In the latter part of 2013, it was decided to hold a meeting, and the vote became clear that Amsterdam would be the chosen location. Another vote decided the dates for the weekend, and since it had been some years since I last attended such a gathering, I decided to attend. Amsterdam is quite close to my home of Norwich, and KLM flights can be fairly reasonable when booked as a return ticket with Saturday night away, but I wanted to make it a little more interesting. I wanted to try out the "Dutch Flyer" service for some time, and this was the excuse I needed. It consists of the last integrated rail / ferry ticket between the UK and the European mainland, and is the train from anywhere in the Anglia region, ferry ticket on the Harwich - Hoek van Holland ferry, and continuing train to anywhere in the Netherlands. There is a day sailing and an overnight sailing, the night boat having an obligatory cabin. I decided to take the Friday night ferry, arriving on the Saturday morning, and fly back (another EasyJet flight booked with Nectar points)
Route, courtesy of www.gcmap.com
Once the children were in bed, I left and made my way on foot to the station. I would usually walk unless I had large bags - in this case I was hand-baggage only.
At the station, my train on the left
On the train
From the window
The carriage. Note the operator logo
I opted to change trains at Ipswich, to take the once-per-day service from Peterborough that continues to Harwich International, rather than the other options which required a change at Manningtree instead.
On the Harwich train
The train was non-stop from Ipswich to Harwich, the final stop, and there were two people in my carriage, myself included. The other passenger asked if he could borrow my phone to call a taxi, so very few Dutch Flyer passengers (the name of the combined rail+ferry ticket)
First view of the ship
The train, a Class 170 DMU
Inside the station, I followed the signs for departures. It was deserted. I was waved past the security X-Ray machine, to the "check in" desk. I glanced down when the agent asked my name, to see a list of just 10 passengers booked (including me). Bear in mind this was a Friday night crossing before a Bank Holiday weekend - I was surprised at how little used it was. I was given a key to my cabin, and a Dutch Railways ticket valid to any station.
Dutch Railways ticket
Very long "Finger gate"...
Here's the ship
Onboard, cabins from the middle of the ship
My cabin, a single (actually two berth) inside cabin
Looking back towards the door and bathroom
I then went on deck, to have a look around.
Outside smoking area
Part of the lorry deck
Back to the port
Where the ship was built
Outside basketball court
One of the bars, back inside
Route map (chart)
Another bar. There were about 5 on board
Model of the ship
A cup of tea and a muffin before bed
I then went back to my cabin for the night. I didn't even turn on the TV, but was thankful for the power sockets to charge my phone. It seemed all too quickly, that the ship's tannoy announced that we would soon be docking in Hoek van Holland.
The same truck deck as above - now filled with freight
Getting closer to the port
It should be said at this point that although the number of passengers on rail+sail tickets were very few, the ferry itself was packed with people. I imagine most were car and coach passengers, truck drivers, and foot passengers just travelling on Harwich - Hook tickets. After disembarking, the queue for passport control for foot passengers took over 45 mintues! There were 3 desks open, but the number of people was immense. (Also, coach passengers had to disembark here - only cars could go through the vehicular passport control)
The ship in daylight
A local train waiting at the station right outside the ferry terminal, bound for Schiedam (not the usual destination of Rotterdam due to track works)
Inside the train
I decided to take a little walk around Schiedam during the hour between trains to Amsterdam. It was a pleasant small city, indeed it has become a mere suburb of Rotterdam.
Canal. Note the tram tracks to the left - the line became grass covered a little further on.
I bought a sandwich and a hot drink from a small shop at the station, and boarded the next Intercity for Schiphol Airport, and Amsterdam.
Double decker train. Where have we seen that logo before?...
The group had agreed to meet on the rooftop viewing terrace, by the Fokker 100. In celebration of the event, Suryo had made a delicious cake.
From the viewing terrace
Plane on the roof
Suryo and the famous cake
The cake. Gooey with a tasty custard inside!
After some time watching movements, the group headed inside to the cafe for lunch, after which we all adjourned to the car park, where the kind owners of locals with vehicles ferried us to a massive aviation hobby shop / warehouse.
Inside the hobby shop
The next stop of the day was a place to spot planes right by the Polderbaan, however I didn't have enough time before my return flights, so I was kindly dropped off near a bus route back to the terminal. I had realised by now that I had forgotten to pre-book a window seat on the Easyjet flight, so I asked at the sales desk how much it would cost. On being told an astronomical fee (all windows except emergency exit seats had been taken) I declined - it was a very short flight after all. I then went through passport control to find the lounge - the Servisair Menzies lounge.
KQ - dedicated to EastAfSpot
Being a hot day, I stuck to soft drinks
Snacks. There wasn't a big food selection at all - this is most of it.
Apron from the lounge
It was soon time to head to the gate, bearing in mind AMS has security at each gate. And Easyjet use the furthest pier.
On the way to the gate
Seat: 20C (Economy)
First view of my aircraft
After security, in the holding pen
The best way to board
Heading to the rear stairs
Under the wing, you know
Top of the steps
My aisle seat
The flight was uneventful - very short, the crew barely had time to make a BOB run. I didn't buy anything.
Back on the ground at Stansted
Onto the train home
In conclusion, then, I can highly recommend the Dutch Flyer train + ferry combination ticket. For the daytime crossing, it is usually much cheaper than a flight, and there's usually availability on the day. Overnight, it works out very favourably factoring in the cabin.
Easyjet did the job, simple short flight.
And the meeting, it was great to see you all again, and some for the first time!