24 December 2010

Brittany Ferries brings back Poole Cherbourg ship

Brittany Ferries has done the right thing and agreed to reinstate the ferry route operated by their vessel the Barfleur between Poole and Cherbourg. Following their decision to suspend this ferry crossing to France there was quite an outcry. The Poole Cherbourg crossing might not be the most used of the ferry routes between the UK and France, but it was much loved by those in the know.

Book the Poole to Cherbourg ferry crossing

Poole is a useful port for those living in central southern England and the relatively short route to Cherbourg, just 4 and a half hours for the Barfleur, makes the crossing effective in terms of time. The short crossing time also enabled the mv Barfleur, which operates the route, to make up to 3 crossings daily.

The Barfleur will return to service between Poole and Cherbourg on the 27th February 2011, crossing fron Cherbourg ready to sail again from Poole on February 28th. Brittany Ferries has changed the mix of freight and passengers to give more emphasis on freight. They hope this will enable the route to return to profitability, as it has been losing serious money for some time. But the company promises there will be no loss of facilities for passengers on board.

The Brafleur will operate beytween Poole and Cherbourg throughout the spring and summer, and towards the end of the season the route will be reviewed to see if is producing sufficient profit to enable it to continue. So residents of Poole and the surrounding area need to help Brittany Ferries to justify their about turn by using the route whenever possible.

The service from Poole will operate daily with an overnight return from Cherbourg, with extra crossings every Friday and Saturday. During the summer there will be a convenient 11.00 departure from Poole on most days and a 19.00 return from Cherbourg on Friday, Saturday and Sunday - 22.30 on other days.

Latest timetable Poole Cherbourg ferry crossing.

Barfleur’s departures will be complemented by the existing fast craft service between Poole and Cherbourg which operates from May to October and takes just 2 and a half hours.

Customers already booked on other sailings or on the Fastcraft Normandie Vitesse will be able to change their reservations to Barfleur sailings without charge. This will be possible at any point in time on Brittany Ferries' website, and customers will also be able to make these changes without charge by phone until 17th January 2011.

29 November 2010

Concerts in the Alps - Music in the Mountains

Between April 2nd and 9th 2011 the Alpine ski region known as Les Portes du Soleil is putting on a series of concerts in the mountains. This sounds like a great way to combine some skiing with some great gigs in a fabulous setting.

Les Portes du Soleil is claimed to be the largest ski area in Europe, crossing the border between France and Switzerland, and has an amazing 650 km of marked pistes.

Alerted by SMS just minutes before the start of the gigs, fans will need to hop on their skis to reach the unique sets built overnight. For one week, all 12 of the Portes du Soleil's French and Swiss village resorts will be pulsating to the rhythm of these one-off performances. So we can't advise you in advance where these events will take place or even who the performers will be, but that sounds like part of the fun.

There's no cost to see the concerts - all you need is a lift pass. To register your mobile phone and pre-book your lift pass visit the official website of Les Portes du Soleil.

Drive-Alive Holidays offers some great value accommodation in most of the resorts comprising Les Portes du Soleil. Visit the links below to check our self-catering accommodation in the various villages:
Self catering in Abondance
Self catering in Chatel
Self catering in Lets Gets
Self catering in Morzine
Self catering in Champéry
Self catering in Torgon
Self catering in Val d'Illiez/Les Crosets

Just a reminder that we also offer self catering apartments, villas and chalets throughout the Alps. There's still plenty of availability for most of the ski season, although peak dates are selling fast, especially February half-term. So go to our self-catering search page and look for what you want before it's too late!

11 November 2010

Skiing holidays in Europe by car and train

Self-drive Winter sports holidays and trains to the Alps

The summer is but a distant memory, school half-term holidays are over, so cheer yourselves up by thinking about a winter sports holiday. We don't do flights, so just how easy is it to drive to the ski resorts of Europe and are they accessible by train? Here is a summary of the options, all available through the Drive-Alive website.

From the Channel Ports many major ski resorts are within a day's drive. Even better, if you have a couple of days to get there, catching a ferry in the morning allows for an easy two days' drive, arriving on the afternoon of the second day. Break your journey in one of our en-route hotels.

As a guide here are driving times to some of the resorts, assuming departure from Calais and not allowing for stops:
The Dover to Calais ferry crossing is always a good option if you are in the South-East, and you can use P&O Ferries, SeaFrance or the Eurotunnel shuttle (M20 near Folkestone to Calais Coquelles). Dover Dunkirk with DFDS Seaways (formerly Norfolk Line) is often cheaper, if a little longer.

Longer crossings are offered by LD Lines from Newhaven to Dieppe and Portsmouth to Le Havre, whilst Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to Caen.

These last two crossings offer overnight sailings, so it's perfectly possible to get a good night's sleep on board and arrive at your resort in time for an evening meal. Driving times from Le Havre, Caen and Dieppe are not much longer than from Calais if you are going to the Western Alps, but to get a more accurate idea visit our route planner, where you will also see en-route hotels displayed in case you prefer an overnight stop.

If you live in Scotland or the North of England you can take overnight ferries from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS Seaways, or from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge with P&O Ferries. Driving times are a little longer from these ports, so check out the route planner.

The very popular Eurostar Snow Train running from 19 December 2010 to 16 April 2011 whisks you from St Pancras International or Ashford International direct to the valley towns of Moûtiers, Aime or Bourg-St-Maurice. This is a great way to get to the French Alps, so make sure you book soon. From early January until April there is an overnight train leaving St Pancras at 20.31 on Friday evenings and delivering you to the mountains in time for breakfast and a full day's skiing.
Click for the Snow Train timetables and booking.

From Moutiers and Bourg St Maurice there are various ways to get to your resort - taxis, shuttle buses - or you can hire a car. Check out car hire in Bourg St Maurice and car hire in Moutiers.

Many other ski resorts in Europe are accessible by train, especially now that the various European train companies are getting their act together in terms of integrated booking. To see what is possible visit the Eurostar website and try some different destinations. Rail Europe is another good website for pan-European train bookings.

On our ski information website you'll find statistics, information and piste maps for around 80 of the most popular ski resorts in Europe. You can book self-catering apartments and chalets at extremely competitive prices as well as many hotels in ski resorts throughout Europe. Each resort page has a direct booking link to all the properties in the resort.

Brittany Ferries skiing holidays offer some great packages which include ferry crossings and accommodation.

You can also pre-book ski equipment at anything up to 40% off, not only saving money but saving time by having your equipment ready and waiting when you arrive.

So forget the horrors of budget airline travel and make the journey part of your holiday. Take as much luggage and ski equipment as you can fit in. And by the time you've allowed for getting to the airport, for the often lengthy transfer to your destination, and the time spent actually in the airports (not to mention potential delays), you might find it's almost as quick to drive or take the

28 October 2010

Ferry routes to Ireland - Irish Sea ferries

With the industrial disputes in France causing some disruption and with an uncertain outcome, why not turn your attention westwards towards Ireland for your next driving trip? You'll find spectacular scenery, excellent food and of course Guinness or Murphy's to wash it down. The people are really friendly and nobody knows how to turn a quick pint into an all night party better than the Irish!

Traffic is rarely a problem in Ireland, whether in the Republic or Northern Ireland. Dublin and Belfast can be busy, but away from there and the open road beckons. It's hard to single out anywhere for special recommendation, as the whole country has something to offer. There's the wild west coast of Galway, the Dingle Peninsula and Donegal; the softer lushness of the south around Cork and Waterford; the prettiness of Wexford; the glorious coastline of Antrim and Down in Northern Ireland.

Dublin is world famous for its culture and lively nightlife, although these days Belfast runs a close second. Classy Cork and vibrant Galway both repay a visit.

Drive-Alive now offers 8 different ways to get to the Republic and Northern Ireland by ferry with routes from Stranraer to Belfast, Fleetwood to Larne, Liverpool to Belfast and Dublin, Holyhead to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, Pembroke and Fishguard to Rosslare.

So if you're longing to hit the road but hesitating about heading to France, visit our ferry information page where you'll find links to more information about all these ferry crossings to Ireland plus links to book directly with the ferry companies at the best possible prices.

