When we were planning our trip to Europe, I also wanted to include London as I had only been there once before and it was just a quick in-and-out for work meetings. To visit London, we had a few options from the Netherlands. One, we could fly, but this required a few hours as you need to be at the airport at least an hour before a flight, you pay extra for the amount of luggage we had and would have needed to spend a night in a hotel. Two, we could take the Eurostar train from Amsterdam to London, but it was expensive and we would still need to spend a night in a hotel. So, we considered options for taking the ferry from the Netherlands to the UK.
Reasons we decided to take the ferry from the Netherlands to the UK
We decided to do the Stenaline Ferry from Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands to Harwich in the United Kingdom. There were a few reasons why this seemed like the best option for us. Firstly, it was not that expensive since it included transport, overnight accommodation, and breakfast (optional). Secondly, neither of us had ever slept on a boat/ferry so that it would be a new and exciting experience for us. Thirdly, getting to Hoek of Holland to take the ferry and to get from Harwich to London were not that expensive either. Fourthly, since it was an overnight ferry it would not reduce our sightseeing time in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. Overall, the ferry option would save us money and give us a new experience. So, that was it! The ferry was the way to go!
Getting to Hook of Holland to board the ferry
After spending some time in Amsterdam sightseeing, we took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Hook of Holland. We never had to change at any of the stations along the way. The whole journey took about 90 minutes, and we arrived at Hoek van Holland with time to spare.
When we arrived in the terminal, there was already a queue forming in front of the customs counter. It was another hour before we were allowed to board. Boarding was therefore 30 minutes later than what we had been informed it would be. The customs officials were the most thorough I have ever encountered – they went through my passport in detail and had questions about all the countries I was visiting on this trip.
Our cabin where we had to spend the night while taking the ferry from the Netherlands to the UK
But, we finally arrived on board just to realize that we had been given a family cabin instead of a normal double cabin. This was not something to complain about! Since we had a whole day of sightseeing in Amsterdam, we were quite tired and had quick showers to freshen up before departure. We wanted to be on deck for the departure.
The bathroom was tiny, but the shower was surprisingly nice. It was small, but the water was hot. The bathroom included towels and soap.
Onboard the ferry from the Netherlands to the UK
After freshening up, we went out to explore the ferry. It had many restaurants, a cinema, a casino and so forth. We decided to have traditional Dutch apple pie and a jug of beer before venturing onto the deck. It was a bit strange when we were given ice-cold apple pie. The waiter told us that this was the way the Dutch eat it. I love hot apple pie, but when in Rome…. It was tasty, but I think it would have tasted even better warmed up! The beer was refreshing, though!
We thought of watching the departure from inside, but the ferry’s windows were quite dirty. Dirty windows and taking photos would just not have worked out.
Departing from Hook of Holland
We finally went out onto the deck, each with a glass of beer. Man, it was freezing outside. Lucky we had on warm jackets, but I suppose since the ship was so high up it was colder than outside on land. It had also become quite windy and was quite unpleasant outside.
But this was a unique experience, and we stood outside while departing. Departure was around 22:30. It is pretty amazing how big such a ferry is and how many vehicles, containers and trucks could fit on it. It was also not as noisy as I had expected and we sailed on smoothly!
After 30 minutes on deck, we could no longer handle the coldness and went back to our cabin for the night. The mattresses were comfortable, and we slept soundly.
The next morning
The next morning we got up at 4:00 for breakfast, but when we got to the breakfast buffet it looked like we had slept late – many passengers were up and about already. Some had even brought their suitcases and backpacks down already.
The breakfast spread was varied and sufficient. There was everything from fruit, cereals, fruit juices, coffee, eggs, sausages, different types of bread, croissants, cheeses, etc.
After breakfast, we hurried up to our cabin to get our suitcases. Only then did we realize why the other people had taken their suitcases down earlier. There were two lifts only – they were small, and the staircases were narrow, making it quite difficult for people to pass each other on the stairs. Something to keep in mind for the next time!
Arriving at Harwich Port
We arrived at Harwich Port around 6:30 in the morning. We were told that buses will pick us up to take us to the UK customs building. It went smoothly, and finally, we arrived in Harwich.
Since it was Sunday and the day the UK does railroad maintenance, the trains were not available. Buses were available. I was a bit disappointed about not being able to take the train, but the bus drivers were so friendly and such good drivers that the bus trip was quite comfortable.
Getting to London
It took about 2 hours from Harwich to Liverpool Street Station in London. We were ready for our London adventure to begin!
In hindsight, I still think taking the ferry was the best decision for us at the time. It was comfortable, and we didn’t need to rush to get to the airport or spend another night in a hotel in London which would have cost us much more. I would do it again if I needed to go from the UK to Amsterdam, vice versa. Going to bed in one country and waking up in another country works for me!