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King Seaways - Amsterdam Mini Cruise


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In early December I took advantage of one of the numerous DFDS Seaways mini cruise offers in order to revisit the King Seaways, or as most on here will refer to her, the Val de Loire. Despite her not being a newbuild for Brittany Ferries, the Val had a loyal following whilst she operated for the Breton company and her sale to DFDS in 2006 came as a surprise to many. Thankfully she didn’t stray far, and DFDS Seaways continue to operate her between Newcastle and Amsterdam allowing us to continue to enjoy her, albeit in a slightly different guise.

 

We headed up to Newcastle via Virgin East Coast, which was a steal at just £30pp in 1st Class. Having a cooked breakfast served at your seat on a train is something that everyone should experience! After a very comfortable and uneventful journey we had a couple of hours to explore Newcastle including the excellent Baltic Flour Mill, which has been converted into an exhibition centre, and a walk across the millennium bridge. We opted to take a taxi to the port, however DFDS do operate two bus services from the station to the port to meet their sailings at £3.80pp.

 

On arrival at the Port of Tyne International Passenger Terminal embarkation was already in full swing, leaving only a small queue at the check-in desk and security. Ever one for sampling new technology I noticed the new self-service check-in kiosks, similar to those found at airports. My boarding card/cabin key and dinner reservations printed without problem but my travelling companions cards point blankly refused to print. After a couple of minutes a member of the DFDS staff came over (from the now empty check-in desks!) to help, and after a bit of giggery pokery out came the cards. Apparently the machines were quite new. I did notice that whilst the passenger terminal is substantial in size DFDS' presence is surprising small. Instead it's Fred Olsen Cruises that appear to dominate the building.

 

A member of the ships crew was checking boarding cards before the security controls, who was very jolly in his greeting, certainly in comparison to that of the security staff who let us all walk through before calling us back for baggage scanning! The ship is reached via an overhead walkway, which reaches the ship on deck 6 below the reception hall. Plenty of crew were on hand to direct passengers to their cabins, but no reminder was necessary for our climb up to our Commodore De-Luxe cabin on deck 10 (an early Christmas present).

 

The cabins are largely the same from her BF days, being in excellent condition. The only changes being the installation of a large flat screen TV and a double bed. There is also the choice of having breakfast brought to the cabin or taken in the restaurant. Wifi is also complimentary in the cabins and lounge. The Commodore Lounge offers complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks, along with a selection of snacks. Champagne is also served on departure (or should that be ‘sail-away’?!). Considering the prices of drinks on-board this is a real bonus for those who enjoy a few beverages before bed!

 

Dinner was booked in the 7 Seas Buffet Restaurant (formerly the La Magdalena self-service). I hadn’t realised that the time on-board was continental time, so our dinner reservation was slightly earlier than I had planned! The restaurant has received the largest makeover of the ship, which is now has a smart clean and formal appearance compared to the harsh Spanish colour scheme of her BF days. The buffet was good, with a large selection of dishes (all labelled), although they were slow at replenishing dishes which was disappointing. There was a special ‘150th anniversary cake on the dessert buffet, but it was the lure of the Mr Whippy machine was too much for me!

 

As this was also a ‘North Sea Sounds’ cruise there were a number of live music performances taking place in the bars in addition to the usual offering. The Columbus Club & Navigators Bar were both bustling into the early hours – with everyone behaving on the whole, despite it being a Friday night!

 

The weather deteriorated a little during the night, leading to some heavy pitching and one of the air conditioning vents in the cabin developing an annoying rattle. The next morning I discovered that a sock had been stuffed in one corner at some point during the night!!

 

The arrival time of 0930 made for a leisurely start to the day, with breakfast taken in the Explorers Steakhouse/Little Italy restaurant on deck 8 (formerly le Temps de Vivre) where a vast selection of continental and English breakfast items were available. We arrived into Ijmuiden on schedule, and once alongside passengers were called to disembark. This was a very slow process due to the tightened immigration controls, and large number of foot passenger on-board. Once off a number of coaches were lined up outside the terminal waiting to whisk mini cruise passengers into the centre of Amsterdam.

 

Our coach driver was a blast, keeping us all informed of our progress and amused by his good humour. After around 40 minutes we were dropped off opposite the Central Station. A good 5 hours were spent exploring Amsterdam, made even more spectacular by the Christmas decorations. It was a shame we were not there in the evening as Amsterdam Light Festival was taking place.

 

Once back at the terminal boarding was fast and simple, using our existing cabin keys as boarding cards so negating the need to check-in again. After freshening up in the cabin (which had been serviced; beds made, fresh towels and mini-bar restocked) there was time to browse the Sea Shops before heading back for a sail-away tipple in the Commodore Lounge.

 

Dinner for the second night was booked in the Blue Riband A la Carte Restaurant – DFDS premier dining venue. The venue has moved from when I last travelled on the King, and is now located in the former Café du Port on deck 8, beside the Lighthouse Café. The food, atmosphere and service were all fantastic. The was also a special 150th Anniversary Menu available to pick and choose from, with special dishes including a ‘Modern Apple Crumble’.

 

Some more exploration after dinner revealed that the Observation Lounge is now called the Quiet Lounge, with a 10 euro access charge, which offers wifi and unlimited tea and coffee (from thermos flasks). The former shopping arcade area on deck 9 has been split into the following areas: Fast Foto/Travel shop – now is home to two massage chairs (!). Le Kisoque – is now the slot machine arcade. Tourist Office – now an arcade games machines area. La Vitrine – ORCA exhibition office

 

Of note was that the ship was beautifully decorated throughout with Christmas decorations. DFDS have maintained the maritime theme (which BF had introduced onboard with model ships and artwork from their own heritage collection.

