During summer 2016, our team went to Scotland by sailing aboard Princess Seaways, a 30 year-old ship operated by DFDS Seaways. This sailing report is about our unforgettable experience aboard this ship, between the Netherlands and the north of Great Britain.
33 years ago, a new ship, whose name was inspired by a J.M. Barrie novel, was launched in Germany: Peter Pan. Once completed, Peter Pan, which was ordered by TT-Line, entered service on 6th February 1986 between Travemünde and Trelleborg. However, due to her owner falling into bankruptcy, she only spent a few years on that route. Therefore, in October 1993, she was transferred to Australia for service between Devonport and Melbourne under the name Spirit of Tasmania.
She was purchased by Fjord Line in 2003 and went back to Europe, prior to a large refurbishment that turned her into a night ferry instead of a day ferry, meaning extra-cabins were added whilst passenger seats were removed. Renamed Fjord Norway, she initially entered service on a route serving four ports, with three of them located on the norwegian coasts.
Fjord Norway was moved to the Newcastle - Stavanger - Bergen route in late 2005, before being purchased by DFDS Seaways a year later. She was then renamed Princess of Norway.
In 2007, Princess of Norway swapped routes with Queen of Scandinavia, in order to be operated on the IJmuiden - North Shields route alongside one of her sister ships, King of Scandinavia. Princess Seaways eventually took her current name in 2011, after a large refurbishment.
Late-July 2016, we were to go to Scotland. In order to cut the distance between our port of arrival in Great Britain and Scotland, we decided to book our ferry crossing with the word-leading Danish company DFDS, which provides a convenient daily Amsterdam - Newcastle service. This was also an occasion to sail aboard a ship we have never sailed aboard: Princess Seaways. As we have booked our crossing months before sailing, we got a very affordable price, thanks to DFDS’ fares policy.
When we arrived at the Ferguson Ferry Terminal of IJmuiden (the city where is located the actual ferry terminal of Amsterdam), Princess Seaways was already there, as the ship arrives in the morning from Newcastle, leaving the crew plenty of time to clean the ship’s premises and to maintain her. Boarding began a long time before the ship’s departure, leaving passengers time to settle stress-free aboard and crew an ability to pay attention to the careful boarding of the passengers’ cars.
It was soon our turn to be parked on deck 5, where the crew was paying a very careful attention to the car’s parking, in order to prevent any damage, which is really appreciable. This implies leaving 2 meters between two cars on the same line, enabling the doors of the cars located on the side lanes to open their doors freely, although this reduces the ship’s car carrying capacity.
Some cabins are located on both sides of deck 04 and 05, enabling passengers to access them directly from the car deck. Ours was on deck 05. This walk to the cabin is the passengers’ first impression of the ship’s premises, which are in a very good condition for a 30-years old ship. Moreover, although these cabins are located next to the cars, they are well soundproof, ensuring people can quietly enjoy their crossing.
Whilst departure approaches, many passengers head to the outdoor decks of Princess Seaways to enjoy the sight. Princess Seaways offers wide outdoor decks, and many passengers have already arrived when we came out on the deck. A crew member was just finishing refreshing the repaint of a part of the superstructure. It immediately testifies of how much DFDS pays attention to its ships.
Once the last trailers were parked in the car deck, the ship smoothly set sail to Newcastle almost on time by 17:00 CET.
IJmuiden is located at the end of Amsterdam’s channel, with the ferry terminal being built just next to the locks. The place is quite industrialised, with many refineries. On the other hand, many popular beaches edges the coast, whilst the ferry terminal is protected by a small Island. It makes it a surprising place, from which Princess Seaways takes away smoothly.
Once IJmuiden is just a dot on the horizon, three hours remain before the sunset, leaving passengers plenty of time to enjoy the wide choice of aboard amenities. These have kept being refurbished regularly since the ship began service with DFDS Seaways, in order to offer a high top-of-the class passenger experience.
Princess Seaways deckplan is organised around the Guest Service centre (the classy name of what is usually called the Information Desk), located on mid-deck 06. The fore part of this deck is entirely dedicated to cabins, whereas its aft-part is dedicated to aboard accommodations.
DFDS has chosen for the decoration of its ship a very maritime atmosphere. Indeed, it is based mainly on blue and white. Moreover, the walls are decorated with plenty of copies of promotional posters released by the danish company since its establishment. Eventually, plenty of ship models are exposed throughout the corridors.
This harmonious decoration enable Princess Seaways' passengers to really feel at sea, and therefore to enjoy their crossing at its upmost.
Several bars are proposed aboard Princess Seaways. The main one, the Colombus Club, is located on deck 08. It is a wide area which offers a lot of space for passengers to rest and a stage for live entertainment. This place was refurbished only a few months after our visit aboard, making it much nicer.
