The Côte d’Albâtre and the Seven Sisters are two identical ferries built for the Newhaven-Dieppe line by the Barreras shipyard in Vigo, Spain for the company Transmanche Ferries, set up by the Conseil Départemental of Seine Maritime.
They entered service in 2006. They are each 142.45 metres long and 24.7 metres across the beam and each is powered by two Wärtsila engines of 9,450 KW (12,848 hp), giving a top speed of 23 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots.
For docking the ships have two lateral propellers by Kamewa, each developing 1,300KW (1,767 hp). The ships can carry 600 passengers and 50 crew, with 120 passenger cars and 50 Heavy Goods Vehicles in mixed mode.
The ships have eight decks, including an open promenade deck. The passenger areas are on decks 6 and 7. The information desk, the saloons, the restaurant, bar and shop as well as the cabins are all on these levels. Decks 3, 4 and 5 are vehicle decks for passenger cars, coaches and HGVs. The lower decks contain the engines, fuel bunkers and ballast.
During 2020 they are to be fitted with “scrubbers” to allow the clean use of heavy bunker oil.
The ships are remarkably comfortable and ride well thanks to the stabilisers which must be retracted before docking. It’s very rare for weather conditions to cause the cancellation of crossings.
The ships are run on behalf of the line by contractors, currently the Danish company DFDS, one of the leading European passenger and freight carriers.
Under current arrangements the price varies with pressure of bookings (known as yield management) and it may be best to book well in advance.
Nevertheless, the cost of a foot passenger crossing (currently £30 return) doesn’t change much and compares well with the price of a return train journey from Dieppe to Paris which costs about £50. You can book online DFDSseaways.fr but you must ring the call centre to get concessionary fares (e.g. over-60’s and 16-25 get 20% off adult fares) and for group travel.
0800 650 100 (France) 0800 917 1201 (UK)
Also, if the online quota system says that there is no space left for passengers without vehicles, you should ring the call centre and ask for space to be made available if possible. There is a reliable SMS messaging service to warn of problems (caused by the weather, for example), so be sure to leave a mobile number.
The deadline for both cars and foot passengers is 45 minutes before departure. It may help to call the terminal if you are going to be late. 02 32 14 52 03
Do not forget passports or equivalent for all passengers. Full details on the DFDS website.
In Newhaven, there is no café but the comfortable “departure lounge” has drinks machines.
In Dieppe, there is a hatch to serve car passengers with tables outside and toilets. Each car is given a line number.
Foot passengers may be asked to check their luggage, but there may be a delay in retrieving it on the other side. Only hand baggage is permitted in the passenger areas.
· Leave your luggage in the car
· Set the handbrake and leave the car in gear.
· Disable your car alarm. It could go off and drain the battery if the sea is rough.
· Close the windows (unless you’re leaving a dog inside
· Lock the doors
You will not be allowed to return to your car during the crossing unless accompanied by a crew member.
From Newhaven the usual route follows the English coastlines (the Seven Sisters) more than on the French side.
The Dieppe-Newhaven route crosses directly across the busy shipping lanes linking the Atlantic to the North Sea. At first, not many ships will be seen on leaving Dieppe, but well into mid-Channel the ferry has to avoid container ships and other freighters using sophisticated radar systems which are comparable to those of air traffic control.
From quay to quay normally takes four hours but can vary with weather and tide conditions.
A straight line from Newhaven to Dieppe is 67 nautical miles (77 miles) long.
You are advised to take some warm clothing, since it can be quite cold on board, and headgear if you are going out on deck. You might like to take a blanket for a night crossing. They are not supplied by the company, except of course in cabins.
For your computer there are a few French electrical sockets available, so you may need an adapter (available in the shop).
There is Wi-Fi in theory, but it is slow and often unusable. There is quite good coverage for mobile phones in the coastal areas.
To call France from British waters you need to enter +33 followed by your number, leaving out the leading zero. To call England from France use +44.
There is a money changing machine (cash in-cash out only) to change Euros into Sterling or vice versa. There is no card service.
There is bar with snacks, a self-service restaurant, a few gaming machines, and a shop. Opening hours are announced by the public address system.
There are 50 cabins with four beds and shower and toilet. You should reserve them when you buy your ticket, but they may also be booked on board if still available. The price of the cabins varies according to the time of day, but they are much appreciated in night crossing, particularly in bad weather. It is possible to book berths individually in shared single-sex cabins as well as complete four-berth cabins.
If you suffer from sea sickness, make sure to buy your tablets in advance. Sick bags are available at the bar. Advice. Try to eat normally (some experienced sailors advise dry bread and an apple). Try to relax and lie down if possible. Find a place in the centre of the ship, on the lower level, don’t follow the waves, and wrap up warmly. The boutique sells sea-sickness bracelets, but their efficacy is uncertain. Best of all is to arrive for the trip rested and relaxed.
Don’t pollute by starting your engine before you are invited to drive off the ferry. If you find you battery is flat, don’t worry. The crew have a booster battery to get you started once the way is clear. At Newhaven disembarking is sometimes very slow, caused by UK Border Agency having to scan passports and ID cards and the single ramp at the bow exit from the ship. In Dieppe, on the other hand unloading by the stern is by four ramps simultaneously, which means you can leave the terminal within about 15 minutes.