 

The overnight sailing was much calmer and being on continental time the morning felt even more leisurely than the previous day. Again we opted to take breakfast in the Restaurant and before long we were entering the Tyne. There was none of the usual rush to disembark or vacate cabins as we have become accustomed on the Channel, but once again the queues at immigration stretched back to the ship.

 

Overall, the ‘Val’ has never looked better, and will hopefully continue to operate and serve DFDS well for years to come. If you haven’t already been on her I would thoroughly recommend a mini-cruise with DFDS!

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Nice report Andy, looking forward to my £38 mini-cruise in a month's time. Have been a regular traveller on this route over the years and it has always been enjoyable.

 

Which site did you use for the train booking? Back in the East Coast Trains days I had also travelled on a very cheap first class return, hot meal on a train is indeed a great experience. I have opted to drive up next month as both "the train line" and Virgin's own site do not seem to have any deals.

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Great report, she is looking good. Did you say the 'Blue Riband' restaurant has been moved? What have they done with the old 'les temps de vivre' area, other restaurants I guess?

 

I think the commodore cabins/lounge are definitely worth it, especially as you say when you consider the bar prices on board. I still think the Princess has a slight edge in terms of the bars/restaurants on board but they are both lovely.

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ac freeman. You have to keep an eye out on the Virgin trains web site. There is a flash sale on at the moment and it was offering me 1st class from King's cross to Aberdeen..... you have to click the sale fares link otherwise it does not always show you the sale fares....

This link will work until tonight...https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/special-offers/deals/new-year-offer/

Edited by Skipcool3
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ac freeman. You have to keep an eye out on the Virgin trains web site. There is a flash sale on at the moment and it was offering me 1st class from King's cross to Aberdeen..... you have to click the sale fares link otherwise it does not always show you the sale fares....

This link will work until tonight...https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/special-offers/deals/new-year-offer/

Thanks very much - there are indeed some great bargains available, sadly not on the days that I will be travelling....probably due to it being half term week.

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Lovely report! Nice to see the Val still in great shape!

 

I honestly think both the Val De Loire & Quiberon serving Plymouth - Roscoff was the era when BF were at their best - I think those 2 vessels were responsible in my early youth for my love affair with the Sea & France! so much so, Now in my late 30's it was a no brainer to buy a second home in France!

Edited by daves_pad!
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Lovely report! Nice to see the Val still in great shape!

 

I honestly think both the Val De Loire & Quiberon serving Plymouth - Roscoff was the era when BF were at their best - I think those 2 vessels were responsible in my early youth for my love affair with the Sea & France! so much so, Now in my late 30's it was a no brainer to buy a second home in France!

Completely agree with you Dave! Those really were the glory days for BF. The Val in particular leading to my passion for travel and ultimately a career in the maritime industry.

 

Where is your property in France?

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Completely agree with you Dave! Those really were the glory days for BF. The Val in particular leading to my passion for travel and ultimately. Career in the maritime industry.

 

Where is your property in France?

 

Quel surprise! It's not to far from Roscoff in a commune called Guerlesquin - not many people know of it, but I love the area...

 

You sound a little like me - The val was my main reason for many of my career/life choices also! Even to this day I recall many happy trips on the Val... oh memories!

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As Andy mentions, there are numerous offers on DFDS mini-cruises, especially out of season - I got lucky on the silly Christmas Game ( see separate thread ) so have been able to book a mini-cruise next month for £38, and that is single occupancy of a double cabin.......even the regular prices on the DFDS web site can be as low as £75, these prices include coach transfer from Ijmuiden ( arrival port ) to Amsterdam and return. If you live in the South, as I do, don't be put off by the distance to Newcastle.......takes around 5 hours from Reading by car, or you can take the train of course.

 

My only advice would be to avoid the Friday afternoon sailing from Newcastle if possible, sadly many people are paraletic before the ship even sails so it can be a bit unpleasant........less so if you have a Commodore cabin as you can get away from the "excitement".

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Great report. King does look luxurious inside.

 

Interview in one the shipping magazines this month about this route. According to one of the navigation crew, July and August was a complete sell-out with German tourists going to Scotland.

 

 

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As Andy mentions, there are numerous offers on DFDS mini-cruises, especially out of season - I got lucky on the silly Christmas Game ( see separate thread ) so have been able to book a mini-cruise next month for £38, and that is single occupancy of a double cabin.......even the regular prices on the DFDS web site can be as low as £75, these prices include coach transfer from Ijmuiden ( arrival port ) to Amsterdam and return. If you live in the South, as I do, don't be put off by the distance to Newcastle.......takes around 5 hours from Reading by car, or you can take the train of course.

 

My only advice would be to avoid the Friday afternoon sailing from Newcastle if possible, sadly many people are paraletic before the ship even sails so it can be a bit unpleasant........less so if you have a Commodore cabin as you can get away from the "excitement".

 

 

I got a minicruise offer for £25!

 

Still in shock!!

 

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I got a minicruise offer for £25!

 

Still in shock!!

Wow! - Might be that the single occupancy of the cabin increased my fare slightly, booked it a few weeks ago so can't remember....was expecting to be bounced as it, at first, seemed only valid if two people were travelling but I was so pleased that it allowed me to book travelling alone for such a small cost I did not look too closely at the detail. Or maybe you scored more points than I did on the game :D I think I managed around 1000..................

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