The Bretagne was the first 'super ferry' to enter the Brittany Ferries fleet and immediately set new standards for ferry design, as well as becoming a firm favourite with her passengers. Specifically created for their rapidly expanding Spanish services she was later transferred in 1993 to the highly popular St Malo route. Furnished in typical 'Breton' decor featuring original artwork by Alexander Goudie throughout, she is a classy vessel and could even described as a floating gallery.
Both the Spanish and Irish markets were rapidly expanding during the mid 80's, and it was clear that the Quiberon could no longer sustain any growth, thus the decision was taken to order new tonnage. An order was placed at the Chantiers d'Atlantique shipyard in the Loire, France, for the constriction of the Bretagne. The Bretagne set new standards for both Brittany Ferries but also to all other ferry operators out of the UK becoming one of the first true cruise-ferries. She was launched on the 4th February 1989 and entered service on the 16th July amid much pomp and circumstance.
Custom built for both Brittany Ferries and the longer Spanish route, the Bretagne was a great success and even today she is still regarded as the 'true' Brittany Ferry. Her time on the premier Santander and Cork service was relatively short, being replaced by the larger Val de Loire in 1993 when she transferred to the Portsmouth - St Malo route where she has proven to be extremely popular.
In March 2004 Brittany Ferries launched a new service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg. The Bretagne was joined by the Val de Loire at the same time, and both ships operated in tandem on the St Malo and Cherbourg service for the year. During September 2004 the Bretagne returned to her home waters after 11 years away, taking over services between Plymouth and Roscoff following the sale of the Duc de Normandie.
The 2006 season saw the Bretagne return to the St Malo route, following the sale of the Val de Loire to DFDS, where she continues to operate today. During the winter of 2006 the Bretagne once again returned to Plymouth to take up the Spanish run, marking her first regular return to the route since 1993. The Bretagne returned from refit in February 2007 sporting the revised corporate livery, and became the largest vessel ever to sail into Poole when she covered for the Barfleur between the Dorest port and Cherbourg for two weeks. Today the Bretagne continues to operate between Portsmouth and St Malo, and Plymouth to Santander during the winter months.
In 2007 the Bretagne once again returned to the Spanish route during the winter, departing to Plymouth, returning to the St Malo service for the remainder of the year. This has been since been repeated annually.
The Bretagne underwent a major €6 million refit in 2009, which saw her sail to Gdasnk, Poland. The refit saw the refurbishment of all 376 cabins, including the creating of 50 new 'Club Four' cabins. Inside cabins on decks 1 and 2 were equipped with flat screen televisions. The Salon du The was refurbished, along with the reclining seat lounges, to create a new cyber-lounge café area allowing wi-fi internet access. An outdoor smoking space was also created on deck 7. The self service restaurant was also refurbished.
Speaking about the refurbishment Catherine Querné, Onboard Services Director, said "Bretagne came into service in 1989 and, inevitably, the tastes and expectations of our customers have changed. These improvements will ensure that the very high standards and quality we aspire to with every ship in the fleet will be maintained."
In a surprise move the Bretagne spent the 2011/12 winter season laid up in Dunkerque, leaving the St Malo route in the hands of the Armorique and Pont-Aven. She returned to service on the 31st March 2012, and resumed daily sailings between Portsmouth and St Malo. She will once again be laid up between the 25th November 2012 and 19th March 2013. In an attempt to stem mounting losses her 2013 schedule will see her lay over in St Malo on Tuesday's and Portsmouth on Wednesdays (except for August).
The mv Bretagne carries the most significant name within the Brittany Ferries fleet, being the namesake of the companies heritage. Bretagne is the French for 'Brittany' the North West region of France, in which the ports of Roscoff and St Malo are located.