I recently boarded Crystal Symphony for a 4-night cruise and our disembarkation port was Amsterdam. I absolutely love the Netherlands, Amsterdam in particular, so it was the perfect excuse to spend a few days in the city on a post-cruise break with my friend and fellow travel blogger, TravelShopGirl.
We stayed at the Ibis Amsterdam Central Stopera hotel, which had a great location – just a 15-minute walk away from the very heart of the city. I have had the pleasure of staying in a few Ibis hotels both in Amsterdam and the U.K. and I always leave satisfied. I think the attraction for me is that I always know what to expect, and I like that. We had a twin bed room that was big enough for the amount of time we spent there. The beds were very comfortable, the TV had a wide choice of channels and the bathroom, although quite small, had a large walk-in shower with glass doors. We also had FREE Wi-Fi (which is standard for Ibis) and a beautiful view across the canal from our window. The hotel was quite busy during our stay, there were always new people checking in, so it is obviously a popular choice. The location is pretty much perfect and although it was a longer walk back into the heart of Amsterdam than I am used to, the streets en-route are filled with stores, restaurants, bars and so much more, so it actually becomes a rather pleasant walk. If you leave the hotel and turn left then you can walk towards Damrak along the main road. If you leave the hotel and turn right then you can make your way into the city via several shop and café lined streets before you eventually find yourself at the top of Dam Square. I also tried some food at the hotel on the morning we checked-out. I was desperate for soup, so I had mushroom and TravelShopGirl had asparagus. Although initially quite salty I soon got passed that and tucked in – the French bread served with it was nice too! It was 5 euro and worth it.
On one of our evenings we went on the Amsterdam Ghost Walk and I really enjoyed it! I would definitely recommend this as an option if you want to do something different. It was very interesting. I have visited Amsterdam several times before and passed many of the buildings we stopped at, but I had no idea what the history behind any of them actually was. Your guide will be a gentleman named Bart and let me tell you that he is very good at what he does. He really gets into the spirit (pardon the pun) of the tour and offers every story with real enthusiasm. There are various routes available, but on our’s we were told tales of the Trippenhuis, Nieuwmarkt, Spinhuis and more. You can book for this tour online and the meeting place is The Tara pub at Rokin 85/89 – just up from Dam Square.
We also visited The Amsterdam Dungeon. Usually I would run in the other direction from things like this, but I was brave and went for it. I think it was because I visited The London Dungeon as a child and was absolutely terrified – I really had to get over it! If you are visiting Amsterdam then you must do this. There were lots of little special effects, some very, very good actors and each section had a story. My favourite part was trying to escape from the Labyrinth. It was awesome! I can’t tell you too much otherwise that would give it away, but it really got your mind going. I also enjoyed Hell on the Batavia, where we “boarded” the 17th century VOC ship, the Batavia for a thrill-filled journey back in time.
As you would expect, we also visited several bars during our time in the city and we both agreed that the best ones we visited were in fact the city’s gay bars. We had such a fun time! I would definitely recommend Prik, which is noted as one of the best gay bars in Amsterdam and has a resident ginger cat (who can be a little grumpy if you touch her paws but loves a pet behind the ears), and the Queen’s Head. They are quite far away from one another, but the on-foot exploration was all part of the adventure for us.
I sailed back from Amsterdam with DFDS Seaways – I have to keep the cruising aspect of every trip first and foremost – and as usual it was hassle free. I always book the coach transfer with DFDS from the city back to the port in Ijmuiden because it is less stress than trying to make my own way there. I arrived at the terminal and was checked-in and onboard within 16 minutes (yes, I timed it) which I think was the best yet. The cabins onboard offer everything you need for an overnight crossing and the ferry itself has a wide variety of public lounges, bars and restaurants. I sailed back on King Seaways, which is my favourite, and onboard her you can also find a cinema, selection of shops and there’s even an ORCA Centre onboard.
As I said, I love Amsterdam, it really is a great city and a great port of call, and if your cruise starts or ends in Amsterdam then definitely consider a pre or post-cruise stay, I promise that you will not be disappointed! I would also suggest that you grab yourself one of the iamsterdam city cards as they offer discounts at restaurants and even free entry to some of the city’s museums.
During my time in the city I also met up with my “adopted Dutch family” (I met them a few years ago on MSC Magnifica) and we visited Marken, Monnickendam and Volendam. They were all beautiful places and they can all be accessed via public transport from Amsterdam, so the iamsterdam city card would come in useful for these! We had superb weather during our visit and it allowed for lovely walks around all three places. Marken was my favourite of them all, but next time I’d like to spend more time in Volendam. They were all seaside towns, but Volendam was definitely the livelier of the three.
TravelShopGirl and I are already planning our next trip and we decided that we are going to hit Amsterdam again. We had such a good time and still have so much more to see, so let the planning commence………….