Pride of Burgundy

by Trevor Boston

Dover to Calais and return,Thursday 19th October 2006.

I arrived at the P. & O. check in desk at Dover Eastern Docks at 1pm and decided I would have a non landing crossing for £6. The sailing I was put on was the 1.45 sailing on the Pride of Burgundy, a first for me as I've never travelled on this ship before.

After my ticket was paid for I was told to keep an eye out for the bus taking the foot passengers to the ferry. Since I last travelled at a foot passenger things have changed, instead of making my way to the Departure Lounge and passing the French Border Control (who never looked at passports anyway!) I was told that there is no longer a departure lounge and I believe that where the departure lounge used to be is now a car park! The two cross channel ferry operators who accept foot passengers from Dover (P. & O. and Seafrance) have no PA system in the check in area, thankfully the area where the coaches leave was pointed out to me by a friendly member of P. & O. staff.

The coach took us to the new berth where the Pride of Burgundy was waiting for us. The new walk ways up to the ship are truly breathtaking, an amazing piece of workmanship. For those who were weighed down by their luggage there is a lift that takes them to the top of the walk way, but as l need the exercise(!) I decided to walk. Once again when we arrived we were greeted by friendly P. & O. staff who gave us any information that we asked for. For example: sea conditions, Christmas sailings, fleet dry docking dates, number of passengers the sailing had booked on it.

As soon as I was on the ship I made my way to the on board information desk in order to collect my return ticket, again warm and friendly staff dealt with my ticket and informed me that the sea was rough blowing force 5-6, perfect conditions for shipping photography! Once I had got my return ticket I made my way out on deck.

We left Dover on time, amazing considering the ship arrived 15 minutes late in Dover due to conditions in the channel and waiting for a tug. After we left the berth the Seafrance Berlioz started getting underway along with Speed One heading for Boulogne. As soon as we left the harbour the captain of the Pride of Burgundy informed us that the wind was force 7 gusting gale force 8, my heart went out to the passengers on Speed One, no doupt the nickname ‘Vomit Rocket’ became very true on that crossing!

As we were leaving Seafrance Nord Pas-de-Calais was heading into Dover, with white water breaking over her bow. She was followed into Dover by the Seafrance Cézanne and P. & O. Ferries’ Pride of Kent.

Off Calais the Seafrance Rodin and Pride of Calais passed us heading for Dover, once we were in Calais harbour the Pride of Canterbury left her berth shortly followed by the Seafrance Manet.

The Hoverspeed ramps at the far end of Calais harbour looked in good condition should a fast ferry operator wish to use it for a Dover - Calais route. Although not many people are keen on fast ferries I do wish that another operator would open the route up, as I know people who commute to Belgium from Kent to work and since Hoverspeed stopped sailing they have been forced to take the conventional ferry, thus arriving at work nearly an hour - 90 minutes later than they did when Hoverspeed were still in operation.

The Seafrance Berlioz is an amazing vessel to look at close up, she made an impressive sight as she left Calais for Dover with the evening sun shining off of her clean superstructure. Although I have never sailed with Seafrance (l believe in sailing with a company with British workers) if their ships exterior is anything to go by, they are a good company...even if they do strike at the most inconvenient times!

We left Calais behind the ’Berlioz’ and passed the ’Seafrance NPC’, Seafrance Cézanne and Pride of Kent within 5 minutes of each other, the crossing back was choppy but the wind had dropped to force 5. There were lots of other vessels in the channel, mainly coasters with the occassional container ship sailing away into the sunset before the sun gave way to night in mid channel.

In conclusion this was a wonderful crossing for £6! The crew of the Pride of Burgundy and P. & O. staff in Dover was extremely friendly and informative, nothing seemed too much trouble for them. I would certainly travel again with P. & O.

The only small complaint I can think of is aimed at the P. & O. staff in offices who decide the prices of on board food and drink. For example Fish & Chips with any vegetable would set you back nearly £7.00, a soft drink is £1.80 and a prawn sandwich was £3.00! If your planning to do a non landing journey with P. & O. make sure you eat before you board and take your own drinks!