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More help with pre-tour planning

Thanks to all who helped with my prior request. Now I have a new conundrum. We are taking BOE 21 which starts in Amsterdam. But we will arrive 5 days early in London. Our original plan was to take the euro-star from St. Pancrais to Amsterdam Central arriving at noon the day before our tour starts. But we are now thinking of an alternative transportation option. We were thinking of altering the trip and taking the Stena Line overnight ferry. My wife fondly recalls her overnight ferry trip when she toured Europe as a high school student. The ferry leaves at 11 pm from Harwich and arrives at 8 am in Hook of Holland. It get us into Haarlem for the start of the tour around noon. That would give us an extra day in London but would take away a day in Amsterdam. I am also concerned because most of the advice says get to your tour origination city at least a day a head of time. It adds a little more complication but also a little adventure. Any advice?

Posted by
19160 posts

One thing you need to know is how often those ferries get canceled for reasons of weather, etc. I don't know the answer, but I've had shockingly bad luck (2 of 5 ferries canceled) on trips between southern England, the Channel Islands and France.

Personally, I'd take the ferry one day earlier.

Posted by
26010 posts

which month are you taking the tour?

Posted by
709 posts

Eurostar London to Amsterdam is so relaxing, city center to city center. I would stick with that. No experience with ferry.

Posted by
8384 posts

TBH, my first thought is that this tour is pretty strenuous and I'd not want to start it with the possibility that I might not have gotten a good night's sleep on the ferry over or have some kind of travel delay. I'd go with the original plan, get settled into your hotel the day before and walk around Haarlem to get oriented. Your first full day of touring will be Amsterdam and that's one of the places someone measured the mileage at 12 miles for just group activities. It's really a busy day.

The only experience with the ferry was years ago from Ostend to Dover/Ramsgate at Christmas time and it was awful...but there was a winter storm which caused extremely rough seas.

I also started my 21BOE in London and came over a day ahead via Eurostar/Thalys. I really wish I had come 2 nights before because I did not allow enough time to see anything in Haarlem. I spend the morning of the day the tour started in Amsterdam but felt pretty rushed in getting back in time for the meet up.

Posted by
26010 posts

If you will be early May you might give consideration to adding a day so you can get to Keukenhof for the tulips.

The weather in the Channel is usually reasonably calm in May but there can be an occasional storm sent over the Atlantic.

I've only made the Harwich to Hook of Holland trip on the old jet ferry which was fast but no longer works that route - it is a large slow overnight or all day RoRo ferry now so I can't speak to the sleeping accommodations but our old mate at Seat 61 can - https://www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm discusses both the boat and train options.

If I were going I would take the through Eurostar from St Pancras International. I understand your priorities will be different.

Posted by
26010 posts

May has two bank holidays in the UK, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end, and France has a lot in May. It is wise not to allow those to interfere with your travel or be prepared to pay for the privilege both in money and convenience because both bank holidays have many many locals travelling and costs shoot up.

Posted by
7599 posts

Arriving at noon for a tour that starts at 3 is shaving it close. Checking in, freshening up etc.. ( assuming all goes per plan)

Not something I would choose to do.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all for your thoughtful input. It helped a ton. We are going by train to make sure we get there well rested.

Posted by
3510 posts

I am so glad that you made the choice of the train. You will have so much to do on this tour, I don't think you will feel like you have missed out on anything.

Posted by
8384 posts

Oh good! I'm with Carol and am glad you've made that decision!

Posted by
14399 posts

It seems to me that the reason RS advises to arrive the day before the tour begins is the assumption that most participants plan to arrive from the US at the beginning of the tour. Thus arriving one day early means they won't be late because of delays and they will have a night on the ground after an overnight transatlantic flight so they won't be zonked.

Posted by
2751 posts

I think Chani is right about the reason for arriving early. You will have already adjusted to the time shift by being in London for 5 days. I've not taken the overnight ferry, but it is something I would do, and have looked at it as an option. That being said, I'd just make sure there was an alternative way to get to Haarlem if the ferry was cancelled. It seems to me you could still take the Eurostar the next morning and arrive on time? Although granted the Eurostar tickets will be more expensive on the day of travel, but perhaps worth it nonetheless.

Hold Harmless: I am one of those people who arrive at appointments, etc. early. I'd do the ferry, but the night before.

Posted by
8384 posts

I'll just add that on my 21BOE I'd been to London for a few days and then took the train to Amsterdam/Haarlem the day before with no problems. There was a couple who also did days ahead in London. They were flying from Gatwick to AMS the day the tour started, plane got cancelled, airline had them go from Gatwick to Heathrow to catch a flight to AMS from there which was also delayed. They missed the first night activities after arriving about 10PM.

So...in my opinion the suggestion to arrive a day ahead is not always due to the need to get over jet lag. In thinking about it, I'd say about half the tours I've been on (11 Rick tours, 11 Road Scholar tours) have had people miss parts or all of first evening activities due to travel delays.

I, too, am risk averse so I'm always early, lol!