Friday, 24 February 2017

Amsterdam Mini Cruise

I've wanted to visit Amsterdam for years, in fact it even featured on my travel bucket list, so when I found out that my Dad and stepmum had booked for Josh and I to go on an Amsterdam mini cruise as a Christmas present, I was beyond excited. Unfortunately we didn't get many photo's as it rained quite bad whilst we were there but that didn't put us off the city at all, I for one fell in love with it and we've both said we'll return but in the summer months. I thought I'd share with you a little bit about the mini cruise and what we got up to in Amsterdam.

The cruise
We sailed with P&O ferries from Hull to Rotterdam, as we went on holiday with a coach firm we traveled into Amsterdam on a coach so I can't comment on the ease of getting to Amsterdam if you went on the ferry as a foot passenger. 

The ferry doesn't actually set sail until around 8.15pm so you're onboard a good couple of hours before setting off. There are various bars, a coffee shop, duty free shops and a cinema onboard but some of the things don't open until a little later on. On the first night of crossing over to Amsterdam we had tea on the ship as we'd booked a meal deal for breakfast and dinner at the buffet restaurant then headed for a drink. Keep in mind it's a cheap and cheerful way of traveling so 5 star entertainment isn't to be expected but the band that played were fairly decent.

 I actually felt fine when the ferry set off, I could tell we were moving because of the vibration but in terms of rocking and swaying it was pretty calm, I'd also loaded up on motion sickness tablets! However when we headed to bed I had a really rough night, the vibration of the boat kept me awake and then around 4am the sea got very rough and from that moment on I didn't sleep at all so the next morning I was very tired and felt extremely sick. Coming back however was very different, it was much calmer and I barely felt any movement when I went to bed, I slept like a log and was nausea free the next morning. It hasn't put me off mini cruises as I think our crossing to Rotterdam was a lot rougher than usual but it is something to keep in mind if you suffer with motion sickness. 

If you have a basic cabin you'll get bunk beds and a wet room and that's it but to be honest it's just a room to sleep in and get clean so you really don't need anything else. You can upgrade to single twin beds though. 


Amsterdam
We had 5 hours in Amsterdam in total, we got taken to the centre from Europort and picked back up again late afternoon to head back to the ferry. Was it enough time? Well yes and no. It was great to get a taste for the city and see the sights but we spent ages trying to navigate our way around the city having never been before so not knowing where anything was. The heavy rain also played a part in restricting what we could do. 

Whilst we were there we explored around the canal area near the Anne Frank house museum, ate pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam, visited the Anne Frank museum, explored a few of the back streets and took a little walk around the Red Light District. I should have probably started by saying the attitude and culture around drugs and sex is completely different to what it is in the UK, you don't need to go down a seedy backstreet to find any of this stuff it's all out there in the open for everyone to see. From 'coffee shops' selling more than your average latte to shops openly advertising cannabis, magic mushrooms, space cakes etc, sex toy shops, condom shops (yes we went in one, yes it was hilarious and no I didn't buy anything), erotic museums and the infamous sex workers in the windows of the Red Light District. Nothing and I mean nothing is hidden away, it's such an open and liberated city, it's amazing!


Of course the Red Light District has become a tourist attraction in it's own right now so really you have to visit and trust me when I say it's not scummy or dirty, no one is standing and gawping because it's all so out in the open that you don't need to! We went to the Old Sailor bar whilst there for a quick drink, it's right in the heart of the RLD but I'd really recommend a visit. 

We'd pre-booked tickets to visit the Anne Frank house museum, I'd recommend pre-booking as the queue can get pretty long. I'm really glad we visited, I'm a massive history nerd anyway but the whole experience was quite moving for me, to be walking around the same house that Anne and her family hid in and seeing magazine cuttings she'd stuck to the wall and her height marked out as she grew over the years was a very touching and haunting experience. This really should be at the top of your list of things to do if you visit Amsterdam.


We stumbled upon Pancakes Amsterdam by accident, the rain was getting quite heavy and we'd arrived at the Anne Frank museum a little early so we tried taking shelter in a courtyard which we realised was the entrance to the restaurant and trust me pancakes are a lot more appealing than pouring rain! The restaurant is situated just a couple of minutes from the museum but it is worth noting that it's a card only restaurant. We both opted for the Dutch Pancakes, Josh went plain with a sprinkling of sugar and I went for chocolate sauce and whipped cream, the pancake is huge and fills the plate, I couldn't even finish mine but they are soooo good. I also had one of the best hot chocolates I've ever had here. We found it to be reasonably priced coming in at just short of 19 euros (so around £16) for our order. There's two other Pancakes Amsterdam outlets around the city so you should definitely seek one out!


Our time in Amsterdam may have been brief but it was enough to know we want to return and explore more of what the beautiful city has to offer.

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