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Monday, 20 April 2015

Amsterdam Zoo with DFDS Seaways



Following on from our exciting first day aboard Princess Seaways as we sailed from Newcastle to Amsterdam overnight, this post will focus on day two of our family mini cruise break and will mainly feature our day at Artis (Amsterdam zoo) which had been booked as part of our Amsterdam zoo mini cruise.

Giraffes at Amsterdam Zoo

We had been blessed with a very smooth crossing overnight and we all slept soundly. We were woken at 8am with our in-cabin radio and an announcement letting us know that the ship was due to dock at 9:30am. We quickly got washed and dressed and headed to the Lighthouse cafe next to kids club where the children took part in a competition and we enjoyed a light bite and a hot drink.

As we were pulling into Amsterdam port it was a very foggy morning and it was difficult to see anything outside - it was perhaps a mistake to go out on deck as out of nowhere the foghorn sounded and gave me the fright of my life! The kids thought it was hilarious and 'just like Peppa Pig'.

We were able to leave our luggage in our room (you are informed at check in whether you will be switching rooms or not) but obviously needed to take our passports and boarding cards with us. There are announcements made onboard when it is time to depart so there is no need to congregate by the stairs. We found it far less stressful (and civilised) to wait inside the cafe with our coffee until it was time to leave. Disembarkment was well organised and passport control super speedy. 

Transfer


You can't miss the DFDS Seaways coaches waiting outside for you and you are directed over to the co-ordinator who will find out where you are going, hand over any tickets if neccessary and let you know which coach to board. The drivers all speak perfect English and know exactly how many people should be on their coach - they don't leave until everyone is accounted for and it is extremely well organised.


DFDS Seaways Amsterdam coach transfer

Our transfer to the zoo took about 40 minutes and I loved the drive through Amsterdam - I was amazed at just how many bicylcles there actually were and the canals were simply beautiful. Although we were in a coach, we still managed to get a good feel for the city.


When we reached the zoo, there was an announcement that it was our time to leave the coach. Our driver instructed us to wait at the zoo entrance at 3pm for our return pick up. It was 11am and I did think in the back of my mind that 4 hours didn't seem long enough to explore - it turns out I was wrong though and we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see.

Artis - Amsterdam Zoo


As we already had our tickets we could by-pass the queues and walk straight through the gates. We were immediately greeted by this handsome guy and a group of camels much to our children's delight.


Camels at Amsterdam Zoo

Amsterdam zoo is in the heart of the city, well signposted (in English) and on flat ground making it easy to navigate around with young children/buggies. My four year old's favourite phrase is 'my legs are tired' but he didn't utter it once during our trip. There are over 900 species of animal to discover, here are our highlights:-

Lions at Amsterdam zoo

Lions at Amsterdam zoo

Watching a pride of lions with your family is simply amazing and it was wonderful to see them up close. This was our youngest's definite highlight from the day.

Pelican at Amsterdam zoo


We were rather bemused to watch this Pelican jump over the barrier! As soon as he realised what he'd done he hopped right back over the the correct side of the fence! We all couldn't stop laughing at this silly behaviour!

Monkey at Amsterdam Zoo

It was fascinating to watch these cheeky monkeys as they found some food buried in the sand and went down to the water to wash it before taking a bite. Very clever!

Lemurs at Amsterdam Zoo

The lemur experience was fantastic - there are keepers on hand to assist if needed but you basically walk right through their enclosure and can get very close (this photo isn't zoomed in). The lemurs spent some time chasing each other around our feet before deciding they'd prefer to chill in the sun instead. We didn't blame them!

Butterflies at Amsterdam Zoo

Butterfly pavillion at Amsterdam zoo

The butterfly pavillion is the largest of it's kind in the Netherlands and home to dozens of gorgeous butterflies that will chase each other around your head as you walk amongst them. It is such a beautiful experience and you feel as though you could be in the Amazon. New butterflies are released from their cocoons twice daily.

Aquarium at Amsterdam Zoo

The zoo is home to a lovely aquarium (included in admission). You will see aquatic life in the main hall, the Amazonian rainforest, the coral reef and even what is inside an Amsterdam canal. 

Giraffes at Amsterdam Zoo

Giraffes at Amsterdam zoo


The giraffes were Heidi's favourite animals and they were a delight to watch even if they do look like they have to get into some sort of crazy yoga position to drink water!

Zebras at Amsterdam zoo

Another highlight was watching a Zebra foal feed from it's mother. Beautiful!

