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!