“Can we take our water bottles through?”
“Can we take our water bottles through security?”
“Oh yes, of course you can. You can take anything you like – bottle of champagne if you fancy it!”
And all this with a friendly smile and a wave through Customs! What a difference this was from the usual hectic, growly, stressing, nerve-jangling ordeal that is airport departure these days. I was with a group of journalists on at trip by Stena Line Ferry on our way to Amsterdam in Holland, and already I was a very happy traveller. We’d met up at Liverpool Street Station in London a couple of hours earlier and got the train to Harwich – an easy enough journey through rather unprepossessing English scenery. I could not believe how quick, quiet and yes, friendly the Check In process was – within 10 minutes we were being directed to our cabins by smiling crew members. Now this is what all travel should be like …
After a speedy change it was back down to the swanky Taste restaurant for dinner. None of your laptop meals here. With fresh crab starter, fillet steak and passion fruit meringue I was in seventh heaven. It was only when someone said, “Oh look, the boat’s moving,” that we realised we had actually set off on our overnight journey across the North Sea. Dining at sea like this is to be highly recommended.
We had a quick look outside at the disappearing lights of Harwich Harbour before we went off to bed. It’s years since I’ve been on a ferry and things have certainly improved a lot since then. I’d been rather spoilt with a very special cruise to Norway last year but this sea voyage did not disappoint. Most surprising was the really comfy double bed with TV and en-suite bathroom. Through the large window I could watch the seas roll by. Scrolling through the TV I found the Pets Channel – here there are cameras trained on the cages all through the trip so owners can see for themselves how their beloved animals are doing. I got quite fixated with a slender little dog as he settled down to sleep whilst we sailed steadily and smoothly towards Holland …
Now being woken at 6am by the chirpy sound of ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ through a tannoy system above your head may not be your idea of heaven, but there are worse ways … I finally dragged myself out of bed at 7am and repacked my case. (I had recently got one of those ‘World’s Lightest’ Sub-O-G bags as I was going to be spending carting my luggage about about – it is SO light!) I just had time to grab a cooked breakfast before disembarkation at the Hoek of Holland. I had honestly had no idea I’d been at sea all night – as smooth a crossing as the North Sea has ever produced. We all went outside to watch the final stages of docking alongside the ferry terminal – it was a glorious morning and we would be on our way by train to Amsterdam in no time at all.
If you have ever been frustrated with the hassle at airports (who hasn’t?), love slow travel and enjoy the journey as much as the destination, take to tip from me and go by ferry to Holland – it’s a travel experience to relish …
One of my favourite places in Holland is the Keukenhof Garden – read about my trip here. If you visit in spring, make time to experience the world’s largest floral display.
It really was an eye-opener. Couldn’t believe the ease of check-in both to and from Holland. Ship was much bigger than I’d expected and much more luxurious. last time I travelled by ferry was to Belgium in the early 1990s – lot of improvement since then.