|Waiting to get through passport control|
Our method of getting into Europe barely features on this blog, but on this trip we've traveled into Europe via an alternate ferry crossing which is new to us - Harwich to Hook of Holland. We often wish we lived further South, since the 280 mile drive to Calais seems to drag on for eternity. Our usual routine would be to drive down after work for a late evening crossing and then sleep overnight at the ticket office in Calais on the docks or on occasion, the Calais aire. We're not a big fan of this method, nor of the drive out of industrial Calais, but its a means to an end - a gateway to mainland Europe.
The drive to Harwich was over an hour and 60 miles less than our usual trip to Dover, we decided to ignore advice to take the M11; we instead took the A14 which was a wonderfully scenic route and dual carriageway all the way. Arriving at the port in good time no sooner had we seen Hollandica arrive we were waved through passport control at roughly 7:30. I say waved through, a couple in their 20's in a motorhome can't look right and so it was no suprise when we were pulled in for the obligatory search. This is so routine for us now we must pass the attitude test because the customs officer only looked in the wardrobe and we were waved on our way.
Harwich port is much smaller than Dover, with a passenger train line running straight through the middle of it. It's a little strange having your ascent onto the ferry halted by a train but I suspect this is the norm for those who travel this route often. Hollandica was launched in 2010 along with her sister ship Britannica and is one of the worlds largest super ferries, carrying upto 230 cars, 300 freight vehicles and 1200 passengers. It has 1,376 beds on board in 538 cabins and is comparable in size to P&O's Spirit of Britain / France but I have to say far more luxurious.
Climbing the stairs to deck 10 where our room was located, there wasn't any of the usual stampede, lots of helpful crew were present assisting people to find their destinations. Our room, number 111, was a Comfort Class Cabin air-conditioned room with a window. This is an upgrade over the standard £39.00 cabin coming in at £90.00 each way. The room consists of a double and single bed, large walk in shower room and the pièce de résistance... a free (ok, included in the price) Mini Bar! Two Heineken, two small Blossom Hill red and two of white, plus orange and water. I'm pleased to say the wine didn't exit the room in our hand luggage, but the beer did exit the room in me! There was also a TV which linked to cameras on the ship so you could see outside as well as a channel dedicated to the pet quarters so you could keep an eye on your pampered pooch.
There were a number of menu's to choose from and we could mix and
Before we realised it, it was midnight - which means it was in fact 1am local time! With a wake up call due at 6:30am that didn't leave much time for any shut eye and so we got our heads down in a comfortable bed soon after that.
I challenge anyone to sleep through the wake up call tannoy at 6:30am, but it certainly did its job in stiring (and perhaps shaking us) awake and into the buffet breakfast queue. There was plenty of food on offer including full cooked English or Continental breakfast, fresh coffee and juices and what appeared to be unlimited refills. Perhaps the highlight of the trip for us was sitting bow of the boat, eating our breakfast as we arrived at the Hook of Holland.
Departure is at 7:45 local time and after grabbing our luggage from the room and resisting temptation to raid the mini bar we were off the ramp and through passport control.
Departing into a leafy suburb, it couldn't be more detached from Calais. We worked out that this route shaved off 125 miles off our journey and probably 2.5-3 hours given that we avoided the M25 at rush hour. Topping up with Diesel at 1.39 (about 1.29 a litre) and getting our Euros from a cash point we hit the motorway and headed for our first stop, Munich.
|Sunrise from our cabin|