I guess I am not alone in saying it’s been months since I last travelled. But, with lock down restrictions gradually relaxing in the UK and around Europe, I am slowly easing back into the idea of travelling.
To be honest, I haven’t quite decided yet how comfortable I am with the idea of flying again. So, when the time came last week to finally go over to Germany again, we opted for a car journey instead.
Obviously, we’ve taken ferries to mainland Europe numerous times over the years. And therefore, know exactly what to usually expect. But how different would the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk be during Covid? Well, let me share with you my experience with the DFDS ferry, to give you an idea of what to expect (just to be clear, this is not a sponsored post. We paid for our ticket and I did not receive any incentive to write about my experience).
Taking the DFDS ferry from Dover to Dunkirk during Covid: Booking process
The overall booking process remained the same. We picked our ferry times and preferred route online and it appeared to be the same number of crossings as usual. However, we noticed three things, that were a little different:
For one, we weren’t able to book any flexible tickets. We had to pick a specific ferry time.
Secondly, the tickets overall were a bit more expensive than they used to be.
And lastly, we were unable to purchase lounge access passes for the journey out. Which we assumed had to do with the fact, that the lounge was already fully booked (since we were able to book access passes for the return journey).
Along with our booking confirmation, we received the information that we would have to wear a face mask at all times whilst on the ferry. And that social distancing would need to be maintained on board.
Taking the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk during Covid: Boarding
When it comes to boarding your ferry, you are generally asked to please arrive at the port no later than 1 hour before the ferry and boarding usually starts around 45 minutes before departure. And since we are always worried, that we might get stuck in traffic and miss our ferry, we allow sufficient time for the journey from London to Dover. Needless to say, that we rarely actually get stuck in traffic and therefore arrive at Dover way too early. This time was no exception. We had booked the 8pm ferry, meaning we were due to arrive at Dover by 7pm latest. We did however arrive at 4.45pm. More than two hours early. We decided to chance it and go to the port straight away regardless. We knew there was an earlier ferry to Dunkirk scheduled for a 6pm departure. And we had hopes that even without a flexible ticket, they might rebook us to the earlier ferry instead. And I am glad to say they did, we didn’t even have to ask for it.
When I enquired whether there was a chance of adding lounge access for the earlier ferry, we were told that the lounge was actually shut. I guess that explains why we were unable to book it in the first place. I haven’t quite worked out yet why the lounge was shut last week, but will be open this week, when we return. But I guess it has to do with the changes to lockdown rules coming into effect in between.
Along with our boarding pass, we were given two vouchers for a free meal and drink during the ferry crossing. This was new and I didn’t really notice during booking. Adding free meals for everyone probably explains the higher cost for the ferry ticket in the first place.
During check in, we were asked, whether we had face masks with us, which we did. I don’t know what the reaction would have been if we had said no. Whether they would give us a mask for free or whether we would need to buy some before they would allow us onto the ferry. Who knows…
In the interest of safety, we were asked to put on our face masks whilst still in the car, before we even drove onto the ferry.
On the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk during Covid
As our ticket included priority boarding, we were amongst the first to board the ferry. Which meant we had plenty of time to find a seat and get comfortable.
The main restaurant was open, and we went there first, to see what our meal voucher would actually get us. Rather than the usual self-service layout of the restaurant, you had a choice of two or three meals and the chef was putting your food on the plate for you. To eliminate any risk of contamination. And thanks to the voucher, there was no need for any tills either. You just left your voucher in a basket, grabbed your plate and went to your table. Quick and easy.
Signs reminded everyone to please keep your distance and ideally only use every second table.
After the meal we decided to go for a stroll. At that time the duty-free shop was still closed, so was the coffee shop at the back of the ferry.
Hand-sanitizers were installed outside the restaurant and in front of the restrooms, which enabled everyone to sanitise hands frequently as we moved around the ferry.
The outside deck was open, however only the one on the lower level, not the upper level.
The ferry wasn’t full, so keeping one’s distance was easy enough. But unfortunately, not everyone kept their masks on. Especially when on the outside deck, a lot of people decided to ditch the mask.
Eventually the duty-free shop opened. But with very strict rules. It was only open for 30 minutes. Everyone had to queue outside and only five people were allowed in at the same time. You had to sanitise your hands as you entered. And you were encouraged to pay by card, if possible. We had a quick browse through the shop but didn’t really buy much.
As I said in the beginning, I am not quite sure at the moment how I feel about flying. So I am glad to say, that my experience of taking the DFDS ferry from Dover to Dunkirk during Covid overall was a positive one. I felt safe and it was easy enough to avoid close contact with strangers (something I might struggle with when on an airplane or whilst boarding a plane). So, I guess for us it was the right decision to take the ferry to go to Germany.
Tell me, have you started travelling again? How was it?