Ferry travel in Europe
Updated: May 22, 2022
Ever since I got my drivers license I have been doing road trips all over Europe with my own car where possible and in rental cars when traveling by air. This means that in some cases I need to take a ferry to go from one place to the next. In my case it usually meant crossing from mainland Europe to the UK, however I did cross on some other routes as well.
Because I live in Belgium there are several possible routes for me to go to the UK, in the past there was the Ostend-Dover and Ostend-Ramsgate routes with the famous Belgian RMT, better known as Oostende Dover Lines and after the demise of that company the route was continued for several years by Trans Europa Ferries. However after the demise of that company, P&O ferries operated the last passenger ferries in Belgium on the Zeebrugge to Hull route with 2 ships called Pride of Bruges and Pride of York ... and then Covid arrived!
As of late 2020 the Zeebrugge to Hull route was cancelled and unfortunately this also means that at this moment there isn't a single passenger ferry operating out of a Belgian port. Luckily I did manage to catch the Trans Europa ferry on one trip to Ramsgate before it all ended. I also managed to sail at least twice on the P&O Zeebrugge to Hull route before the Covid crisis closed this route down in 2020.
A ferry trip for me means I have to choose the exact route depending on time and destination, I can either choose Dunkerque to Dover by DFDS (Mearsk and Norfolk line in the past), Calais to Dover by P&O, DFDS or Irish Ferries (in the past also Seafrance and later My Ferry Link), several routes from Normandy to the UK by Britttany Ferries, Rotterdam Europoort to Hull by P&O ferries, Ijmuiden to Newcastle by DFDS and Hoek van Holland to Harwich by Stena Line. In 2017 I also took a Stena Line ferry from Frederikshavn in Denmark to Göteborg in Sweden when I was on a 2 weeks road trip in Scandinavia.
The choice of route is usually determined by the needed destination so whenever I need to visit South East England I book a Calais to Dover ticket on P&O ferries or lately Irish Ferries where the former Belgian flagship Prins Filip of 1991 is still sailing as the Isle of Innisfree. When I visit a friend in Portsmouth I sometimes choose a night sailing with Brittany ferries from Caen to Portsmouth, although Caen is a pretty long drive from where I live. When I wanted to visit Newcastle in the North of England I instead ook the Ijmuiden to Newcastle ferry by DFDS as this is also a night crossing and this means you arrive in the UK well rested in the morning. The Zeebrugge route in the past was just like the currently operating Rotterdam Europoort route exclusively a night sailing and the area around Hull is perfect for a getaway, sadly from now on I will have to take the Europoort route by P&O after the closure of the Zeebrugge route.
One of my favourite routes is the Hoek van Holland to Harwich route by Stena Line, although this route can be taken twice a day in both directions, I always take a night crossing as this is a more convenient timing for me.
Once onboard the Stena Hollandica or Stena Britannica in the late afternoon I usually go to fresh up in my cabin before I go for dinner in one of the 2 restaurants, in the past I always booked the à la carte restaurant, however during the Covid pandemic this was closed and you could only take dinner in the buffet restaurant. At the moment of writing there is also still a mask mandate on these ships but this hardly limits the experience. The quality of food on these ships is fantastic both at breakfast and dinner, when the à la carte restaurant is opened you almost feel like being on a cruise ship.
Of course the most traveled ferry route in Europe is the Calais to Dover route, this one is currently being used by no less than 3 companies. P&O ferries have been operating it for decades, the other companies of the past include Seafrance, MyFerryLink, Maersk and Norfolk. Currently DFDS sails the route in combination with the Dunkerque to Dover route as well, the latest company to operate in Calais is Irish Ferries who sent in their Isle of Inishmore and later took over the former Belgian Prins Filip, sailing as Calais Seaways for DFDS, renaming her Isle of Innisfree.
After years of sailing the Calais-Dover route, mostly on P&O ships, I have collected many photos taken during all those trips, see them in the album below, but first a video taken onboard the P&O ferry Spirit of France in 2020.
Photo album Calais-Dover: