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Cross Channel Ferries
English Channel ferry services are an ideal way to cross to the European continent. The crossing generally takes about one hour, and ferry service is available every day of the year.
The Channel separates the United Kingdom from continental Europe and has historically provided a defensive barrier for the island countries. The pinched waterway varies from 34 km at Dover to 240 km in width. Due to its narrow breadth it is also a link to the continent in times of peace, being one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Ever since the early 19th century those who could afford to do so have crossed the channel as what we now call tourists. Crossing is now so simple that it has come to be known as channel hopping. Despite the completion of the tunnel, the Chunnel, and train service from Folkstone to Calais, France, ferries remain a significant method of transport. The Dover to Calais ferry is one of the busiest in the world.
Ferries are often a better choice even than flying. Depending on departure times they may allow one to connect with a destination more quickly. They are less expensive than air travel, and are certainly more convenient with many points of departure. A number of companies operate ferries from various ports in the UK. Ferry docks are located at Hull, Harwich, Dover, Newhaven, Folkestone, Portsmouth, Poole, Weymouth, and Plymouth. European connections can be made to France, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The British channel islands are also popular destinations. Comfort and eco-friendliness are additional reasons to consider ferrying rather than flying.
The world’s largest hovercraft formerly operated on a cross-channel line, but were retired in 2000. A large museum complex at Lee-on-the-Solent how houses the "Princess Anne" a car-carrying hovercraft which posted a record crossing time of 22 minutes in 1995.
The Channel is the busiest seaway in the world, and although one might think first of passenger services, over 400 ships a day carry freight to the various ports.
Most passenger ferries offer amenities such as movies, bars and restaurants, shops, and video arcades for the kids. For family travel ferries are ideal. Vehicles from sedans to recreational vehicles can be accommodated, and walk-on passengers are welcome as well.
Despite transportation innovations the classic idea of a ship upon the sea remains a viable method of crossing the English Channel.