Duinrell Holiday Park, Netherlands June 2019- Part 1

Back in June my Mom came to visit from the USA and we took the kids to Duinrell Amusement Park in Wassenaar, Netherlands. I had read great reviews and joined a group on Facebook that had tons of information. The trip has now hooked me onto holiday parks. We travel a lot and part of being able to afford so many trips is by staying low budget without compromising the important things (like sight seeing, eating locally etc).

I ended up booking a 3 bedroom Cosy with A/C from Canvas Holidays (at the time they were slightly cheaper than Eurocamp and booking directly with the site). It felt like a bargain for only £350 (I’ve since found that if you book through the Polish Eurocamp site you can pay half that in the off season). I also prebooked with DFDS the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. I tend to do the ferry over the Eurotunnel usually because it’s cheaper and I don’t really mind the town time. I also always book a morning ferry to France and stay the night in Dover which I enjoy.

Dover, England- Night before we leave

We live less than three hours from Dover so I booked my favorite Travelodge that I’ve stayed at 3 times now. It’s close to the waterfront, near the castle and also lots of places to eat within walking distance. It’s a 5 minute drive to the port. We are English Heritage members and hadn’t been to the castle yet so that was our first stop when coming into town. We went to Cullins Yard for dinner and then had dessert at the new dessert place Kaspas which was right next to the hotel (we have one at home and are obsessed).

Dover Castle view from our room at the Travelodge

Arrival Day- Brugge lunch and Checking in

We caught an early ferry to Dunkirk. The ferry takes about 2 hours and gave us time to eat some breakfast, play some cards and just relax. It’s a nice way to see the Cliffs of Dover also. The drive from Dunkirk to Wassenaar is just over 3 hours but we knew we’d want to stop for lunch on the way and decided Brugge would be a nice place to stop since we’d never been there before. I did some research ahead of time and we parked at t’ Zand parking garage, from there it was an easy walk into the center. I knew we wanted waffles so we went to House of Waffles and stopped in the town square and went into some shops (hello chocolate).

We spent a couple hours in Brugge and then were on our way. We didn’t want to arrive too far before check in time at Duinrell because we didn’t want to have to wait. We went the wrong way into the park accidentally going into the area for day guests but relatively quickly found our way in the right direction. Check in was pretty easy, we did have to pay for a tourist tax which was pretty minimal. We had printed passport style photos through Boots before we came so we wouldn’t have to use their photo booth for our passes to get into the park. It was less than £1 for 3 4×6 filled pages and I used this website to resize and print off of. The Tikibad (indoor water park) does cost extra if you don’t book direct with Duinrell, but considering the hundreds we saved I didn’t mind.

Tikibad prices: 5.50EU for 2 hours, 6.50 EU for 3 hours, and 7.50EU for all day (if you leave you have to repay though).

We were booked in the Middenveld area of the holiday park which was very close to the main building with small supermarket and some restaurant options. It was only 5 minute walk to the entrance to the amusement park.

Duinrell Amusement Park

We spent 2-3 days at the amusement park scattered throughout the week. The other days we did day trips. Sometimes we came back and went to the park for just an hour or two. Other days we went to the Tikibad for a couple hours. My kids favorite rides were the swings, the rollercoasters and a ride that was like an airplane. We rode all of these multiple times.

There’s loads of information on the rides and the Tikibad here on Duinrell’s website also.

Delft

We in large part used the holiday park to base camp for day trips around the Netherlands. The first day trip we did was Delft. We drove and parked at one of the parking garages and then walked the shops. It was smaller than I expected and I wasn’t really feeling doing the museums with the kids. We all had fun sampling cheese, doing some shopping, walking the canal some and we had a nice lunch in the square.

Amsterdam

We used the public transportation from the holiday park to go to Amsterdam. In hindsight I feel like I should have just drove because it was pretty expensive in my opinion (16 euros just to get to Den Haag by bus one way, then the train tickets which wasn’t that bad but then another 16 euros for the bus back, it was about 70 euros total for 4 people). Next trip we will either drive to the train station in Voorschoten, use one of the park and rides which is only 1 euro to park in, or park at NDSM and take the free ferry. I’ll update after we do it in next year but leaning towards NDSM.

