Cote des Dunes (dune coast) is a magnificent DFDS ferry operating on the Calais to Dover route and is formerly the SeaFrance ferry Rodin (named after Francois Augusta Rene Rodin), the French sculpture - hence the title of this blog
'the finest sand sculpture'. See what I did there - I know, I'm clutching at straws with this one!
Anyhow, always a firm favourite of mine I was pleased to be back aboard.
Would you like to have a look around?
Grab a cupper, curl up and lets go....
We start our journey in the French Port of Calais - highly accessible from the auto route network; as I had a booking I didn't need to stop off at the main terminal building, instead I headed straight to check-in.
Only one vehicle check-in was open (it wasn't a busy day) but unfortunately for me being a single traveller the booth was on the wrong side of my car so I had to stretch across the passenger seat and hand my documents out the passenger side window whilst the DFDS check-in attendant virtually climbed out of her booth window to obtain them lol. She was a very cheerful, polite and courteous lady and we both had a laugh at the situation.
Now parked in one of the vast marshalling lanes by the berth, Cote des Dunes glided past having arrived from Dover and onto her berth; the afternoon sun reflecting brilliantly against her vast expanse of glass of her two deck high atrium creating a spectacular sight and if the passengers had never travelled DFDS before, would surly be excited to be going aboard!
I had purchased a priority boarding ticket; something i had never done before but now I am a true advocate as you are literally one of the first to get aboard to enjoy the facilities.
Being one of the first to drive aboard, you have time to get any hand baggage out of your vehicle that you will need for the journey or perhaps if you need time and space to get a youngster out of their child seat means you are not rushing to get up to the main passenger deck to find a seat before the coach parties rock up. The cost of Priority Boarding was around £10.
Being one of the first to board I noted the wide stairwells giving access to the ships' accommodation from the car deck would be able to efficiently cope with a high capacity crossing that the Calais/Dover route attracts - no queues or bottle necks here. Cote des Dunes (Rodin) was designed and built in 2001 specifically for the route she still serves today. That's the benefit of having a ship purpose built for a specific route.
Her passenger amenities are located on Decks 7 and 8. Lets go for a wonder.......
Those embarking from the forward or amid ship stairs will literally be wowed by the sight of the atrium. First impressions DO count and the sight of her vast glass walls and copious amount of natural light was something to savour!
It should be noted that her wall of glass is on the ships' starboard side and therefore the famous White Cliffs of Dover and the beautiful dunes of Calais are very much visible from here when arriving at both ports and will definitely be worth a photo opportunity. It takes the phrase 'picture window' to another level!'
Her atrium consists of a curve of localised marine blue coloured carpeting adjacent to the windows, a sweeping aisle of Scandinavian style hard flooring, a reception desk, Travelex exchange office and shopping centre.
The shopping centre was bright and spacious not least owing to the sunlight from the atrium. Fragrances were at the forward end with alcohol at the aft end. An excellent revenue earner was sale items being close to the main entrance which enticed persons into the shop.
The ploy worked and I found myself indulging myself with a little treat of aftershave. Personnel at the cashiers desk were very friendly and said the fragrance was lovely. Just being nice or a ploy for me to buy more? Who knows, but their customer service and upselling skills are excellent!
'Sandwiching' the atrium and the facilities within are two halls, both of which give access to the vehicle decks below and Deck 8 above. The forward hall also gives access to the Premium Lounge on Deck 8 (I will come to that later) and the Horizon Bar.
The Horizon Bar at the front of this deck was closed, presumably owing to small passenger numbers aboard and unfortunately it was not possible to gain entry to take peak.
The hall at the other end of the atrium gives direct access to the Lighthouse Café.
The aforementioned facility is located at the aft end of Deck 7 and was very well patronised, mainly by coach parties and day trippers. This facility was found to be very spacious with ample seating.
The décor within was inoffensive; white walls, white coloured waist height divides, white ceiling and grey coloured tub chairs dominate throughout. Localised pools of blue carpeting draws ones attention to this otherwise blank canvas. The Lighthouse Café seemed devoid of pictures on the bulkheads or any focal point to draw ones attention. Hard flooring flowed through this facility giving access to the sheltered exterior deck at the stern but even this seemed to be of a 'diluted' colour.
I would love to see a real focal point in here and knowing how forward thinking and innovative DFDS is, I'm sure they could come up with a real feature.
A good selection of hot beverages was available from the main counter and served in large china mugs which I was thrilled about - no paper cups here! The range of fresh delicious looking cakes was great, though one regret - I wished I tried the rainbow cake!
