We have been planning for the move to Spain for a few years after I met Consu.
As you may have guessed, it was about seeking good food and of course, the glorious sunshine!
Apart from that, we have a bigger chance of exploring more of mainland Europe without having to board cumbersome flights with their baggage restrictions and avoid the redtapes as a result from Brexit.
It took us about 3 months to draft out a practical plan called ‘The Big Move’. Yes, we wrote that on the checklist.
The mode of transportation for the goods, we chose to take the Plymouth – Santander ferry which matches our budget, duration to get it done and amount of effort to put in.
We have the full story of how to Relocate from UK to Spain in a Hired Van posted separately including the key Aduana – Spanish Customs paperwork guidance based on our case.
The Sloshing Pool Incident
Neither of us get sea-sick as we love to fish, kayak and sail. So, it’s totally ironic to get sea-sickness. Honestly, I’ve never experienced sea sickness, just as much as I’ve never seen a ghost.
The day to set sail has finally come, this is it! We boarded the Pont Aven (Brittany Ferries) in Plymouth at 1130hrs after a short 2 hour drive from Dawlish in the extra large van that we gave it a nickname ‘the Beluga’, as it resembles the shape of a Boeing 787 Beluga freighter airplane. We were both well rested and well fed after half a day wrestling 10 cubic meters and 1.5 tonnes worth of our life’s possessions into the Beluga the day prior.
The moment we stepped off the van in the garage space, it was all fine as the ship was tied to the jetty, plus the harbour wasn’t too wavy. We went through the labyrinth of corridors to find our room, got into the cabin, set down our backpacks and headed out to the open deck to watch the vessel set sail.
The horn blows, at this point it feels like watching the movie Titanic and Consu spontaneously said, let’s go to the forestay of the ship and shout “I’m the king of the world!”. I wasn’t too pleased with that line as the gigantic vessel actually sank at the end of the movie (if you’ve seen it).
The views were beautiful as it was quite a bright day, but not particularly sunny with clouds hanging above us.
As the ship sails out to the open waters, the big swells and foggy weather started rolling in and the ship started bobbing up and down. Visibility was probably 100 meters at most. I’m used to this as our family had boats when I was young, so it didn’t make me feel sick or anything.
Consu and myself wanted to tour this cruise-ship as we’ve never been one one before and it was an exciting experience. We treaded from deck 5 all the way up to deck 8 from Cinemas to Bars to restaurants just soaking the atmosphere of a cruise liner.
As we climbed the stairs from deck 7 to 8, I could hear a sloshing sound. It was like a big bucket of water splashing around. Wait, on second thought, it was like someone mopping the floor and sloshing the soapy water to tip it into the drain. That very moment at the top of the stairs, I noticed that it was the wading pool splashing around! No one on that section of the ship. They must have a good reason not to be there. I immediately felt light-headed, the headache started hitting hard and it gets worse every second I stood there staring at the pool’s water.
I immediately turned around to Consu telling her that we need to head down to the lower decks where I couldn’t hear the pool water splashing. She thought I was joking about it because we both knew that I don’t have sea sickness.
We rushed back to our cabin. I recalled to be very quiet, looking pale and couldn’t say a word, it’s worse than being super-drunk on a night out!
I quickly rummaged through my backpack to look for my medic kit, where is that bloody Paracetamol?! Popped 2 pills, gulp down a glass of water and lay there with my feet up the wall. My head was spinning, so I had to prop a pillow behind my head to reduce the dizzyness. It works! That was such a relief!
I spent all night lying down in that position to watch downloaded Netflix movies until I fell asleep. The next morning I woke up fresh without anymore dizzyness from the ship swaying around. After a good breakfast with a cup of cappuccino, I’m all set for the rest of the journey until arriving in Santander.
Fast forward to the return trip. We boarded the ship at 1800hrs on a sunny springtime day. It was all fine, with the ship swaying in the swells, I was all fine, zero dizzyness whatsoever.
I think it’s all about getting used to the vessel moving and also not over thinking about what’s going on with the floor you’re standing on does make a difference between getting sea-sick or not.
If it’s your first time travelling on a cruise liner or a sea vessel, try those tricks I’ve mentioned like lying down with your legs up high or even standing outside with the sun in your face and smell the seabreeze or try going to the fore of the vessel with a view of forward sailing!
Put on some good music, chill and forget about the wonky flooring!
Exploring the Pont Aven Ferry – Brittany Ferries
Since this was our first and probably never again travel on a cruise ship for obvious reasons mentioned in the story above, we decided to do a little tour of this magnificient floating metal vessel.