I had prebooked us tickets for Anne Frank House. They do not offer these tickets same day usually so you have to plan ahead. I was glad we did it and my daughter was the perfect age to really start understanding it. We did a canal cruise which unfortunately the kids got kind of bored of and it took quite a long time. I think next time I will take them to the NEMO museum which I hear is really nice. I thought I’d like Amsterdam more than I did, but I honestly preferred the towns we explored more.

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May 13-15 Sea Day, Le Havre and back to Southampton

May 13 Sea Day

Last Sea Day. I started prepacking and enjoying my last day of relaxation before the last port day and getting home. Nothing too crazy went on. It was getting colder so we used the indoor pool, relaxed, I went to the show. Unlike my last cruise I didn’t really meet any other adults to hang out with which was a bit of a bummer as I really enjoyed being able to do that over our November Magnifica cruise. Today was all the face to face passport control. I wish all cruises did this! Seriously, USA ports should take note. And can I have that job?

May 14 Le Havre

I prebooked us a tour to Honfleur with Bee Le Havre from downtown. It was easy to get to. I had heard the walk was long into Le Havre so took a taxi but I definitely didn’t need to, the walk would have been pretty easy. We had a really nice time eating multiple gelatos and wondering the little shops. Would definitely go back and book with the same company. It was a great deal. There were a ton of rude pushy people, which by this point in my cruise I was just done dealing with and my American came out (shamefully) and I went off on them.

May 15 Southampton

We headed off pretty early and waited on our zone. It was quick and efficient. I called the taxi number given to me with my hotel package, got back to the van quickly and we were on our way. Another cruise in the books. I would definitely book from Southampton again. I did get annoyed by some demographics of people by the end of the cruise. I was tired of cruise food by the end of the cruise also. 15 nights is a long time to eat similar food. We did try Butcher’s Cut which opened late in our cruise and was delicious. The service was way too slow for my American kids who are used to 45 minute meals, lol. We’re definitely looking forward to our next MSC cruise in November.

Last of the Daily programs

May 9-12 Sea Day, Rotterdam, Sea Day, Hamburg

So surprisingly for me, my kids and I all enjoyed the Northern European ports more than the warmer Spain and Portugal ports. I thought for sure they’d enjoy lounging and the beach days but they loved getting out and about in the last three ports: Rotterdam, Hamburg and Le Havre.

May 9, 2019 Sea Day

We’re really boring sea day people. I got a massage which was nice. My son got tired of the kids club and would only go if another English boy was in there which got kind of annoying. I made the decision to allow him to stay in the room alone so I could go to the MDR for dinner because he tended to get bored part way through. It was fun though and we played a lot of Skipbo and ate lots of gelato and cakes from the Phoenician Plaza which was our favorite place to get snacks during the day. Like I mentioned we didn’t have a drink plan and paid as we went. None of the bartenders this cruise were as good as the ones we had on Magnifica though and all were pretty grumpy it felt.

May 10, 2019 Rotterdam

This was my favorite day of the whole cruise. When I was first looking at cruises to take the kids on this was the port that drew me in because one of the big things on my bucketlist (that I actually have written out) was to go to Keukenhof Gardens during tulip season and this cruise fell right before they closed for the season. I was super annoyed that it took until 3:30pm and a very unorganized disembarkation process to get off the cruise. Due to the delay I did the fastest thing which was to take a taxi that was already waiting to the Rotterdam train station. It was 20 euros which was a bit much for a 5 minute ride. No taxis used metered which I thought was ridiculous since they seemed to be the official cabs the port pushes. Uber would have been much cheaper but I didn’t want to wait. We got tickets to Schipol which is where I had prebooked tickets with busfare for the tulip festival. We didn’t get there until around 4:30pm. But it was my favorite thing and it was so amazing that we’re booking a land trip for April 2020 so we can go spend a full day next year.

