Our mini cruise, by Paul & Claire

August 24, 2015

Who are Paul & Claire?

I think our friends and family think that we get far more annual leave days than everyone else – we regularly get the “are you off on holiday, AGAIN?” comments! We like to think that we’re just creative with our free time. We are unfortunately of an age where we would prefer to spend our time and money on our house or planning trips away (we are maybe a bit too old before our time?) but do you know what, that suits us down to the ground.

Paul & Claire

We rarely go back to the same place twice, simply because there are so many places we want to go. Our most recent trips have included California, South Africa, Marrakech and we have a trip to Paris planned in a few weeks – can’t beat a city break!  When I am not on annual leave I work in advertising – always chasing photo shoots in far away destinations (I can but dream).

Claire’s mini cruise

Paul and I wanted to do something different to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. The idea of a mini cruise really appealed to me as I’d been on ferry trips as a kid and loved them.

I’d never been to Amsterdam though and Paul had never been on a ferry before, so we booked a Newcastle-Amsterdam mini cruise because it offered new experiences for both of us. We decided to extend our stay by an extra night, and booked into the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station, which had a great central location and an amazing Sky bar with panoramic city views.

We boarded the ferry on the Friday evening. We were both in the mood to treat ourselves so we relaxed with a coffee and a sandwich because we had a while to go before dinner! Then we had a look around the Sea Shops (with me smelling all the perfumes) and went up on deck to enjoy the views and the fresh sea air.

There are lots of eateries to choose from on board. We wanted something special so we opted for the dinner buffet in the 7 Seas restaurant and we weren’t disappointed! The food was really nice and choosing from such a wide selection was fun. Afterwards we made our way to the bar and disco for cocktails until midnight.

On the Saturday morning we had breakfast on board – buffet-style again at the 7 Seas – before we disembarked at IJmuiden and took the DFDS coach transfer into the centre of Amsterdam. We checked into our hotel and dumped our bags – the weather was lovely so we didn’t hang around!

I dragged Paul around the shops first, including a shoe shop (couldn’t resist). We soon found ourselves in a spacious city square and there was a brilliant atmosphere with street dancers and performers entertaining the crowd. We bagged some front-row seats at a pavement café and watched the spectacle with a coffee. It was a really nice little interlude. Maybe because we were there at the weekend everything felt very laid-back. It’s not a hustly-bustly city and everyone was in a chirpy mood. The weather definitely helped too!

After that we went to the tourist info place next to the Centraal Station, where the DFDS transfer bus drops you off. You can buy multiple tickets there for all the main attractions. We bought a city map and tickets for the Van Gogh Museum, the Ice Bar and a canal cruise.

I really wanted to visit the flower market, so we headed there next and bought some tulip bulbs for the garden. We also went into the cheese shops and tasted lots of cheese!

We’d checked out some restaurants on the internet before the trip, and booked a table in an Italian restaurant called Pasta e Basta for the Saturday night. We dressed up and had drinks in the hotel’s roof-top bar beforehand. The restaurant had a really intimate, authentic ambience, the food was gorgeous and the staff sang operatic arias to us for our anniversary!

We got a taxi from the restaurant to the Ice Bar. It looks like a chalet from the outside, then inside you have to put on a special jacket, hood and gloves and you’re taken into the carved ice interior and given drinks in ice glasses – an experience to say the least!

On the Sunday we checked out of the hotel and just left our bags so that we were free to explore until it was time to catch the bus to the port in the afternoon. First we hoped on our canal trip which we really enjoyed, especially the beautiful houseboats, stunning concert hall and all the little bridges. We got off near the Van Gogh museum but the queues were huge – we knew we’d never get in and out in time to catch our transfer bus, so we explored the wide green space near the Rijksmuseum instead, where the iconic Amsterdam sign/public artwork is. That just left us enough time to pick up our bags and catch the bus.

Back on board we hit the shops and bought some chocolate, then got chatting in the bar to some Geordie guys who’d been biking around Europe. Dinner at the 7 Seas rounded off another great day, and next morning we enjoyed a buffet breakfast as we sailed into port back at North Shields. We felt like we’d packed loads of new experiences into our break. The only thing I’d say is to make sure you factor in enough time for waiting in the queues if you want to visit the more popular attractions. We didn’t mind though, there was so much else to do!

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