The Dutch Dash - is the weekend mini cruise to Amsterdam worth it?
When it comes to a last minute weekend break my main priorities are finding something cheap, something that doesn't use up much (if any) annual leave time, and an exciting destination that's easy to explore on foot. I would usually start by looking at the cheapest flights on SkyScanner, but I know a few people who have done the overnight ferry trip to Amsterdam from Hull and recommended it, so I thought I would give that a go instead!
So what is the Dutch Dash?
Informally referred to as the "Dutch Dash" by the folks over in Hull, this quick weekend trip over to Amsterdam is one of a few mini cruise options offered by P&O Ferries from the Hull ferry port.
These trips are great if you don't want to have to worry about waiting around at the airport, booking hotels, transfers and all the usual travel stresses. Instead you board the ship a couple of hours before departing on Friday evening and spend the night in your cabin, or enjoying the on-board bars and facilities. The next morning the ship arrives at Europort in The Netherlands, where you disembark and get taken by coach to the centre on Amsterdam where you can spend the day as you please. After a full day of sightseeing, eating, drinking and whatever else you may get up to in the Dutch capital, you return to the coach pick up point at the designated time and return to the ship, where you can unwind in your cabin and arrive back in Hull the next morning.
I won't sugarcoat it, the standard cabin on the Hull to Amsterdam ferry (I travelled on the Pride of Hull) is pretty basic! If you are looking for something a little more luxurious than bunk beds and a small shower room, you may want to consider an upgrade, but for the sake of a couple of nights I think your money could be better spent elsewhere! Aside from the cabin being a little cramped everything was clean and comfortable.
There are a few things worth noting before you travel to avoid getting caught out like I was. Firstly, there was only one plug socket in our cabin and it was a European fitting, so make sure to pack a travel adaptor and maybe an extension lead to avoid running out of battery before you even get to Amsterdam (I don't know about you but I can barely function without Google Maps). Secondly, there isn't a kettle in the cabin either (true British problems right there!), so if you like a tea or coffee in the morning and do want to pay the on-board prices, pack a travel kettle. Finally, you aren't allowed to bring alcohol on board, so save yourself the heartbreak of having it taken away from you at the ferry terminal and leave it at home! There are a few bars on board anyway and the drinks are quite reasonably priced.
If you haven't already been to Amsterdam, it's likely you've at least heard about of seen the dreamy photos of this quirky, canal filled city. Home to history, culture, art, food and fashion, there is something here for everyone to enjoy besides the infamous cafes of course.
As you only get to spend one day in the city on a mini cruise, it's best to have an idea of what you want to see beforehand, especially if this is your first visit. Amsterdam is home to some world-class museums and art galleries including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum as well as historically significant sights like the Anne Frank House. If you plan to visit any of these, book your tickets in advance online or you may just find yourself spending a large chunk of your day in a queue. If you are planning on a more relaxed day of strolling along the canals and trying out the local food (there is plenty to try), you can be much more flexible with your time.
As I visited the museums the last time I was in Amsterdam a couple of years ago, I wanted to spend this trip exploring the city at a much more relaxed pace. Our trip started with food (obviously) before heading over to one of the markets to gaze at pretty pieces of art, hand crafted jewellery and brightly coloured fruit, vegetables, flowers and produce.
After a morning of strolling we decided to do one of the many canal boat tours of the city. Lovers offer 1 hour tours leaving several times a day, for €13 it's a great way to get introduced to the city and some of its history as you cruise through the many bridges and waterways.
If you find yourself hungry after a few hours of walking, or if you've got a sweet tooth, don't pass up on an opportunity to visit The Pancake Bakery. This place has pancakes on a scale beyond your imagination, from boozy cherry toppings to pancakes themed on different nations, you will definitely leave happier and a few kilos heavier!
So is a mini cruise to Amsterdam worth it?
Whilst I had a great time on my mini cruise to Amsterdam, there are definitely some pros and cons to consider before booking.
The mini cruise is really good value, with travel, accommodation and transfers into Amsterdam for as little as £80 per person on selected dates.
You can ditch the cabin sized bag and pack as many clothes as you want, although I doubt you would need much for this short break!
Travel overnight in the comfort of a bed, instead of cramped on an economy flight.
Avoid expensive city centre accommodation prices.
This is a great way to try our cruising before booking a longer trip if you're not sure if you'll like it.
You only get one day in Amsterdam, so your sightseeing time is limited. P&O do offer 3 or 4 day mini breaks too though that would give you more time to explore.
The entertainment on board the mini cruise probably won't be to everyone's taste, but there are other options such as the on-board cinema, if singing and dancing aren't your thing.
Any delays on the outbound leg of your journey or during disembarkation could have a knock on effect, leaving you with even fewer precious hours to explore the city.
If you aren't travelling from a reasonable distance from Hull you will need to factor in extra travel time to and from the terminal, as well as parking. In some cases your local airport may be the cheaper and less stressful option.
For a cheap and cheerful weekend getaway, I would definitely recommend taking a mini cruise. Whilst it might not be the best option for visiting a new destination, it's a great way to enjoy an old favourite and takes the hard work out of planning and travelling.
You can find out more about P&O mini cruises and book here.
Have you been on a weekend cruise break before? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!