Again our journey started in Sheffield and we took an early morning East Midlands train to London, St Pancras to board the Eurostar to Brussels and then take the Thalys train to Amsterdam, where we boarded the ‘Lord Byron‘.
Our journeys on the trains from Sheffield to Brussels provided a good start to our 5 day holiday, unfortunately our experience on the Thalys train could have had a reverse effect. When we boarded the train in Brussels we together with a number of our fellow travellers found that all the available luggage racks were full. As this trains stop over in Brussels was only for a few minutes we had to quickly decide where to place our luggage, the only options available being to block the aisle or the opposite exit door. The train attendent was extremely unhelpful and appeared to be more concerned about keeping to the train time schedule, than be of assistance to us. As he was no help, we had no option but to decide to place the luggage blocking the opposite exit door, as the best option. Then for the next few stops until Amsterdam, move the luggage from one exit door to the other, depending on which side the platform was.
This could have easily have created a bad experience and impression of our holiday, but after all it was outside the responsibility of the tour company. This was more than compensated for when we viewed and boarded the ‘Lord Byron’ at Amsterdam. We were greated by the crew, who made us feel extemely welcomed by their friendly manner. Throughout the cruise the crew continued to make our stay extremely enjoyable, they were ever attentive and could not do enough for you.
The accommodation and all the other facilities on board were first class and the food superb. During the early hours of the next morning we slipped our moorings at Amsterdam and set sail for our first port of call, being Hoorn. During breakfast we docked at Hoorn and then the rest of the morning was available to view the sights of Hoorn and then return to the Lord Byron for lunch.
Hoorn is a very picturist Dutch small town, which has not been overly altered for tourists, it retaining most of the old Dutch charm.
During lunch we should have been setting sail to Enkhuizen, but due to the weather, strong winds causing it unsafe to sail, we remained moored at Hoorn for the rest of the day. So that we could still visit Enkhuizen coaches were arranged and we were still, therefore able to spend the afternoon in Enkhuizen and then return to Hoorn for dinner aboard the Lord Byron.
Again Enkhuizen is a picturist Dutch town, retaining many of the features of Dutch architecture.
Over night we should have sailed to Volendam, but again due to the same weather condition we had to remain at Hoorn. So again after breakfast coaches were arranged to transport us to Volendam so we could still see the sights of Volendam and then return to the Lord Byron for lunch.
Volendam is another Dutch town, where behind the promenade frontage you find many Dutch artchitecture. Unfortunately, for my taste the promenade frontage had under gone some alteration for a tourist feel.
After lunch we went back to the coaches to take us to Keukenhof gardens, which should have taken us through the bulb fields showing the tulips in full bloom. Unfortunately due to the weather conditions over the last few months this had restricted the growth of the tulips and only a few areas were showing any tulips in bloom. This was not the situation at Keukenhof gardens where we were able to walk through the various gardens and other attractions and see the splendour of all the floral displays.
After viewing the sights of Keukenhof gardens we returned to the Lord Byron for dinner.
While each of the Dutch towns of Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Volendam were, in their own way, worth a visit, I did feel that if you had difficulty walking or it caused you some discomfort, the amount of walking to view these towns could easily cause you to become tired. No organised walking tours were offered and you were free to explore, with the aid of a map, at your own leisurely pace.
Normally you would not have a return time in the case of Enkhuizen and Volendam as you would be returning directly to the Lord Byron. Unfortunately, in our case, due to the limitations for sailing caused by the weather, we had to return to coaches to bring us back to the Lord Byron.
While at Volendam some other tour operators did conduct their own walking tour, however, this means your pace is that of the guide and not your own.
While the Keukenhof gardens are well worth a visit and to view all the areas sufficiently would require more time than we had during the afternoon, you will experience a considerable amount of walking. That been said, there are many rest and refreshment areas in which you can rest and regain your energy. A guided walk of the gardens was available, should you wish to use the facility, but again the pace is that of the guide. We did take up the offer, but soon lost the guide as the pace was too much for ourselves and we continued to wander through the gardens at our own pace and using the map as a reference.
The next day we were due back at Amsterdam and as the weather had improved we set sail for Amsterdam during breakfast and docked there a few hours later.
After docking, canal cruisers had been moored near by to enable for the canal cruise to commence. After the cruise arround some of the canals of Amsterdam we were returned to the Lord Byron for lunch.
After lunch, for those who wished to, you could venture into Amsterdam and view the sights at your leisure before returning to the Lord Byron for dinner
It is my view, but I would have wished for an organised, may be optional extra, open top bus tour through Amsterdam. While this was available to book as an individual, if the booking had been through the tour operator we may have been able to hire the bus for the tour party and, if so, the commentary would have been featured in, solely, English. But this in no way detracts from viewing the sights of Amsterdam, which are well worth seeing.
Unfortunately the next day, after breakfast we had to depart the Lord Byron to start our journey back to the UK. Again this meant catching the Thayls train from Amsterdam to Brussels. Again there was insufficient luggage space and therefore the luggage was placed in front of the opposite exit door. However, on this occasion the train attendant was more understanding of the situation and appeared to accept we had no alternative. Then on to the Eurostar back to London St Pancras and then for ourselves the East Midlands train back to Sheffield.
All in all a very good relaxing holiday from which there were many sights to see and every opportunity to relax when you wished to. I would recommend this tour to others, but you will have to take into consideration that some walking will be required, all be it most at your own pace.