In the classic Only Fools and Horses episode of the same name, Del Boy and Rodney set sail across the North Sea from Hull to Amsterdam. I made the same trip recently, but was guided by the captain of the Pride of Rotterdam, rather than by that able seaman, Uncle Albert. P&O Ferries offer minicruises from Hull to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Bruges – these involve an overnight ferry crossing, return coach transfers between port and city-centre and six hours in the city before another overnight ferry crossing back to Hull.
With selected minicruises costing around £75 per couple, this is an offer too good to refuse. Or as Del Boy himself might say, “He who dares wins, Rodders”…
After arriving at Hull’s King George Dock several hours before our scheduled 8pm departure, we paid the extortionate £7 per day car-parking charge (that’s £21 for the required three days) and went through check-in. There’s no long and boring wait until boarding – the crew let you straight on the boat where you can find your cabin and relax.
Not fancying the bunk beds of the shoebox-like economy berths, in true Trotter style we opted for a Club Cabin which featured a TV, double-bed, fresh fruit and free drinks.
The Pride of Rotterdam has three decks for cars and lorries, with a further five decks above these where the cabins and entertainment for the 1,360 passengers and 152 crew members can be found. We had a stroll to get our bearings, and came across the imaginatively named Wine Bar, where we enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of champagne – Del Boy would have been proud.
There are two choices of restaurant, so we thought it a good idea to sample both – the Four Seasons Buffet Restaurant on the way to Amsterdam, and Langan’s Brasserie on the return to Hull. Four Seasons is an eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet which is extremely popular – almost everyone on board eats there, so be prepared to wait for a table. The quality is surprisingly good for a buffet, although there is always the danger of abusing the system and eating enough to feed the 5,000.
Langan’s Brasserie is a more intimate affair, with a dozen or so tables alongside the portholes, giving diners a romantic glimpse of the cranes and chimneys of Europort’s docks. The food may not be of a style you’d expect in a brasserie – Kat went for a tuna salad, and I had fish and chips – but again the quality was high and filled us both up.
After a quick drink at the ship’s obligatory Irish Bar, it was time for us to take a seat in the Sunset Show Lounge for a night of cabaret. This was pretty cheesy stuff – one step up from being Phoenix Nights at sea. Still, the covers band got people singing, dancing and spending money at the bar. There were plenty of school and college kids celebrating the end of term on our pre-Christmas trip – the on-board bouncers had their work cut out telling off groups who became too rowdy.
On the top deck, there is a quieter bar – the Sky Lounge – where we sat slumped listening to a pianist on the return journey, exhausted after our rush around the sights of Amsterdam.
There is a “Sun Deck” next to the Sky Lounge – we didn’t see too much sun on our 8pm crossing from Hull, but this was popular with the smokers prepared to brave the waves crashing in off the North Sea.
As well as the bars, other entertainment options include two cinemas, a casino and a games arcade. Films showing in December 2012 were the most recent Batman film and the Bourne Legacy, so about as recent as you’d find in a DVD rental store.
After a decent night’s sleep, we were rudely awakened by a 6am klaxxon announcing that we would be disembarking shortly. I’m not at my best in the mornings, but in my view this wake-up call is too loud, too early and too regular – it sounds every half an hour!
We were still too stuffed from the previous night’s meal to eat breakfast, so we made do with a coffee from the on-board Costa as we waited patiently to leave the ferry at 8.30am and join the coach for the 90-minute drive from Europort to Amsterdam. You can read here how to make the most of your short stay in the capital of the Netherlands.
P&O’s marketing team say their target demographic consists of families with older kids and older couples (“empty nesters”), two groups they say take minicruises quite frequently. We had a lovely jubbly time on our minicruise, which was essentially a day of sightseeing in one of Europe’s finest cities sandwiched between two big nights out, and are keen to go back for more.