Pet Friendly Brittany Ferries: From England to Spain

Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries

The funny thing about travel is that before going to a certain country, we almost always assume that distances and transportation will take less time than it actually does.  I remember talking to someone in Thailand about where we lived in Atlanta and he said, "Oh, it's right near New York?"  I said, no, it was about a thousand miles away or two thousand kilometers and he just laughed at me as if he couldn't believe we were still a part of the same country. 

Of course, European countries are much smaller than the United States but it still takes a very long time to get from country to country.  In particular, when I started mapping out how long it would take us to drive from England to Spain --- about 22 hours through France --- I decided that we would have to chuck Spain from our list of destinations.  And, then, I discovered the pet-friendly cabins on the Brittany Ferries Cap Finistere which makes frequent trips between Portsmouth, England, and Bilbao, Spain.

So, Spain was back on our list of destinations and we took Chewy and Abby with us in our cabin.  Below, I describe some of the details about the Cap Finistere pet-friendly cabins and the ferry, in general.

Cap Finistere window

Window in our room with view to Portsmouth

How To Book a Pet-Friendly Cabin

In order to book a pet-friendly cabin on the Cap Finistere, you will need to call Brittany Ferries and request that they book a room for you.  When I called them, they told us that we could not keep both Chewy and Abby in the cabin together so one of the dogs would have to stay in a kennel and the other could stay with us.  They said that the reason they didn't want two dogs was because there wouldn't be enough space in the room for the dogs.  However, once we got on board, the conductor didn't care at all if we kept both dogs with us and we saw several other dog owners with multiple dogs in their rooms.

In total, we paid around $950 USD for two people, one car, and two dogs for a one-way ticket from Plymouth to Bilbao.  It is quite pricey but we figured that we would have spent the same amount on hotel accommodations, food, gas, and the Eurotunnel tickets, if we had driven over four days.

Appearance of the Pet-Friendly Cabin

Pet-friendly cabins Cap Finistere

Pet-Friendly Cabin

Bathroom Cap Finistere Cabin

Chewy and Abby in the pet-friendly cabin

The pet-friendly cabin

The pet-friendly cabins are identical to a regular 4-person cabin except that they have a laminated wood floor.  These are fairly basic rooms with four berths, a small desk area and closet, and a tiny bathroom.  It was perfect for the 22 hours we were on the ship. 

Because it is such a small room, we packed only the necessities for one night in two small backpacks and carried those aboard.  Even our few things basically filled up the room so pack LIGHT!

Abby, Chewy, and me

In the morning

Abby usually curled up underneath one of the bunks and Chewy sat with one of us on a bed (of course, we kept one of our own covers on the bed.)  The space isn't large so it was a bit tight maneuvering around with the four of us but we didn't do all that much --- just slept, worked on our computers, and took the dogs to the toilet area.

Pet area Cap Finistere

Pet area for pet-friendly cabin dogs

The dogs who were staying in the pet-friendly cabins had a separate area on the top floor designated for them to run around and use the toilet.  The area was reasonably large but got very messy quickly because Brittany Ferries only provided a hose and no mop to clean up after the dogs.  Both Patrick and I really wished they had a mop because by the afternoon on the second day, the place was a mini-swamp and neither dog wanted to use the toilet in that area.  (Actually, Chewy was so stressed from not being to use the toilet on the second day that he had terrible stomach problems afterwards.)



Kennels and Kennel Area

Kennels Cap Finistere

Kennel space outdoor area

Kennel space

For larger dogs or families with more than two dogs, the kennel space may be more appropriate.  (Note: The pet-friendly cabins and the kennels cost the EXACT same amount so there is no financial benefit to choosing one over the other.)  The kennels are at the back of the top deck and are plain metal boxes, so you will definitely need to bring bedding for the kennel.  The outside area for the dogs near the kennels is huge and includes both a glassed-in covered area and an outside area so it's very comfortable for both the dogs and their owners.  We wished that the dogs who stayed in the cabins had access to this area but, unfortunately, it's separated from the other area with a restaurant in which dogs are not permitted.