If you know which route you'd like just follow the links below:

* Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire with Stena Line
* Fishguard to Rosslare with Stena Line
* Holyhead to Dublin with Stena Line
* Stranraer to Belfast with Stena Line
* Fleetwood to Larne with Stena Line
* Holyhead to Dublin with Irish Ferries
* Pembroke to Rosslare with Irish Ferries
* Liverpool to Belfast with DFDS NorfolkLine
* Liverpool to Dublin with DFDS NorfolkLine

14 October 2010

Luxury Autumn and Winter breaks in France from Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries are cementing their reputation as more then just a ferry company by offering Autumn and Winter short breaks in quality accommodation in France, at bargain prices. They have teamed up with luxury hotel group, Lucien Barrière, to provide breaks at two of the most magnificent hotels in western France.

Research and book your luxury short break in France.

Indulge yourself with a two-night stay at either the Normandy Hotel in Deauville or the Royal-Thalasso Hotel in La Baule in southern Brittany for only £199 per person, including return ferry crossings to France with a car. This represents a real bargain, giving you the chance to enjoy top resort hotels for not much more than the cost of a crossing on its own.

As one of the most chic coastal resorts in France, Deauville is frequented year-round by the rich and famous. Known for its Film Festival that takes place every September, it also has a long association with horse racing. There is also no shortage of fine golf courses in the vicinity.

The 5 star Normandy Hotel with half-timbering, chequered flagstones and picturesque pinnacles, offers a warm and friendly atmosphere. Situated just across the road from the sea and in the centre of town, the hotel is connected to the casino by a covered walkway.

La Baule boasts one of the longest and finest beaches in Europe which the 5-star Royal Thalasso overlooks. This spa hotel is devoted to the concept of wellbeing and is the ideal place for a romantic break. You might not want to take advantage of the outdoor swimming pool complex (in fact it will be closed!) but every other water-based treatment is available. Again, the hotel is close to the beach and town centre.

The combination of luxurious ferry travel, top-class resorts and really outstanding hotels makes these breaks perfect for a celebratory treat such as a birthday or anniversary. Even in the winter there is always so much to do and see, and a stroll along the beach at La Baule or Deauville is a great experience whatever the time of year. These breaks represent remarkable value, especially as you can take your own car, and what you bring back won't be limited by airline baggage charges!

These breaks are available on any sailing from 3 October to 31 March 2011 and prices are based on 2 people sharing. Cabins on overnight sailings are available from £34.

Research and book your luxury short break in France.
More about Brittany Ferries routes to France.

• Price includes a return crossing to France with a car and is per person based on 2 people sharing a double room.
• This offer is subject to limited availability
• Available on selected dates from 3 October 2010 to 31 March 2011.
• Offer is for two night stay only and cannot be extended.
• New bookings only.
• Holiday terms and conditions apply.

21 August 2010

Copenhagen to Oslo ferry from DFDS Seaways

Driving holidays in Scandinavia remain popular with British motorists, but currently there are no car ferries between the UK and Norway or Sweden. You can always fly and hire a car on arrival, but then you still have to put up with all the stress of airport security, delayed flights, baggage restrictions and extra payments.

The appeal of taking your own car lies in the freedom from all that. So how do you get to Scandinavia without flying? You can of course take any of the ferries that operate between the UK and Northern France, Belgium or Holland, but that leaves you with a long drive up through the Netherlands, Germany and Southern Denmark.

There is an alternative thanks to our partnership with DFDS Seaways. Drive-Alive has always offered the DFDS ferry crossing from Harwich to Esbjerg in Western Denmark. We are now able to supplement this crossing with the DFDS ferry between Copenhagen in Denmark and Oslo in Norway.

Combining these two routes allows you to design a really interesting and enjoyable driving holiday. Harwich is easily reached from most of England, either along the A12/A120 from London and the South-East or along the A14/A120 from the Midlands and the North.

Once you arrive in Esbjerg you could either take a break nearby in the lovely old town of Ribe, or visit Legoland, or set off on the easy 3 hour drive to Copenhagen. This is a fantastic city for a short break. Make sure you visit the Tivoli Gardens funfair with its midnight firework display - simple pleasures reminiscent of times past. Children and grown-ups love it.

The ferry to Oslo departs daily in the early evening. The ships that operate these routes really are more like floating hotels, a very different experience to the ferries that come and go from the UK. The Scandinavians demand quality, and these ships deliver, with 11 different cafés bars and restaurants, cinema, shopping and very comfortable en suite cabins.

You arrive at your destination next morning ready to explore the fabulous scenery that Norway has to offer. But stay awhile in Oslo, as this is a delightful city set at the head of the Oslo Fjord. Visit the islands, walk in the woods, enjoy the parks and open spaces and admire the modernist architecture around the harbour, where you can also spend a fortune eating out on Aker Brygge. Yes, Norway is expensive, although if you self-cater food in shops is much the same price as in the UK.

No holiday in Norway would be complete without visiting the Fjords, and Bergen is the perfect small coastal town from which to explore this dramatic coast. It's an 8 or 9 hour drive from Oslo, so it's a good idea to break your journey. Or head north towards Trondheim and the Arctic Circle. Although the main roads are well surfaced, many alternative routes are compacted dirt and offer a great opportunity to find out why the Scandinavians excel at rallying!

You can either return on the Oslo-Copenhagen ferry or maybe drive down through Sweden and cross back into Denmark via the Helsingborg short ferry crossing. Another possibility is to continue south in Sweden and cross the amazing Oresund bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark, then back to Esbjerg and catch the Harwich ferry back to the UK.

7 August 2010

Scary things can happen when driving abroad

Another incident sent in by a reader as a warning.

"My husband and I recently returned from touring round Europe for the fifth year in a row. We had never experienced any problems before this year. We were driving from Brno to Bratislava via Babkov on the D1 E50 when an old Bmw came up behind us with five men inside. The driver started flashing the lights and coming really close to the back of our car, while his passengers were frantically pointing at the passenger side back wheel. We slowed down for a time but no way were we going to pull over as my husband is a mechanic and had checked the car before we left the hotel.

When they realised we had no intention of stopping they started to get quite frantic and were getting dangerously close. My husband started to go faster and pull away from them when the Mercedes in front of us started braking and weaving and we realised he was in on it as well. When the BMW started to fall behind the Mercedes pulled over onto the hard shoulder and we drove on as fast as possible.

We are convinced it was the car they were after as we have a Golf GT Sport. All their cars are either black or silver and ours stuck out like a sore thumb as it is red. We also hadn’t seen another Golf.

It was a really scary ten minutes driving at high speeds but it hasn’t put us off our driving holidays. We just won’t be back in Czechoslovakia and we would suggest if any of your readers are going please don’t go in a Golf."

I have been driving abroad for over 40 years and I'm happy to say I've never experienced any similar problems, so we are not saying you shouldn't take your car to Europe - and neither is the author of the above piece - simply be aware these things can happen. Luckily they are very much the exception.

27 July 2010

Car hijacked, baggage stolen - a cautionary tale

We have received details of a very unfortunate event which occurred to a reader of our website whilst driving in Spain. From the reception he received when he went to the police station to report this incident it seems to be a not uncommon experience. If similar incidents have happened to other users please let us know by emailing info@drive-alive.co.uk.

Our reader tells us:

"We were on the AP-7 Motorway in the area of Martorell towards Tarragona on the inside lane when we heard a bang which sounded like someone had hit us. I looked in the mirrors as I pulled onto the hard shoulder but couldn't see anything on the road. As we came to a stop a car pulled in front with his hazard lights on. So we thought they had seen what happened. The passenger got out and came back to us. He opened my door and was shouting at me in Spanish. He then pulled at my arm to try to get me out, pointing under the car and still shouting. As I am disabled my wife got out to look under the car. I turned away to put the car into park. When I turned back there was another bloke making off with our bags, which had been at my wife's feet for easy access. They drove off before my wife got back into the car. The whole thing took just 60/100 seconds. We reckon the initial bang could have been a stone thrown from another car or fired from a catapult. It dented the boot."

For another carjack scam visit our Facebook page.

23 July 2010

Ferry passengers will get compensation for delays and cancellations

The EU Parliament has decided that ferry passengers should be entitled to the same sort of compensation as airline users in the event that their crossing is cancelled or delayed.

Currently those travelling by sea can only expect a refund or a place on a subsequent crossing if their booked ferry is cancelled. Once the directive has become active ferry users will be able to claim compnsation for inconvenience in the same way as air passengers, although unfortunately it will be another 2 years before this this happens.

