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Le Quiberon

Newcastle - Ijmuiden mini cruise, January 2015

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So as many of you already know I decided to 'do' an Amsterdam mini cruise with DFDS seaways from Newcastle this weekend just gone, largely owing to some extra time off work, and the cheap rates on offer. I must be hasten to admit my reasons for visiting the Netherlands are largely cordial as I used to live and work in the Amsterdam area for a while, and, as a city I know well is a nice place to go for a short escape. Rather than opting for the standard mini cruise which offers just 5 hours in Amsterdam, I opted to take have an additional day in the city. I know that this is one of the more popular non-bf crossings reviewed on here so I will try not too bore you all too much! 

 

OUTWARD: 04/01/19: Newcastle - Ijmuiden

Departure: 17:00

Arrival: 09:45

Vessel: King Seaways.

A good run across the country meant I arrived at North Shields docks at 14:00. I decided to park my car right outside the Premier Inn directly under a CCTV camera (a tip I have read on a review somewhere) as parking here is free (for the shopping outlet) and saves a lot of money on paying parking fees at the docks. The passenger terminal is a short 5/10 minute walk from here. The vessel for the outward journey was the ever-popular King Seaways, probably/arguably the most popular non-bf ferry sailing out of the UK. Embarkation, passport control and security was fast and very efficient and I was the 3rd passenger on the vessel and for a brief amount of time felt like I had the whole ship to myself. Two and a half hours gave me ample time tore- familiarise myself with the ship and settle in the cabin, a standard 2 bunk with window. I have previously sailed on the 'The King' in September 2015 and June 2016 for commuting purposes and she is in excellent condition, and some parts had changed or been modernised, for instance the new cafe and on-board shop. The vessel was very well loaded for the first weekend of the year, with a good mix of Ditch and English passengers. We departed slightly before 17:00, as darkness was falling we made the slow departure out of the Tyne - one of my favourite ferry departures in the UK as we made our way out into a dark and brooding North Sea. Sea and weather conditions were, nevertheless, hospitable and and we took a more central crossing across the North Sea, leaving the bright lights of the east coast behind shortly after 21:00. It is quite common for the DFDS ships to hug the east coast down to Great Yarmouth and then go across from there but that is obviously the captains decision.

I was travelling alone and cant comment on restaurants or food, although I did have a drink in the bar. I spent my time largely on deck- both ships have kitchen extractor fans which constantly pour out warm air and are a good place to watch the world go by if you put up with the noise! I must say that if I was travelling with a companion I would love to try the buffet as the choices on offer looked very good. I retired to my cabin in the early hours and slept comfortably and uninterrupted until it was time to wake for disembarkation. The cabin (Deck 6) was very good, and very clean- it perhaps was showing some signs of wear and tear and maybe age is starting to tell now - especially in comparison to the Stana Harwich twins, but this does not bother me personally as I literally only sleep in my cabin. There were a small group of rowdy revellers a group of young English lads that I had spotted in the terminal, however they were dealt effectively with by the ships on-board security and seemed to behave from that point.

We arrived on time in a gloomy Ijmuiden, disembarkation off the vessel again was swift and I got the coach transfer offered with the booking and was in Amsterdam within the hour.

 

OUTWARD: 06/01/19: Ijmuiden - Newcastle

Departure: 17:30

Arrival: 09:15

Vessel: Princess Seaways.

I got the first coach transfer from Amsterdam Centraal station at 15:00 and was at Ijmuiden docks for 16:00. Another swift embarkation and I was on the Princess Seaways. She is effectively a sister ship (one of 4) to King Seaways - the latter being different in appearance due to major renovation carried out by BF in 1993 when she joined the fleet as the flagship Val de Loire. Aesthetically she may not be as easy on the eye but on board she seemed to have a lot more decor in terms of on-board paintings/posters/artwork and seemed more modern than the King, especially the bar and cafe areas. It must be noted that the King is travelling as we speak en-route to Gdansk I can only assume for renovations. It did feel as though the Princess had more deck space than the King and a lot of this had been rubber-matted as well I made my way to my cabin (deck 7) and familiarised myself with the ship, and as dusk settled, with a blast of the ships horn we made our departure from a busy Ijmuiden docks. This Sunday evening service was not as well loaded, and weather conditions were once again hospitable on the North Sea - I seemed to fare quite well considering it was January!

Again I spent alot of time on deck and had a quiet drink on the bar, before retiring once again for a comfortable, uninterrupted nights sleep as the Princess gently strode across the calm North Sea. When I checked the ships AIS in the morning it appeared that we once again took a more central North Sea route. Embarkation off the vessels and through controls was swift again as I was the firdt person off the ship - I made the short walk to my car and made the drive homeward.

 

SUMMARY:

Well what can I say? For me this has to be one of the best ferry crossings out of the UK. DFDS are clearly doing something right as recently published statistics showed that the route is ever-popular and profitable - this for me is enforced by the fact that (1) They have kept the route open (unlike Norway and Denmark) and (2) They have spent heavily looking after and refitting the two ships. In comparison to Esjbery and Bergen Amsterdam is a hugely popular tourist destination and always will be thus I think that they will continue to operate the route. They also hit the nail on the head with their departure and arrival times which allow you to get have a meal, enjoy the entertainment and get a good nights sleep - I did not even find on-board prices to be that absurdly expensive. The two vessels which ply the route are in excellent condition, although they are 30+ years, and it may show in some small aspects, it must be noted they are from that generation of new build cruise ferries which age well - and despite the constant speculation about their futures it appears DFDS are committed to operating the vessels which is great to see.