In addition, several smaller bars, namely the Navigators Bar and Compass Bar are proposed alongside the Colombus.
On top of that, Princess Seaways offers a one-off bar located around the ship’s funnel, the Sky Bar. At summer times, it offers passengers the possibility to have a drink with a very wide view towards the horizon, even at the sunset.
We then were able to visit the ship’s operational spaces, among them the bridge. We were guided from the Guest Service Centre to the Bridge by a helpful crew. The watch was supervised by a kind officer. Princess Seaways’ wheelhouse is an impressively modern area we would not have expected aboard a 32-year-old ship. Indeed, as the rest of the ship, it has obviously been refurbished several times, and equipped with the most modern navigation equipments available.
On the opposite side of the wheelhouse is located the Engine Room. Once again, the place has been well-maintained over the years and does not betray Princess Seaways' age.
Just next to the engine control room is located the auxiliary engine room, which provides electricity to the entire ship. Princess Seaways has four of these, with only three of them being required at any time. This duplication enables the crew to maintain the engines whilst being at sea. By the bye, one of the auxiliary engine was being renovated at the time.
These operations ensure the ship is ready to sail at any time in any conditions, whilst reducing the time spent in dry dock each year.
On the next room are located the main engines. They were in an impressive condition we would have never expected, although they have been working for 32 years. Indeed, the entire engine room was looking to be in such condition. This highlights how much DFDS pays attention to the perfect maintenance of their fleet.
When we left the engine room, it was already time to eat. Princess Seaways features a unusual wide choice of restaurants for a cruise ferry ; with a self service restaurant, an a la carte restaurants, a steak house, a buffet and even a pizzeria which was added only a few months before. We choose to try the pizzeria, where we were served by a once again helpful and efficient staff. The pizzas cooked aboard are as tasteful as the ones you could expect to find in a pizzeria, although I personally found the bases to be slightly too thicker.
The night begin to fall shortly after most passengers have finished their dinner. Thanks to the clear sky, passengers can enjoy a superb orange sky above the ship’s wake. Some passengers enjoy the sunset at the middle of nowhere from the one-of skybar.
Whilst some passengers go to the Colombus to enjoy the live entertainment proposed in the evening, some others get back to their cabins to enjoy a quiet night at sea. Passengers are rocked throughout the night by the difficult-to-hear enjoyable engines’ purring, which can slightly be heard from their cabin, especially for those located at deck 04 and 05. Thanks to its good sea keeping ability, Princess Seaways almost does not roll, which is enough to rock quietly the 1 400 passengers.
The following morning, passengers wake up long before the arrival in Newcastle, after Princess Seaways has sailed bravely the main part of the route between IJmuiden and Newcastle at 18 knots. It however remains passengers plenty of time to enjoy their breakfast and the approach to the harbour. The sun was shiny on that day, enabling passengers to enjoy the beautiful landscape from the Seven Seas restaurant which is serving the breakfast. Its buffet offers a wide choice of with-finesse-cooked pastries, and proposes a luxuriant English breakfast.
Once passengers have finished their breakfast and whilst Captain heads slightly the ship towards the harbour of Newcastle, many passengers to the outdoor deck to enjoy the final approach.
The approach of North Shileds’ harbour, which is the closest harbour to Newcastle, is made after the ship has sailed along for the while the British coasts. The harbour, which is located further back of the Tyne's estuary, is protected by two long piers with a lighthouse at the end of each. Small fishing harbour are settled on both sides of the channel beyond these pears, with DFDS cruise ferries sailing quietly between both. However, the area becomes little by little more industrialised as the ships becomes closer to the ferry terminal.
A cruise liner was already berthed when Princess Seaways arrived. After having sailed in a few hours 310 miles, Princess Seaways begins shortly her manœuvre in order to berth at her linkspan. The ferry terminal has two of them, and offers more room than IJmuiden’s to welcome the 550 cars Princess Seaways can accommodate.
After a smooth manoeuvre in the harbour, it is already time for the ship to open its stern doors after a very relaxing cruise between the Netherlands and the North of England. Disembarkation is made efficiently, enabling people to quickly begin reaching their destination after a very relaxing crossing. For those heading to Scotland, North Shields (which is located 20 minutes from Newcastle) is the best-located harbour, being only an hour and a half far from the border to Scotland, and two and a half hours from Edinburgh.
Moreover, for those who wants to only have a day in England, DFDS proposes a popular mini-cruise option. These passengers are picked up directly at the entrance of the ferry terminal by a dedicated double-decker bus which goes directly to the centre of Newcastle, and seems to be very popular.
For us, it was time to leave a ship we would not have expected to find in such great condition, which has left us unforgettable memories.
We would like to thanks the captain, the officers and the crew of Princess Seaways for this incredible crossing aboard one of the finest ferry sailing in Northern Europe, and look forward to sail on her again.