Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Ferries: What travellers sailing Dover-Calais need to know this Easter

All you need to know about taking a ship this weekend

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 14 April 2022 11:57 BST
Plain sailing: Brittany Ferries has space this weekend, and is taking P&O passengers
Plain sailing: Brittany Ferries has space this weekend, and is taking P&O passengers (Simon Calder)

Four weeks ago, P&O Ferries ordered all its vessels to tie up and await an important announcement. Nearly 800 crew were told that they were being made redundant and would be replaced by cheaper agency staff.

Since then P&O has resumed sailings on all its routes except the most crucial: Dover-Calais. This weekend motorists are being told: “Stay away unless you have a confirmed ticket on a ferry that you know is running.”

These are the key questions and answers.

I need to get to Calais with the car …

Unless you have a booking from Dover with DFDS Ferries or Irish Ferries – which are still sailing – or on Eurotunnel from Folkestone – then you should stay away from the short Channel crossing until the Tuesday after Easter.

P&O Ferries previously provided a large amount of capacity on the Dover-Calais run, but two of its ships are currently “detained” by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

Since the suspension of sailings, DFDS has generally been carrying P&O customers. But even though DFDS is laying on extra sailings overnight on Saturday night to both Calais and Dunkirk, it says P&O Ferries customers will not be welcome.

The ferry firm has tweeted: “DFDS has no availability for P&O customers between 15 April 00:01 and 18 April 23:59. Please do not proceed to port without a confirmed reservation, contact P&O Ferries for alternative travel arrangements.”

DFDS is also telling other prospective passengers not to arrive at port without a confirmed reservation. 

Even for those with reservations, the journey to the coast could be slow, with a 20-mile stretch of the M20 motorway turned into a truck park.

What about the rest of the Channel?

DFDS still has capacity on Newhaven-Dieppe, which also happens to be on the most direct route between London and Paris.

Brittany Ferries says it has “plenty of room” on its western Channel services, including links to Spain:

  • Portsmouth to Caen
  • Portsmouth to St Malo
  • Portsmouth to Cherbourg
  • Portsmouth to Bilbao
  • Portsmouth to Santander
  • Poole to Cherbourg
  • Plymouth to Roscoff
  • Plymouth to Santander

What does P&O Ferries say?

A spokesperson for the company said: “We apologise unreservedly to all customers whose scheduled journeys with us between Dover and Calais have been cancelled whilst we are unable to sail.

“It is only fair and right that we make alternative arrangements for those customers, which include transferring them onto our Hull-Europoort service to Rotterdam, or booking them onto services with Brittany Ferries between Portsmouth and Caen.

“Both of these options are at no extra cost to customers – if anyone chooses either of these alternatives we will reimburse them for any additional mileage expenses incurred and as well as all meals onboard our overnight crossing. Customers will also receive a 25 per cent discount on their original fare.

“We also recognise that these options will not be suitable for everyone, therefore any customer who booked directly with P&O Ferries will be able to claim a full refund and a free trip for future travel. 

“We thank customers for their patience during this time and apologise again to those whose journeys have been disrupted.”

What about the Irish Sea?

Ferries are heavily booked but the route network is almost back to normal. From north to south: P&O Ferries has resumed operations between Cairnryan in southwest Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland, though with one ship rather than two.

Stena Line is running extra services between Cairnryan and Belfast to meet the extra demand.

Links between Liverpool/Holyhead and Belfast/Dublin are running normally.

Stena Line’s Fishguard-Rosslare service, which was suspended while the vessel was used elsewhere, has now resumed.

Are Scottish ferries running normally?

Almost. Caledonian MacBrayne has reduced its services between Mallaig and Armadale (Skye) and between Gourock and Dunoon due to ship deployment issues.

Northlink Ferries connecting Orkney and Shetland with each other and with the mainland are operating to schedule.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in