At £105 for a return crossing value for money was excellent, staff were polite and friendly, embarkation and disembarkation as a foot passenger was excellent and the ships were clean - I can not rate the company highly enough and could not recommend the trip any more, it was outstanding. 

 

Le Quiberon.

 

 

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Thank you for all of the detail,I live up north and have being thinking of having a trip on her,but we're told it is nothing more than a booze cruise and a fair bit of bother on board.after reading what you have said we are going to book a trip later in the year.many thanks

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Very nice, comprehensive report, thank you for sharing. You're right about the ships - it's hard not to like them. I also think the Princess has a slight edge over the 'King', if only for her lovely Compass bar area.

I do however still find it hard to understand the rationale behind reducing the route to one ship for two months, particularly given how well the route is meant to be doing these days.

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23 minutes ago, nodwad said:

Thank you for all of the detail,I live up north and have being thinking of having a trip on her,but we're told it is nothing more than a booze cruise and a fair bit of bother on board.after reading what you have said we are going to book a trip later in the year.many thanks

I’m in a similar situation stay less than a 2 hour drive away but still haven’t tried I really must.

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I don't get how Bergen was presumed to be unpopular, the ship was always full of heavily spending tourists and the reason why Port of Tyne built the outlet village. The mini cruise price was always great value and the Norwegians spent a fortune. The Gothenburg via Kristiansand route was the same.

 

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1 hour ago, Ryan_H said:

I do however still find it hard to understand the rationale behind reducing the route to one ship for two months, particularly given how well the route is meant to be doing these days.

I don't really see what the problem is, it was down to one ship for two months the other year for the refits and no one batted an eyelid. It's only same as being dry docked for the same period again.

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1 minute ago, jonno said:

I don't really see what the problem is, it was down to one ship for two months the other year for the refits and no one batted an eyelid. It's only same as being dry docked for the same period again.

Not saying it’s a problem, I’m saying it’s a bit odd to send one of only four cruise ferries to cover a ro-pax route in the Baltic and not provide a replacement. DFDS have plenty of freighters available plus quite a few ro-pax vessels - they even chartered one to P&O a few years back for Hull-Zeebrugge.

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13 minutes ago, Ryan_H said:

Not saying it’s a problem, I’m saying it’s a bit odd to send one of only four cruise ferries to cover a ro-pax route in the Baltic and not provide a replacement. DFDS have plenty of freighters available plus quite a few ro-pax vessels - they even chartered one to P&O a few years back for Hull-Zeebrugge.

I don't think they have surplus anymore Ryan, off the top of my head I know they've sold a couple in the Ukraine and lack of tonnage was why the wanted Baie de Seine back a year early until they extended the charter of the Italian ship they have.

The ConRo's chartered from Siem are heading for Turkey and other areas of the Med' and I believe the route up north needs pax accommodation too. Both of the Newcastle ships have more vehicle space than either of the Copenhagen vessels.

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2 hours ago, nodwad said:

Thank you for all of the detail,I live up north and have being thinking of having a trip on her,but we're told it is nothing more than a booze cruise and a fair bit of bother on board.after reading what you have said we are going to book a trip later in the year.many thanks

Excellent to hear that you are planning to do the trip and whilst I do understand that rowdy revellers, mainly from the north east, do have a reputation for being rather vocal and disruptive, the small contingent that were doing this were dealt with quite effectively by the security staff. If this is something that would really put someone off I am sure avoiding a Friday and Saturday departure should avoid this. For me it is not your typical booze cruise, there was a large proportion of Dutch on-board and a range of range groups so there was a mixed balance of guests on-board.

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13 minutes ago, jonno said:

I don't think they have surplus anymore Ryan, off the top of my head I know they've sold a couple in the Ukraine and lack of tonnage was why the wanted Baie de Seine back a year early until they extended the charter of the Italian ship they have.

The ConRo's chartered from Siem are heading for Turkey and other areas of the Med' and I believe the route up north needs pax accommodation too. Both of the Newcastle ships have more vehicle space than either of the Copenhagen vessels.

Fair enough, it just seems odd on the face of it; I can’t recall any of their UK based passenger vessels being sent elsewhere like this for a long time. But like you’ve said, clearly things are different now.

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2 hours ago, Ryan_H said:

Very nice, comprehensive report, thank you for sharing. You're right about the ships - it's hard not to like them. I also think the Princess has a slight edge over the 'King', if only for her lovely Compass bar area.

I do however still find it hard to understand the rationale behind reducing the route to one ship for two months, particularly given how well the route is meant to be doing these days.

Yes, surprisingly the Princess did have the edge in my eyes, the Compass bar is excellent.

I cant comment on removing the Princess for a short period, although I was surprised to hear this myself. 

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Great Report.  From what I hear the King is a lot better since it's been modernised. 

Do you still have to pay 10 euro to go and sit in the observation lounge like you did last time I was onboard or have they finally got rid of that ridiculous idea?

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