Browsed by
Tag: Holland

DFDS mini cruise to Amsterdam – our review!

DFDS mini cruise to Amsterdam – our review!

We’ve just recently returned from a nice little break on a DFDS mini cruise to Amsterdam and wanted to give a bit of a review of it since we struggled to find out much about it before we went.

What is the mini cruise?

dfds-mini-cruise-to-amsterdamDFDS do a couple of different mini cruises – you can do one like we did from Newcastle to Amsterdam (and vice versa) or there’s also one that goes from Denmark to Norway (one to try at another date when we’re off around Europe again!). They used to do one from the UK to Norway but I don’t think that one is currently running.

Basically they are 2 night ‘cruises’ where you sail late on the first day, sleeping overnight on the boat and arriving at the destination in the morning. You then get transferred to Amsterdam for a short day trip before returning to the ship and having a night on the boat returning. You arrive back on the third day in the morning.

Is it expensive?

There are often deals to be had when booking the mini cruise with DFDS. We managed to find a 2 for 1 offer which made our whole trip with the most basic cabin come in at £120 if I remember rightly). This gives you a super basic cabin (more on that below) for two nights and coach transfers for us all to Amsterdam. You can upgrade to better cabins should you want.

On board, as probably expected, it’s a little more expensive than your average restaurant or shop. As is also probably expected, we are way too tight to be spending our cash on board so I can’t comment on the quality of the restaurants. I did see that breakfast was around €15 per adult which nearly made me choke on our Pop tarts that we brought along 😉

What’s it like on board?

As I said before, we didn’t eat in the restaurant and we also didn’t partake in any bar entertainment either. There was a cinema on board which was about €8 each, so not too dissimilar to on land and we did consider that if Suicide Squad would have been showing on the way back but unfortunately it wasn’t so we didn’t.

The cabins were very basic but did have all you need with a small en suite shower and toilet. You also get towels too so no need to bring those either. The cabins are a little bit small with four people in them, especially when the upper bunks are down, but it wasn’t too bad really.

One issue that we had with the cabins were that they were incredibly hot. We did wonder at one point whether they maybe didn’t want you too comfy in the cabins and wanted you to be out spending in the bars! It was like that both ways and just spoiled what would have been a quite enjoyable time otherwise.

One thing we wondered about and were a little worried about was whether we could leave our belongings on the ship while on the day trip – if you’re also worried, don’t be.  You keep the same cabin and can leave whatever you need to on board.

What about the ‘day trip’?

kids-at-amsterdam-signYou arrive in the Netherlands at about 9am at a place called IJmuiden which is around a 45 minute drive from the centre of Amsterdam.

After waiting for the car passengers to depart it’s the foot passengers turn to go through passport control. It was fine and fairly quick on the Amsterdam side but returning to Newcastle took forever so something to think about if you’re doing the opposite journey.

The coaches are waiting to take you in to the city and once full they head off, dropping you outside a hotel just opposite the train station so perfect for seeing the old town or getting on a canal cruise.

We probably arrived in Amsterdam at around 10.30am – 11am ish which gave us about 4 and a half hours at least before we got picked up. It definitely didn’t seem enough to enjoy all there is, unsurprisingly, but for us, as it was our first trip to the city it was nice enough to get a feel for it and wander round.

I really want to do some of the museums in Amsterdam and it’s really not enough time for that – but perhaps next time we’ll be able to stay longer!

We were lucky and had a dry day to wander around – it would have been pretty miserable if it was raining!

amsterdam-canals

 

Is it worth it?

So the main question would be, is it worth it overall? We all really enjoyed our time away and for what we paid I think it was definitely worth it. Would I do it again? Probably not! Perhaps if it was a different city on offer we would, but when we go back to Amsterdam I want to properly explore! Of course you can use the trip as just a ferry in order to get you to mainland Europe as well and I would definitely consider doing that. I’d probably look to upgrade from the basic cabin if we could though.

If you want to see any of the current deals check out the DFDS website.

Sundays, Smurfs and Sadness

Sundays, Smurfs and Sadness

We had wanted to spend a couple of days in Holland, but J’s eye problems meant that we spent an extra night in Germany and had to strip a day from our Holland idea.  We did manage to spend one night there, in Gouda,  which was really nice especially as I’d never been to Holland before.  Actually I had transited through the Amsterdam airport before and I remember being amazed as we flew over the country and I could see just how flat it was.  I knew it *was* flat, but seeing it from that perspective was pretty amazing.

