I’d sailed with DFDS several times, but this would be my first experience at using the coach transfer service from Newcastle city centre. The bus stop was in a convenient location (directly opposite Central Station) and boarding was easy. Although TravelShopGirl (Marian) and I had stayed in the city the night before, if you were joining via rail services on the same day then you’d walk out of the train station to the left, cross the road and the bus stop would be right in front of you. Completely hassle free and easy with luggage.
We arrived at Port of Tyne and were checked in, through security and onboard in less than 15 minutes. Our first stop was our cabin. We had a 3-bed Commodore cabin on Princess Seaways and having travelled in standard accommodations on all my previous sailings with DFDS, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a huge double bed, sofa (which opened into a pre-made single bed) vanity area with storage space, flat-screen TV, fridge with complimentary beverages and a bathroom that hosted a shower, toilet, hair dryer and sink. It was spacious, comfortable and I was certainly a very happy sailor!
Marian and I knew we had a few days of little sleep and lots of excitement ahead of us, so we retired to bed early that night (taking advantage of having a TV in the cabin), but before we got there, we did manage to enjoy a cocktail in a bucket – 1.0 litre Sex on the Beach for 26 euros – explore the onboard shopping options and walk around the open decks. It was a relaxed evening and it wouldn’t be long before we were in Amsterdam.
Commodore cabin grades automatically include breakfast at no extra cost and you can even order a few items to be delivered to your cabin. We had pre-arranged this the evening before, so we had coffee and juice as we prepared ourselves to leave the ferry behind and begin our time in Amsterdam. Again, we had coach transfers, this time from Ijmuiden – where the ferry docks – to Amsterdam. It’s a journey of around 40 minutes and at less than £5 per person, it goes without saying that it is the best, easiest and most cost-effective way of getting to the city.
We’d had a plan of things to do on day one, but we got a little side tracked and that turned out to be a good thing. We explored the market at Lindengracht, which runs on Saturday’s. It was a typical European market with all sorts of gadgets and gifts and, of course, food. We spent longer walking there and back than we did at the actual market, but it killed time until we could check into our hotel at 2PM.
The IBIS Amsterdam Central Station hotel was the chosen one, a hotel that I stayed in during my first solo visit to the city. I really like this hotel because it is just 5 minutes away from the DFDS coach drop off/pick-up point, it’s central to pretty much the entire city and you know exactly what to expect. Marian and I had a twin room on the 7th floor of the building that sat directly above the station tracks – the view from the glass bridge was awesome! The room was exactly as expected: clean, comfortable and just what we needed. Our 3-night stay here was ideal, although our room was incredibly warm on the first night. We reported this to reception and staff kindly gave us 2 fans and advised on the best way to use the air system in the room. Within 24 hours, we had a temperature that we were both content with and finally, we could sleep.
Once checked in, unpacked and freshened up, it was time to head out and explore. If I’m honest, we didn’t do much, we just walked around areas that we were both familiar with from previous visits, but then we stumbled across a bar on Zeedijk named Café t’ Mandje. We were both instantly charmed by the exterior, but it’s what is inside that is truly exciting. It’s a bar with a vast amount of history and the only way I can describe it is to say it’s a bit like Aladdin’s cave – there’s a bit of this, a bit of that and then a bit of something else. There’s stuff everywhere, basically, and we loved it. Café t’ Mandje was opened in 1927 by Bet van Beeren and it’s been an iconic Amsterdam gay bar even since. It is welcoming, fun and often filled with locals, something about travel that I always enjoy. You can even find a replica of the bar in the Amsterdam Museum! Next time you’re in the city, check it out. Sit at the bar with a drink and take in the history of this charming little establishment.
We spent the rest of our evening on a mini bar hop and then made our way back towards the IBIS at Central Station. We needed to rest as the following day, we had some escaping to do…