How DFDS’ new ferry creates an ‘easy, fun and enjoyable’ environment for passengers
DFDS’ new Channel ship Côte d’Opale aims to connect passengers with the sea and has a ‘premium feel’, DFDS on board commercial director Steve Newbery says.
The modern ferry will be the longest to operate on the English Channel when it joins DFDS’ route from Dover to Calais. DFDS says the ferry will also offer the largest duty-free shopping experience on the Channel.
Côte d’Opale was ordered by DFDS in April 2018 on a 10-year charter from Stena RoRo and was built at the CMI Jinling (Weihai) shipyard in China. DFDS will operate the ship for the first decade with an option to buy it after that. The ferry has the capacity to handle growth in both freight and leisure customers post-Brexit and Covid-19.
The new ferry will replace Calais Seaways. Commenting on the onboard interior differences between the two, Mr Newbery says, “Calais Seaways was built over 30 years ago and is a smaller vessel. Côte d’Opale is 215 m long and can carry 30% more than the previous ferry in terms of freight. Therefore, its passenger areas are bigger, and we can keep them on one passenger deck so it is easy to navigate.
“The interior is vastly different, as Côte d’Opale has large windows and lets in more natural light as well as a general feeling of being a large ship.”
A premium feel
Summing up what the company hope to achieve in terms of amenities and onboard experiences, he says “Our DFDS vision is to create an environment for the passenger that makes it easy, fun and enjoyable to shop and relax while sailing with us. Our areas will have a premium feel that families expect and desire as part of the travel experience.
“Our approach is to create an environment that feels relaxed as an open space that connects the passenger with the sea with lots of space to move around and enjoy the journey, be it the start or end to a special break.”
He says, “We wanted to create something new, something that you wanted to show others and be proud to be travelling with us. There are features around the ship that provide great social media interest points and space for photos.
“But equally, we wanted to create a modern space which you think, ‘wow is that a ferry?’ Comfort, space, familiarity and a place to explore were all discussions during the design process and layout of what the DFDS brand is on The Channel.”
Also important, is that DFDS wanted to transfer these designs to the other channel ships so there is a “consistent approach and a consistent product, but at the same time making sure the ships have their own unique features to find and enjoy.”
Shop: journey through zones
A stand-out feature of the ship is it has the largest shop on the channel, with one-third of the ship dedicated to a duty-free travel retail experience.
Mr Newbery explains, “The shop on Côte d’Opale will be a journey through zones creating different experiences as the passenger moves through the ship.”
The duty-free shop will introduce electronics and digital products with a view to providing high-end electronics and products like an airport, “giving passengers better choice than they have today,” comments Mr Newbery.
He expands, “The considerations were to provide a modern duty-free shopping experience with the choice and range of products that every traveller expects. Electronics, Lego, perfume, enhanced spirit area, luxury goods as well as bringing in new features such as video walls, digital screens for information and areas where partners can sit down and relax while others shop. We wanted to create something new and unique for the channel that sets us apart. As you explore the ship you feel you are on a journey of discovery.”
Highlighting how the design and interior features help to connect passengers to the sea, he says, “Our 7 Seas Restaurant will be our new design connecting passengers with the sea not only in design but also with the huge windows where light floods in.”
Other restaurants include the Road Kings restaurant exclusively for freight drivers. “This is larger than our other ships and has plenty of space for drivers to shower, eat and relax on the crossing,” says Mr Newbery. The Road Kings Club also has recliner chairs, couches, TVs, customs information, a full restaurant and separate relax areas with high-speed wi-fi coverage.
Côte d’Opale also offers the Premium Lounge and Light House Café which are enhancements on designs DFDS introduced in 2019 and 2020 on the Dunkerque route, which have been well received by passengers.
Indeed, Mr Newbery explains that all Channel ships have the same basic restaurants which are part of the DFDS brand: Light House Café, 7 Seas Restaurant and Road Kings for freight drivers.
Mr Newbery says, “Côte d’Opale has the latest designs of these brands and over the next few years all channel ships will have a similar look and feel in these areas as part of our commitment to enhancing the passenger experience on our ferries.”
Other areas on the new ferry are Pirates Island play areas. The two play areas on the new ferry include one soft play area for younger children and one for older children, which has Lego play tables.
Côte d’Opale will be the longest cross-Channel ferry, which has had a positive layout on passenger comfort and flow. Mr Newbery says, “Côte d’Opale will carry up to 1,000 passengers on a crossing with a bigger floor space for these passengers compared with Calais Seaways. It is a much larger, spacious ship that enables people to find their own space to relax in.
“We also have digital screens and TVs throughout the ship to give passengers as much information as they need easily. The ship is much easier to navigate and find what you need. Because each area feeds into each other we had to balance all the interior colours and materials so they blend and complement each other.”
He adds being a busy Cross Channel Ferry that does 10 sailings a day, it also needs to be “hard wearing, easy to clean and maintain as well as having a quality, premium feel for the passengers”.
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