Travel Review: Amsterdam

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“WHERE are all the wooden clogs’’ was the cry when we headed ashore from a festive mini cruise to Amsterdam.

Ruaridh (5) and Flora (3) had let their imaginations run riot when Dad told them everyone would be wearing wooden clogs in Holland’s number one city.

That coupled with their determination to be the first to spot a windmill, had the two occupied while the bus from the docks whisked us the 40 minutes into the city centre.

DFDS Seaways runs a daily service between Newcastle and Amsterdam. Its slick, fast, efficient and a fun way to travel. And more importantly its miles cheaper than flying.

Our boat King Seaways was well equipped with economy and the more upmarket and roomy cabins for the overnight journey to Amsterdam. Most people use the boat ride to enjoy the three restaurants and coffee shop which cater for all tastes and pockets, onboard entertainment for young and old, before spending five hours in Amsterdam and then doing it all on the way home again.

And fun it is. Ruaridh and Flora were fascinated by the cabin’s ladders which enabled them to scamper up like cats to the top bunks for some secret games. The Kids’ Club kept them entertained to, especially the huge parrot which greeted them on board and the massive ball pool.

The buffet dinner was a foodie’s paradise with mouth-watering choices of meat and fish starters and main courses and lots of tempting puddings and a special menu for the children, which also enabled them to make their own ice creams. A similar feast was on offer at breakfast too.

A coffee shop for those wanting to spend less rubbed easily with a high class steak restaurant and an a la carte one, for those wanting some pampering. There’s bars and live entertainment for families and those wanting to escape children and a cinema and casino to wile away the trip. And there is plenty of duty free shopping too!

We decided to take advantage of the good value cruise and enjoy an over trip into Amsterdam. Our base was the NH Musica Hotel, slap bang in the heart of the business district. Its 15 minutes from the centre, but is an excellent choice as its modern and up market, has well appointed rooms with cool tips such as “I have never seen an unfriendly face which smiles in the morning’’ written around the side of the bathroom mirror!

The “green’’ hotel offers an anti-oxidant breakfast to get you going in the morning and boasts luxury dining and a sauna and solarium for the guests to enjoy. Tram 5 is the best way to ride into town as it follows the tourist route and gives you a chance to have an armchair view of the city’s best bits.

Amsterdam is of course famous for its canals, bikes, windmills and cheese and going over the festive period gave that extra glamour as all the city centre was lit up and the tall buildings and boats were decked out in tinsel and fairy lights.

2013 is the 400th anniversary of the first construction of the famous World Heritage recognised Canal Ring. And what better than to wile away an hour on a cruise enjoying the canals and watching people in their house boats enjoy a simpler life.

The Amsterdam Tourist Board offers an Amsterdam Key, which depending on how long you are in the city, provides for a fee, free entry to the main museums, transport on the trams, metro, buses and boats and lots of discounts and a handful of free gifts.

If you want to see the main attractions including the excellent Van Gough Museum and the Amsterdam Museum, the card is for you. 2013 is the year to visit, with a host of exciting projects from celebrating the 175th anniversary of the city zoo to the reopening of the famous Rijks Museum in April and a chance to see more renowned Dutch art.

There’s a brewery tour of Heineken for the beer enthusiasts and NEMO, Holland’s largest science park for all the family. And that is just a taster of what’s on offer.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the city, is to potter and people watch. Saunter through the back streets and take in the “funny smells’’ (as Flora put it!) of the coffee houses, watch the street entertainers, eat chips and mayonnaise like the locals and watch the canal boats chug along and then head back on board for more fun to round off a memorable trip, making sure you have your wooden clogs on, of course!

FACTFILE:

DFDS Seaways Amsterdam mini cruise includes two nights onboard ship and around five hours in Amsterdam. Book by February 28th for a two for one deal, from £79 for two people sharing an en suite cabin, including coach transfers to and from Amsterdam. Available on selected departures until March 20th. Add an overnight hotel stay from only £30pp. Alternatively take your own car from only £70pp for a car and two people one way.

Log onto www.dfds.co.uk or telephone 0871 522 9976.

• Enjoy Amsterdam in 2013 and celebrate the opening of the Rijksmuseum after 10 years of renovations and the 400th anniversary of the canals.

For more information, log onto http://citybreaks.holland.com/uk