Lunch


Cheetah restaurant at Amsterdam zoo


We decided to take lunch at the Cheetah restaurant as it was a lovely sunny day and there were plenty of tables outside overlooking the giraffes (hence my giraffe selfie) and a good adventure playground for our children. The food on offer was fantastic with fresh juices, baguettes and pastries being the highlights. We decided to be typically British and order burgers from the burger bar which were cooked in front of us, to our liking and with the toppings of our choice. Five lots of burgers and chips, four soft drinks and a cold beer was only 30 euro (£22) which considering this is a tourist attraction is an AMAZING deal.

The best bit about lunch for us was being able to sit and relax with our drinks whilst watching our children play in the park.


After lunch we explored the fascinating insectarium, birds of prey, penguin pools, wolves, parrots, flamingoes, elephants and gorilla's amongst others. We walked at a leisurely pace and by the time we'd seen everything there were 15 minutes left to check out the gift shop before our driver collected us.




I have been to zoo's all over the world and Amsterdam zoo is one of the best - they are big on education here and each enclosure features lots of information and you can really learn a lot. The gardens, grounds and enclosures are extremely well kept and the animals were all in very good condition with plenty of space and were happy.

Our return journey took about 1 hour 20 minutes which is double the time it took on arrival - this is due to the fact that your coach has to pick up at a few city centre hotels en-route. I didn't mind though as it gave us a chance to see more of the city and chat to our fellow passengers about what they'd been up to.


Back on board - check in was again extremely speedy and we were greeted with more balloons as we boarded the ship. We headed straight to our room to freshen up before heading to the Columbus lounge for a few drinks and to chat about our day. Although it had been bright and sunny all day, it was again very foggy in port which was very atmospheric as we left port at 5pm.

Heidi setting up her colouring area in the bar as we left Amsterdam

The 7 Seas Restaurant

We had pre-booked and paid for the 7 Seas restaurant prior to our trip (£23.99 per adult, £13 per child, Under 3's eat free). Our pre-booked meal excluding drinks was therefore £87 in total. This is almost exactly the same as the explorer's steakhouse we booked on our outbound journey (read more here). Personally, I much preferred the steakhouse if it was just Steve and I as it was a far more elegant and special experience - with the children though, I preferred the 7 Seas as there was a lot more choice and they could eat as much as they wanted.



We were given a lovely table by the large windows with a sea view - we ordered our drinks and assisted our children at the special children's buffet. This was fantastic for them and they helped themselves to endless chicken nuggets, chips and peas so were very happy. 

Children's meals aboard DFDS Seaways


There are up to 80 dishes to choose from in the 7 Seas and you can have as much or as little as you like. There is a huge selection to choose from. To start we made a seafood platter from the fresh seafood bar with mussels, prawns, langoustines, salmon and sushi and made a plate of Spanish tapas with chorizo, cheeses, olives and tapas pots. We also helped ourselves to the artisan bread that had been baked that afternoon by the on-board baker.

Tapas pots aboard DFDS Seaways



Freshly baked bread

Seafood bar aboard DFDS Seaways


To follow I headed to the Mexican station and filled my plate with tacos, succulent roast pork, cheese, salsas and sour cream whilst hubby decided on doing that typical thing many of us do at buffets and tried a bit of everything - the crispy beef stir fry and pickled herring were particular favourites!

For dessert I tried the many mini-cakes on offer and have to say the raspberry panna cotta was my favourite whilst hubby decided to make his own cheese board with a selection of cheeses, crackers and grapes.

Desserts aboard DFDS Seaways


The children all decided to make their own ice creams - you could choose from about 10 different sprinkles and toppings but of course they wanted them all. Then at the very end Heidi suddlenly remembered to be healthy and brought our table a bowl full of fruit.



We spent almost two hours in the 7 Seas restaurant. It is split into various sections so you never feel crowded and there is so much to choose from that I feel we certainly got our money's worth. Food was continuously replenished by the team of chefs and everything was fresh and piping hot.

By the time we'd finished our meal we were very weary and our beds were calling our name. We headed straight back to our cabin for a final play and read before settling down for the night at about 10pm.


It is hard to believe we only spent four hours in Amsterdam - although we were only in the city for a few hours it still felt like a decent break and as if we'd been away. Because somebody else did all of the driving, navigating, cooking ect..... our whole break was like a holiday and we really had made the most of our time. 

If you are looking for a weekend break with the kids, I would highly recommend you seriously consider a DFDS Seaways mini cruise as an option. You can find out more about booking an Amsterdam zoo mini cruise here. Prices are from £67pp.


Look out for our third and final part of our DFDS Seaways mini series featuring our final morning on board next week.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 
Dragons and Fairy Dust
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28 comments

  1. Your photos are fantastic! I love giraffes too, they're my favourite animal! If you're ever down in the South Heidi would probably love Colchester Zoo, you can feed the giraffes and elephants!

