leaving at 4.30pm because of the faulty ramp in Portsmouth which would cause delay on arrival. If we had missed that particular ferry, LD Lines would have put us on a 7.30pm crossing to Newhaven at no extra cost. I don't know how we, as foot passengers, would have made our way back to Portsmouth late at night.I would recommend LD Lines if you are looking for an inexpensive way to cross the English Channel, and if you are not concerned about having on-board entertainment to pass the time. Pay a little less and take a book to read! Close