Brittany Ferries Normandie has always been a firm favourite of mine; featuring all the benefits of a 'cruise ferry' but with the small ship feel. And, with a crossing time of between six and seven hours as you cruise across the English Channel from Caen (Ouistreham) to Portsmouth, there is plenty of time to enjoy the facilities.
Since her introduction in 1992 I have travelled aboard this ship many times - I seem to keep coming back for more!
Her main passenger amenities are located on decks 7 through to 9.
If you are willing, carry on reading and I will take you around the ship to show you what a gem she is.
Grab a cuppa, sit back and relax as I take you aboard Normandie
Lets start off at Portsmouth; a very well connected port only a few minutes drive to the M275. If you wish to leave your car in the port there is a very convenient multi storey car park within the grounds and from there it is only a 5-10min walk to the terminal.
The terminal is bright, spacious and airy and has the ferry company receptions, small shop, toilet facilities, embarkation and arrivals area on the ground floor with a coffee shop and non smoking exterior deck area with views over the port on the upper floor.
Lots of routes to choose from!
A port bus takes foot passengers from this terminal to the 'maze' that is the foot passenger embarkation ramp which gives access to the ferry.
Being able to accommodate passengers of two ferries, with a mixture of segregated up/down stairs and ramps inside this construction, I ALWAYS find myself getting lost and feel like a hamster stuck in a maze! You can see the ship but not actually get to it.
The foot passenger embarkation maze can be seen here taken on a previous journey aboard another ship.
Lets head on aboard Normandie.
Having made it on board, foot passengers congregate in the reception hall in the middle of Deck 7
What an entrance, eh!
Brilliant white floor tiles surround localised deep pile carpeting and hard flooring.
The information desk, bureau de change and tourist information counter encapsulate the circular reception hall with its double staircase sitting at 45 degrees facing towards the starboard aft corner as the main focal point.
Behind the stairs are two beautiful sculptures of horses. Normandie's interior design takes its inspiration from the famous horse racing traditions of the French region of the vessels namesake therefore, throughout the vessel you will find various sculptures and paintings of horses.
The aft section of Deck 7 is dedicated to cabin accommodation.
My cabin was located in this area of the ship; a two berth inside (no window) with ensuite facilities.
If you have read my previous blogs you know I like three things; coffee, a beer on deck in the hot sun and a bargin. That's why I opted for a standard inside cabin as opposed to one of the very luxurious suites. I could have had a reclining seat if I wished (the cheapest option, I will talk about those later), but you've got to loosen the purse stings sometimes, you are on holiday!
This inside cabin was very pleasant, clean and comfortable. The gentle motion of the ship and the subtle 'hum' of the air conditioning sending me off to sleep. It should be noted that although near the aft of this deck, the noise of the engines was not audible though there are cabins on two lower decks so the same may not be said for those....?
Walking forward forward from the mid ship reception we come to the compact duty and perfume shops.
Walking forward again the carpeted aisles curve around the shopping centre - so refreshing not to be walking in bland clinical angular corridors with hard flooring, this is much more like being in a hotel,
Access to all decks can be obtained from here. The staircases are adjacent to the windows affording spectacular views of the sea and the open metallic balustrades allow natural light to flood into the rest of the ship.
We pass two cinemas and then come to five high capacity lounges with reclining seats. The lounges on the port and starboard sides tend to accommodate large groups; school parties, etc.
The reclining seat lounge at the far end of the corridor is by far the biggest and offers magnificent forward facing views.
The seating is very comfortable and have a built in foot rest.
An area to store luggage is available and shared washing facilities and vending machines selling hot and cold beverages and snacks can be found in the nearby corridors.
Spending the night in here is a very cost efficient way of getting some rest rather than the expenditure of hiring a cabin. During daylight crossings one can use this lounge for free.
How are you finding Normandie? Nice isn't she!
Lets go back to the foyer and head on up to Deck 8
So, we are now in the middle of Deck 8; a large hotel like lobby greets us.
Deep pile carpeting, fixtures and furnishings are in shades of brown but the large amount of glass found in the display cabinets, balustrades and windows allow plenty of light to pass through and makes this area feel very spacious.
You can see the tiled lobby of Deck 7 in the picture below. Note the horse sculptures in the display cabinet mirroring the horse sculptures in the foyer below.
Having the stairs at 45 degrees to the direction of the ship creates a hall with plenty of space as you can see in the picture below. No narrow aisles here!
The seating which line the windows are very comfortable and allows you to sink into them although unfortunately views out of the windows are limited as the lifeboats outside cause an obstruction.
Access to Deck 9 can be obtained by continuing up the stairs. To the right of the picture below you can see the entrance to the restaurant.
Lets walk towards the restaurant which is at the aft end........
(looking back towards the foyer)
The main dining room aboard is called Le Deauville Restaurant - named after famous horse racecourse.
The décor within Deauville is conservative and elegant.
A buffet and small bar are located at the aft end between the two doors which give access to the terrace. Consisting of decking, wooden and wicker chairs exterior lighting and planters the terrace resembles a Mediterranean beach bar. Very nice!
Glass wind breaks protect passengers from potential cross winds, though being open plan to the main passenger exterior deck, does lack privacy.
You can see Deauville terrace in the view below behind the stairs.
Lets go back to the mid ship hall and walk forward.
Passing a gaming arcade we come to Riva Bella Self Service Restaurant.
Hot and cold dishes and a selection of beverages can be obtained from the wrap around buffet counter. The meals are well presented and reasonably priced. The whole area is kept clean and overhead red florescent lighting creates a modern look.
Large picture windows, bright colour scheme and florescent lighting makes the seating areas spacious and airy.
There are several planters and mirrored surfaces within this area along with TV monitors which show satellite programmes.
Let's go on up to Deck 9 again using the main central stairs.
Accessed via the main stairs we arrive at Le Pays D'Auge Café and Le Derby Bar. The later is located on the portside and benefits from having a stage and dance floor.
The seating is predominantly clustered along the windows making this a very social area.
On the starboard side next to the bar is the café.
Occupying a bigger footprint than the bar next door, those within can relax in one of the tub chairs or on a sofa whilst sipping a coffee or having a light snack.
This facility is particularly handy at breakfast time where fresh coffee, juices and pastries are available.
Access to both Le Derby and Le Pays D'Auge can also be obtained by using the secondary stairs located on the port and starboard sides of Decks 7 and 8. Here we are at the top of those stairs looking down to Deck 8 where the Riva Bella Self Service Restaurant is located.
Also note access to the dedicated exterior deck for dogs. Great idea!
Normandie benefits from having an extensive amount of exterior deck space and being on differing levels it is perfect to stretch your legs.
And there we have it, a whistle stop tour of Brittany Ferries Normandie.
As you could hopefully see from my pictures, she is more than a ferry, she is a cruise ferry with a small ship feel about her.
She has a warm homely ambience with a fully carpeted interior. She has a range of dining options, plenty of lounge seating, cinema, small shop, bar and great exterior decks - plenty to keep passengers occupied for the voyage.
In closing here are a couple of photographs of the Port of Caen (Ouistreham).
If you get the opportunity of travelling aboard Normandie, please do.
I hope you enjoyed this blog.