After years of waiting until the last minute to arrange how to see in the New Year, Andrew White decided to do something a little different

IS it too soon to start making plans for New Year's Eve? If you're anything like me, I tend to spend the last few days before the annual end of year shindig desperately trying to work out how best to celebrate it. People don't seem to make the effort these days and over the years I've lost count of the number of times I've heard the phrase: "New Year's Eve isn't what it used to be."

It was this thought process which led myself and my partner Frances to do something a little different last year, sort ourselves out early – and literally push the boat out.

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That was how, as the midnight bongs chimed, we found ourselves holding a glass of champers on the deck of a ferry watching a spectacular fireworks display over one of Europe's premier cities.

It was a memorable and special evening, the highlight of our trip across the North Sea, courtesy of a DFDS mini-cruise to Amsterdam. Our hosts had clearly intended to provide a party atmosphere for passengers – and they certainly delivered.

A red carpet, an ice sculpture and a glass of bubbly greeted us as we prepared to get ready for of the big night. We had opted for the à la carte menu and even the crew in the up-market restaurant where we had enjoyed our superb meal joined in the fun. With a mix of different nationalities, they were able to celebrate the turn of the year at the appropriate time for their countries of origin, which made for a relaxed atmosphere throughout.

Live music, a (limited) free bar and, finally, a prime view of the pyrotechnic display over Amsterdam as midnight arrived contributed to a heady mix, which most on board took full advantage of. A New Year to savour, for sure.

Our adventure had started in North Shields on December 30 when we boarded the vessel that was to be our home until the following year. After settling in, a quick whizz around assured us there would be plenty to do while on board, with a healthy selection of bars, cafes and restaurants. Our en-suite cabin was compact, but perfectly adequate, and we soon settled in. The trip included some 'shore leave' into Amsterdam, on both new Year's Eve and New Year's Day itself.

The first thing we noticed is that the city was most definitely open for business – no shutting up shop for the holidays here.

Both Frances and I had been to the city before, so we weren't worried about seeing the most obvious tourist attractions – although it would have been rude to have missed out the red light district.

Instead, we opted for a relaxing meander around the charming city streets, admiring the multi-coloured crooked houses, stopping here and there for a carton of mayonnaise-drenched fries, a coffee and a beer or two – including a brew in the self-styled 'smallest bar in Amsterdam'.

There were more cheese shops than we remembered – with free samples liberally handed out – and we had fun browsing in the markets and buying fridge magnets for the folks back home. A highlight was the Begijnhof, which we stumbled upon almost by accident, a delightful courtyard dating back to the Middle Ages with a fascinating mix of delightful private houses.

We decided to take a canal trip, a very pleasant way to see the city, during which our informative guide regaled us with historical and hysterical tales from the Amsterdam's past.

Back on board, we were disappointed to be heading back home. Our stay had been both comfortable and relaxing and the service from the friendly staff was super.

The food was delicious – we sampled the à la carte menu and the steakhouse – and the breakfast buffet was ample to say the least. The evening entertainment was spot on and the drinks flowed freely.

As we arrived back in North Shields, we determined this would not be a one-off, vowed to make sure we made the most of future end-of-year celebrations and promised this would not be the last time we'd take this trip.

New Year's Eve isn't what it used to be? You better believe it.

The DFDS mini cruise to Amsterdam, offered exclusively to UK customers, includes three nights on board, with a view of the Amsterdam New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

New Year’s Eve offers guests a three course a la carte menu or buffet at the gala dinner, with a pre-paid drinks package.

There will be a live performance from award-winning crooner Jason Isaacs, a Newcastle-born jazz and blues recording artist. There will also be festive entertainment, coach transfers to and from Amsterdam, and a full New Year’s Day breakfast buffet.

The cruise departs on King Seaways on December 30 and returns to Newcastle on January 2. All cabins include en-suite accommodation.

It costs £199 per person, or £245 for the a la carte package. Bookings require a deposit of £49 and the balance can be settled in October. Bookings are open from now until December 1. Last year’s cruise was a sell-out, so early booking is advised.

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