We take our children across the North Sea on an overnight ferry from England to Amsterdam
Newcastle to Amsterdam
This route runs every day linking England and Holland/The Netherlands, with overnight crossings both ways. The ports are North Shields near Newcastle and Ijmuiden ferry port in the Netherlands.
15 hours 30 minutes.
The ship leaves at 5pm from Newcastle and arrives in Holland at 9.45am local time. Returning, the ship leaves Holland at 5.30pm and returns to Newcastle at 9.15am.
There are two ships which operate this crossing – we sailed out with the ship Princess Seaways and back with King Seaways.
DFDS calls them cruise ferries because of the facilities and entertainment on board.
They each have 140 crew. The King takes 1,300 passengers and the Princess 1,250.
We thought that they were great ships and our children loved exploring them. There is plenty to occupy a family between boarding time and bedtime.
The ships each have two restaurants, a cinema, play areas, games rooms, a small casino, bars, a club and a shop.
There is good entertainment on board. Our children took part in children’s entertainment on King Seaways and enjoyed it. The play areas and games rooms were slightly bigger on the King.
A play area on the King Seaways ship
Food (same on both)
*Explorer’s Kitchen – a buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner which we tried on King Seaways. Perfect for families, not too formal with lots of choice.
For dinner, there is a variety of foods from different parts of the world including Chinese, Indian, German, Dutch, Italian and British. There’s an ice cream bar, where you can order your own soft scoop flavour with a selection of toppings.
*North Sea Bistro – we ate here on Princess Seaways. It is formal with table service – the food was more expensive but delicious.
North Sea Bistro
There is a three-course menu for adults featuring steak, sea bass and other upmarket options.
The children’s menu offers two courses for £11.95 from a starter, main and dessert. Main course options included spaghetti Bolognese and a burger. Pancakes for pudding went down well with our pair.
My delicious dessert at North Sea Bistro
*Coffee Crew – a café next to the play areas which serves snacks.
All the cabins are en suite, ours were five-berth – with two bunk beds – a double on one side and triple on the other! The bathroom has a shower. Towels and bedding are provided.
Our cabin on Princess Seaways
Cabins are well located away from all the communal areas.
Who can travel?
Cars, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles, motorhomes and lorries can all use the ferry or foot passengers without a vehicle.
How does it work?
You check-in at the port in North Shields near Newcastle, at least 45 minutes before departure – and if you are in a car or other vehicle, drive to a vehicle check-in booth, open the window and hand over your passports to be checked.
You are given boarding cards which are also your cabin keys. There are lots of crew around to direct you into a lane and then on to the ship. You are told exactly where to park, the crew guide you as far forward as possible in your lane in order to fit all the cars on board. Remember your deck number so you can find your car quickly again in the morning!
Foot passengers check in at the passenger terminal.
There are six disabled cabins on King Seaways and three on the Princess. There are lifts and disabled toilets.
It may take longer than flying but there are lots of benefits to the ferry:
*You have your own car, so you don’t need to rent or worry about children’s car seats in Holland.
*You can pack more luggage – there is unlimited baggage on board.
*You can take bikes and scooters.
*You can take pets. Pets can travel on board in their own area or there are even pet-friendly cabins. Make sure you are up-to-date on requirements for pet passports and vaccinations.
*The mini-cruise is a fun experience, part of the holiday rather than the journey.
*We headed for the ports both ends early to make sure we arrived in time and then stretched our legs on a beach – at Long Sands beach in Tynemouth near Newcastle and Zandvoort beach on the way to Ijmuiden port in Holland.
Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth
*Keep an eye on young children outside on the ships, it can get very windy. Also, the doors to outside are very heavy to open and may slam shut.
*The car deck is locked once the ship sets sail. You can’t return to your car then so make sure you have everything with you that you need. We packed a separate bag for the cruise so we didn’t have too much to carry.
*Don’t book a restaurant time until half an hour after sailing time if you want to enjoy the ship setting off.
*There are a lot of stairs but lifts are available if you have a buggy or a pram and there would be room for a pushchair in the five-berth cabins we had.
*The restaurants are fantastic but bring water/drinks and food from the car for your cabin to save money. You are not allowed to take your own alcohol.