960243_10151681488594134_21630066_nWe arrived in Gouda on a Sunday and fully expected nothing to be open.  Throughout France and Germany the shops completely close down on Sundays.  Coming from the UK it was actually quite refreshing, once we got our heads round it.  It was like our childhood when it was a family day and not dictated by shops.  So when we were walking round we were surprised to see not only a market on but all the shops open too!  It was lovely weather, a lovely little town with canals, bikes, and wonderful alleys to explore.  We’d have stayed and explored the day after had we not been woken at 6am by workers in the car park we stayed in.  As it was, we headed to our next and last country before heading home – Belgium.

969016_10151681488724134_550791116_n          972264_10151681488659134_1427299888_n

As soon as we got close to Belgium the pace changed, the traffic became so much more full on and heavy and we just didn’t enjoy the driving as much.  Our days driving were shorter, and it was just as well!  We chilled out in a stop nearish to Brussels so we could have a day trip in to the capital the next day. 

971576_10151687770249134_1578762343_nAlex had expressed a wish to go to Brussels since she realised there was a Smurf shop there!  We’d not done too many big cities due to them being hard to negotiate, stay in, and then get around.  Expensive too.  But Brussels seemed doable as a day trip and really, none of the kids had asked to go anywhere specific so it seemed a nice thing to do.  We parked somewhere near the Atomium in the outskirts of Brussels at a cost of 5 euros and took the metro in to the city.  We got a 10 trip ticket which was 13.50 euros and worked for all of us.  I wasn’t very well prepped for going there, I had no idea really where things were but eventually we managed to find a tourist information to ask.  I got completely confused by someone initially speaking to me in english rather than another language and happened upon a nice little free exhibition on Brussels and the european language.

I managed to get us lost quite a bit, but we eventually found the smurf shop – woohoo!  Spent some money and had a very happy daughter Smile

971758_10151683543114134_189216124_n

Giant Smurf!

Brussels is really pretty, really gorgeous buildings, but also incredibly touristy.  We’d not done too many big cities so it was quite a shock to see so many shops dedicated to spending on little trinkets and specifically a little boy peeing!  The kids were so bemused by the Manequin Pis!  I’d have liked to have spent more time discovering the non touristy bits Smile

600292_10151687770179134_1126867769_n

Beautiful buildings in Brussels

Finishing up in Brussels we battled the traffic once more to get to Ypres and to be there in time for the ceremony at the Menin Gate.  It had been high on my wish list of places to go.  Not the most cheeriest of places to take the kids, but highly moving and sobering.   Every evening at 8pm there is the Last Post ceremony and we were there in time to listen to it.  Standing next to so many others who had come to listen and pay their respects.  An old woman and man were next to us and I had a lovely chat with them about it all. 

248999_10151687769789134_2004447400_n

There are over 54,000 names of soldiers missing on the memorial.  Just immense.

Our last full day on the continent saw us heading back to France, but before hand we visited the Tyne Cot war cemetery which I actually think I have been to once before on a school trip.  Many of the soldiers who died in the Battle of Passchendale are buried here and James’s great grandad fought and was shot here, but thankfully survived.  So many lay there.  So many perished.  Such a poignant and sad place, but also a nice visitors centre/room with interesting letters and artefacts about the battle. 

adventure 756

Thinking and taking in the enormity of it all.

We then headed to our last stop in mainland Europe – sniff!  It was about 15 minutes away from Dunkirk where our ferry was the day after and it was by a beach!  I had missed the sea so much so it was great to see it again.  We had some lovely, if bracing walks on the beach and discovered old German WW2 bunkers that James and the kids investigated.  Europe said farewell with a spectacular sunset and sunrise that seemed to all at once make up for the monotony of the grey German days!

968791_10151687769059134_1097320894_n          580679_10151687768974134_828614686_n

295556_10151687868269134_1666913811_n

 

We were sad to finish this section of our trip, but excited to get into England and explore areas we’d not visited before there.

7272_10151687680499134_2130991606_n

Hello again England!  Weird to be home, but not actually going home!