For more information on all the major ferry crossings between the UK and Europe.

21 July 2010

Brittany Ferries now even cheaper in summer mid-week

Still wondering what to do with the family this summer without breaking the bank? How about a week in Brittany or Normandy using one of the Brittany Ferries ferries to France?

Following on from their recent summer offer, Brittany Ferries have now cut prices even further with an offer of ONLY £259 RETURN FOR FAMILY OF 4 WITH CAR, which strikes us as a pretty good deal. These prices represent a discount of 33% and mean a family of 4 with their car can travel to the holiday areas of Brittany and Normandy for as little as £65 per person return. And there are no booking fees, luggage charges, airport taxes or anything else - just the cost of fuel.

Add to this the improving rate of the pound versus the euro and this becomes a bit of a bargain. You can take advantage of the summer mid-week specials on the Brittany Ferries routes from Portsmouth to Caen and Cherbourg, from Poole to Cherbourg and from Plymouth to Roscoff. You need to travel between Monday to Thursday from August 2nd and return by September 2nd, and can stay for up to 7 days.

For more information on this offer and to check the conditions visit:
Brittany Ferries summer mid-week specials
For more about Brittany Ferries services, timetables and routes

14 July 2010

DFDS Seaways and Norfolk Line merger complete

On July 13th the merger between DFDS Seaways and Norfolk Line was officially completed. All the previous seagoing operations of Norfolk Line will now be re-branded as DFDS Seaways.

However, users of the Norfolk Line ferry routes between Dover and Dunkirk and across the Irish Sea will not see any difference for a while. The redesign of the website and the repainting of the Norfolk Line ships will be an ongoing process which will take some time to complete. So for now bookings will still be made on the respective DFDS and Norfolk Line websites.

There are no plans to change the fare structure either, although in the longer term DFDS hope the merger will put them in a stronger financial position, enabling them to offer more competitive pricing.

More about DFDS Seaways North Sea ferry crossings.
More about Norfolk Line ferry crossings from Dover to Dunkirk.

1 July 2010

Whale watching in the Bay of Biscay - 2 more trips in 2010

Cruise to Santander in Spain and return with two nights on board the luxury flagship of Brittany Ferries fleet, The Pont-Aven, FROM JUST £150PP.

Brittany Ferries are running two more of these whale watching trips this summer, departing Portsmouth on 14th July and 18th August. This is a real wildlife adventure, crossing the 4000m-deep Bay of Biscay on the way to Santander.

This remarkable area of ocean is one of the World’s very best places for spotting whales and dolphins. It’s home to over twenty different types of marine mammal, ranging in size from the tiny sea porpoise to the mighty fin whale - the second largest animal on earth.

Passengers on the cruises will be accompanied by expert guides from Planet Whale and marine conservation charity ORCA who will give fun and informative wildlife presentations, as well as helping passengers to spot and identify the marine mammals encountered en route.

The Pont Aven is well-suited for whale-watching, with extensive promenade decks and observation areas. Inside, there’s a range of comfortable restaurants and lounges, all equipped with panoramic windows looking out across the breathtaking Atlantic seascapes.

Starting from just £150 per person, the cruise includes 2 nights on board with en suite cabin accommodation, expert whale watching advice and wildlife presentations, as well as time ashore in bustling Santander.

For more information and to book your whale watching trip
Further information on Brittany Ferries ferry crossings to France and Spain

30 June 2010

More for your money - Pound stronger against Euro

We don't want to get into the economics or the politics, suffice to say that at last the British pound sterling is on the up against the Euro. Yesterday it broke the 1.2 euros to the pound barrier and hit the giddy heights of 1.24, a level not seen since November 2008.

So good news for holiday makers wanting to take advantage of the fact that Europe is now altogether cheaper than for several years. As well as the improvement in sterling, prices have fallen in most of the major European holiday destinations as hotels, restaurants and others try to keep their share of a reduction in the travelling public.

Reduction in the flying public in fact, as the fall out from the recent ash cloud coupled with travellers' disillusionment with low-cost carriers means a considerable increase in ferry and train travel.

So visit our Drive-Alive website, the foremost portal for everything to do with driving holidays in Europe, and book your ferries, hotels, camping and self-catering. Search by interactive mapping and find accommodation en-route. You can even book car hire if you really must fly, and we also have a website with information and links to book train travel in Europe.

Forget the World Cup blues and join the ever-increasing number booking a motoring hoiday in Europe.

28 June 2010

Brittany Ferries new low cost midweek fares from £99 return pp with car


This is quite a departure for Brittany Ferries, who have always stayed out of the "low cost" environment. But they have now made a week's holiday in France really affordable this summer with a special low fare of just £99 per person return for mid-week travel to Caen, Cherbourg and Roscoff between now and 22nd July. You need to return within 7 days, but it means you can have a great week's holiday in Brittany or Normandy (or further afield).

Apparently there's plenty of space on mid-week sailings, so it makes sense to fill this space rather than travel with the ships less than full, although passengers can still enjoy the same quality of service and great value French cuisine for which Brittany Ferries is famous. Suddenly it makes financial sense to take the ferry to Brittany and Normandy, as even the low-cost airlines will be hard pushed to match these fares, especially after taking account of car hire and airport parking costs. Not to mention the benefits of being able to take as much luggage as your car will carry and of being able to travel in a relaxed and civilised manner.

Go to the Drive-Alive Brittany Ferries page and click the big red "Special Offers" button to book one of these great value ferry crossings.

• Fare available on departures Monday to Thursday Portsmouth-Caen, Portsmouth-Cherbourg, Poole-Cherbourg and Plymouth-Roscoff
• Available on both cruise-ferry and high-speed services
• Travel out by 22 July and return by 29 July 2010
• New bookings only and cannot be combined with any other offer
• Full payment with booking
• Non-refundable

25 June 2010

Should you drive from the UK to Greece?

Having recently driven from the United Kingdom to Greece we would whole-heartedly recommend it, provided you can spare the time. Our route took us through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia, offering a fascinating glimpse of changing culture, scenery and architecture as we progressed east and south.

We took our time driving to Greece, travelling about 4 to 5 hours a day. In strictly driving time it took us 7 days from Calais to Thessaloniki, although it could be done in much less time if you don't mind longer driving days. In addition we stayed for two extra nights in Vienna, and one extra in Budapest and Belgrade, so we took 11 days from Calais.

It is this ability to spend time en-route that makes driving so much more interesting, giving you the opportunity to get a real feel for the places you are passing through.

Until the fall of the iron curtain, and after that the cessation of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia, driving to Greece was not really a viable proposition. Now it is and our journey went without incident. All the border crossings were made with no problems. Roads were always adequate and sometimes excellent, and on the main routes sign-posting was good and the Roman Alphabet always duplicated the Greek alphabet (used of course in Greece) and the Cyrillic alphabet used in Serbia and Macedonia.

The only real difficulties were experienced in the cities. Sign-posting is poor and street names in Serbia and Macedonia are not normally duplicated in the Roman alphabet. And at the time of writing SatNav does not extend to the cities in those two coutries, although some systems cover the major roads.

So we suggest you book your hotels in advance and print some quality street level mapping before you leave. It is a good idea to buy a street map in a service station as you approach the town you are heading for and make sure your passenger is a good map reader!

Our return route took us across Northern Greece to the port of Igoumenitsa, from where there is an excellent and frequent ferry service to several ports in Italy. From there of course it is an easy drive home through Italy and France.

So driving to Greece really is an option if you've got the time. It's a great way to travel, there are no real restrictions on luggage, your journey is most unlikely to be affected by Volcanic ash and you are in charge of your own destiny as opposed to being at the mercy of airline schedules, delays, cancellations and the other shenanigans beloved of low-cost airlines.

And there is a sense of achievement, of having made the journey, something quite unlike the sterile experience of travelling in a short time from point A to B in an aluminium tube. Maybe we'll all be doing more driving in the future!