*Breakfast can get very busy. There is an announcement at 8am to wake everyone up so lots of passengers eat after that. The quiet period, where you are more likely to get a window seat to enjoy the sea view, is 7am to 7.45am. Also 9am is quieter – but you are called to your car as soon as the ship docks, around 9.15am.
*Don’t feel you need to rush to your car as soon as they announce it as you will be sitting in it for some time, wait a few minutes, but not too long!
A great experience for the children and a fun way to travel to Amsterdam. This really makes the journey a fun part of the holiday rather than a chore.
Once past the dreaded morning sickness stage, a cruise sounds like a blissful holiday when pregnant.
Lots of rest, swimming, food prepared for you, afternoon naps in the cabin.
But as a Mumsnet poster found out this week: “I’ve just discovered that many cruise liners don’t let you sail if you are over 24 weeks (pregnant).
“I’m going on a cruise in 11 days’ time (cost a fortune), will be 24 weeks the day before disembarkation, have checked their T&Cs and sure enough it’s a no no.”
So is a cruise a fabulous, relaxing holiday while pregnant or a danger to mother and baby and what are the rules? The Family Holiday Guide investigates.
The pregnancy policy of cruise lines
Cruise ships have strict pregnancy policies.
Women having a healthy pregnancy, in the first or second trimester are usually allowed to sail.
They must inform the cruise line before, or risk being turned away.
The cruise line usually wants to see (sometimes two months before), a doctor or midwife’s letter confirming the mother and baby are in good health, fit to travel and the pregnancy is not high risk, plus the estimated due date.
Most cruise lines will not let passengers sail who will be in or past the 24th week of pregnancy at any stage during the journey. These include P&O, TUI, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
It may sound strict but when you think about it, this makes sense. Ships do not have the specialist facilities to deal with pregnancy complications or a new premature baby out at sea.
There are some ships which sail close to land or river cruises, which may allow women in later pregnancy, with a doctor’s approval.
But make sure you check and follow the rules – you may be asked to sign a health form when booking or boarding to agree that you are aware of the pregnancy policy.
You find out you are pregnant after you have booked a cruise and no longer want to go?
If you no longer want to go and have only paid a deposit, you can normally cancel the cruise and get a refund.
If you have paid in full, you will need to check the company’s cancellation policies and you may not get a full refund.
If you have travel insurance in place then you should be able to cancel or reschedule sailing.
You will be in the first or second trimester but aren’t sure whether to go?
Check with your doctor. If you have had any complications, are expecting more than one baby or have had preterm deliveries before, it may be safer to stay on land where medical facilities are close by.
Also, fully research and consider the health risks at all the destinations you will be visiting as well as the health care available at them.
There will normally be doctor-led medical facilities on the ship which can handle minor emergencies. If there is an emergency, patients are transferred to hospital (often for a fee – have insurance), but this could take a long time.
If you do sail while pregnant
*You must have travel insurance – make sure you disclose your pregnancy and check it covers you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure it covers your unborn baby.
*Always travel with your maternity notes and doctor’s letter and carry copies of prescriptions and the emergency contact number for your doctor with you too.
*Be wary of drinking the ship’s water.
*Always use hand sanitizer regularly as viruses can spread quickly on cruise ships. Take care to avoid food and water-borne conditions like stomach upsets and remember some medicines for treating things like diarrhoea aren’t suitable when pregnant.
*Don’t feel you have to do all shore excursions, stay safe and listen to your body. Sometimes pregnant passengers are not allowed on some excursions for their own safety.
*Remember, seasickness may be worse when pregnant.
*Many cruise ships have launderettes so you don’t have to splash out on lots of maternity holiday clothes.
*Be careful in the sun, keep cool and check your sun cream is suitable for pregnant women.
*You can enjoy the swimming pools but avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.
*Take a list of what you can and can’t eat as you may not be able to ‘Google it’. And be wary of buffet food which has been out a while.
*If you are flying to the cruise port, check the airline’s policy too.
Thoroughly consider all the issues before deciding whether to sail and choose a cruise which isn’t at sea for days on end.
If you go, pack a maternity swimsuit, enjoy the restful side of cruising including afternoon naps in your cabin, don’t overdo it and have a great time!
