Our Booze Cruise

Last week, A and I partook in what a work colleague likes to call a Booze Cruise. The object being that you and your floating hotel enjoy cheapy Grolsch on the high seas for an evening and a night then dock in Amsterdam for a half day of haphazardous tourism before loading yourself back on board laden with wooden tulips and memory cards full of pictures of drugs paraphernalia and the whole tipsy process doubles back on itself until you reverse into Blighty and pile off not quite knowing what hit you.

Now for those of you interested in taking a DFDS mini city break cruise to Amsterdam here is the story.

A and I set off from an average Midlands market town on the Sunday morning and travelled with a couple of overnight bags of basic weekender provisions (including 130 Euros and a travel kettle complete with little sachets lifted from various hotels over the years). We travelled up to Newcastle Central Station by Cross Country train arriving in good time for our shuttle bus to North Shields. The shuttle buses leave 2.5 and 1.5 hours before the planned departure time of the ferry at 5:30. I like to leave a margin for error when travelling and so we arrived in time for the first shuttle bus (costing £3 for a one-way ticket so keep some quids for the way home). The bus took us out of Newcastle and the journey lasted about 25 – 30 mins.

At check-in we handed over our passports and the computer print out of our booking confirmation and received our boarding-passes-cum-cabin-keys. 

On board the boat our first stop was the cabin to settle in, make a cup of tea and fight over who got the top bunk. Our cabin was a Seaways Class cabin which is the bare essentials including bunk-beds a sofa, desk, stool, mirror and en-suit. The air conditioning and the hilarious Dutch radio were easy to control and made the stay that much more comfortable because we were in for a stormy ride! Gale Force 6 was being hesitantly mentioned by my parents (seasoned sailors of yachts, dinghys and ferry boats reminding me of miserable holidays as a girl). 

I would highly reccomend taking a Stugeron at least two hours before departure to the high seas, then one when the boat starts to move if anything more than Mill Pond looks to upset your journey. The side effects are basically antisocial sleepiness but that is ALWAYS preferable to vomitting.

After arranging our bed things out (so as to make a very quick and easy transformation from being vertical to horizontal should it come to it), we went for an explore to check out the sights. The Princess of Norway is an average sized ferry with the usual conveniences including two cinema lounges and several bars, cafes and restaurants. We had pre-booked our meals at the Explorer’s Steakhouse on the first night and The 7 Seas Buffet for the second night as well as buffet breakfast for both mornings.

Deck was far too windy so we went down to the Columbus Club and chilled out for a good hour before the boat started to move. All was going well until we drifted past the breakwater and the foam wall of wave that hit us was violent. I have travelled by ferry a lot, my parents disliking traveling by air, and I have never encountered such an uncomfortable sea before. I sat through the silly performances by the cruise-manager and the Dutch entertainment before feeling really peaky and having to get up to honour our dinner reservations!

Dinner was excruciating. The service was wonderful and the staff were really kind as they knew it was rocky – the Steakhouse was empty as most intelligent people had taken to bed early but being a tight Scott, I saw out my dinner but had only half of my delicious fillet steak. Now that steak was truly the most delicious I ever did see but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. A had to eat my chips. 

After a swift exit to the cabin, A grabbing a good handful of sick bags from the reception desk I was violently ill once inside the door of the en-suite and saw my beautiful 30 euro dinner in reverse. Needless to say, bed followed.

Breakfast was much easier as it had calmed down and I had quite a lot of fruit and bread from the buffet, remembering my mother’s skill of grabbing rolls, apples and bananas for the day ahead for snacks. 

After arriving into Imujden (the Amsterdam equivalent of North Shields) we trundled through passport control and a free 20 minute bus journey in to Amsterdam itself we emptied out of the coach in front of the Victoria Hotel near to the Amsterdam Central Station. The buses would leave that meeting point between 3 and 4 o’clock, the very last one leaving at 4 so arriving in at 10:30 we had quite a lot of time to play with.

Our first stop was the Sex Museum, entry costing 3 euros. The museum was cheeky and made fun of blushing visitors with exhibitions that break wind and laugh at you or jump out as you pass but also gives a graphic insight into pornography of the centuries past and the cultures of the world. A fun hour or so for any couple!

A then took me on a nostalgia tour having been there on a Lad’s Weekend in his late teens past a very cheeky alley way full of windows exhibiting very naked ladies. I gave them a wave and shoveled A along in earnest.

We then made our way down to the Blooemenmarket – the floating flower market on the canal selling the worlds largest selection of tulip and crocus bulbs – lots of pretty things to see and to photograph but I think it bored A a little bit. Nevertheless, the Blooemenmarket is one of the best places to buy cheap-ish souvenirs for friends and family and worth a browse of all the pretty plants.

Lunch was a simple affair, a canal-side pancake house was our choice. Two cheesy pancakes and a coke each came to 18 euros. The waitresses all spoke perfect English so we resigned ourselves to the British tourism stereotype of speaking English slowly like it suffices for the local tongue. I try so hard not to do this but it always happens!

We popped into the Amsterdam Historisch Museum at 8 euros apiece for a bit of culture and then out into the rain! I was so glad of my waterproof but it did make my Euro-hopper image in my photos lose its credibility. Some more sightseeing followed and then finally a little canal tour on a Lovers Canal Cruise – 1 hour of spoon-fed tourism at 9 euros each bough earlier on board the Princess of Norway as it was cheaper. I always recommend canal cruises as they are a great way of seeing a lot of a town and the commentary is always good at highlighting things you may have missed.

Back on the bus using our Boarding Cards as identification and then back on board ship for a cup of tea and change of clothes in the cabin and a Bloody Mary at the Columbus Club. This evening I managed dinner and a show and ate my fill of seafood, chips, noodles and cake at the buffet (A embarassingly having one plate devoted entirely to the Children’s Buffet “Look, little breaded ships!”). 

That evening we took in some more of the shows on offer which were quite funny as all the songs were sung in English but with very strong Dutch accents. A spot of shopping and spritzing liberally of perfume and then bed.

The last morning, the Tuesday, we had breakfast as we entered the Tyne and the seas had calmed right down. Laden with cheap booze and chocolates for our families and friends we took the train home and I still have 40 euros for next time!

I would highly recommend a good guidebook with a map included as Amsterdam can get a bit confusing as there are so many canals, bridges and tiny alleys that it can be easy to get lost. Lonely Planet do a good one. Also a good waterproof is essential as the Netherlands are not famed for the weather. A wore a moneybelt but I made do with a zippable handbag as we were warned of deft pickpockets as with any tourist city. I needed no more than 100 euros but a couple of extra are always good if you want to get some really prezzies for people back home. We booked our dinner online when we booked our crossing as it was cheaper than buying on board the ship.

Highly recommended, it wasn’t smooth sailing but we’ll never forget it. Now I’m preparing myself for a week in Denmark in our log cabin and our night in Copenhagen in a fortnight!

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