Mini Cruise to Haarlem Christmas Market

6 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

1/5

Review type

Cruise

Location

Date of travel

December, 2023

Product name

DFDS ferry

Product country

United Kingdom

Product city

Newcastle

Travelled with

Group

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

A friend and I looked forward to what was sold as a mini cruise to visit the Christmas market in Haarlem which is a town very close to Amsterdam. It wasn’t expensive and we thought it would be a nice short break before Christmas. We booked through a local coach company as it offered a local pick-up.

The coach arrived about 30 minutes late and then had to wait for a taxi to arrive from a nearby city – the pick-up time had been altered but not all passengers had been informed so they missed the coach. (At least the company arranged for a taxi.) The journey to Newcastle was fine and we arrived at the port on time. We were travelling on a DFDS ferry, and this is where the fun really began! The queues to go through passport control and then security were horrendous but after a couple of hours we reached our cabin. I must confess that it was my fault that I had booked an inside cabin with two bunk beds! It was very hot and stuffy and there was no way to control the temperature. Unfortunately, my friend had not told me she was claustrophobic, and she did start to panic a little bit. She also was recovering from a very painful back and was not as mobile as usual. The receptionist was very helpful and provided a fan which helped.

We sat in the very tight space with the door wide open with other passengers passing by and glancing in! During the evening we explored the ship, which had a good selection of restaurants, bars and a choice of entertainment. It was very noisy, and we found it hard to find a quiet area where we could simply relax and read or play cards. So we returned to our cabin for an early night and managed to lower the heavy upper bunk. The only way to climb up was by a vertical ladder and there wasn’t much headroom. However, the bedding was of a very high quality and the mattress comfortable, and we both slept well. I was so pleased that I had managed to sleep right through without a toilet visit because when it came to descending it was extremely difficult! There was hardly enough room to turn around and I definitely needed help to get down the ladder!

When the time came to go ashore everybody flocked to Deck 6, including passengers with luggage and there we were herded for nearly 2 hours! Another hour and we got through customs and finally onto the coach. We were beginning to think we would only have a couple of hours at the market but in fact we had 4 hours. The market was huge, starting outside the Cathedral with 350 stalls spread across the town. It was extremely crowded as the market only runs for 3 days, Saturday and Sunday being the most popular. There were several bandstands where local choirs performed carols and songs. We did really enjoy strolling round until the weather changed for the worst! When the heavens opened, we took shelter in the Cathedral of Saint Bravo and were serenaded by an angelic children’s choir.

Unfortunately the weather deteriated even more as Storm Ciaran hit! We queued for half an hour for a seat in a cafe where we stayed until it was time to find the coach. Umbrellas blew inside out while we waited! It was such a shame as Haarlem is such a pretty city and I would love to revisit when it is not so busy.

We had to queue up again to get back on board and spent a quiet evening with 2 friends. During the day I had developed a gippy tummy and decided I really couldn’t sleep on the top bunk if I might need the toilet during the night! The only way I could try and sleep was on small bench seat, so I tried a variety of contortions with little success. It didn’t help that the storm was still blowing although fortunately I wasn’t seasick.
I was relieved to get up and sneak out of the cabin ang go for a brief blow on deck at 7 am. After 2 coffees and a muffin I felt better and returned to pack ready to disembark. There were huge delays once again but eventually everyone was back on board the coach for an uneventful journey home.
I doubt if I will ever choose to repeat this trip but it would be manageable in a twin bedded outside cabin.

Sara

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