After Keukenhof we took the bus and then train back to Rotterdam. The city was a lot nicer than I had expected after reading pretty bad reviews on how horrible Rotterdam is from people who were very upset that we weren’t docking in Amsterdam anymore (which I think is super cheap of MSC honestly, raise the fare by 10 euros and go back to Amsterdam, I’m sure people would prefer it). We got some food, went into some shops and walked about 40 minutes back to the ship which was actually really nice in the evening since it was an overnight port.

May 11, 2019 Sea Day

Just another Sea Day of the same thing. My daughter loved the kids club. It’s been a while since I mentioned it but the staff is beyond amazing and honestly the biggest draw to MSC for me until my daughter ages out in a couple years.

May 12, 2019 Hamburg

So we docked into Hamburg on a Sunday which really limits transportation options. I had read up a ton before we left and the consensus is that a taxi or tour/shuttle is necessary. I read about a couple people who walked but that info was hard to find. All the tours didn’t allow me to really choose what to do for the day and the shuttle hours were horrible that MSC offered with the last shuttle departing the city a few hours before we left port. We decided to walk and it was not as bad as everyone says it is.

The walk was super easy. I typed in the Hard Rock into my google maps because I knew it was really close on the other side of the Elbe Tunnel and would send me the right way. The beginning part of the walk was all industrial but was really safe. The tunnel was AMAZING and super cool. Altogether the walk took about 40 minutes, other transport methods would have taken 25 minutes or so but you’d miss the tunnel and it costed a lot more and this was free. If it wasn’t Sunday I’d be tempted to use the ferry boat but it wasn’t an option.

Hamburg I really catered to the kids for the most part. I took them to Planten un Blumen which is an amazing park with beautiful gardens. The playground was awesome and the kids easily killed an hour there. We then walked by the Rathaus and St. Nicholas’ church. Both were really fun and the walk around the city was easy. We did use the metro a couple times when the kids got lazy. The all day ticket was less than 7 euros and the kids were both free with an adult, super cheap compared to some places. The day we were there was also the Harbour Birthday and there was a huge festival that we enjoyed before taking the tunnel back to the ship.

Daily Programs and MSC papers

May 5-9 Cádiz, Malaga and Vigo instead of La Coruna

No excuse, just been slacking off. Hoping to finish off this cruise review so I can do a couple different trips we’ve done in.

May 5, 2019 Cádiz

My main plan for Cádiz was to take a slow day and just relax. I walked the sea edge to La Caleta beach and enjoyed the scenery. There was a nice play area nearby for the kids and a couple ice cream stands for snacks. The weather was nice also and both kids got in the water.

May 6, 2019 Malaga

My plan for Malaga was almost identical to Cádiz but we also went into town away from the beach to check it out. I was pretty amused by the Dunkin Donuts. We spent some time at Playa la Magagueta. It’s right past the pier and super easy to locate. It was pretty enough but lots of rocks and shells to walk over.

May 7, 2019 Sea Day

We spent our sea day relaxing. My daughter went to kids club. I read a book. We played cards… all the normal stuff when you’re cruising solo with two kids honestly.

May 8, 2019 Vigo instead of La Coruna

Due to weather we were rerouted to Vigo. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I had booked Santiago de Compestela privately and was able to get my money back for that. We slept in that morning and then walked into town. There was a small mall with toy store near the pier and we looked around, walked around the local streets and then got back on the ship.

May 3 and 4, 2019… I got busy!

Sea Day May 3, 2019

So I got way behind on doing this cruise review. A short recap… My Mom came and visited and we spent a week in the Netherlands and also went to Chessington amusement park. Then my best friend came and we went to Paris and to Scotland. And then my husband came home after being away for 6 months! I’m really going to try to work on updating while I’m traveling though, but I admit, traveling with a 9 and 10 year old often leaves me exhausted in the evenings.

So the first sea day was really nice. We spent a lot of the day playing at the pool and the water splash area and slide. The weather was warming up and we just took the day easy. We got some gelato which was something we spent money on a couple times a day sometimes. We also got the kids some legos. My daughter (10) also enjoyed a lot of the kids club offerings.

Here’s the daily activities.