Below are the links to take you to all the pages telling the story of our journey:
Driving from Calais to Vienna
Driving from Vienna to Budapest
Driving from Budapest to Belgrade
Driving from Belgrade to Skopje
Driving from Skopje to Edessa near Thessalonika
Driving in Greece
Driving from Thessaloniki (Greek spelling) to Parga and Igoumenitsa
Ferry from Igoumenitsa to Ancona on Superfast Ferries
Driving from Ancona in Noerthern Italy to the UK

21 June 2010

Irish Ferries special offers and on board cabaret

Irish Ferries are aggressively marketing their services at present, which is good news as they are offering up to 30% off on all routes, meaning you can cross the Irish Sea one way from as little as £89 for a car and one person during the week. More about this offer and all Irish Ferries fares and timetables visit our website.

If you use the direct crossing between Ireland and France, from Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff, Irish Ferries are doing their best to make the crossings more like a cruise than a ferry crossing. They are laying on a variety of entertainment during the summer cabaret season on the Oscar Wilde cruise ferry.

Irish Ferries have engaged a troupe of 14 entertainers including singers, musicians, dancers and a magician. Younger passengers will be able to enjoy an early evening children's cabaret, while grown ups will be entertained by a pianist and singers in Oscar's Piano Bar.

Outbound and return journeys will feature different performances and the cabaret is due to continue until mid-September.

Irish Ferries ferry crossings from Rosslare to Cherbourg
Irish Ferries ferry crossings Rosslare to Roscoff

20 June 2010

Ancona to the UK: the last leg of our drive from the UK to Greece and back

The final leg of our journey from the ferry port of Ancona back to the UK was completed in a matter of a couple of days. Leaving Ancona at about midday we easily reached our fist night's stop in the small city of Asti, south of Turin and home to the Asti Spumante wines, at about 4pm, ready for a stroll around the medieval centre and an excellent meal at the Osteria Vecchia Carrozza.

Next day we crossed the Alps through the Fréjus Tunnel. I much prefer this tunnel to the Mont Blanc. It's less busy, slighlty cheaper, and the route around Turin is also much pleasanter than driving around Milan on the way to the Mont Blanc. There is also the added attraction that you can take the old road over the Mont Cenis pass, which the tunnel has replaced. This is not a difficult pass to drive over and you are rewarded with some spectacular scenery. Probably adds about an hour to the journey, but make sure the pass is open, which it often is not from the end of October to the end of May. And again, unlike the Mont Blanc, both ends of the Fréjus tunnel are joined to the motorway network.

We spent the next night in Annecy, south of Geneva, one of our favourite towns. The picturesque centre is packed with lovely old buildings huddled around the twin rivers which flow through the town and into the beautiful Lake Annecy. There's no shortage of places to stay in Annecy. Make sure you try the local delicacy, tartiflette, creamy potatoes with bacon and mountain cheese, delicious and definately not part of a calorie control diet!

And then to Calais. The journey between Annecy and Calais took about 8 hours, proving how easy it is to drive from the Channel Ports to the ski slopes in a day.

14 June 2010

Ferry crossing from Igoumenitsa Greece to Ancona Italy

There are a number of ferry crossings between Greece and Italy: Igoumenitsa to Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi; Patras to Ancona, Venice, Brindisi and Bari; Kefalonia to Bari and Brindisi; Corfu to Bari, Brindisi and Venice.

We chose Igoumenitsa to Ancona as this crossing offered the most convenient departure and arrival times, with the added benefit that you join the ship early evening, leaving mid-morning next day, so plenty of opportunity for a good night's sleep.

There are also several operators on these routes and we opted for Superfast Ferries, partly for the reasons above and partly because they have a good reputation with modern ships and good facilities.

So after the short drive from Parga to Igoumenitsa we arrived at the port with time to spare. As ever in Greece the signposting is unclear as you approach the port since a new port has recently been constructed and basically you should follow the signs to "New port".

Here we found a brand new terminal building with check-in desks for the different operators, a couple of bars and cafés and some duty free type shops. After completing the check-in we set off for the holding area for our crossing. Again, no signs. We were directed by vague waving of hands to drive right around the terminal building, finding ourselves on a vast dock area where more equally vague hand waving directed us to a wavy line of cars which turned out to be waiting for the ship we wanted.

The vessel, the Superfast XII, was a little late in arriving, but made up for this by loading the cars and lorries and leaving again in about 20 minutes flat! The fastest turn-around of a big ferry I've ever seen. The actual loading process was yet again very Greek, with men waving the cars and lorries on at the same time, frequently directing vehicles around each other. Reminded me of an aerial display by the Red Arrows!

Once on board the ship was clean modern and comfortable with decent restaurant and bar areas, shops and nice cabins where we did indeed enjoy a good night's sleep.

Arriving in Ancona was almost as chaotic as leaving Greece, with just one lane of traffic leaving the port and the exit roads to the Autostrada being completely inadequate for the port traffic. It was the best part of an hour aftre docking before we were clear of the post area and headed westwards towards home.

9 June 2010

Driving the Egnatia Odos motorway from Thessaloniki to Igoumenitsa

Leaving Thessaloniki required the usual map reading skills as sign-posting to the E75 motorway to Athens was more or less absent. A sense of direction would have done as well as a map, as it was really just a question of heading west to join the motorway. The E75 heads south but after about 50 km we turned westwards again to join the E90/E92 towards our destination, Parga, a small but popular seaside resort south of the ferry port at Igoumenitsa.

The motorway is part of the recently completed Egnatia Odos motorway, a high quality road built largely with EU funds and which crosses the whole of northern Greece from the Turkish border to the Ionian Sea in the west. The road cannot fail to impress as it crosses plains, plunges into mountain tunnels and soars on elegant bridges across deep ravines. But be warned, facilities are almost entirely absent. I think we passed just one service area plus a couple of rest spots. Also there are no emergency phones, although signs inform you that there is a number to call on your mobile if you have the misfortune to break down.

Now and again you pass a spot where clearly a service station was intended, but instead there is just a patch of wasteland. When we passed along this road (May 2010) we drove straight through a couple of toll stations, unfinished and unmanned - great for us, and typical of this fantastic but disorganised country.

At one point we fancied a coffee and followed a sign showing restaurant facilities just off the motorway. All went well until we tried to get back on to the motorway. There was no obvious way to do this, and no signs. We were eventually escorted by the restaurant's owner on his quad bike along a km or so of completely unfinished dirt access roads back on to the main road, following a route which was not at all obvious.

So yes, the Egnatia Odos motorway is a great road, reducing the journey time from Thessaloniki to Igoumenitsa to just 4 hours compared to maybe 8 previously, but make sure you have a full tank and sandwiches before joining it!

We turned off the highway before Igoumenitsa for a well-deserved few days in Parga before catching the ferry to Ancona in Italy.

8 June 2010

40% discount for stays at Disneyland Paris

Just to let you know that if you book before July 20th 2010 Disneyland Paris is offering a discount of 40% on a package which includes a stay in one of their on-site hotels. This is even better value if you've got young children as kids under 7 get to "stay and play for free".

The offer runs for stays up to February 18th next year (2011), so includes school holidays, although dates over Christmas are excluded. As usual with these offers there are conditions, but if this is the kind of break for you it represents a pretty good deal.

Check out the details at the Disneyland Paris website.

We also offer booking for Eurostar, the High Speed Train which has services direct to Disneyland from St Pancras Interntional and Ebbsfleet.

If you'd prefer the convenience of taking your own car then search and book for a ferry crossing to France. Disneyland is just an easy 3 hour journey from Calais, Boulogne or Dunkirk, and you don't need to drive through Paris.

4 June 2010

Driving in Greece

While we were in Greece we spent a few days driving around the Northern part of Greece, the area known as Makedonia. As mentioned previously, the Greeks consider Makedonia (yes, they spell and pronounce it like that) as being Greek, so don't look kindly on references to the country just to the north as Macedonia.

It must be said that during the whole of our trip through 10 different countries, we encountered the worst driving, and in some respects, the worst driving conditions, in Greece. It's pretty much every man/woman for him/herself, with not much regard for traffic laws and especially not for lane discipline in cities.

To quote an extract from a tourist brochure produced in Greece: "Unfortunately, many drivers are not aware of the position of their indicators, therefore they are not usually used." And again: "Take heed of any speed limits as it is still an offence to exceed the stated limit". So are they about to abolish speed limits?

It's best not to drive in the rain! On the one day we had to do this we coluldn't believe how slippery the roads are. The surfaces are very shiny and it was almost impossible to start from rest without the traction control kicking in, and coming to a standstill required the same skills you'd exercise when driving on icy surfaces.

