*** Fancy winning over £600 of goodies from the P&O ferries on board stores? Play the new P&O Ferries stocking filler game! Scroll down to the end of the post for more information ***
As you know, we're a French/English family and spend a lot of our time bobbing back and forth across the Channel so when we were asked if we'd like to join a select group of bloggers chosen for a free day trip to check out the Christmas shopping opportunities on board P&O Ferries, that was a total no-brainer ! Of course we did ! But it didn't stop there !
We're quite used to travelling on the ferry to France and England so the novelty value has long worn off but then we discovered that we'd been upgraded. Twice ! First of all we got "Priority Boarding" so we were first on the boat. The kids - and even Madhouse Daddy Mike (or especially Madhouse Daddy Mike !) - sniggered as the drivers in the lane next to us who'd arrived way before us looked across disgustedly thinking "who are you and why are you allowed to bypass the queue ?"! It was really strange to drive on to a totally empty ferry and park right at the front - which also meant that we were first off the boat. Oh and also that it was dead easy to find our car again when we headed back down to the car deck ! When you're only on a day trip, or if you have a car of over-excited kids who can't wait to see Nanny & Grandad, it's great to save time driving straight off the boat without hanging around for all the cars and lorries in front of you to get off. Priority Boarding costs £12 per car each way and is definitely something we'll consider using in the future.
Then we discovered that were also booked into Club Lounge so headed off to discover this special reserved part of the ship. As we walked in, we all let out a little gasp ! Especially when we were asked if we'd like a complimentary glass of champagne or other refreshments. Juliette excitedly pointed out all the bottles of champagne behind the bar - she'll have expensive tastes, that one !
It's a really luxurious area with soft sofas and leather armchairs dotted around tables topped with pretty flower arrangements. There were very few people in there so we had plenty of room to spread out, with the kids flaking out on the sofas to sleep or playing cards on a separate table with no worries of them getting lost amongst the crowds.
The kids (oh OK, and the adults !) got stupidly excited when the lovely hostess arrived with a tray full of apple juice, coffee, shortbread and mini Toblerones. There are also newspapers at your disposal and a personal shopper service, where you can ask someone to bring up your shopping for you too. When we nipped to the toilet, we oohed and aahed about how luxurious it was. The girls couldn't believe there was a shower and I squealed when I saw the L'Occitane liquid soap ! It's a really calm area, great for those who want to avoid the mad rush downstairs. It costs £12 per person in advance, £14 on board, so if you want to travel in First Class style, you know where to go !
When we left the calm oasis of the Club Lounge to discover the shops, I felt just like Rose in Titanic, moving down to the bustling, noisy, crowded lower deck from first class ! Luckily, the Titanic similarities stopped there - no icebergs on the horizon for us fortunately ! The kids were all wowed by the Christmas tree outside of the shop (and made us promise we'd put ours up when we got home).
We wandered into the shop, keen to see what Christmas shopping opportunities were available. I was impressed to see that amongst the prestigious luxury brands, there was also a selection of lower budget high street names like The Body Shop on offer.
My bargain radar went into overdrive as I saw tempting phrases like "40% off High Street Prices" on perfumes and beauty products.
There were loads of other great deals, with 1/2 price offers, 3 for 2's and multibuy promotions. Madhouse Daddy Mike selected two bottles of fine whisky for £30 while I grabbed 2 big family bars of Dairy Milk for £5 !
Pierre was excitedly pointing at things all over the place - I'm not sure if he's smiling at the dog toy or the Toblerones in this picture !
All three kids loved discovering the impressive array of soft toys, activity kits and London 2012 products on offer. I said they could all choose one toy each - Sophie chose a Kimmie Doll and a London pen, Juliette chose a cute lemur toy and Pierre excitedly pointed out a Peppa Pig toy.
Back on the squishy sofa, Pierre now felt fine again and happily cuddled Peppa Pig, while we did a quick stocktake of all our purchases - three whole bags full of shopping ! But an hour and a half goes quickly so it was already time for us to head back to our car and enjoy a lovely day out exploring.
We renewed the Club Lounge experience on the return trip, still choosing apple juice and coffee over champagne (we must be mad but it was too early in the day and Madhouse Daddy Mike was driving, after all !) and the kids were over the moon when, as well as the complimentary shortbread and Toblerones (served not once but twice !), they also got some Peppa Pig colouring sheets to keep them occupied.
I think Sophie's face, as she shows off her shopping finds, says it all really. A fabulous day was had by all and it was a much more pleasurable Christmas shopping experience than fighting through a crowded town centre or browsing through endless websites online.
I'd highly recommend a day trip across the Channel in the run up to Christmas if you live close to the ports, but even if you live too far away, make sure you head over to the P&O Facebook page anyway. They’ve just launched their Christmas stocking filler game on Facebook giving people the chance to win over £600 worth of goodies from their on board shops. Why not have a go now right here?
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