Swiss Railways train in Zurich Station
It was April 1st when I made my first trip on the Harwich – Hoek van Holland ferry since 2020. Because of other commitments I found it convenient to stay the night in a hotel in Dovercourt and use the day sailing, coming back to England on the night sailing April 2nd/3rd.
I checked out of the hotel at 07.00 (before breakfast), bought a newspaper at a supermarket and, in an unseasonable snow shower, walked down to the station. Although I had checked on the Greater Anglia website and on the one timetable poster at the station, the trains were not running to the advertised timetable. The electronic screen showed a 07.20 departure to Harwich Town instead of a 07.18 to Manningtree so I boarded that for the 2 minutes ride to the end of the line and return ride to Harwich International, picking up at least 30 commuters at Dovercourt and even more at the next station. No one checked my ticket on this short train ride.
I was thus in the ferry terminal at 07.35 and had to present my passport and e-ticket at the Tickets & Reservations counter to receive a boarding pass. The cafe had been closed for quite a while but there were some drinks machines and an ATM.
A dozen of us were waiting and were admitted at 07.50 and after the habitual X-ray check simply used the walkway on to the Stena Hollandica. A few more foot passengers followed. Reporting to the guest service desk on the ship, I asked if they sold Rotterdam metro tickets but was politely told I would need to use the ticket machine at Hoek van Holland station. I have since emailed Stena’s customer services asking if they can start selling these tickets again, in the interests of better seamless travel. The Barista bar and the self-service restaurant were open and I obtained a continental breakfast at the latter (which was also offering a full English).
The ferry was scheduled to sail at 09.00 but at 09.30 lorries were still driving on board and an announcement came through the public address system apologising for the delay but assuring us that arrival at Hoek van Holland would still be on time.
The vessel eventually cast off at 09.55 and by 10.15 we were passing Landguard Point and heading out into the open sea. An announcement from the captain had told us that the northeasterly wind was making waves but that we would later reach calmer waters.
The crossing was completed in just 6 hours and 16 minutes in rough seas, which may explain why I experienced symptoms of seasickness. That crossing to scheduled to take 7 hours 15 minutes.
After a 20-minute wait, we foot passengers were allowed to disembark at Hoek van Harwich Haven and after negotiating the ticket machine with my VISA card the next hurdle was a bracing 500-meter walk to a temporary platform because of engineering work to extend the metro to Hoek van Holland Strand. The new station on the extension is almost complete, however, and so passengers arriving from England, as well as the many local Dutch commuters, will soon have only a few meters to walk.
The metro (or tram or light-rail train) was just arriving and I decided to continue on it through to Alexander. This would avoid changes at both Schiedam and Rotterdam Centraal. This metro journey took 50 minutes but was not overcrowded; and a 10-minute change at Alexander onto a busy Inter City train brought me three stops later to my destination, Amersfoort, at 20.01.
On the Saturday afternoon, after my meeting in Amersfoort, I decided to travel all the way to Rotterdam Centraal and then use my metro card. It was easy to go the two stops to Beurs but less user friendly when I had to negotiate two barriers to change to another line and I found that my stored value ticket needed re-charging. A friendly and helpful RET employee did this for me and I was able to board the metro for the return journey to Hoek van Holland. On balance it is probably better to go one stop by NS from Rotterdam Centraal to Schiedam Centraal and then use metro line B.
The return crossing was much calmer, I was able to have a pleasant three-course meal in the restaurant and a good night’s sleep. After a simple breakfast in the Barista bar, I was on dry land at 06.30 and the Greater Anglia train home at 07.20.