A ferry good way to spend your summer

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IF YOU want a holiday beyond the shores of Britain this year, you might be pleasantly surprised by deals on the ferry.

Some operators are investing in new multimillion-pound superferries and prices are falling.

The big winner here is that ferry travellers with cars can take as much luggage as they like, there are things on board to keep children entertained and ferry travel hasn’t - yet - been clobbered by Government taxes.

Ferry companies also usually offer online links to accommodation agencies for short breaks and longer family stays, making it easy to book at rock bottom prices.

One specialist tour operator, VFB, offers return Dover to Calais crossings with SeaFrance for £49 this summer (for car and five passengers) on bookings by May 31.

SeaFrance currently offers single crossings on Dover to Calais from £30, for car and up to nine people.

Its main rival on the Dover to Calais run, P&O Ferries, has launched the mighty £160 million, 49,000-tonne ‘Spirit of Britain’ to take 2,000 passengers and a maximum 1,050 cars.

A sister ship, ‘Spirit of France’, arrives in the autumn and each of the 90-minute Dover to Calais crossing by these two giants will be able carry a stream of traffic nearly 2.5 miles long.

Day trips on P&O Ferries to Calais start at £25 (return) for car and nine passengers; for longer than five days, fares start at £35 each way, for car and nine passengers. You might have to travel at unsocial times for the lowest prices.

P&O spokeswoman Michelle Ulyatt says: “To get the best ferry prices this summer, book as early as possible. When you book, you need to specify the dates of travel.”

Watch out in May for ferry deals galore in the next few weeks: National Ferry Fortnight, from May 14 to 28, will underline the message that ferries mean great value this summer.

Not long ago, peak season crossings to the continent for drivers often cost more than £300 return - especially for late bookers. Nowadays, as ferry lines adopt the budget airline model, you pay a fraction of that.