Just like in the supermarket some ferry operators and cruise lines offer 2 for 1 sailings. This means that two people can travel for the equivalent cost of one person sailing.
2 for 1 mini cruises are normally valid for foot passenger fares only so you can't take your car or caravan with you. In any case, a mini cruise is exactly that so you probably wouldn't get all that far in your car even if you could take it. A mini cruise is normally 2 or 3 nights away.
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Where do 2-for-1 mini cruises sail to?
The most common 2 for 1 deals by ferry are as follows:
- DFDS - Newcastle to Amsterdam °
- DFDS - Newcastle to Haarlem ° (normally only available for very selected dates a few times a year)
- P&O Ferries - Hull to Amsterdam °
- P&O Ferries - Hull to Ostend °
- P&O Ferries - Hull to Rotterdam °
- P&O Ferries - Hull to Zeebrugge ° (for Bruges)
Most sailings depart the UK in the early evening and sail overnight, docking in Europe the following morning. You then have much of the day to explore your destination at will. You'll catch the ferry that evening back to the UK and dock early the next morning.
Some offers are strict and only allow the above scenario. Others offer a little more flexibility by delaying your return sailing by a day. You'll need accommodation for that night but it's a great value way to extend your stay if you can get it on a 2-for-1 deal.
When are 2 for 1 mini cruises on sale?
These offers are always popular whenever they are offered so they are used to drum up business when things go a bit quiet. For the North Sea ferries this tends to be in the Winter months when people start thinking about Christmas and in early Spring. Whilst it isn't guaranteed you are most likely able to find 2 for 1 mini cruises on offer between October and March of each year.
If you are looking for a sailing around late September consider holding off (if you can) until October to see if a 2-for-1 deal becomes available.
Is it worth it given the few hours I can spend in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Bruges?
That's up to you. Personally I think it's a great way to have a few days away without it costing a fortune.
Most ferry-based 2-for-1 deals I have seen work out at around £80 per couple over 2 nights. Using those figures that is the equivalent of just £20 per person per night, around the same price of an extremely budget hotel in the UK. For that you get your travel to a European city with plenty of culture and atmosphere to soak up.
You'll typically get around five hours to spend in your destination which doesn't sound a lot. However with a bit of preparation you can cram in an awful lot. Besides, anything you don't manage to see or do this time will give you a great excuse to go again next time!
There's plenty to fill up your time - stock up on souvenirs, explore the museums, have a relaxing lunch, take a stroll around the shops, browse the art galleries, drink a coffee and people-watch, take a sightseeing trip, or do something else entirely...
Will I have to share a cabin with someone else?
Most two for one cruise offers I have seen are based on two people sharing a cabin. Some offers take travelling as a family into account so are able to accommodate four people travelling together (two lots of 2-for-1).
Some offers do contain some interesting terms and I have seen one or two deals whereby if you were travelling solo you may be expected to share a cabin with a fellow solo traveller. This is not normally the case so make sure you read the terms and conditions of any offers to make sure it suits your needs.
Can I sail for half price if I travel alone?
Unfortunately not. 2 for 1 offers are designed for parties usually of two or four to travel. Single travellers would need to pay the standard fare.
In fact, as the cruise and ferry industry is often geared around the logic that a cabin can accommodate at least two people into it, some lines charge an additional single supplement on top of a single ticket.
The argument most often used to justify this is that there is a loss of potential revenue when a single person sails versus at least two people sharing a cabin.
Does 2 for 1 mean a drop in service standards?
Not at all. The 2 for 1 offer is a well rehearsed offer that reliably increases bookings when things start to get quiet for the ferry and cruise lines. You shouldn't notice any difference in service.
Are there any date restrictions?
There may well be a few black-out dates where the 2-for-1 offer isn't available. These are normally for key dates where there's an event going on where the operator needn't slash the price of tickets.
Whilst these types of dates are few and far between, you may well struggle to find availability for many run-of-the-mill dates. As mentioned earlier this offer usually proves to be very well received by travellers and so cabins often fill up very quickly.
Most operators allocate a certain proportion of cabins to the 2 for 1 offer with the remainder being sold to those travelling with vehicles or to solo passengers. This means there are a finite number of cabins available at the discounted rate and these are always offered on a first-come first-served basis.
Book as early as you can when these offers become available to choose from the widest availability.