We spent a couple of nights in Greece's second city, Thessaloniki (or Thessalonika as we call it for some reason), and it was chaotic. And not just the driving. Lots of stuff was broken, there were unfinished building sites here and there, and, with a complete disregard for health and safety, bits of scaffolding sticking out, broken pavements and the occasional hole. Nothing ever seemed to get fixed. And finding any of the tourist sights was more a matter of luck and map reading, as signposting was minimal at best.

But having said this, the people were great, really friendly and relaxed, and the city had a real buzz about it with bars all along the seafront and plenty of restaurants offering every style of cuisine. We were there at the height of the rioting in Athens, about 500 km to the south, but you wouldn't have known anything was amiss, with no sign of any trouble in Thessaloniki.

So we had reached our destination safely and on schedule, and next we head for home!

Visit the Drive-Alive website for information on driving in Europe.

1 June 2010

SeaFrance voted best ferry company website

In a survey conducted by eDigitalResearch the SeaFrance website came out top amongst the ferry company websites for usability, and the site was rated in the top ten of all travel-related websites, quite an achievement.

The survey was carried out by mystery shoppers and SeaFrance scored 78.4%, with positive comments about the search and booking process.

For more about SeaFrance and links to its class-winning website visit the Drive-Alive SeaFrance information page.
More about ferry crossings to France and the rest of Europe.

31 May 2010

Stena Line early return of the Stena Explorer on Holyhead Dun Laoghaire route

As further proof of the way ferry companies have benefited from the increase in demand resulting from the Ash Cloud and people's reluctance to commit to flying, Stena Line ferries are initiating the summer service operated by the Fast Ferry Stena Explorer one month earlier than planned.

The vessel has started crossing from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire and will continue to sail this route until September 5th. The Stena Explorer departs from Holyhead at 10 am and from Dun Laoghaire at 13.15 pm. This ferry crossing over the Irish Sea takes just 2 hours. Foot passengers are welcome and there is a direct rapid rail connection to Dublin from Dun Laoghaire.

Visit the Drive-Alive website for more info on the Holyhead Dun Laoghaire ferry crossing, including booking links and links to timetable information.

Driving from Skopje in Macedonia to Edessa in Greece

Getting out of Skopje was a lot easier than getting in, as at least the motorway was signed. We needed to head for Athens on the E75, because although our destination was Edessa, a small town north-west of Thessaloniki, the E75 goes all the way to Athens, by-passing Thessaloniki to the west.

The road from Skopje to the Greek border was a mixture of two lane road and motorway and once again passed through some spectacular mountain scenery. Motorway speed limits in Macedonia are 120 km/h with good conditions, so progress on these newer sections was good, and the light traffic meant that there were no real delays even on the older two lane sections.

Tolls were charged on the motorway sections, amounting to about 4 euros, also payable in Macedonian Dinars, a good way of getting rid of our few remaining Dinars as they are worthless outside Macedonia. This was also the case with Hungarian Forints and Serbian Dinars, so try and get rid of them before leaving the respective countries.

The border between Macedonia and Greece was our last potential hurdle before rejoining the EU, but once again the crossing was completely trouble free. Once in Greece we found ourselves on a long, quiet toll-free motorway with a signed limit of 100km/h. Given the state of the road surface this was probably a sensible speed. The normal motorway speed limit is 120, although some newer sections are signed at 130. Direction signing is in Roman script as well as Greek, so no problems there.

This north-western part of Greece is called Macedonia, like the country we'd just left, so when in Greece do not refer to the country of Macedonia by that name or the Greeks get annoyed. Most of them seem to call the country of Macedonia by the name of the capital city, Skopje. Or else "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". All very confusing and typical of this part of Europe where boundaries have changed many times, often in living memory. In the case of the former Yugoslavia not long ago at all, of course.

After a rather boring journey across the plains of this region, with the traffic getting progressively heavier, we finally left it all behind and reached the foothills of the mountainous border regions and our destination Edessa, a pretty town perched on the edge of a plateau with fantstic views across the plain, waterfalls, and so many coffee bars there must be practically one for every inhabitant!

Visit our website for more about driving in Europe.

26 May 2010

Driving from Belgrade in Serbia to Skopje in Macedonia

Leaving Belgrade proved harder than it should have been as major roadworks were taking place on the route to the motorway and diversion signs were patchy at best. But we eventually reached the motorway, which initially was badly in need of repair, but improved as we moved away from the city, and headed south towards Macedonia.

Motorways in Serbia are subject to tolls as they are in Macedonia, although these are not as expensive as in France, for example. It is possible to pay in both countries in Euros, although this costs about 10% extra due to exchange rates not being great. The total toll costs for this leg of our trip were about 10 euros, and you hand over your cash at toll booths. Credit cards were not accepted, although they were at service stations, which were plentiful on the motorway, but few and far between otherwise.

Just as when we entered Serbia, there were no problems crossing into Macedonia. We had to produce our vehicle registration document and the Green Card.

Between Belgrade and the border was a mixture of motorway and decent quality two lane road. Thre was good motorway for over half of the drive from the Macedonian border to Skopje, and again as we approached Skopje. The light traffic and the gorgeous scenery meant we made good and enjoyable progress, the whole trip fro Belgrade to Skopje taking about 6 hours of relaxed driving.

Driving in Skopje, which is quite a large city, is as erratic as I have experienced anywhere. This, combined with the fact that all street names are in Cyrillic script, meant finding our hotel in Skopje was interesting. Before leaving the UK we tried to find a SatNav which covered Serbia and Macedonia but although some now cover the main roads, none have yet incorporated city street detail. You really do need someone who can read a map! In spite of the apparent lack of any driving rules, as long as you drive carefully, much as you would in any new city, people respect your road space and we had no problems.

We really liked Skopje. The people were very friendly and in spite of the driving habits, very relaxed and cheerful. The city centre is an interesting mix of the modern and ancient, with lots of street art and sculpture and a lively cafe culture in the newer centre, alongside a much older "bazaar" quarter just across an old stone bridge.

Throughout Macedonia we saw churches and mosques next to each other. This made us wish we had a better understanding of the history, recent as well as older, of this part of Europe.

22 May 2010

SeaFrance extra services Dover Calais to meet increased demand

In common with other ferry operators, especially on the ferry crossings to France, SeaFrance has experienced a surge in demand since the volcanic ash crsis began.

To meet this the company has made extra sapce available for foot passengers and also laid on extra services. SeaFrance claims to have helped over 20,000 stranded passengers on their way to their destinations.

SeaFrance is often overlooked in favour of its more famous competitor P&O Ferries. Yet SeaFrance has perhaps the most modern ships on the Dover Calais ferry crossings, with up to 15 daily return crossings, and its rates are competitive, with fares starting from just £25 each way for a car and up to 5 passengers no matter how long you're away.

More about SeaFrance Ferries Dover Calais.
More about ferry crossings between the UK,Ireland and Europe.

20 May 2010

Driving from Belgrade back to the UK with a broken laptop

Well here we are back in the UK after a trouble free but fascinating journey since we last posted to this blog back in Belgrade. I say trouble free but of course our laptop packed up in Belgrade.

We drove to Macedonia where there wasn't really time to try and do anything about it, and no sign of any internet access. In Greece we visited a computer repair shop where a very helpful person told us the video card had died and the laptop wasn't worth reparing, something a quick phone call to the UK confirmed.

Unfortunately they don't use Roman letters in Greece so the keyboards are totally different and we would have needed to source a laptop from the UK for it to have been useable. As we were travelling delivery would have been tricky.

We did try using PCs in Internet cafés and hotels but it was hard work. As we were in Greece websites like Google kept directing us to their Greek servers so everything was in Greek, and even when this wasn't the case programme menus were often in Greek.

So we decided not to make any further posts to this blog but to write it out as we went along and to resume posting when back in the UK.

So this is by way of an apology and to let you know that if you want to follow the rest of our epic drive from Belgrade through Macedonia, Greece, ferry to Italy, then home through the Fréjus Alpine tunnel and France, check here or watch our Twitter panel on the Drive-Alive website.

4 May 2010

Driving from Budapest to Belgrade - Hungary to Serbia

Leaving Budapest was easy with good sign-posting to the M5 motorway, a good quality road to the Serbian border across the totally flat plain of the Danube.

