An Amsterdam mini cruise is a really popular way to see the European city from the UK and have a break from the norm without sacrificing too much holiday time from work.
Amsterdam is a wonderful city to spend some time in but are mini cruises a good way to explore? And what happens on a mini cruise? I’m aiming to answer all your questions here!
Before we sailed on a Newcastle to Amsterdam mini cruise (we sailed with DFDS) we had no idea about what it would be like and we struggled to find any information or reviews about the trip.
We travelled with our kids, who were young teens at the time but many people do the trip with younger kids, as a couple or even solo!
Who runs mini cruises to Amsterdam?
There are currently two options if you fancy a mini cruise:
DFDS – Sails from Newcastle to Amsterdam (this is the one we did)
P&O Ferries – Sails from Hull to Rotterdam (I don’t recommend this company due to their recent conduct with UK workers)
What is a mini cruise?
- A mini cruise is basically a 2 night ‘cruise’ where you sail late on the first day, sleeping overnight on the boat and arriving at your destination in the morning.
- You then get transferred to the city in the morning (Amsterdam in this case) for a day trip before returning to the ship and having a night on the boat returning.
- You arrive back on the third day in the morning.
DFDS do a couple of different mini cruises – you can do one like we did from Newcastle to Amsterdam (and vice versa) or there’s also one that goes from Denmark to Norway (one to try at another date when we’re travelling around Europe again!). They also used to do one from the UK to Norway but I don’t think that one is currently running.
P&O Ferries also do a very similar crossing but it’s from Hull to Rotterdam. They still transfer you to Amsterdam and that’s the destination for the cruise.
How long is an Amsterdam mini cruise?
Typically the cruise is 2 nights. You spend the first evening on board the ship, arrive at your destination in the morning to spend the day and then sail back on the 2nd evening.
Is a mini cruise expensive?
Cruising as a term tends to conjure up images and feelings of an expensive trip. So is the trip expensive?
Currently, in 2022, the headline fares are around £40 per person for P&O and £75 per person for DFDS. Your final price is going to depend on what cabin you choose.
There are often deals to be had when booking the mini cruise with DFDS (and I imagine P&O). We managed to find a 2 for 1 offer which made our whole trip with the most basic cabin come in at around £120 for 4 people.
This gave us you a super basic cabin (more on that below) for two nights and coach transfers for us all to Amsterdam. You can upgrade to better cabins should you want and if you can I would definitely recommend it.
On board, as probably expected, it’s a little more expensive than your average restaurant or shop. As is also probably expected, we were way too tight to be spending our cash on board so I can’t unfortunately comment on the quality of the restaurants.
I did see that breakfast was around €15 per adult so if you want to eat on board and not bring food with you make sure to budget accordingly.
What’s it like on board?
As I said before, we didn’t eat in the restaurant and we also didn’t partake in any bar entertainment either. (Although I’d say this wasn’t the best idea – as I mention below, it’s a cruise, don’t hole yourself up in your cabin with rubbish food. Go enjoy yourself!)
There was a cinema on board which was about €8 each, so not too dissimilar to on land and we did consider that if the film we wanted was showing on the way back but unfortunately it wasn’t so we didn’t. So if you see a showing you like, watch it, it might not be on the return journey!
The cabin that we had was very basic but did have everything you needed with a small en suite shower and toilet. You also get towels too so no need to bring those either.
The cabins are a little bit small with four people in them, especially when the upper bunks are down, but it wasn’t too bad really. Of course our kids were nearly grown so it was like having 4 adults in there.
One issue that we had with the cabins were that they were incredibly hot. We did wonder at one point whether they maybe didn’t want you too comfy in the cabins and wanted you to be out spending in the bars! It was like that both ways and just spoiled what would have been a quite enjoyable time otherwise.
Can you leave your belongings on the ferry?
One thing we wondered about and were a little worried about was whether we could leave our belongings on the ship while on the day trip – if you’re also worried, don’t be.
You keep the same cabin on the outward and inward legs so you can leave whatever you need to on board.
(This was correct when we did the trip – might be worth confirming with the ferry company if it’s a concern for you)
How long do you get in Amsterdam on the mini cruise?
Ok, this is quite a big and common question – how long do you get there? It might vary due to the company and any traffic but in general:
You get about 4 and a half hours in the city of Amsterdam on the mini cruise.
What to do in Amsterdam on a mini cruise?
Your time is going to be limited so bear that in mind when choosing what to do. Here are some ideas of places to go that can be done in the time you have. Unfortunately trips to tulip field and windmills like Kinderdijk will have to wait – you won’t have time.
I highly recommend getting tickets in advance if you can – Amsterdam can be busy!
- Canal cruise
- Van Gogh Museum
- Ann Frank Museum or walking tour
- Heineken Experience
- Madame Tussauds
What happens on the day trip?
You arrive in the Netherlands at about 9am at a place called IJmuiden which is around a 45 minute drive from the centre of Amsterdam.
After waiting for the car passengers to depart it’s the foot passengers turn to go through passport control. It was fine and fairly quick on the Amsterdam side but returning to Newcastle took forever so something to think about if you’re doing the opposite journey.
The coaches are waiting to take you in to the city and once full they head off, dropping you outside a hotel just opposite the train station so perfect for seeing the old town or getting on a canal cruise.
We probably arrived in Amsterdam at around 10.30am – 11am ish which gave us about 4 and a half hours before we got picked up.
It definitely didn’t seem enough to enjoy all there is in Amsterdam, but for us, as it was our first trip to the city it was nice enough to get a feel for it and wander round.
I really want to do some of the museums in Amsterdam and it’s really not enough time for that – but perhaps next time we’ll be able to stay longer! There are some really great kids museums in the Netherlands so definitely one to return for!
We were lucky and had a dry day to wander around – it would have been a different story if it was raining, but if you’re worried about that make sure you have some activities planned to keep you dry.
Is a mini cruise worth it?
So the main question would be, is it worth it overall?
We all really enjoyed our time away and for what we paid I think it was definitely worth it.
My tips to make the most of the mini cruise to Europe
If I was to do the cruise again here would be my tips to make the most of the day:
- if possible, upgrade the cabin so you’re feeling fresh and so that the cruise section of the trip is part of the experience
- I’d enjoy the restaurants on board more and the entertainment – honestly we used to be on such a budget we’d scrimp everywhere which isn’t always advisable. I’d say that while you can do that, since the mini cruise is the bulk of your time to enjoy it!
- I’d consider getting some skip the line tickets for the museums I was interested in.
- I’d probably book in advance a trip on the canals.
- I’d definitely get a guide book or check in advance what we should do and where we should eat – we weren’t really prepared and so just wandered round soaking up the city. We were lucky the day was dry!
DFDS – for Newcastle to Amsterdam cruise
P&O Ferries – for Hull to Rotterdam (and then on to Amsterdam) cruise
Get Your Guide – book boat trips and skip the line tickets
Lonely Planet Amsterdam guide book