Taking the ferry anywhere feels like a holiday. Even if it’s just over to Dunoon. We took a slightly longer ferry last week, and our first family ferry trip on our road trip to Holland. We took the Newcastle – Amsterdam DFDS ferry connection; an overnight sailing that husband and I did pre-children (and is where he proposed to me 7 years ago!)
Getting on and off the ship was very orderly and really not stressful at all. As long as you give yourself time to arrive and check in I honestly think it’s far more convenient and less stressful than flying anywhere. All you need to remember are your passports and your booking reservation.
We pretty much filled our car to bursting point. We took far more than we needed to, but we just kept squeezing stuff in. As long as you aren’t an idiot and don’t try to take something dangerous or illegal you can pretty much take whatever you like. You have far more freedom than travelling by plane.
You can even bring your dog with you. We didn’t, but plenty of people did. They have kennels on board the ferry but lots of people just left their dogs in their vehicles with a big comfy bed and water.
On arrival on deck the little lady was handed a balloon and we headed upstairs to find our cabin. It’s an overnight sailing, not a cruise, so the cabins are small and practical. Ours had 2 single beds with a further 2 single beds above them that you could pull down to sleep 4 in the room.
The little lady still has never once slept in a bed – she’s still in her cot and we’re leaving it at that as long as we can – so we had brought a travel cot with us for our trip. (We had a few experiences traveling in France when we asked for a cot at booking, and on arrival were informed that they had none. Not great for an 11 month old!) However you aren’t allowed travel cots in the cabins on board the ferry and they can’t provide any, so the little lady had her first ever (and second ever on the way home) experience of sleeping in with one of us for the ferry trip. It wasn’t a problem. She loved it.
The overnight sailing feels like a holiday in itself. The ferry has several restaurants, cafes and bars on board. There’s a really nice steak restaurant, a fine dining restaurant, a pizza place plus a buffet restaurant. The little lady was so excited about being on a big boat and exploring everything that she really wasn’t up for sitting nicely, so we ate in the buffet restaurant.
Buffet’s always conjure up images of not very nice grub, but they had so much delicious food in there. I can’t even remember what half of it was, but it was all fresh, really well presented and beautifully cooked. Definitely not your world buffet experience. They also had a little kids section with different salad/veg items, pasta, bolognese sauce, chips, mini burgers and of course, the ice cream machine. This was her first ever ice cream machine experience and the little lady was utterly delighted. She puked on me at about 5am the following morning which I blame on the excitement of the ice cream machine and the quantity consumed. Oops.
Our breakfast was served in the same restaurant and was also buffet style. There was everything you could think of: cooked breakfast items with several types of eggs, loads of breads, fruits, yoghurt, cereals, meats and cheeses and various pastries. A big bit of both British and Dutch food: really tasty.
The Fun Stuff
There are loads of areas on the boat to wander around and sit outside or in. The little lady had a great time exploring all the different levels. Once we got to the kids club level though, that was it. She was there for the long haul. As were we.
They had a few lego tables, a little play area with a small slide and big wall puzzles, a quite big ball pit, a TV showing cartoons and the kid’s club lady there who did some face painting, and made balloon turtle bracelets and balloon swords for the kids for a few hours.
The kids club was open until 8pm (9pm ship/Central European time) and the little lady did not want to leave. In the midst of a full blown toddler tantrum I managed to convince her to come outside with me though, and she saw her first ever sunset from the back of the ship which she was totally enthralled by.
On the way home we managed to wander into the ‘night club’ area of the ship on our trip upstairs to our cabin. There was a light up dance floor and live music and as I’m sure most parents of young children will know, a toddler likes to dance. She proceeded to yell “I want to dance” really loudly with wonderfully unreserved arm gestures until we got to our cabin.
It was the last night of our holiday, so we got her jammies on and instead of going to the nice quiet bar to get her some milk we went back to the night club. The little lady rocked the dance floor along with some Dutch stag-do-goers dressed in overtly 70’s garb and one guy who thought he was dancing to Oasis but was actually bopping along to Abba.
The ship has a cinema in it too, with 6 movies showing every night, the first 2 of which each time were young kid friendly and understandably, got progressively less so as the evening went on.
All the ships have wildlife watching information on board. There is a room dedicated to teaching about the different marine mammals and various birds you might get a peek of on your journey across the North Sea to Holland. They have some kids sessions and a few informative lectures too. We didn’t manage to get to any of these this time but if we go again when the little lady is a bit older I’d hope she’d be more interested!
We really had a great time on both our ferry trips, and can highly recommend travelling by DFDS Seaways. The little lady had a fantastic time exploring every part of the ship she could. She LOVED the kids club, but her highlight was probably getting a dance in the night club on our journey home. I think watching her on the dance floor was probably my highlight. That, and the food. I love food.
If you’re interested in finding out more about ferry travel to Holland, check out the DFDS Seaways website.