We had wondered whether we would encounter any problems entering Serbia, but it was plain sailing. Coincidentally the car insurance has just fallen due for renewal. We'd had difficulty finding an insurer to issue a Green Card for Serbia and Macedonia - this is still required for both these countries, but succeeded eventually, although at a small extra cost. The alternative is to purchase the cover at the border on entry, but there seems to be a question mark over the usefulness of such cover.

Anyway, our Green Card was accepted without question and after a cursory inspection of the contents of the boot we were on our way.

Serbia is a different country! Signs of neglect are everywhere. The maps show a motorway all the way from the border to Belgrade. Well, it's not a motorway as we know it, being a two lane highway with a hard shoulder. On coming drivers overtake into the opposite lane forcing you onto the hard shoulder, so you need to keep alert. Fortunately traffic is light, so it's not as horrendous as it sounds.

This style of road continued all the way to Novi Sad, with no sign of any upgrading imminent (except for one short section), so I'm puzzled as to why map makers such as Michelin show the road as a full motorway. Anyway, from Novi Sad onwards you pay a toll of about 7 euros (acceptable in Euros but slightly cheaper in Serbian dinars) for the rest of the journey to Belgrade.

The journey took about 5 and a half hours, longer than expected as the "motorway" is subject to a limit of 100 km/h, although once it becomes a proper motorway the limit is 120. We stuck rigidly to the limits, not wanting to run the risk of getting involved with the local police, and there were a number of mobile speed traps.

On the approach to Belgrade the road continues as an urban dual carriageway, rather like the major A roads that enter London. Except there's much less traffic. It reminded me of driving in the UK about 40 years ago.

We'd been warned that Belgrade driving was pretty hairy, but we saw no evidence of this, although road markings are not great. It was much less stressful driving here than in say Paris, Milan or Rome. One slight problem is that street names are mostly in Cyrillic so working out where you are can be difficult.

Belgrade, although rather decrepit, seems friendly and welcoming and the central area is as tourist friendly as any other city, with attractive squares, pedestrianised streets, plenty of green spaces, a spectacular castle and an old "Bohemian" quarter.

2 May 2010

Driving from Vienna to Budapest

Before we leave Vienna I should tell you that you need a good street map because signposting is virtually non-existent. I remember this was the case last time I drove in Vienna, about 30 years ago, and it hasn't got any better. Which is odd, because throughout the rest of Austria signage is good.

It was May Day when we left Vienna, so traffic was light and we were sorry not to be able to stay and enjoy the parades, but Budapest beckoned. I have never been to Hungary, let alone driven there. Of course Hungary is now part of the European Union, although, like the UK, they are not part of the Euro block.

So on arriving at the border Euros were changed to Forints and a vignette allowing travel on Hungarian motorways was purchased - about 7 euros for 4 days. These are available in garages on both sides of the border, as well as in well-marked booths alongside the motorway in Hungary. We bought ours in Austria, but could probably have saved the equivalent of a euro if we'd used Forints in Hungary.

Speed limits on Hungarian motorways are 130 km/h. The motorway is continuous between Vienna and Budapest and not particularly busy, so an easy journey taking about 2 and a half hours.

One mistake we made was to stop at a parking area and leave the car unattended for just a few minutes. When we returned a couple of guys were busy cleaning the windows. I let them finish and offered a Euro. They were clearly not happy with this but I remained polite but firm, and they grudgingly accepted. As I pointed out, I didn't ask them to do the job. From now on one of us will stay with the car!

There is zero tolerance of drink driving, and even a small amount of alcohol in the blood can result in severe penalties. Quite right too. Having said that, I don't think we've seen a single policeman or patrol car in Hungary so far.

Budapest is spectacularly beautiful, especially at night, when the castle, the amazingly ornate Parliament building and many other monuments are floodlit to great effect. Driving seems reasonable. Many streets are one way, even major routes. Often two way roads will forbid turns across oncoming traffic, and to make a turn across the traffic can involve a considerable detour around two blocks.

The city feels very safe, well lit and no evidence of anti-social behaviour. Budapest is however, not a cheap city. In fact food and drink are if anything more expensive than in Vienna, where prices were surprisingly moderate for a popular tourist destination and capital city.

We've made some progress with our video and have managed to download the images to the laptop and perform some basic editing. But I'm afraid the results are not ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

28 April 2010

Drive-Alive to Greece - a driving trip through Europe

Those of you who receive the Drive-Alive newsletter will know that we have embarked on a trip through Europe to Greece, travelling via Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia. The aim is to learn more about driving conditions, rules and regulations in these countries, especially Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia.

These countries are not currently featured in the Drive-Alive driving information pages, although we do offer hotels and self-catering properties there, and even camping in Greece.

We are now in Vienna, having left Dover on Monday on the 13.00 P&O ferry from Dover to Calais. Our route took us briefly through France, by-passing Lille, then across Belgium. This section of the journey passed without incident, although the Belgium motorways are in urgent need of some TLC, and Belgian drivers are as bad as any in terms of tailgating on motorways. No wonder they have such a poor accident rate.

We crossed into Germany near Aachen then made our way to the small Rhine-side town of Bad Breissig, south of Bonn; very pretty but very quiet. The enormous commercial barges on the Rhine reminded us just how much the great rivers of Europe contribute to the movement of goods there.

They do drive fast on the German Autobahns, but on the whole, sensibly. You just need to keep a constant eye on the rear-view mirror. The sign-posting on German Autobahns is excellent, much better than in the UK where I hate to think how foreign drivers cope with seeing places like Scotch Corner (where?) shown as the major destination as you drive up the A1. Ever heard of Newcastle in the sign-posting department?

The journey from Calais to Bad Breissig took 5 hours, including stops. Next day we drove to Passau on the German-Austrian border, all motorway but rendered stressfull by mile after mile of roadworks as they upgrade the A3. Even so we effectively crossed Germany in 6 hours, although we were glad to arrive in Passau and book in to the elegant Hotel Passerau Wolf with a lovely room overlooking the Danube.

Passau is a beautiful town at the confluence of the Danube and the Inn, and we have some video clips to show once we work out how to transfer them from the camera to the internet!

Having purchased our "vignette" (a sticker for your windscreen which you need to drive on Austrian motorways - see the our web page "driving in Austria" - today (Wednesday) started with a great drive along the Danube through Austria on a quiet "B" road to Linz where we got back on the Motorway, and within 2 hours were in Vienna, perhaps the most majestic and "imperial" city I know. We are staying in the faded but comfortable Hotel Drei Kronen. We will be in Vienna for 3 nights so hopefully by the time we leave we'll have managed to post some pictures.

23 April 2010

Worst of volcanic ash crisis over

Here at Drive-Alive we have tried to keep you up to date with the developing situation regarding surface transport to the UK during the shutdown of European airspace.

Of course we have concentrated on ferries, as they are our area of special expertise. It seems that all services are now running as normal and that queues have shrunk to a more or less acceptable level.

If you are still trying to get back then you can find information about the different routes, ports and ferry companies on our ferry pages.

We hope we have been able to be of some help on this blog and on our twitter pages. Once things are back to normal we'll let you have our thoughts on the longer term effects on people's perception of different ways to travel.

22 April 2010

LD Lines has foot passenger space at Dieppe and Le Havre

LD Lines ferry crossings between France and England have space for foot passengers on their routes from Dieppe to Newhaven (operated by Transmanche Ferries) and Le Havre to Portsmouth.

There are two sailings daily from both Dieppe and Portsmouth, and passengers are advised to simply turn up at the port.

Other ferry services are operating as normal, and although there are queues for P&O and SeaFrance at Calais people are getting on ferries within a couple of hours. Other ferry companies and ports accepting foot passengers are DFDS Seaways at Esbjerg in Denmark and Ijmuiden near Amsterdam, Stena Line at the Hook of Holland near Rotterdam, P&O's terminals at Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, as well as Brittany Ferries terminals at Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo and Roscoff.

For more information on all these ferry routes see our ferry information pages.

19 April 2010

Ferry services between Europe the UK and Ireland updated 10am April 20th

Below is a list of what we know about the ferry services between Europe and the UK at 10 am on Tuesday April 20th. Many ferry websites are very slow with erratic connections. Links to all the ferry companies, Eurostar and Eurotunnel.
Follow Drive-Alive on Twitter for the latest ferry news.

