Kids Corner: A ferry merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Here comes my 25th Christmas as a parent. Countless toys have ended up in the ‘battery graveyard’, remote-controlled cars last an hour before Dr Watson nibbles off something crucial, and prodding computers is becoming a default setting for many kids now.
So over the years, instead of presents, I’ve begun buying what are now called ‘experiences’ and were once ‘outings’ – a word that has also evolved over time.
That’s the ticket
It started with tickets for Jake, Alex and Zac to see a band called The Darkness playing in Copenhagen. My cousin taught the drummer to play and they come from Lowestoft, where I was born, so it seemed appropriate and a great source of inspiration for my sons’ musical ambitions.
Last year I bought three vouchers for Den Blå Planet (the national aquarium), and we’ve just celebrated my special birthday with an outing of epic proportions. Seeing Elton John’s concert in Oslo was the highlight, but the ferry trip there and back was a great way to relax together.
Naturally, I had the usual ‘What have I left behind?’ feeling which, it transpired, was Jake’s new passport. His dad still has it after a recent trip to Costa Rica. But having ‘smuggled’ Jake through the check-in smiling confidently with his old passport, we were ready to party as the live band played us aboard.
Jake is a bit too old for the children’s activities run by Pirate Jack the Parrot, but he dutifully posed for a Kids’ Corner photo.
Swaying to the music
I wanted to see more kids’ activities, but by the time we’d settled in and booked a table for 19:30 at a restaurant, we’d already missed some of the fun. And then we found out that the treasure hunt was due to start just as we were tucking in our napkins.
Of course, we could have brought a picnic to economise, but as we were celebrating my big birthday, we pushed the boat out. They do ‘youngster steaks’, but when the chips were down, Jake ate more than his big brothers.
Then afterwards, boogying down with my boys with Dan Rachlin as DJ is a moment I’ll treasure from that first ferry trip (see other memorable moments from Oslo, a T-Rex cast and DIY pirate headgear at helendyrbye.blogspot.com)
Hot tubs on deck
On the ferry trip back we were determined to try a hot tub. Tripping along the corridor and out on deck in our swimsuits was intrepid. But the water and view were worth it. We almost understood a lady who told us in Norwegian that the green button starts the bubbles.
And when four bathing beauties got in with us and started speaking French, it was clear Zac had misspent his youth learning German.
I timed getting out very badly, just as four friendly truckers popped outside to smoke. Not exactly Venus arising from the waves, though my hair was decidedly Botticelli, and I sure had a chilly botty – until I got my towel and coat on.
Bunking up together
Sharing a cabin for four was fun. I got a top bunk, but seasickness wasn’t a problem on such a big ship. Some cabins have TVs, ours didn’t, and the WiFi is available on Deck 7 only, so make sure your phones, like kids, aren’t roaming about unsupervised.
We checked out the treasure hunt for the under sevens on the homeward trip, but knowing how I’m a positive soul, I chatted with a random granny and mum for second opinions. Both they and the young child accompanying them loved it. It was their second trip. They especially liked that the Bubble Zone children’s area with ball pit and drawing competition is comfortably off the beaten track.
Well-paced, no stress
The granny explained there were enough activities, but not too many, and the pirate organisers were good at keeping the children focused.
The treasure hunt clues are in English too and there’s a family package ticket that costs 100 kroner covering a roll-the-dice horserace, lunchbox and various other treats.
They galloped off when the horseracing started on another deck – can’t miss this – and we tailed along behind, although the boys were reluctant to leave a FIFA 15 game. After seeing the race would take a while though, we veered off for a pizza before relaxing and turning in.
Avoid the crush
A final tip: even though they give car-owners a 15-minute warning before the ship docks, take it easy. Or like us, you’ll take the lift down ‘in good time’ and be unable to get out for the crowd.
Funnily enough, while on our way home, we heard that Alex’s girlfriend had won a DFDS minicruise competition on the website. They’ll be back in February and he can’t wait!
So if you’re looking for a present for a mum or dad who has everything – or a kid who has piles of toys, consider an ‘outing’ instead. You won’t have to keep picking it up and dusting it. Two adults and two children can enjoy a two-way trip to Oslo in January for just 1,296 kroner. So wrap up warm and have a merry Christmas!
DFDS; 7877 5731; dfdsseaways.com
Helen Dyrbye is a published author, translater and former scout leader from East Anglia in England who relocated to Denmark a long time ago and loves it here as much as 'back home'.