To round off the 2022 summer holidays, we did a mini cruise to Amsterdam with DFDS Ferries. We did this in part to explore as Heidi has been asking for sometime to do a city break and in part; test the kids with being on a boat.
Getting onto the DFDS Ferry
The only place to do a mini cruise to Amsterdam with DFDS Ferries is from Newcastle. The port is based in North Shields just on the other side of the Tyne Tunnel. North Shields is around a 2 hour drive from Leeds but you can also get a bus or taxi from Newcastle to the port if you don’t drive and were taking the train. We were foot passengers for the trip so didn’t take the car onto the ferry. We parked in the long stay car park at the port and walked straight into the ferry terminal. The car park cost £12 a day.
Check in opened around 2 ½ hours before the ferry departs and boarding happens around 2 hours before departure. Unlike airport terminals, there is little to do in the ferry terminal, although that means there are no opportunities to spend money!! As a result, don’t feel as though you need to be the first one to check in.
The check-in process was really easy and you get your boarding cards which double up as your room key. Keep hold of these on your return as you won’t need to check in again on the return from Amsterdam. Getting through security was easy as they only scan suitcases and you’re on the ferry after a 2 minute walk. There are security staff who spot check passengers boarding and a key thing to be aware of is you can not take alcohol with you on board.
There are a number of cabins offered on the ship and if you have a 4 bed room the cabins are quite small. There is no getting away from that. However, as a place to sleep you don’t need something spacious and with a bit of organisation and tidiness, then you can cope absolutely fine!!
As we needed a cabin for 4, we had 2 sets of bunk beds. The kids slept on the top and the adults slept on the bottom. The beds were comfortable and absolutely fine for what they were. You’re not going to get a perfect night of sleep, but it will be good enough!!
The cabins are en-suite, but the shower is basic. You are provided towels and hand soap, therefore you need to bring your own shower gel and shampoo.
Our cabin was quite low down on the boat (deck 5) and that meant that we were a little bit away from the entertainment. However, it meant that it was quiet and we didn’t feel the choppiness as much!
If you’re only going for a day trip, you can leave your stuff in your cabin and they will leave your cabin alone whilst you travel into Amsterdam.
Entertainment on Board
Perhaps the biggest thing that the kids couldn’t get their heads around was the fact that there wasn’t YouTube available on phones!! Wifi is available to buy on the boat, but it was very pricey and we chose not to buy it. You can get mobile data until you’re around 1 hour into the journey and 1 hour from the end, as you approach land. As such, download everything you need before leaving home! This was especially handy for the kids when we wanted some quiet wind down time.
In terms of on-boat entertainment, there is a small, free soft play area. This is meant to be for under 6’s who are until 6 years of age. However, it is self managed so older kids can go in.
There is a cinema on board, which carries a small charge (€8) and there is at least one family friendly showing during the sailing. However, we didn’t partake as there was no chance that the kids would sit still for 2 hours!!
At around 7pm there is a treasure hunt for under 8’s which is quite good fun for around 30 minutes. However, given the number of kids on board, there could be an organised kids show or something and it would be a massive hit.
There is an observation deck and at the start of the journey, there is a 15 minute presentation from a marine charity explaining what animals you might see including porpoise, seals and whales! This is a really nice place to relax on board and some of the views are incredible.
Heading back to the central area of the ship, you will find a bar. There is also a stage area where they have music and bingo into the evening. However, this was a bit too late (and loud!) for us but if you have older kids, or no kids, it would be ideal!
There is a small section of arcade games to play on as well. Please be aware that most of them usually take €1 coins, rather than £1 coins, so bear that in mind!!
Food and Drink on Board
There are a couple of restaurants, with the most popular one being the all you can eat buffet.
TOP TIP!! Pre-book your meals and you’ll save a small fortune!!
We did the buffet for the evening meals and considering that you’re on a boat and they are serving a lot of people, then the food was decent.
For the kids especially, there was pizza and chips and an ice cream station. However, these options were popular with adults too!
The food options were the same on both the outboard and return journey, so you know what to expect on the second journey!!
For breakfast, we enjoyed the mini-Starbucks on board, which served cookies, pastries and muffins. These were quite good value (around €3 each) and were quite filling. As such, I wouldn’t go with the breakfast dining option, and save some money that way.
There are a couple of bars towards the top of the boat, serving drinks and snacks. In terms of pricing, a 400ml coke cost €4, a mocktail cost €5 and a packet of Pipers crisps was €2 or 2 for €3.
You can take your own food and non alcoholic drinks on board. This is a much cheaper way of doing it and you get to have what you want. We did this and it helped in terms of snacks somewhat, but I definitely overpacked!!
Transfers in Amsterdam
Getting off the boat and into Amsterdam city centre was quick and easy. It helps to be one of the first off the boat to get through Passport Control and subsequently, get onto the first bus.
The bus journey takes around 20-30 minutes and drops you off right in the city centre to allow you to explore. You just show your booking confirmation on your phone to board the buses. As such, have this ready when getting off the boat.
You need to pre-book this, but is certainly much easier than getting a taxi.
You only have around 5 hours to explore the city when doing a day trip. We went for the unorganised approach and just wandered round exploring.
As we had never been as a family to Amsterdam, we felt that this was the best way to see as much as possible. Part of this was us being unsure how the kids would be after the overnight crossing. Now we know what it is like, we would do a canal tour or visit the Anne Frank museum as they are the most popular things to do.
A few things that stood out when we were in Amsterdam:
- Cyclists are everywhere and have right-of-way. As such, look everywhere before crossing the road, even zebra crossings!
- You can avoid the more “adult” parts of Amsterdam quite easily. However, it might be worth a conversation with the kids to explain that “brownies” or “Space cakes” are not on the menu for kids in Amsterdam!
- Cheese shops are everywhere and you can easily fill yourself up on free cheese and chutney samples!
- There are loads of dessert shops and the kids will definitely try and lure you into one but me mindful that some are overpriced.
- Try a Stroopwaffel, they are absolutely delicious!
- The Dutch can speak brilliant English and so you don’t need to worry about the language barrier but it’s always nice to give it a try!
All in All
It was hectic and tiring at times, however, it was definitely one that I am glad we did and we really enjoyed it. Next time, we will likely stay in Amsterdam a night or two to properly explore the city and perhaps look at exploring the beautiful country some more. We are keen to see the beautiful tulips in full bloom. We will also make sure we pre-book all our meals on the ferry before travelling!!
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