Distinctly classical approaches from P&O and DFDS to their similarly good value Club Class lounges, Dover-Calais.
Ultimately it could come down to whether you prefer Mies van der Rohe or Arne Jacobsen.
While P&O’s is undoubtedly the classier environment – also with a dedicated outside deck area, and lots of staff – there are only eight easy chairs in the DFDS lounge, segregated from each other, for some really comfortable peace and quiet.
The problem with both is food. For something proper to eat you have to join the masses downstairs. That’s annoying when part of the point about using the ferry, compared to the train, is the opportunity to enjoy a hot dinner.
There is a waiter-served snack menu on P&O, which is nice, but doesn’t quite fill the hole.
Both have unlimited free tea, coffee, soft drinks, Danish pastries and biscuits plus a range of daily newspapers.
There’s also a complimentary glass of ‘sparkling wine’ with P&O which is a bit politically incorrect for drivers on a ninety minute crossing. DFDS offer free wifi albeit with a limited amount of data.
The other issue is priority boarding at £10 extra with both operators, something you might think was central to a ‘Club Class’ experience.
Nit picking aside, for less than ten percent of a typical ticket price, each – £10pp DFDS, £12pp P&O – we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either.
A trip downstairs during our late July P&O crossing Calais to Dover really brought home what we were missing. Compared to the clink of glasses, low hum of conversation and background jazz in Club Class it was absolute carnage.
Wild-eyed and arms outstretched, the poor assistants were literally defending the shelving in Duty Free as hordes of shoppers came in tactical waves.
Calm was at less of a premium in late December on DFDS Dover-Dunkirk but there’s no denying the pleasure to be had wafting through the pubic area, first class pass in hand, to the Star Trek-style glass doors guarding the first class cabin. It’s not quite like ‘turning left’ on an aircraft, but close.
As part of National Ferry Fortnight, ending tomorrow (Sunday 15 March), P&O is offering a 50% discount on Club Class tickets. For this, and the other NFF special offers, see here.