There are 3 ferry services running across the North Sea from the UK to the Netherlands – Harwich to Hook of Holland, Newcastle to Amsterdam Ijmuiden and Hull to Rotterdam.
If you are not keen on flying or simply enjoy travelling by ship then these could be good alternatives to get to Holland – particularly if you live in north of England or east Anglia. They are also convenient if you want to bring your own car or vehicle.
Firstly, here is a map showing the England to Holland ferry services:
1. Harwich-Hook of Holland (Stena Line) – Review
Stena Line runs a daily and nightly ferry service both ways between Harwich and Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland).
The large sister ships Stena Britannica and Stena Hollandica ply the route over the North Sea and the trip takes roughly 7 hours. The ships are very comfortable akin to a small floating hotel with cabins, bar/restaurant and lounge facilities.
The sailing times are as follows:
Harwich-Hoek van Holland
Departs 0900, arrives 1715 (7 hours 15 minutes)
Departs 2300, arrives 0800 (8 hours)
Hoek van Holland-Harwich
Departs 1415, arrives 1945 (6 hours 30 minutes)
Departs 2200, arrives 0630 (9 hours 30 minutes – although likely to arrive in port earlier)
Fares are priced in pounds or euros depending on whether you book from UK or the Netherlands.
Car + driver starts from £59 (€69) one-way with each additional passengers priced from £15 (€18). Foot pasengers fares start from £36 (€43) one-way.
Note, on overnight sailings you are obliged to pay extra for a cabin. Prices of the cabins vary between £34-130 or €41-155 – from single and 2-berth cabins, family berth, Comfort Class and Captain’s Class. Cabin prices are half-price on day sailings.
We’ve done this sailing on a good number of occasions and have found the trip to be very comfortable. The cabins are well appointed with a decent bed, compact toilet/shower, tea/coffee making facilities and TV (English and Dutch channels). If you choose Comfort Class you get a free minibar included.
The spacious Captain’s Suite at the front corner of the ship is an excellent choice. It is a combined bedroom-living room area with double bed, sofa/seats, 3 large porthole windows, minibar and 2 TVs.
All the cabins are located on floors 10 and 11. The main ship facilities are on level 9 which has a buffet restaurant, a bar, the more expensive a la carte Metropolitan restaurant, coffee bar, paid Stena Plus lounge (quiet sitting area with snacks, drinks and newspapers), a shop, a children’s play area, a small cinema.
At the back of the ship you can head out on deck for some sea air although a lot of smokers seem to congregate here.
Rail & Sail – Dutch Flyer Service
This is a combination ferry ticket for foot passengers that can include rail tickets in UK and/or the Netherlands.
From the UK you travel from any of the Abellio-Greater Anglia (AGA) stations including: London Liverpool Street, Ipswich, Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge. The trip between London Liverpool Street and Harwich International ferry terminal is about 1 hour 20 minutes.
Transport on the Dutch side is changing – the NS rail line (half-hourly Sprinter trains to Schiedam and Rotterdam Central) ceased operations in 2017. It will be replaced by a frequent metro service – the RET Metro Line B extension, which should be ready by April 2019.
Replacement bus services (711 direct or 713 all-station stopping service) are running temporarily from Hoek van Holland to Schiedam whilst the rail track is being modified.
Passengers going to Amsterdam can connect onto Intercity trains at Schiedam.
The Metro Line B will run from Hoek van Holland Strand (Beach) and Haven to Nesselande via Schiedam. From 2019, a new Strand station will open much closer to the beach. Passengers going to Rotterdam Central will have to connect at Beurs station to line D or E.
From the UK, tickets including [AGA rail+ferry+NS rail] are priced from £55 each way for day sailings and from £94 each way for overnight sailings. Fares should be booked at least 7 days in advance. Bookings from Harwich without the AGA rail ticket are priced from £49 (day) and £83 (night) each way.
From the Netherlands you can book the [ferry+AGA rail] ticket from €49 single (day sailing) and €76 (night sailing). From any Dutch station by NS train you should also add €17 to the fare each way. Rail & Sail tickets are valid on the replacement bus service.
