Travel: Brittany Ferries cruise

Maria Cusine let her troubles float away on a ship-shape cruise to Santander.

Travel: Brittany Ferries cruise

The Pont Aven is Brittany Ferries’ flagship equipped with a la carte restaurant, self service restaurant, piano and cocktail bar and cinema

Life is a journey, not a destination, so the saying goes.

But there’s not much fun in being stuck in airport check-in queues or worried about baggage restrictions.

However, a holiday that starts at sea can let your travel troubles float away. So instead of flying to northern Spain we took the sea route with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth.

And the trip to Santander was plain sailing from start to finish. No endless security checks, no need to cram your toiletries into a tiny clear bag and no worries over your suitcase being too heavy.

There’s also no need to be down at the departure point hours ahead, as you can check in with 45 minutes to go.

Santander is located in the north and retains much of it’s charm
Santander is located in the north and retains much of it’s charm

Driving on board the Pont Aven was simple and straightforward. After being directed to our parking spot we unpacked the car and then headed to our cabin We had a four berth with bathroom and the cabin had a huge porthole which meant you could watch the world (not to mention the sea) go by.

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This was no basic ferry by any means, it’s packed with bars, restaurants, entertainment and a pool – and there’s also time to fit in a pamper session, as Pont Aven features its own spa.

So while the kids are either having a splashing time in the pool or watching the latest film in one of two on board cinemas, the grown ups can take the opportunity to relax and be pampered.

Massage, facial, manicure, pedicure – they are all on offer at the spa. I opted for a ‘relaxing break’ Amma massage, which is carried out while seated. 

The prettiy medieval town of Santillana Del Mar
The prettiy medieval town of Santillana Del Mar

It was a great stress busting way to start the holiday. The only downside is the treatment sessions only last around 20 minutes. Of course, you can always book in for another treatment on the way back! And at a price of £25 it’s worth every penny.

If you’re after shopping therapy the ferry’s good sized and well stocked boutique is close by. There’s plenty of temptation from the usual cosmetics, perfume, wines and spirits to all sorts of gifts, souvenirs and travel essentials.

For mealtimes, there’s the a la carte restaurant Le Flora or the self-service restaurant, La Belle Angele, which offers a host of hot dishes as well as a salad buffet.

After dinner there’s plenty to keep passengers occupied. We headed to Le Grand Pavois Bar and managed to fit in a game of bingo, quiz, magic show and some live music.

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At this point of the evening I wondered if we would hit any bad weather along the Bay of Biscay. I’d been warned by friends that it could be ‘choppy’ and they’d joked I should have a sick bag at the ready. Thankfully all was calm – and also for the return journey. We had a sound night’s sleep and awoke feeling refreshed and raring to go. We enjoyed a stroll around the deck and soaked up the sun as our destination came into view.

Before we knew it our 24-hour crossing had come to an end. 

We disembarked as smoothly as we boarded and were ready for the next part of our holiday adventure.

Santander, the capital of Cantabria, is a great location, with splendid beaches on one side and mountains on the other.

And within an hour or two’s drive there’s some fantastic places in the area that is known as Green Spain. Just 30 minutes away is the picturesque medieval town of Santillana Del Mar. It is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain and it’s easy to see why. It really is a picture postcard location. With its narrow cobbled streets, it’s perfect for wandering and while doing so visitors can admire the golden stone buildings.

After our five-day visit to Spain we headed back to port and back to the Pont Aven. My young excited nieces couldn’t wait to return to the ferry. The cinema was calling as was the bingo and the magic show. 

We settled back on board for an entertaining and relaxing end to our holiday – we had thoroughly enjoyed both the destination and the journey.


  • Brittany Ferries sails six times a week from Portsmouth and Plymouth to northern Spain. Facilities on board include a la carte restaurants (with French chefs), boutiques, bars with entertainment, and a swimming pool and spa. Portsmouth- Santander:
  • Prices start from just £314 each way for a car plus two passengers including an ensuite cabin.
  • Portsmouth to Santander ferry crossings depart three times weekly for a 24 hour crossing. 
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