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.


By the time we had boarded, checked in and visited our room it was nearly 10pm so we made a bee-line for the restaurant where we had reservations in The Metropolitan Restaurant which can be booked online at the time of your crossing. There is plenty on offer in terms of eating, including the Taste buffet restaurant, Barista Bar and Riva Bar. The atmosphere throughout seemed very relaxed and orderly.

There were a number of menu's to choose from and we could mix and
match between them. Some dishes were at a premium (charged in Euros) to the pre-booked price of £29.00 per persion which also includes breakfast. We opted for Salmon and Crab with rye bread and Antipasti followed by an amazing Rib Eye steak each. For pudding I went for Creme Brule, Sophie was getting a little full by this point so opted for the simple Strawberry's and Ice Cream. The meal and the service was excellent and all of this was taking place while the ship was still docked in Harwich, so even if the sea had been rough (it wasn't, it was like a mill pond) this wouldn't have spoilt the enjoyment. We opted for a bottle of wine and as we didn't manage to finish it we were encouraged to take it back to our room.

What surprised us most about the ship was the amount of outside space available to use, which includes an enclosed basketball pitch and a Sundeck Bar area. There was also a dedicated quiet zone at the other end of the ship which seemed very chilled out, great if you just want to relax for the evening. If you are looking for entertainment however, there is a cinema on board with all the latest movies on offer.

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

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  1. Glad to see you two back in motion. Great job on the full description of the crossing. Looking forward to your adventures! Happy Trails. RockSteele

  2. We paid £1.12 per litre with 6x5p. Tesco money-savings vouchers. Then back to £1.42 unfortunately.
    Stena Line sound great & not too far for us from South Lincs to Harwich.

    We used to do Portsmouth St. Malo overnight but nothing these days under£500. EuroTunnel is our current choice for France tripling up Tesco cash vouchers-don't work for them by the way!

    Look forward to reading more.


  3. Great post! I enjoyed reading about your travels across Europe.

  4. Thanks for such a detailed account. However, I'm still wondering about the actual sailing part. I'm fine in a kayak or small motorboat, but put me on a regular sail boat, or a fishing charter, and it's all over -- seasick constantly. Other than short ferry rides (generally across small rivers or lakes), I've never been on a big boat so I don't know what to expect. If you get this - and get a minute - maybe you can comment on what to expect after leaving port. By the way, I'll be traveling from the Hook of Holland to Harwich on September 14. The overnight ferry leaves about 11pm but you can board earlier and have dinner. Since I'm so worried about getting sick, my thought is to eat earlier and skip the on-board meal. Thanks for any additional info you can provide. Jphecht@gmail.com

  5. My bother had just gone to Holland for his vacations and he told me how beautiful this place is. He had taken the Lufthansa flight and had mentioned to me that this airline serves some really delicious food and that i should only fly with Lufthansa from now on.