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Although I have been The Ferryman for many years, the name has only the remotest link with an actual ferry boat, I'll tell you about it some time, and I haven't had any reason to take the ferry connection forward.

I have always travelled on ferries, of course, occasionally cross channel, from Dover to Calais, once from Spain to Morocco, although more frequently Scottish island ferries, both mainland to island and inter-island.

One of my most striking memories is taking the early morning ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Lochmaddy on North Uist, on my way to Benbecula, which was the Dark Island of the radio series, and its excellent accompanying music. Even the vandalised phone box in Uig couldn't mar the experience of gliding gently over the mirror surface of the Little Minch. It was an absolute flat calm, quite idyllic, and I wasn't even going to the isle of Harris, which I always think is the most strikingly beautiful place in the whole of the UK.

Anyway, that happy memory was not the reason for adding the ferry booking service to the growing list of services on this website. It was prompted by a really excellent time I had aboard the Queen of Scandinavia, the ship, of course, not the actual Queen, whom I have never boarded, and there isn't one anyway, to my knowledge.

The occasion of my experience on this ship, which I think is most properly called a cruise ferry, was a marketing event organised by the owners DFDS Seaways. We sailed from North Shields, just north of Newcastle, over to Ijmuiden, which is just a short coach journey from the centre of Amsterdam. Visiting Amsterdam itself is another story, I'll stay with the ship for the time being.

I had never quite understood what the attraction was in cruising, although it is very popular, I know, particularly among the better off, and those tending towards later years, to put it as politely as I can. I had heard stories of having to take two sets of clothes with you, one for the first week and your next clothes size up for the second week, which gives some inkling of the standard of food expected on board.

What I found on this mini cruise was an excellent buffet, although perhaps buffet doesn't do it justice, it was verging on being a feast. There really was something for everyone, not just one choice, but enough to enable each type of diner, the fish lover, the vegetarian, etc, to say they had quite an excellent choice of dishes to sample. The selection of fish dishes was excellent, and the rest, right through to the ice cream, was more than enough. I mention the ice cream because as well as a choice of several different flavours of ice cream, there was even a selection of sprinkles for you to adorn it.

What I liked, though, was the fact that wherever you were on the ship, you could have been in a quite different location. In the bars, you didn't have the impression of a normal bar on a ferry boat, it was more like being in an upmarket bar in any major city, complete with an excellent American singer and guitarist, who even managed to delight his audience in response to such an obscure request as a U2 song in the style of Johnny Cash..

The same with the night club area, where there was a cabaret, not all of which was of the highest standard, but quite enjoyable, though. Again, it could have been a city night club. Various bars, disco and other entertainments meant there was no need for anyone to finish enjoying themselves until well into the morning.

On both journeys, the weather was flat calm, so it was difficult to assess how well or otherwise the ship would have been in rough weather. It was so smooth during the very slight variations from the calm that I think it would be fine in all but the most severe of conditions. It was quite misty both ways, but as we travelled at night, this made little difference, and the captain wouldn't have been able to see where he was going in the dark, anyway, so I assume he had some instruments and dials and things which must have been effective as we got there and back safely.

Whether you would like to try a mini cruise or whether you are taking your car over for a longer holiday, do consider DFDS at Newcastle, I would recommend them.
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