    The tour sounds so well organised, perfect for holidaying with the kids, it must have taken away a lot of the stress!

    x

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    1. Oh sounds fab - we've been to Longleat where you can feed giraffes and think we may head to South Lakes Safari Park this year too where you can do the same. Giraffe's are lovely aren't they!

      The tour was super organised which was perfect for us!

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  2. Ah this looks like a lovely zoo and you all seem to have had lots of fun, I think though I would feel sad that I hadn't been able to enjoy any of Amsterdam, it's such a shame these trips are only sweeping visits, Abigail wants me to take her on one to the Anne Frank house but I reckon that's probably all we would have time to do.

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    1. Yes I know what you mean - we said it was perfect for us and the kids as it was all one huge adventure and there was no stress moving luggage ect....meaning we were free to just have fun. If it was just me and Steve I think we would have booked a hotel for one evening and added a night onto our stay so we could explore. We hope to visit again one day and we'll definitely look into that option x

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  3. It looks like an amazing zoo and the food looks divine! You've made me hungry now ;) Really lovely photos, love the lions x

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    1. The food was gorgeous - I could just eat those tacos again now!

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  4. Looks like SO much fun and the food looks amazing!
    Your children are super cute too!!
    Hope you had a lovely time :)
    Sam xx

    http://www.beautifie.com

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    1. We had a fab time thanks Sam and I agree - our children are definitely super cute :D

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  5. Great photos and your son has gorgeous hair the same colour as my Ieuan's. I have to ask though (being a complete wuss about boats), does anyone in your family get seasick?

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    1. Thanks Linda - this was the first time we had all been on a ship so not sure if we get seasick or not. We were blessed with a smooth crossing and weren't affected at all. I was worried about this before we travelled as last thing I wanted was for our holiday to be ruined. We consulted a pharmacist who gave us some travel sickness tablets to take prior to and during our journey if needed. They work by blocking signals in your brain and are supposed to be very effective. We all took them as we boarded but I don't think we needed them as you couldn't tell we were moving - we didn't need them for the rest of our trip. Hope that helps a bit - might be worth having a chat with your pharmacist xx

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  6. I am so tempted by this - my little boy loves both big ships and animals so this would work both ways.

    #UKBloggers

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    1. Oh the perfect combination for you - our children loved it, in fact we all did xx

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  7. What a lovely adventure with your family. The zoo looks fantastic, so much variety. My two would love something like this!

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  8. Wow. The Zoo looks beautiful! I haven't been to one since I was a kid :P
    xx

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    1. It was a fabulous zoo - definitely one of the best and highly recommended xx

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  9. What a lovely zoo. I love the pelicans and the giraffes

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  10. this looks like a fab mini break for the family, I bet it was lovely for you all to get away on such a sweet little trip. The kids look like they're really enjoying Amsterdam Zoo, there's so many animals there for you to see. It's great that you got to see a bit of Amsterdam from the bus as well. Thanks for linking up with Country Kids.

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  11. What a great trip - and I love that you didn't have to worry about bags. The zoo is definitely on my list for our trip in the summer now.

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  12. The zoo looks great and perfect for a day in Amsterdam with little ones x

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  13. Looks like you had an amazing time! Have always wondered about getting a ferry to Holland, think we will look into it properly! x

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  14. The 7 Seas restaurant sounds fantastic. I'd have spent 2 hours there too. Good to know more about Amsterdam Zoo - we only live a couple of hours away but have never visited that one. Brill photos!

    #TravelTales

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  15. This does look like a great trip, the boat and then the zoo are a perfect combination for children. Your photos are great and the animals are stunning.

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  16. I'd love to go to Amsterdam for a few days, it seems like such a beautiful city. I would definitely head to the zoo if I get to go!!

    Laura x

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  17. I've done Newcastle to Amsterdam but as a girly trip never thought about it as a fmily outing but will definitely consider it now, looks great and brilliant photos.

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  18. Wow, I had no idea you could leave all your stuff in the room while you went ashore. I imagined that you had to pack up and store it in a locker or something and that the ship would return to the UK, and that you'd catch a different one home later that night.

    Clearly I am SO stuck in the past and my idea of 'ferries'. Especially seeing the quality of that buffet, it looks like they're emulating the bigger cruise ships where the journey is half the experience. I had no idea they'd upped their game so much in recent years.

    I definitely need to look in to this more.

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  19. It's a good thing its flat, I've been to so many hilly zoos and it can be really tiring! This sounds like a really good break! Especially with so much to do at the zoo, I might have to look in this one weekend :)

    www.northeastnerd.co.uk

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  20. Sounds like a fantastic trip, and great to hear that the zoo is a so pro-education and conservation. The ship journey sounds like a real treat too. #traveltales

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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