People are being advised to make for Calais where they can just turn up and should get a ferry reasonably quickly. One of the 3 Navy ships is in Santander and will take about 200 civilians but still no news as to whereabouts of other 2 ships.

P&O Ferries Calais Dover no online bookings taken for foot passengers but if you go to the port will transport you on first come first served basis. Trying to get already booked vehicles and foot passengers on their booked sailings, which are operating to schedule
P&O Ferries Rotterdam and Zeebrugge to Hull - space available, turn up at port
SeaFrance Calais Dover their last update relates to the weekend just gone, so who knows!
LD Lines Boulogne Dover operating normally with space for cars and foot passengers
Transmanche Ferries Dieppe Newhaven operating normally with space for car and foot passengers
LD Lines Le Havre Portsmouth operating normally with space for cars and foot passengers
Norfolk Lines Dunkirk Dover not accepting online bookings and anyway do not take foot passengers
TransEurope Ferries Ostend Ramsgate operating normally with space for cars and foot passengers
Brittany Ferries Spain to UK no availability until 28th April
Brittany Ferries UK to Spain no availability until 29th April
Brittany Ferries ferry crossings to and from France - availability for vehicles and foot passengers
Stena Line Hook of Holland (near Rotterdam) to Harwich - very limited availability but still possible to book online
DFDS Seaways Esbjerg (Denmark) to Harwich space available and extra service tomorrow (Tuesday)
DFDS Seaways Ijmuiden near Amsterdam to Newcastle space available
DFDS Seaways also operate between Oslo and Copenhagen (space available) from where there are trains to Esbjerg.
Ferry crossings from the UK to Ireland with Irish Ferries and Stena Line operating normally with space.
Eurostar trains are very busy although they are running extra services. Do not go to the station unless you have a reservation. It is possible to book online, with very limited availability.
Eurotunnel Calais (Coquelles)to Folkestone taking bookings BUT only for travellers with a vehicle.

18 April 2010

Volcanic ash disruption - alternatives to flying

If you're still looking for ways to get home from Europe we have tried to provide information about most ferry crossings as at 18:00 on Sunday April 18, together with a few suggestions:

Visit our ferry page where you will find almost every ferry crossing between the UK and Europe listed, ferry route maps, information about the crossings and links to go straight to the ferry companies' booking websites. So no chance of being over charged - you pay exactly what the ferry operators are charging.

If possible avoid Calais as SeaFrance (no advance booking for foot passengers) and P&O (again no advance booking and website down at 18:00 Sunday) seem overwhelmed and we guess the situation at the port must be horrendous.

NorfolkLine do not accept foot passengers on their Dunkirk Dover route, so forget that option.

LD Lines/Transmanche/Transeuropa ferries between Dieppe-Newhaven, Boulogne-Dover and Ostend-Ramsgate are all running to schedule with space for foot passengers.

Brittany Ferries' website is very slow but as far as we know sailings are to schedule with spaces. Check this page for info about and links to all Brittany Ferries' routes and timetables.

Stena Line are operating as normal from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, although they state that space for foot passengers is limited, whatever that means. This could be worth trying however.

If you are in Scandinavia or Northern Germany try and get a train to Esbjerg in Denmark from where there is a DFDS Seaways ferry crossing to Harwich. DFDS also operate a ferry crossing from Ijmuiden near Amsterdam to Newcastle, so perhaps a possibility if you are trying to get back to the North of England. Space on their crossings.

Eurostar passenger trains are saying do not come to their stations without a reservation, and you can only travel on Eurotunnel with your car.

All services between the UK and Ireland are operating normally with space for cars and foot passengers. Check Irish Ferries and >Stena Line Ireland.

To get to a ferry port either hire a car on a one-way hire, or catch a train in Europe.

16 April 2010

Engine failure on Brittany Ferries Fast Ferry to Cherbourg and Caen

The Brittany Ferries fastferry Normandie Express has suffered an engine failure in one of its four diesel engines. As a result the vessel has been dry-docked in Portsmouth for the faulty engine to be rebuilt.

Brittany Ferries have cancelled the weekend fast ferry sailings to Caen as the Normandie Express is unable to keep to schedule on this ferry crossing to France. The conventional ferry crossings operated by Brittany Ferries between Portsmouth and Caen are unaffected. The Portsmouth to Cherbourg Normandie Express crossings are of course also cancelled, although this route is still served 3 times a week by the Cap Finistere.

Any passengers booked on the affected crossings should contact Brittany Ferries, who are offering either a full refund or an alternative crossing. Repairs are expected to take 3 weeks.

For links to the Brittany Ferries website.

14 April 2010

Sail to Ireland with Irish Ferries from just £89 this Spring

Very last minute! Irish Ferries are offering up to 33% off if you take a ferry crossing to Ireland, provided you book before April 20th, so not much time left.

The offer applies to a car plus 2 people, and of course as much luggage as you can fit in. Additional passengers are just £23.

Irish Ferries have crossings between the UK and Ireland from Holyhead in North Wales to Dublin and from Pembroke in South Wales to Rosslare. For links to book at the offer prices visit the Drive-Alive Irish Ferry pages and click the Book now buttons.

May half term early booking discounts on camping holidays from Keycamp

Keycamp are launching some great early booking discounts which could save as much as 40% off your next family holiday, including the May half term. The promotion runs from 13th April, but don't delay as you need to book before 5th May.

The discount depends on the time the holiday is taken, as shown below.

Arrival date up to 26th May save 40% on all parcs
Arrival date 27th May to 11th June save 40% on selected parcs
Arrival date 12th to 23rd June save 30% on selected parcs
Arrival date 24th to 30th June save 20% on selected parcs

So if you're still wondering what to do for half-term, now you know. A 40% discount is an amazing offer, all you need to do is make sure you book before May 5th. As always, there are some conditions, so go straight to the Keycamp website to check them out and make your booking.

Brittany Ferries launches mini cruises to Spain

Brittany Ferries now offers the possibility to take a relaxing mini cruise to Spain on their latest superferry, the Cap Finistere, including a short stop in Santander.

The Cap Finistere departs Portsmouth on Tuesday and Friday morning at 11.15 with the return crossing departing from Santander on Thursday and Sunday at 14.15. The crossing takes 24 hours, so allowing for the fact that Spanish time is 1 hour ahead of the UK there's enough time for a stroll around the elegant resort of Santander before returning to the ship.

The Cap Finistere is superbly equipped with ensuite cabins, on board entertainment, cinemas and even an outdoor pool complex, not to mention the restaurants and bars. Brittany Ferries has an excellent reputation for its cusine.

As an added bonus, while the ship is crossing the Bay of Biscay there's always the chance of a little wild life spotting, including whales and dolphins if you're lucky.

To find out more or make a booking visit our Portsmouth Santander ferry page and click the "Special Offers" link.

2 April 2010

Camping holiday offers from Eurocamp and Keycamp

Eurocamp and Keycamp are running short-term specials on camping holidays in Europe with some extremely attractive prices - but only if you book before April 12th.

Eurocamp is offering Atlantic or Mediterranean beach breaks from only £125 per family in some lovely hand picked resorts, and Keycamp are fixing prices for holidays in April, May and June, saving you over £200!

For direct access to these offers visit the Drive-Alive camping holidays offers page - but be quick!

26 March 2010

All change Rosslare to Cherbourg ferry crossing

LD Lines are busy ringing the changes. Over the last few months they have dropped the Dover to Dieppe ferry and launched the Ramsgate to Ostend crossing in partnership with TransEuropa Ferries, as well as moving ships around.

Now they have pulled out of the Rosslare to Cherbourg route not many months after changing the route's French destination from Le Havre to Cherbourg.

Fortunately for those of you wanting a direct crossing from South-East Ireland to France the Rosslare to Cherbourg ferry crossing is still up and running, now operated by Celtic Link Ferries, and as Celtic Link are one of our partners you can still book these crossings on the Drive-Alive website. Because we have direct access to the Celtic Link Ferries' booking engine you get the best prices and up to date timetables.
Further information and links to timetables and booking for Celtic Link Ferries Rosslare Cherbourg.

Irish Ferries also offer a ferry crossing from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

25 March 2010

Extra sailings from Portsmouth to Spain from Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries newly acquired cruise ferry, the Cap Finistere, has joined their flagship vessel the Pont Aven on the Portsmouth to Santander ferry crossing. This means there are now three crossings weekly from Portsmouth on the south coast of the UK to Santander in Northern Spain.