Embarking and Disembarking

Boarding the Cap Finistere

The garage area for the dogs

Brittany Ferries recommends that you arrive at their terminal at least 30 minutes before the ship departs.  We arrived an hour before and were one of the last people in line so I think it's worth getting there at least an hour beforehand.  The customs agent briefly looked at our passports and Chewy's and Abby's pet passports and then waved us through.  We waited in our cars for about 45 minutes and then were ushered on board.  The cars that have pets in them are the LAST cars allowed on board so I highly recommend finding a park before you get on ship.  (We had quite a bit of trouble finding a park in Plymouth so I can't give any recommendations on that front.)

Chewy in his muzzle Chewy and Abby going to Brittany Ferries cabin

Chewy and Abby on their way to their cabin

Once we parked, we took our things and went up to the room and left Chewy and Abby in the car.  About an hour after the ship left port, the concierge called us to meet at the main desk and all of the pet owners went to retrieve the dogs.  Dogs are required to wear muzzles when walking up to the cabin and the concierge asked one woman to carry her dog because she didn't have a muzzle.  We took an elevator up to Deck 9 and down a hallway without carpets in which all of the pet-friendly cabins are placed.  There is a door immediately outside the pet-friendly cabin area that leads to stairs to take the dogs to the toilet area on Deck 10.

Dogs are technically required to wear muzzles every time they leave the cabin but we never saw anyone putting muzzles on their dog, except for one woman who knew that her dog would snap and bite at others. 

At disembarkation, the concierge called us an hour before the ship arrived in port and we took the dogs and our things to the car.  We walked around for a little while and then came and sat in the car with the dogs until we were ready to disembark.  We were the first car off the ship into Spain and the Spanish customs agent didn't even look at the dogs' pet passports!

Cap Finistere Ship Facilities

Snack bar

Cap Finistere Restaurant

Snack bar and restaurant

The ship facilities include a deli/snack shop, two bars, a grocery area, and a full-service restaurant, plus a pool (that we never saw anyone using because it was too cold out), a small games area for kids, and a cinema.  The restaurant was quite expensive so we opted to eat at the snack bar which served passable sandwiches and pizzas.  If we went on the ship again, we would consider buying premade salads or sandwiches at a grocery and bringing them onboard with us because the food was overpriced for the quality.

Do We Recommend It?

Chewy looking out

Chewy on the Cap Finistere

Yes.  The ship and especially the cabins were very comfortable though they both were stressed out by the journey.  If we were doing it again, we would make sure to take the dogs on a long walk before we got on the ship (we tried to do so but weren't able to find a good walk in Plymouth) and immediately after we got off the ship in Bilbao.  That would have helped both of the dogs a lot. 

Previous: Pet Friendly England: Cornwall Beaches, Castles, and Moors
Next: Pet-Friendly Madrid: Parks and Vacation Rental