Lisbon, Portugal May 4, 2019

I pre-booked a great tour for Lisbon before we got onboard with We Hate Tourism. We booked the Pirates of the Cruise Ships tour. The kids were half price which was definitely an added bonus. Our tour guide was waiting for us and there were no other people with us which was also nice. I would definitely recommend the tour and my favorite stop was definitely Cascais and I wish we could have stayed longer. We were taken to an authentic place for lunch which we all enjoyed also making it a really good deal.

Here’s the daily. Most evenings on port days were spent just relaxing, going to the shows, kids went to the kids clubs (my daughter is SO obsessed) and just enjoying our time together.

Brest, France: May 2, 2019

Our second port day was Brest, France. I’m not sure what the big day trips are from here but I remember that I didn’t see anything that would be for the kids. Early on I’d heard that Oceanopolis was nice for kids. Another aquarium but my kids love aquariums so that was fine. I would say that if we ever stop here in the future I wouldn’t bother getting off.

The ship offered a shuttle bus that you could pay for that dropped off near the city center (1o euros adult, 9 euros child) and the cruise port offered similar for free. Neither really told you before hand where they dropped off. They do say you’re not allowed to walk in the port which was a bit annoying. We couldn’t get a taxi where the port shuttle dropped us so we ended up walking about 2 1/2 miles to Oceanopolis (we took a taxi back). My kids were huge troopers and the walk wasn’t that bad but it did take us right back past the cruise ship (we had to back track about a mile). There were also no taxis at the port which is was a bummer also. Supposedly there is a shuttle from the cruise port to Oceanopolis but after being cut about 10 times by pushy people I gave up on trying to figure it out.

Oceanopolis itself was cute. It wasn’t that expensive either at 36 euros for the three of us. They had all the normal stuff including penguins, nice play area, and a couple good gift shops and snack places. It wasn’t as nice as the aquarium in Genoa but we enjoyed it even after our hour long walk to get there. We asked the people at the ticket center to call us a taxi back and it came pretty quickly back to the ship.

Nemo fish at Brest Aquarium

The taxi had no trouble getting us back into the port. It was about 20 euros. We decided to grab a crepe while we waited to board. The queue wasn’t too bad.

Definitely have to get crepes in France!

Once back on the ship kids went off into the kids clubs which they love. My daughter definitely prefers it more. Part way through my son didn’t want to go for dinner and would only go if one specific kid he met was in there. But he still went there for at least a bit every day. My daughter was the kid that from the time we were on the boat in the afternoons she wanted to be at the kids club until they closed around 11pm. Did I mention how amazing the kids clubs are? They do face paint all the time and all the staff are just AMAZING!

Always taking selfies on my phone! But the face paint is always cute.

May 1, 2019 St. Peter Port, Guernsey

This was the rainiest day of the cruise but it wasn’t too bad honestly. I admit, I was born and raised in Florida so if it’s not a down pour I think it’s easily manageable. We decided to sleep in because we didn’t have an excursion or anything booked for the day. It was also the one and only tender port of the cruise. We got to the lounge to get our tender tickets around 9:30 and didn’t get off until around 11:30. Seemed a bit crazy and insane honestly. We had tender number 14 and they were on number 5 when we got to the Platinum Theater. Anyways, my kids were already in a bad mood by the time we finally got the tender over after waiting so long. After talking to others I think I just had REALLY bad timing as the tours all left around the same time I guess.

We just walked around locally in town. I stopped at M&S and a Boots to pick up some snacks for the ship (sodas and crisps mainly). We shopped for a little bit. Saw the Town Church which was very cute and then the dreary weather led us back onto the boat. I would have really liked to see some of the occupation stuff and I’d definitely plan a long weekend back and rent a vehicle to really get around easily.

Town Church, Guernsey
St Peter Port, Guernsey
B and K… pretty much explains how the day went

Once back on the ship I got a scone from the Phoenician Plaza (which would be my favorite place during the cruise), kids wanted to go to the kids club for a bit and then we went to dinner. I didn’t do too much for evening entertainment. I caught up on reading and just enjoyed a lot of quiet time. Funny that late that night these showed up after dinner which wasn’t very helpful! I forgot that priority tender was a perk of my loyalty membership with MSC… probably could have skipped that 2 hour wait getting off. Oops.

Priority Tender Ticket that came after we’d already left the port.