It takes about an hour to fly from Amsterdam to Newcastle in Northern England. A quick and cost effective trip, especially on one of the lowcost carriers. So why would you even want to consider taking a ferry on this route? A question that DFDS Seaways helped a group of Dutch travelbloggers answer, when travelling to Newcastle upon Tyne for the #Traverse14 travel bloggers conference in February 2014.
During our slow trip accross the North Sea we discovered that there are in fact many reasons to cross the North Sea the relaxed way. Please join me on a virtual crossing from IJmuiden to Newcastle and back to find these reasons:
The port of IJmuiden is located about 20 kilometers west of Amsterdam. You can take your car and leave it at one of the carparks, or take a bus directly from city center to the terminal building. The check-in process is similar to that at the airport, but there is no luggage limit, as long as you can carry it!
DFDS Seaways has two vessels on this 16-hour route. Our sailing is operated by the King Seaways, built in Bremerhaven in 1987. It has been used on this route since 2006, after sailing for several companies on routes between Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France and the UK.
After passing customs we enter the 12-deck ship on deck 5, where we are greeted by crew members that point us towards our cabins. All sailings are overnight, leaving in the late afternoon, arriving 16 hours later in the morning.
This is one of several cabin options on board MS King Seaways, in this case a 2-person outside cabin with bunk beds and a small sofa. All cabins have private facilities and a small desk.
The public areas are large, open and light. Although there can be over 1,200 passengers on the ship, it never feels crowded or cramped. There is plenty of staff available for questions or directions.
Our group is invited to the bridge for departure. The sun has started to set when the engines are started and we slowly move away from the dock on this winter crossing of the North Sea. All is set for a very smooth sailing this night.
Our Danish captain takes plenty of time to answer our questions about technology, fuel consumption, ship maintenance, crew rotations, life on board and sea life.
The bridge is definitely one of the best vantage points to see the sun set over the horizon. A great special treat by the crew! It is suprising to see that so few people are required to operate this large vessel. We never see more than two crew members on the bridge.
After admiring the technology of our ship, it is time to explore the rest. We still have a few hours until dinner, so we do a little tour.
In summer this upper deck area is converted into a bar with terrace. They sometimes even organize barbecues here. In February we prefer to eat inside, but the view on the setting sun is beautiful!
The ship hosts several restaurants, bars and a nightclub. There is a small duty free shopping mall with several stores, a cinema, an arcade, a casino and a children’s play area. It is a small city on the middle of the sea. Not quite a cruise experience, but you can see why the yard used the phrase ‘cruiseferry’, when building this class of new superferries in the 1980’s.
When there is sale on land, there is sale on sea.
After a nice dinner and a drink at the nightclub we go back to our cabins for a good night’s sleep. The next morning we are invited back at the bridge for the short trip over the Tyne river to the Newcastle terminal.
Exactly on time the ship is ‘parked’ alongside the docks. From here buses or taxis take you to Newcastle city center, about 8 kilometers east of the terminal. And when you bring your own car on board it is only a few hours’ drive to sites in Northern England or Scotland.
After a few days in the city of Newcastle (other blog post) we return to the DFDS terminal in Newcastle for the return trip on the other ship on this route: MS Princess Seaways.
The Princess Seaways has an interesting history. It was built in Bremerhaven in 1986 for the Germany to Sweden route. In 1993 it then moved to Australia to serve the route from Melbourne to Tasmania, where she sailed for 10 years. It has been sailing the IJmuiden to Newcastle route for DFDS Seaways since 2007.
The departure from Newcastle starts with a nice trip down the Tyne river, passing harbour installations, but also picturesque riverside fishing towns.
The North Shields Fish Quai is a picture postcard fishing port, where the fishing boats moor directly outside great little fish restaurants. A popular food spot in the Tynemouth area.
The sun has already set when we pass the North Shields Lighthouse onto the open sea.
We have a great dinner in the Blue Riband a la carte restaurant, one of three restaurants on this vessel. There is also a great steakhouse and a self-service restaurant. After our dinner we go to the nightclub for a drink and some music.
Cabins on the Princess Seaways are very similar to the King Seaways, although slightly smaller. This is a 2-person outside cabin with a double bed. Great for couples (or single travellers), but a bit cramped if you have more than one suitcase. Storage is limited.
After a good night’s rest and a good breakfast, the port of IJmuiden quickly comes into view. I left my car only meters from the terminal building, so after deboarding we are back on the road in minutes.
There are several reasons to consider this ferry crossing as a serious alternative to one of the many flight options. Obviously when you want to bring your own car, possibly with a caravan, your motorcycle or bicycles, then the ferry is your only option. But also without a vehicle this is a great way to travel to the UK or Europe. Although the trip takes 16 hours, departure and arrival times are very favorable for both business and pleasure. Always leaving at the end of the afternoon and arriving just after breakfast. Your night on board saves you a hotel night on either side and you always arrive at your destination well rested and well fed, ready for a long day ahead. With the entertainment options on board you can celebrate a great night out with friends, colleagues or family.
Sailings are daily and year-round. One option is to take a minicruise to Newcastle (or to Amsterdam). Here you depart Friday afternoon, arriving Saturday for a full day of shopping or sightseeing. At the end of the day you depart on the same ship and in your own cabin to go back to the other side, where you arrive Sunday morning. Obviously this trip can also be made on weekdays, or be longer than 3 days. Check the DFDS website for all possible options.
This trip was organized and sponsored by DFDS Seaways Netherlands for Travelbloggers.nl, to visit the Traverse 2014 bloggers conference in Newcastle. This blog post only reflects my personal opinion.