Prior to booking for the tickets to this particular vessel, I had done a tonne of research to find out how the cabins, food, parking, amenities and so forth. All I’ve found was fragments of information from the official website of Brittany Ferries, some random YouTube video or also bits of detail from friends of Facebook groups.
Unlike travelling on an airplane, I know how things work from buying a ticket, check-in, the cockpit to the rudders on how the plane works and also how the ground crew works, more or less, just short of a license that allows me to fly the airplane. Sea travels was something very new to me, other than on a kayak or a boat.
I’m not going to do a process flow chart to bore you with all the details of checking-in, travelling with pets and so forth, but here’s our take on the Pont Aven of Brittany Ferry.
Cabins or Rooms
The cabins on this ship are located on decks 5 – 8 depending on the class that you’ve picked. All of the rooms are key access with a barcode that you’ll receive at the check-in counter. We saved ours in our mobile phone covers, so that we won’t lose it. Every person that has a bed, has a card with your name printed on it.
The basic cabin has 2 bunk beds (2 pillows & 2 duvets), 1 on the floor and the other above it stowed away into the ceiling. Pull the hatch and carefully swing it down into place. Yes, there’s a ladder for you to climb up to the top bunk. Max weight is 150kg labeled on the top bunk. So, for anyone weighing any more than that, consider staying on the lower bunk.
The cabins are equipped with a thermostat for hot/cold air supply and extraction vent in the bathroom. The bathroom has a compact shower, a toilet (works like on an airplane with vacuum) and standard basin with hot/cold mixer.
If you are a smoker, don’t bother trying to light it up in the cabin, they have smoke detectors installed and it’ll look like you’re trying to make a scene. There are 2 EU plug sockets in the cabin, a fixed 3 program radio and a digital clock.
Occassionally you’ll hear announcements from the ships crew about restaurants and if they spotted dolphins or whales nearby.
Food & Beverages
Food is probably their main business on board the Pont Aven. You could choose from dining at the cafeteria which is budget friendly, snack at the bar which is not bad with a free live TV to watch or go full-on with fine-dining at their classy restaurant.
At the cafeteria, we had breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a buffet style pick-your-own, show it to the cashier and you’ll pay for the food you’ve picked based on their menu price-list. Everything is sold in Euros, but you can opt to pay in British Pounds if you prefer based on their prefixed exchange rate.
No, they don’t have gluten-free or lactose-free foods, but you could pick something that suits you. If you are allergic (not intolerant), you’re better off packing a load of foods to bring them on board.
Yes, they have a communal microwave oven to use for free without questioning foods that you bring on board -located in between the cafeteria and the snack-bar. Just don’t bring durians as they might cause a gas leak panic due to the smell.
By the way, the cooks, chefs and the food-menu were French. So, if you speak some French, that is a major plus.
As a quick tip, do your snack-shopping on land before you board. Bring the lot in a big duffle bag. That way you can have everything you liked in-hand and not having to spend extras on your stay on the ship.
We brought a whole Ikea shopping bag worth of everything from chips to drinks for our pre-downloaded Netflix marathon.
If you fancy a cocktail or a glass of wine, yes they do have a bar on Deck 8. We called off the idea of grabbing a drink there as it was crowded at the time and I was getting dizzy.
The Parking Garage
Once you’ve driven into the ship’s hold on either one of the 4 lower decks, the crews would be sealing shut the section for security reasons just before the ship set sail. So, be sure to bring every single thing that you need up to the cabin, especially medication, foods or a jacket.
I’ve been told, even if your car’s alarm had gone off due to the shaking of the ship, they would not call or let you down there to disarm the alarm. They would remind you to disarm your alarm, just lock it with a key.
Do they have WiFi on board?
Yes and no.
Yes, they have free low-speed wifi for 1.5 hours for every single device on board. No, it’s not as fast as your home or mobile data connection. Forget trying to stream a football match, YouTube or even Netflix. No, you do not have mobile phone signals on-board when hitting open seas, apart from the 20-30mins when passing the light-house of the French-west coast if you can roam your data or calls.
The other option is to pay for premium WiFi connection, which I wasn’t interested in getting as I was getting seasick on the first and enjoying exploring the ship on the return trip anyways.
Best advice I have for you, forget social media and your work. Spend the 22 sailing-hours enjoying the sea-breeze, explore the ship, or go grab a drink for a social chat at the bar or even play a card game, it’s cheaper than Premium WiFi. If you’re the sunshine soaking type, we have the weather app for you to watch winds and chances of a blue-sky sunshiny day.
If you’re travelling with a big group or family members that might stray away from the pack, get walkie talkies and use them onboard. It works off radio-frequency and it’s not mobile-network dependent.