Reviewed by Emma Bradley
On 1 May 2014 we travelled to Jersey from Weymouth using the very efficient Condor Ferry 4 hour crossing.
Weymouth is a relatively large seaside town with all the main supermarkets and conveniences so a good chance to stock up on the last few essentials. Having the dogs with us we took the opportunity to give them a quick walk on Chesil Beach from Chesil Beach centre. The dogs must be kept on lead around the mud flats as they are home to nesting birds, but once you are away from there they can be let off. It’s a hard walk on the legs as it is small pebbles but the dogs enjoyed sniffing out the small sea creatures hiding in the rocks.
The access to the port takes you along Weymouth seafront with plenty of parking for the beach and seafront attractions (amusements, beach cafes, and boat hire). Next door to the port is Weymouth Sea Life tower, a 53m high rotating viewing platform giving views over Weymouth, the Jurassic Coast and Portland Harbour.
Having travelled on a ferry numerous times before we were familiar with the check in procedures at the ferry terminal, however everything was well sign posted and staff were friendly in checking us in. Since we had pets in the car we were put in a special lane for boarding. Unfortunately our ferry was delayed by nearly 40 minutes getting on to the ferry but we got the impression that this was due to an unusual amount of vans and motorhomes heading to the channel Islands for the bank holiday weekend, rather than this being the norm.
All vehicles travel in the enclosed car deck and animals must be left in the vehicles. There is no direct sunlight so no risk of the animals overheating. It is warm on the car deck and we would certainly recommend leaving the animals with ventilation. As we were also travelling with a young child the loading crew were on hand to direct us towards the lift giving us access to the passenger areas. It is only a small lift (tight squeeze for two adults and a pram) so I can imagine there can be a delay in peak holiday seasons.
We had seats in Club Class which is conveniently situated on the main floor of the ferry. Club Class consists of a separate enclosed section, seating approx. 50, with spacious leather seats and a table with a central lamp, there are four seats to each table, but still plenty of space to recline your seat and relax. The lounge was served by two very helpful ladies who offered us complementary tea/ coffee/soft drinks during our journey. Our table also had a large basket of cakes and biscuits which were also complementary.
One of the advantages of being in Club Class is that the hostess takes your order for food and delivers it direct to your table. There is no restaurant area on the ship, in the other areas you purchase food from central kiosks. All passengers receive allocated seating. Other than Club Class there is also another section of seating with reclining seats which must be pre-booked for an additional fee.
We ordered a fish and chips which unfortunately had been completely over cooked and was dry, I don’t know whether this was normal or whether it had been waiting somewhere before being brought up to the table. I did mention this to the hostess when she came to clear the plates but nothing was said about it.
We were disappointed to learn that there were no children’s meals available, especially as there were many more children on the ferry. I did ask the hostess about this and was told that they may have been able to do a smaller portion at a reduced cost but she couldn’t give me any further details on this. I feel that this is an oversight especially with the number of children on board as the adult portions are far too large for the average child. I did speak to another member of staff about this and she did mention that there is a summer menu for children but this wasn’t yet available.
A nice feature of the ferry travelling with a young child was a separate children’s lounge away from the main passengers which was brightly designed and had a mounted television on the wall showing modern children’s films. It was very popular with the younger passengers, however a slight issue was it was situated right next to the toilets and every time the hand dryers went off you couldn’t hear the film – over a four hour journey this was a frequent occurrence and several of the children got quite upset about it.
The ship is set out on three levels with 3 outside areas, all at the stern of the ship. The Club Class and reclined seating are on one level with the toilets, baby change and children’s area. The main shopping kiosks (Bistro, Lat49 costa coffee, duty free and bar) are located on the lower level accessed via several steps. Moving around the ship with a pram can be problematic as the disabled stair lift has signs indicating it shouldn’t be used at sea. There is also an upper seating area around the bar area.
All the facilities on board were clean and seemed to get regular attention. There was a minor leak in the gents toilets during the journey but this was rapidly sorted and the toilets returned to their previous clean state.
On our return journey the crossing was quite rough despite it only being a mildly rough sea but on a trip to the bridge the Captain explained that this is due to the ship design and unfortunately why in rough weather the ferries get cancelled leaving travellers having to use the 9hr traditional ferry crossing to Portsmouth. The ship can cope in extremes of weather but the crossing would be decidedly unpleasant for the passengers! Even though a good portion of the passengers were ill on the crossing the facilities were kept spotless with the crew working overtime to ensure all passengers were as comfortable as possible.
Overall a pleasant and relatively efficient service (even in the rough weather still arriving on time) with friendly staff and good facilities the only let down was the quality and choice of food and the lack of a children’s menu.
For more information, destinations, day trips, offers or to make a booking visit www.condorferries.co.uk.