In addition there is a weekly crossing from Plymouth and customers can mix and match these crossings, so effectively Brittany Ferries are offering four weekly return ferry sailings from England to Spain.

The crossing from Portsmouth takes 24 hours and from Plymouth just 18 hours. Although these ferries enable you to bypass France you can still experience French style on board these two super ferries, with several restaurants, bars, cinemas and shops. Both ferries even have swimming pools, the one on the Cap Finistere being open air and heated.

More about the Portsmouth Santander ferry crossing with links to timetables and booking.
More about the Plymouth Santander ferry crossing with links to timetables and booking.

23 March 2010

Stena Line Fast Ferry rejoins Irish Sea service

The Stena Fast Ferry HSS Stena Express has just relaunched on the Irish Sea after a £2 million refit. As a result she is even faster than previously and completes the crossings from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire in just 1 hour 50 minutes. Dun Laoghaire is just south of Dublin.

The vessel is joined on this crossing during the summer months by the world's largest Fast Ferry, the Stena Explorer and between them they operate three return crossings daily.

The Express even manages to find time to nip down the coast and join the conventional ferry the Stena Europe on the Fishguard Rosslare route during the summer months, adding an additional return crossing to the two offered by the Europe on this popular route.

As well as the crossings operated by the Express and Explorer from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, Stena Line sail from Holyhead to Dublin port using two conventional ferries, the Nordica and Adventurer, offering four return crossings all year, each crossing taking 3 and a quarter hours.

For more about Stena Line ferry routes across the Irish Sea.

19 March 2010

Irish Ferries Spring Sale for Early Bookers


If you are thinking about a trip to enjoy all the Emerald Isle has to offer then why not take advantage of Irish Ferries' ferry crossings from Pembroke in South Wales to Rosslare in South-East Ireland?

Pembroke is easy to reach, being about 2 hours' drive from Cardiff. Rosslare gives easy access to Cork and the south-west coast of Ireland with its spectacular scenery of rugged coasts, islands, hidden coves and inlets.

Irish Ferries has two return sailings per day from Pembroke with the crossing taking just 4 hours. If you book by March 24th the Early Booking Offer has fares from £89 one way for a car and two passengers, that’s up to 33% off. Each additional adult pays just £23 extra each way and there’s no need for the expense of onboard cabin accommodation.
More about Irish Ferries ferry crossings from Pembroke to Rosslare.

17 March 2010

LD Lines bring Fast Ferry service Portsmouth Le Havre

As from Friday 26th March LD Lines is introducing the Norman Arrow, the largest Fast Ferry on the Western Channel, to their Portsmouth Le Havre ferry crossing from the UK to France.

The vessel will cross the Channel from Portsmouth in Hampshire to Le Havre in Normandy in just 3 hours 15 minutes. By comparison, the LD Lines current conventional ferry, the Cote d'Albatre, takes 5 hours 30 minutes for the daytime crossing and 8 hours overnight.

The outward crossing by the Norman Arrow departs Portsmouth at the convenient time of 08.30, arriving in Le Havre at 12.45 French time, while the return crossing departs Le Havre at 18.30 reaching Le Havre at 20.45 UK time.

There is a price premium for the Fast Ferry service. For example, the lowest current fares for Portsmouth - Le Havre conventional ferry start from £60 for short break returns for a car and 2 passengers, compared to the lowest single fare on the Fast Ferry of £109.
Click to book the Fast Ferry or conventional ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre

15 March 2010

DFDS Seaways Spring Savings – 2 for 1 Mini Cruises to Amsterdam

2 for 1 DSDS Seaways mini-cruise to Amsterdam

DFDS Seaways are still pushing their mini-cruise concept on their Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry route, and have come up with another attractive offer.

If you live within easy distance of Newcastle this is a good way to have a relaxing break which includes two nights on board the ship where there is live entertainment, and various cafes and restaurants.

2-For-1 Newcastle Amsterdam 2 Night mini Cruise Break
One pays and one goes FREE!

Includes 2 nights onboard ship in ensuite cabin
Coach transfers to and from Amsterdam City Centre
Live entertainment onboard
2 Nights from only £89 for 2 people
2 Nights from only £138 for 4 people
Selected departures in March & April. Must Book by 31st March.
Click for more on the 2 for 1 mini cruise offer

Alternatively you might prefer to spend a few nights in Amsterdam. If so check out the DFDS Seaways Amsterdam Cruise and Hotel Break, essentially offering 35% normal prices and letting you enjoy the many attractions of this wonderful city.
Click for more on the Amsterdam cruise offer

Disneyland Paris - Euro Disney - 40% offer

Disneyland Paris have launched another offer - this is particularly generous, offering 40% off normal prices and in addition children under 7 stay and enjoy the park free of charge. Just book by 30th April for arrivals between 5th April 2010 and 8th November 2010.

As always there are conditions attached, but if you comply this really is a good deal.

Check out the offer and the conditions at the Disneyland Paris website.

The offer doesn't include transport, but there are plenty of deals available on the ferries at the Drive-Alive ferry page with crossings from P&O starting at £30 each way while SeaFrance better that with at £25, but with fewer crossings. And of you want to leave the car at home Eurostar have some great deals.

12 March 2010

Brittany Ferries increase their crossings from Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Caen

There's plenty going on at Brittany Ferries! They've just announced an increase in the crossings to France operated by their state of the art Fast Ferry, the Normandie Express.

The Normandie Express takes just 3 hours to reach Cherbourg and 3½ hours to Caen so passengers can board in Portsmouth in the morning and still be in France in time for an early lunch.

The Normandie Express sailings from Portsmouth to Caen only operate on Fridays and Saturdays, departing Portsmouth at 7 am. There are more departures on the Portsmouth Cherbourg route, so visit our page about the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth Cherbourg route to find out more.

9 March 2010

Brittany Ferries - enjoy a free night in France or Spain


Brittany Ferries is much more than just a ferry company operating ferry crossings to France and Spain. They offers holidays throughout France and Spain ranging from exciting activity holidays for the family to a quiet break deep in the French countryside.

And if you book any kind of holiday accommodation before 15 March, you’ll save 14% on the week’s rental, paying for only 6 nights of a 7 night stay! And there are no restrictions on when you travel – the offer even applies to peak and school holiday periods.

To book or for more information visit Brittany Ferries and click the "Offers" link at the top of the page.

More about Brittany Ferries ferry crossings to France and Spain.

22 February 2010

Ferry port weather reports and forecast

Worried about sea sickness? Now you can check the current weather and the forecast for the next three days for most ferry ports in Britain.

These reports are provided to Drive-Alive by the Met Office and are updated throughout the day. Just visit our ferries' page and click through to your chosen ferry port and you'll see a summary of the weather including temperature and, most importantly, wind speed.

As a rough guide anything up to 12 mph should result in a smooth crossing. From 12 to 25 mph the ship will have some motion although most people will be unaffected. Up to 35 mph and you'll need to hold on while walking around and the ship's motion will be enough to cause sensitive individuals to feel queasy. From 35 to 45 mph the ship will be moving around noticeably, and sick bags will be in use! 45 and upwards the sea will be rough, walking will become difficult and if you're prone to sea sickness, make sure you take the tablets!

Remember that the wind at sea is always a few mph stronger than the shoreline strength. It's also worth bearing in mind that the sea takes a few hours to calm down after strong winds have passed.

17 February 2010

Low Emission Zones in Germany

If you have visited our page about Low Emission Zones you will know that many German cities require you to purchase and display a sticker. This proves that your vehicle meets the emission standards necessary for you to drive in the city in question.

Purchasing a sticker in advance of travel has always been the best option as it avoids searching for a sales point (usually garages) on arrival at the outskirts of towns. But pre-purchase has previously been difficult. Plenty of websites offered the sticker but the issue was that they required documentation and payment to be sent offline.

This has now changed. The Environmental Zone page of the Berlin City website allows you to simply type your registration details and scan and upload a copy of the vehicle registration document. The cost is only 6 euros which can be paid by credit card online.

More good news is that the sticker is valid anywhere in Germany and lasts throughout the life of the vehicle. So buy in advance and make sure you do not leave yourself open to the fine of 40 euros for not displaying the sticker.