We are quite used to hopping across the English Channel by ferry. It’s relatively quick and cost effective. In the past 20 odd years we’ve taken nearly all the routes- some still running, some long stopped.
Our favourite crossing always used to be Harwich to Hook van Holland- it meant leaving the office at 5pm and waking up refreshed in the Netherlands, driving off and being ready for adventures in Holland. We have very fond memories of this route, as it was also the start of our first trip together with the Madventurer all those years ago.
Now-a-days, we tend do the shorter hops from Dover to Calais. However, when we decided to have a 3,2,1.. Go adventure in The Hague it made sense to rekindle our love with this route and introduce the kids to the excitement of sleeping on a ship.
Some aspects of the journey were so similar to the nostalgic journeys in the 90s. We picked up after school, and drove off to Harwich. The Stena Line ferry departs at 10 pm, but boarding is allowed from 8 pm. This left plenty of time to wrestle motorway traffic jams and still make the ferry.
After an easy check in routine, we quickly found cabins. They were just as one would imagine on a ship: two bunks at either side of the cabin, with the possibility to add two more at the top level. It looked marvelous, and the beds and bedding were so soft that this promised to be a good night of sleep.
The best bit:
A family cabin sleeps 5!
The only “problem” we had was that all three children wanted to sleep in the same top bunks. It was a draw of straws and unfortunately for Max (3 years old) it was safer for to sleep at the bottom, next to daddy.
Sleeping arrangements sorted, we all enjoyed the view from the cabin, looking out as we set sail from the port.
It was then not time to go to bed as a table had been reserved for us in the Metropolitan restaurant. We made our way over, the kids rather excited by this new experience and the prospect of sleeping on the ship.
The restaurant made us feel very welcome: There was some entertainment on hand. The waitress was absolutely lovely, speaking both Dutch and English to the kids, providing them with kid’s hospitality packs, which kept them busy until food arrived.
We all had a ‘grown ups starter’, as the kids love seafood.
As we eat very little salt at home, the fish soup was too salty for Angelina’s taste – so we swapped (and I had to agree that it was rather salty, but still very tasty.)
While the boys choose their main courses from the kids’ menu, Angelina choose again from the main menu.
Afterwards (of course!) we all had a big ice cream, but not before the boys had checked out the play area, weaving through the few guests that were having drinks in the bar to get to the play area – and back…
When we eventually got to our cabin we had a fantastic sleep. The night ended up being a little short, as we’d booked breakfast on the ship too and didn’t want to miss that for a few extra winks.
Breakfast was set up as self service buffet: There was a wide range of choices – from warm boiled eggs (our kids love them) to pancakes, fruit, muesli, a variety of breads with ‘coverings’ as cheeses, hams and – of course – ‘hagelslag’ (Dutch chocolate sprinkles). There was so much wonderful choice that our table was hardly big enough to put our food down (not because the table was too small, rather because our eyes were bigger than our stomachs). I felt sorry about leaving the left overs and wasting the food. With more time we might have finished it, but just like everyone else, we needed to get ready for a full day ahead.
With the same target time for completion as everyone else: mooring time in Hoek van Holland, it is understandable that it was busier at breakfast than during dinner.
Finishing breakfast we gathered our things as the ferry docked, returned to our car and headed off to experience the Regal Holland, The Hague.
Disembarking was straightforward and all well signposted.
Note to self for the future:
We had reserved both dinner and breakfast, but considering the late departure and the early arrival it would have been sufficient (especially with young kids) to do only one of the two. I can recommend either one of them, but suggest you make a choice between the two.
Checking prices for our next trip in April: A return crossing with Stena Line with dinner and breakfast booked in advance will cost from about £220 with one over-night leg and one daytime leg.
We had a family cabin with 5 berths.
If you’re interested in trying a mini cruise for yourself pop over to the Stena Line website