What about ferries?
Ferry companies have their own restrictions and usually won’t take pregnant women past 32 weeks. Check the company’s policy before booking as restrictions vary.
Brittany Ferries, for example, accept pregnant passengers under 32 weeks except on their high-speed sailings when they must be less than 28 weeks.
It also depends on the route and in some cases, the weather – if the sea is very rough, a pregnant traveller may not be allowed on board.
We review a family holiday to St Malo in Brittany and try out Brittany Ferries for the first time
I can’t spell it. I can’t even pronounce it, but the Breton delicacy Kouign Amann may just be the best thing I have ever eaten – it’s buttery, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth heaven.
I buy a whole cake, warm from the oven and it quickly diminishes as I sit on the harbour-side in Port du Crouesty – on the southern tip of Brittany.
Getting to this lesser visited area of the region was part of our adventure as we crossed the Channel by ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo.
The Brittany Ferries ship feels huge, with lots to see and do. Once you’ve stood on deck and waved goodbye to England, there are children’s discos and shows, a small soft play area, games room, restaurants and even a cinema.
It’s like a mini-cruise and we make the most of everything on our way back but the outward journey was overnight. So after a magic show we were all excited to get to our cabin and sleep onboard.
The disco onboard
The nine-hour crossing soon passed and we woke up ready for Brittany. (For a detailed review of our crossing with Brittany Ferries click here).
Many people know and love this most westerly corner of France, returning year after year.
We were stopping on the Rhuys peninsular between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Morbihan. This is French holiday country – there’s barely an English accent.
And not many speak much English so I was glad my husband’s French is better than mine.
Port du Crouesty is a modern harbour development. We stayed at Pierre & Vacances resort, which is in a winning location.
Sandwiched between a busy marina and pretty beach, there are two outdoor swimming pools and plenty of good restaurants at the harbour, all within walking distance of our apartment.
Playing on the beach at our resort
If you are feeling active, you can hire bikes and there is also a sailing club.
Depending on when you stay, there’s also a children’s club and activities.
Our one-bedroom apartment had two comfortable sofa beds in the lounge. It was on the small side for the four of us but the view over the marina from the balcony made up for it.
The apartment overlooked the marina
Other rooms look over a great grassy area and lovely playground. For a more detailed review of Port du Crouesty, click here.
If the weather is good you don’t need to go far but we made the most of our wheels to explore the area.
We drove 20 miles to the historic walled town of Vannes. After getting stuck into its bustling market – and more French food – we headed for Vannes Aquarium.
The highlights were some of the biggest turtles we’ve ever seen and a crocodile which seemed to have been found after it ended up in the Paris sewer system.
More four-legged creatures delighted Josh and Jess on another day out, to Branféré Animal park.
This is more of a lovely parkland stroll with added wildlife than a traditional zoo. Wallabies wander freely around, giraffes and rhinos enjoy huge enclosures and birds of all shapes and sizes fly overhead.
In the middle of it all was a series of amazing nets placed among the treetops to run across. A high-level walkway with more than 17,000 square metres of netting. Great fun all round. If you don’t look down.
The Parcabout high-level walkway in the trees
The Rhuys peninsular is blessed with beaches. We visited four in all.
Our favourite was one we had all to ourselves – Plage du Goh Velin was a five-minute drive from our apartment.
Armed with nets and buckets, we looked for crabs, collected shells, climbed rocks and even found a cave.
A day at Plage du Goh Velin
And every day we sampled more of the area’s amazing food – delicious sweet and savoury crêpes, baguettes, cheeses, pastries and seafood.
Our trip was during half-term but outside French holidays, which really made a difference, everywhere was quiet.
As we left St Malo in glorious sunshine on the aptly named ship Bretagne, we were lucky there was plenty of fun on the ferry to keep the holiday spirit going.
The ferry Bretagne leaving St Malo
And there was one more surprise to remind us of the region. The chunk of Kouign Amann that I’d sneaked home.
The icing on the cake of our trip to beautiful Brittany.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests of Pierre & Vacances resort in Port du Crouesty, Brittany, France for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own. For a more detailed review of the accommodation click here.
Travel: We travelled courtesy of Brittany Ferries. See our detailed review of Brittany Ferries here.