New cheap ferries to Spain

New ferry routes to Spain significantly improve choice and value (update 22 August: LD Lines has now cancelled its UK-Spain ferries, see more here).

Also, Malmo’s motorists traditionally escape massive traffic fines. Volvo develop a convenient office hours delivery system. Finnish scientists put all that wood to good automotive use while Bosnia and Georgia make small but significant steps to modernity.



What was once a simple but expensive choice is now an embarrassment of riches (if not luxuries).

Named after

Named after a town in Normandy, Brittany Ferries’ Etretat starts a new route to Spain from 25 March.

Since P&O pulled out in 2010 only Brittany Ferries has operated ferries between the UK and Spain.

The French company runs two slightly upmarket ‘cruiseferry’ routes, between Portsmouth/Plymouth and Santander/Bilbao, up to three times each week. With return fares topping £1,000 during high season however they are too expensive for many travellers.

All of a sudden though there are three new routes across the Bay of Biscay, all aimed at the budget conscious.

On 25 March, Brittany Ferries starts a new no frills weekend service branded ‘économie’. The 26 hour crossing will leave Portsmouth on Saturday morning and return from Santander mid-afternoon on Sunday (during the week économie operates to Le Havre).

Tickets are not ready to buy just yet – register in advance here – but one way fares for two+car start at £169 (including reclining seats but not cabin).

Facilities are basic but not completely spartan. The cabins are all ensuite but lack carpet, the menu is limited and entertainment is restricted to a film lounge. There are however twelve pet-friendly cabins and two for disabled passengers.

Meanwhile, LDLines started running between Poole, Gijon and Santander last month. Poole-Gijon – the route most convenient for Portugal – takes 25 hours. The outward sailing leaves Tuesday evening and returns Friday lunchtime. The 26 hour Poole-Santander service leaves Saturday afternoon and returns Sunday night. No pets are allowed for the time being.

Both LDLines’ fares start at £399 return for two+car+cabin. That rises to £706 in late July but still compares quite well to a similar trip on Brittany Ferries cruiseferry service at £1008*.

For sailors to Spain, what was once a simple but expensive choice has now become an embarrassment of riches. For active holidaymakers though, surely the most desirable luxury is the one that comes as standard with them all, the enforced rest at the start and end of every trip.

* Test bookings made 22 February 2014 for the third week of July using cheapest cabin accommodation.


A random picture culled from the @ADAC's twitter feed this week. Wonder what the problem was? Could it have been a flat battery do you think? A roundup of the embattled motoring organisation's woes coming up later.

A random picture culled from @ADAC’s twitter feed this week… Wonder what the problem is? Hope it’s not a flat battery. Could get very, very expensive (see @DriveEurope passim).


roundup: FINLAND. A new wood-powered wood-built car will appear at the Geneva Motor Show next month, the work of scientist and students at Helsinki University. SWEDEN. Ten percent of cars registered in southern city Mamo are registered to front organisations to avoid paying traffic fines in a long running system called Malvaktar (goalkeepers). Only 50% of parking fines were collected last year. Meanwhile, Volvo is developing a system whereby shopping deliveries can be made to the boot of owner’s cars using a single use digital key. No launch date as yet. GEORGIA. Speed cameras make their debut on all roads in the South Caucasus country later this year as part of a wholesale campaign to improve road safety. BOSNIA is now part of the European meteoalarm extreme weather alert service, see


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