Generally we travel to Amsterdam by Plane but last October we decided to try visiting by crossing the North Sea and booked a P&O Ferries Mini Cruise with the kids.
The P&O Mini Cruises sail from Hull - Rotterdam. These huge passenger and vehicle Ferries are very popular due to the prices. We were lucky enough to book when they offered a BOGOF (buy one get one free) deal but in high season prices still seem extremely fair and reasonable.
We parked our Car at Hull Ferry Terminal in the Multistory Car Park, we didnt have to prebook and this cost £6 per night. Upon entry into the terminal the Check In & Security process was very simple and quick. We boarded the Ship just fifteen minutes after entering. I was impressed they has Police Dogs checking over the luggage and this made me feel extremely safe.
The crossing itself was calm and we had a lovely evening in the Sunset Showbar listening to the Cabaret. Drinks were pretty hefty but I didnt expect any different...captive audience I guess. Their was plenty to keep passengers entertained including many more Bars, a small Casino, Cinema and Duty Free Shop plus numerous Cafe area's and even a small soft play for the young children.
Our Cabin was small as expected and comprised of 2 lower beds and 2 higher bunk beds these were a good size and very comfortable. A private Shower room was also in the cabin which was clean and functional but extremely compact. Ideal for the two nights that we spent in. It was ours for the duration of the trip so we could leave our belongings there whilst we went on our excursion into Amsterdam.
As we disembarked the Ferry at around 9am and we were ushered through the Terminal and Security to the Coach Park. We then queued to be seated on a very new looking Coach, sadly we were split up and my 8 year old son had to sit on his own next to a stranger and the same for my Teenage Daughter, this concerned me but due to the Information on the Ferry I expected just a 90 Minutes trip onboard. At this point as we left the Port, our Driver advised us that the journey to Amsterdam normally takes just under 2 Hours but due to traffic and roadworks it was going to take around 3 Hours to reach the City Centre. It was a hellish journey, none of us had brought Water or Snacks...fortunately the Coach did have a Loo!
We arrived in Amsterdam at Central Station at around Midday and sadly it was announced we would have to be collected at 3.30pm to ensure we got back to the Ferry on time. Instantly we felt sad and fed up. Just over 3 Hours to eat, sight see and soak up the Dutch atmosphere was unrealistic and the day we had looked forward to turned into a few hours of stress and dodging the heavy rain (although we are very used to the rain in Dam). We managed to grab a sandwich on the run, found the Bloch Ballet shop for my Daughter (she had a shopping list!) and grabbed some Dutch essentials to take back home from the local Albert Heijn supermarket. We finished with a Heineken in the Lovers Canal Cruises small Bar which is just a few metres from the Coach pick up point. You can use their toilets here by buying a token at the Bar or for free if you are having Refreshments.
We then spent another 3.5 Hours on the Coach back to the Port. It was a very disappointing day but we came to the conclusion that even if the journey had taken the 2 Hours as quoted by the Driver. We still wouldnt have had much time to see the sights of beautiful Amsterdam. You can pay extra and spend a night in the city and come back on another Ferry the day after....thats the way to do it if you are going to do the Mini Cruise!
The journey back on board was lovely. We decided to treat ourselves to a meal in the A La Carte Restaurant and it was delicious, prices were reasonable and the service was very good. It certainly cheered us up after the hell of a day. We arrived back into Hull at 9am Sunday morning and again exiting the Terminal was easy and stress free.
So...to sum it up. The Ferry was great, the Mini Cruise in general we couldnt fault but due to the time it takes from Rotterdam Port to Amsterdam Centre...just half a day isnt worth all the travelling. I definately recommend opting for the additional night in the city and coming back a day later to get the most out of it.
I have heard that DFDS Seaways do a similar Mini Cruise but they offer Cabins with Double Beds rather than Bunks and they dock straight into Amsterdam Port so you would get a few extra hours in the City. This will be my next Sea journey to Dam but not until this Windy weather eases up.