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How do you make an overnight visit to Amsterdam into a holiday break? Turn it into a mini-cruise and enjoy being spoilt at sea with DFDS Seaways.
When you live in the northern most county of England it’s not an easy option to hop across the Channel to take a break on the continent – but in the North we do have the opportunity of sailing away for a few days from Newcastle.
Taking the Tyne Tunnel it’s a simple drive to the Royal Quays in North Shields. We resisted the temptations of the Quay shopping village and headed straight for the modern International Passenger Terminal. We were warmly greeted aboard the Princess Seaways ship and the holiday started there.
The four berth cabin with sea view was comfortable and had ample space for myself, husband and teenage daughter. It was a great base from which to explore the ship which offered cinema, casino, three high quality restaurants, coffee shop, café and four bars.
We explored the outdoor Mermaid bar with one of the ship’s musicians performing first before setting sail. Once out to sea we went below to the quiet Navigators Bar for drinks before an excellent dinner in the Seven Seas Restaurant. This buffet dining area had more than 70 different dishes to choose from with excellent attentive service from the waiters and stunning views as the sun set on the North Sea. It was a display of food which you would expect from a long haul Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise.
We found in the Columbus Club a first rate seven piece band performing to an appreciative audience. The atmosphere was welcoming, fun and the dance floor a main attraction. My husband tried his hand in the casino and his 60 euro win financed the tour of Amsterdam the following day.
After a good nights sleep we enjoyed another excellent buffet in the Seven Seas before quickly disembarking to be greeted by our coach which took us the 30 minute journey to our hotel close to the city hall and Gassan Diamond visitor centre. The transfer was well organised and we were soon on our way.
Unfortunately the sunny weather we set sail in from Newcastle had turned to torrential rain. We were early for check in at the modern IBIS hotel, but staff provided secure storage for our luggage and we headed out, straight into the heart of Amsterdam.
We picked up the Hop On Hop Off bus on Damrak opposite the beautiful central station - £18 per person for a 24 hour ticket. With the rain pelting down it seemed a good option to give our 15 year old the opportunity to see as much of this stunning city for the first time.
As a student I remembered how wonderful the Van Gogh museum was, and by the time the bus had taken us through the port area, past the maritime museum and Artis Royal Zoo we had the opportunity to buy tickets from the conductor at reduced fees and with the promise of no queues for the galleries. We bought our tickets, 15 Euros each for adults and free pass for 17 and under.
The sun had come out as we approached the stop near the Rijks and Van Gogh museums. As we walked through the Museumplein we turned the corner to see the longest queue ever outside the Van Gogh gallery. Fortunately I was holding the tickets when a member of the museum staff told me we could go straight to the front of the queue. A fear of starting a riot I insisted that she took us there, and unbelievably we just walked straight in. A cut price fee and easy access, a great tip for any visitor to the city.
We picked up the bus again on the circular route to ride past the Royal Palace, the floating flower market, Dam Square before heading back to our hotel. The heavens opened again so we ate in the Pasta Café situated in the hotel.
We had planned to pick up the bus again the following morning to visit Anne Frank’s House but the service does not start up until 10.15am and it did not provide enough time to go around the museum and get back before the ticket ran out – be careful with your timing of buying your 24 hour ticket as you may end up with so little time on day two you can’t get anywhere and back in time.
We decided to take another form of transport to explore the city again as the rain returned. The hour long trip on the canal cruise was more informative and got to the heart of this floating city – and a bargain at 8.50 Euros each.
We were picked up from our hotel by the coach for the return sailing at 3.30pm and set sail at 5.30pm. Aboard the King Seaway ship the sun came out again and we relaxed in the Navigators Bar, enjoying not only a beautiful view of the coastline passing by and stunning off-shore wind farms, but also a first class musical performance by the onboard acoustic guitarist and singer from America. Looking out on the setting sun you could have been in the Med or Caribbean.
Dinner in the Seven Seas restaurant was once again an enjoyable treat, with so many delicious dishes to try and a view out to sea. After 48 hours of exploring we looked in on the casino and had a peek at the excellent band on this ship, but had an early night.
Breakfast on board set us up for the journey from the North East back to Cumbria. We had been away from home less than four days but really felt like we had a holiday. The luxury of the ship does not come cheaply – but you do get quality accommodation and catering. The prices in the bar do prepare you for the high cost of living in Amsterdam itself. One of the most popular capital destinations in Europe it is also one of the most expensive.
If you just want quick visit to Amsterdam there is a great alternative to the three day visit we enjoyed - the mini cruise offered by DFDS which includes two nights on the ship and a day visit to Amsterdam which includes a tour of the city.
The early bird booking means you can get up to 25 per cent discount on your tickets and a two-day mini cruise starts from £55 per person. And from £99 per person you get your cabin, buffet dinner and breakfast plus coach into the city and tour. You can also upgrade to the Commodore Class cabin if available when you board. Check out the DFDS website for the latest offers and early booking discount.
The Newcastle crossing also provides an alternative route for Northerners to visit Paris, just 236 miles from Amsterdam – a five hour journey. It’s just 175 miles from France, 85 miles from Belgium 85 miles and 88 miles from Germany 88 miles.
A relaxing 15.5 hour cruise onboard one of the two DFDS ships on this route is a much better way to start your holiday than stuck in a traffic jam on the M6.
For more details of DFDS Seaways crossings visit www.dfds.co.uk .
The new look Travel Section will be brining you reports from holiday destinations within easy reach of Cumbria. Using public transport where possible and northern ports, airports and rail links we feature breaks that make travelling fun and easy for residents of the county.
Other travel reports include: A weekend break by train to York