The exterior deck at the aft end was large, sheltered from cross winds by high glass wind breaks on the port and starboard sides and had some overhead shelter.
The elevated Dover foot passenger walkway was still evident, although foot passengers have not been carried aboard since her SeaFrance Rodin days.
Access to the upper exterior deck on Deck 8 can be obtained from this exterior deck. Lets go on up.....
So, we are now up on Deck 8 at the aft end.
The exterior deck forms a 'U' over the shelter deck below which I think is a nice feature.
Access to the facilities on Deck 8 is not possible from here as the large Commercial Drivers Restaurant dominates the aft end of Deck 8 therefore, you need to go back down to Deck 7, through the Lighthouse Café and up the aft stairs to get to Deck 8.
Road Kings - the commercial drivers facility - pretty much occupies the same footprint on Deck 8 as the Lighthouse Café down stairs. Tourist passengers are not permitted in here however, taking a sneaky peak showed this to be a vast space for this valuable revenue earning commodity and therefore, DFDS has allowed as much space as possible. Commercial drivers are certainly well catered for with DFDS!
Passing the aft hall we emerge on the upper level of the atrium. A half height glass balustrade allows huge amounts of natural light to flood into this area and also enables passengers who are sitting in the adjacent lounge to have completely unobstructed views of the passing vistas.
Walking forward again we arrive at the Seven Seas Restaurant which commands a prominent position at the front of Deck 8.
Essentially a self service cafeteria, it is so much more.......
Laminate flooring passes between two large copper and glass display cabinets at the entrance to this facility which advertises some items which can be purchased in the Sea Shop downstairs and gives a touch of class to the overall ambience as you enter.
Well presented floor to ceiling illuminated shelving units offer a selection of cold drinks and snacks whilst the main servery is beautifully presented with a good selection of meals.
The seating for Seven Seas is on three sides of the dining room and consists of free standing chairs decorated in either blue, green or brown material on light blue carpeting and mirrors the colours of the sea beautifully which can be seen through the large picture windows. In fact, this is such a pleasant place to be many passengers were just sitting in here and not consuming anything - they were just soaking up the wonderful atmosphere.
A small children's play area is located on the starboard side near the entrance.
Now we come to the Premium Lounge. My word, what a treat!
Could this be the worlds best kept secret? I am hoping after you read this you too will upgrade next time you book your next DFDS crossing.
Although situated on the port side of Deck 8, access is via the forward hall on Deck 7 below. One must enter a key code to open the door and then ascend a small carpeted curved staircase up to a hall decorated in dark wood panelling with private toilet facilities off to the side.
Upon entering one passes signage stating 'Premium Lounge' in silver gloss lettering which looks magnificent against the dark wood; a Scandinavian style table with a contemporary light and some brochures beneath a smoked etched glass circular mirror entices guests into the lounge.
Filled with apprehension and excitement, one rounds the corner to see the very plush and sophisticated seating area; rows of alternate grey and red deep cushioned two-seater sofas facing forward/aft leading ones eye to the well presented complimentary cakes and beverages table at the far end.
A separate open plan dining area was available within this facility if one preferred to sit at a table and I did note that child high-chairs were available if required.
Localised warm glow lights were dotted around the lounge and nautical themed framed pictures on the bulkheads both of which gave an air of class and sophistication and embracing the fact you were on a ship.
Those seated by the windows which are on the port side have superb unobstructed views, alternatively you could just curl up and relax with a copy of that days newspaper or watch the news channel on the large flat-screen TV.
Access to the Premium Lounge was £12 and was worth every penny.
All too soon it was time to disembark Cote des Dunes in the Port of Dover, and I was sad to be getting off!
Disembarkation was very relaxed; no queues. No pushing or shoving. No congestion on the stairwells. All was very civilised and having purchased Priority Boarding I was of course one of the first to drive off in Dover.
In closing Cote des Dunes is a truly lovely vessel. She is bright, spacious and airy vessel with a good amount of well maintained exterior deck space.
Her facilities are far superior than one would expect for a short 90min voyage and although no formal restaurant was aboard, the standard of dishes served in the Seven Seas dining area were substantial and of a very good standard.
She had a good shop, comfortable bar and I was particularly impressed with the braille signage throughout.
Cote des Dunes twin sister Cote des Flanders also operates on this Calais/Dover route therefore, if you get the opportunity of travelling aboard either - I would definitely recommend booking to go aboard them.