If you have the time the Stena Line ferry is an excellent way to travel between the south-east UK and the Netherlands.
2. Newcastle to Amsterdam (DFDS Seaways)
There is a daily overnight ferry service each way between Newcastle-North Shields and Amsterdam-Ijmuiden. Sailings over the North Sea take approximately 15 hours – each evening a ship departs Newcastle at 1700 and Amsterdam at 1730. They arrive the following morning at 0915 (Newcastle) and 0945 (Amsterdam).
The large King Seaways and Princess Seaways ferries operate on the route. There are a range of cabins on offer: inside cabins, sea-view cabins, economy cabins and premium cabins (Commodore and Commodore De Luxe). There is a Commodore De Luxe lounge available on King Seaways.
Other on-board facilities include the Explorer’s Kitchen and North Sea Bistro restaurants, Coffee Crew café, games area, a cinema, 4 bars, casino and a nightclub.
Ijmuiden is a seaside port about 20 km west of Amsterdam – don’t be put off by the large Tata steel works close by! It has a marina with a Holiday Inn hotel and the start of a good (blue-flag) beach running south.
DFDS has a bus service (operated by Brouwer’s Tours) for passengers between the Ijmuiden ferry terminal and Amsterdam Central. The journey takes about 30-45 minutes.
At Amsterdam Central station the DFDS bus goes to stops C or D at the IJ-side (waterside) bus terminal. The bus departs back to the ferry port between 1500 and 1600. Tickets can be reserved online for £6/€7 each way, or pay €10 on board.
Public transport options are available but not so convenient. First walk from the ferry terminal to the bus stop on Zwaanstraat, Ijmuiden (15mins) and then take Connexxion bus 382 to Amsterdam Sloterdijk. From there take a train to Amsterdam Central.
A taxi from the Ijmuiden ferry terminal to central Amsterdam would cost around €60.
There is a DFDS bus service from North Shields port to Newcastle city centre (Bewick Street near the station) which costs £3.80 each way and takes 20 minutes. Or walk from the port to Percy Main station (15-20 mins) and take the metro to Newcastle.
Prices for the ferry vary considerably depending on season. 3-day minicruise return sailings which allow a day trip to either Amsterdam or Newcastle cost from about £89 or €98 per person based on 2 people.
For a standard ferry crossing, prices for 2 foot passengers start from £67-£217 (€76-€246) each way depending on cabin type.
3. Holl-Rotterdam (P&O Ferries)
P&O operates a daily overnight ferry service between Hull and Rotterdam Europoort terminal. The crossing takes 12 hours using the large Pride of Rotterdam and Pride of Hull ships.
The ferry departs Hull at 2030 arriving in Rotterdam at 0815 (Mon-Fri) and 0900 (Sat-Sun).
It departs Rotterdam at 2100 (Mon-Fri) and 2030 (Sat-Sun) arriving in Hull at 0730 (Mon-Fri) and 0800 (Sat-Sun).
Facilities on-board ship include The Brasserie restaurant, The Kitchen buffet restaurant, a coffee bar, a paid Club Lounge, a show bar with live entertainment, a shop, cinema and kids play area.
Choice of cabins are Standard (bunks), Premier (twin beds), Club (TV, minibar) and the new State Rooms.
Be aware that the Europoort terminal is some 37km from Rotterdam centre. A special bus service (operated by De Jong Tours) can be pre-booked with P&O that runs from Europoort Rotterdam to central Rotterdam (international bus stop at Conradstraat) and on to Amsterdam (Barbizon Hotel, Prins Hendrikkade 59-72 – near Amsterdam Central Station).
A one-way ticket costs £7 or €9 and the journey to Amsterdam takes about 90 minutes.
At the UK end, buses run from Hull port (King George Dock) to the Paragon Interchange, Stand 38 – bookable at £3.25 or €5 each way or just pay £2.30 on board.
Ferry prices vary depending on season, cabin booked and type of ticket. For 2 foot passengers in a standard cabin expect to pay from about £120 / €140 each way.