03/25/2012 00:44
nice read, but the entire time you mention plymouth, you actualy mean Portsmouth, as evidenced by the picture of Spinnaker Tower -,_Portsmouth
Plymouth is actually a 4 hour drive away from Portsmouth.
03/25/2012 14:27
Eek! You're absolutely right. I meant to type Portsmouth but I must have mistyped it. Thanks for the correction. :)
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04/20/2012 08:20
Great review guys. Some questions if I may. How far's the outside bar/pizza place from the pet cabin dog walk area? How much was wifi?
05/12/2012 04:31
Peter, the bar/pizza place is about a two minute walk from the dog walking area --- you can actually see it through the glass but your dogs aren't allowed into that area. However, several of the other folks on the ship put their dogs into the dog walk area and then brought food over and sat outside the dog walk area in one of the few tables right next to the dog walking area. Wifi was very expensive --- I want to say it was around 4 Euros per hour but that might be wrong. And, the WiFi wasn't very good either. We ended up doing a lot of work without internet because the signal was so bad.
08/17/2012 09:15
mike landers
In Canada there is either an 8 hour or 19 hour ferry option to get to the province of Newfoundland via Marine Atlantic. They are not very pet friendly at all. No dogs in Cabins and no walking area. Options are crated or their recomendation is to leave the dog in the car which you are not allowed to ever go back to until the ferry has docked. Great Country, Province, people and Ferry service just need to work on their pet friendliness. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can help them correct this one flaw?
09/02/2012 15:36
Eek! That's awful. I can't imagine leaving our dogs locked in a car for 19 hours without the chance to walk them. Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions on that front other than contacting them and showing them these alternatives because the Europeans really have very pet-friendly ferry systems.
08/04/2013 04:04
What a great blog, many thanks for the insight. We are about to move to Spain and have booked the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander. We had many anxieties about the trip across and this has relieved that somewhat and put our mind at ease. We now what to expect and what we are able to do. Shame Brittany ferries didn't have a link to this page.
08/07/2013 17:20
Thanks Michael! I think you'll have a great trip!
08/11/2013 03:34
Thanks for this blog. I've just booked on Cap Finistere for November this year with my dog and found your comments very helpful. I believe that the Wifi is now free in public areas on board but will call and see if a mop can be provided!
01/23/2014 08:35
lynn pickles
I love your stories......maybe you can help me with our problem. We too travel with a dog and whilst it is easy in most countries in Europe, travelling to UK seems problematic. We fly into France for a month, travel across the cahnnel, stay in UK for a month, and fly out of UK a month later. There seems to be a problem getting from France or the Netherlands to UK with a dog unless we have a car! We will leave our rental car in France and get another car in UK. The ferries seem not to give information about foot passengers with a dog. any advice?
05/07/2014 10:11
Lynn, I'm so sorry for the delayed response to this. I hope that this information is still helpful. No, it isn't easy traveling via foot with a dog from France to England. Your best bet is the Dutch Flyer, which won't go directly from France to England, but is a very good option for European to UK travelers. The Man in Seat 61 has great detailed information on this:
05/10/2014 15:39
Thankyou for your blog we are taking our dogs over to spain in the near future and were concerned as to how it was going yo be as they are little bishon frise and are pron to be nervous but this has made me feel so much better , like someone said it would be helpfull if the ferry company supplied this kind of info thanks again
07/15/2014 09:43
You will have a blast in Spain! It is so pet-friendly. :)
11/03/2014 12:31
As others have commented this a really helpful account and fills in so many of the questions the ferry company omit. One or two question s if I may - what happens when you want to eat? Do you leave the dogs in the cabin on their own or does someone need to stay with them?
04/18/2015 07:18
Our dog won't stay in the cabin by himself (small bichon frise who panics if I leave him) so we took it in turns to find sandwiches etc., and bring them back to the cabin. Distinct lack of sandwiches so this time we're taking our own food and drinks!! Other passengers left their dogs who barked, howled and generally got very agitated. Not a good idea either for the dogs or other passengers in adjoining cabins.
01/14/2015 19:46
Barbara Norman
We are about to travel from Portsmouth to Bilbao with our four small Yorkshire Terriers. Your information was very helpful but I cannot see anything on the online forms which ask if you want to take a pet so I am worried they do not do this now. Jan 2015
05/24/2015 13:51
We have just booked on this journey, but could not get a pet friendly cabin. Our dog has to go into a kennel, but you have cheered me up by the fact that the exercise area is a lot larger. I am not looking forward to leaving him in the kennel and we will have to take it in turns to be with him. Thanks for all the great information. Very helpsul.
11/03/2015 12:33
This is a very informative blog thanks,can anyone help with a question I have , how soon should I start looking to book a dog friendly cabin , we intend travelling the beginning of April 2016
11/03/2015 12:53
This is a very informative blog thanks,can anyone help with a question I have , how soon should I start looking to book a dog friendly cabin , we intend travelling the beginning of April 2016
01/11/2016 04:20
Gill Baggott
Hi - brilliant blog and very helpful. Does anyone know a vet near Bilbao who will do the required worming treatment before returning home? Gill
03/14/2016 07:59
Bex Chadwick
Hi, great post, very helpful thank you. Just one question if anyone can answer, why do the dogs have to stay in the cars for an hour at the beginning and end of the trip? That really concerns me as my little pug never leaves my side and I can only imagine her being terrified! :'(
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Akila writes. Patrick takes photos. Chewy eats. Abby runs. We live, love, and travel in this world.
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