Review: Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland with a Dog

If you’re travelling between continental Europe and the UK with a dog, there’s not many transport options available, in particular if you’re travelling on foot without a car. I’ve previously written about the only ferry option available to foot passengers with a dog between France and England. Another alternative for foot passengers heading to Europe with a dog is the Stena Line ferry between Harwich and Hook of Holland (or Hoek van Holland).

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Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland with a dog

Why We Choose the Stena Line Ferry

The Stena Line Ferry to Hook of Holland in the Netherlands is a popular option with dog owners, travelling both in car and on foot. The ferry that we travelled on had a least 25 kennels, and many of them were occupied on our crossing.

While this crossing from Harwich to Hook of Holland is longer than our earlier crossing from Dieppe to the UK (overnight instead of 4 hours), the quality of the kennel facilities is higher. Dogs stay in one of two kennel rooms (not directly on the car deck). It’s possible to visit the kennels during the journey or just monitor them from your room on a special TV channel!

Stena line kennels
The kennel TV channel onboard the Stena Line ferry, Schnitzel on the upper left

When we returned from the UK to Europe with our dog in July 2017, the Stena Line ferry to Hook of Holland was the perfect option for us to continue our travels through the Netherlands and Belgium. It’s also a good option for people travelling onwards to Germany.

Catching the Train to Harwich

Leaving from London at the end of our holiday in the UK, we were meant to catch a train about 7pm from Liverpool St station. There’s an express train from Liverpool St that leaves at 7:32pm each evening, great for lining up with the nightly ferry departure.

But if you’re travelling with a dog, it’s recommended to arrive at least 2 hours before the departure time of 11pm. So we booked onto the earlier train, which required 1 change and was due to arrive at Harwich at 8:45pm.

However, due to a signal failure along the line, none of the trains were leaving from Liverpool St station! There was a lot of confusion all around and panic (at least for us), but we finally made it onto the first train to depart, and arrived around 9:30pm.

Even if you weren’t required to arrive earlier due to travelling with a dog, I recommend arriving and boarding as early as possible. For starters, once you board the ship the clock are set to Central European time and it’s already an hour later. Additionally, it’s nice to have some time to enjoy the ship’s facilities.

Boarding the Stena Line Ferry

The train station at Harwich International is right next to the ferry terminal, meaning it doesn’t take long from the train arrival until you board the ship. Our late arrival with a dog didn’t end up causing a problem.

In fact, we don’t recall that Schnitzel’s pet passport was checked at all, unlike when travelling the other direction. Once onboard, we headed to the reception, were assigned a kennel number and took him down to settle in for the night.

The kennels on board our Stena Line ship (Stena Hollandica, but presumably also the second ship operating the route) were split into two rooms, each of them accessed only upon entering a code. Schnitzel was in a small kennel on the top in the larger room.

Stena line dog TV channel
The rows of kennels onboard the Stena Line ferry

The row of kennels reminded me of the cages for dogs at our local vet’s. A duvet per dog is provided, if you want to use it. We folded it up in the kennel, then added Schnitzel’s bed and his water bowl. He had already eaten before leaving London. Then we headed upstairs to our cabin.

Our Cabin Onboard the Stena Line Ferry

As we didn’t book that far in advance, the mid-range cabins were already sold out and we ended up splurging on a Captain’s Class cabin, complete with window, double bed and complementary mini bar. The cabins are quite nice, better than I expected, and we were very comfortable.

Cabin by Night
Our Captain’s Class ferry, complete with double bed and large window

Inside our cabin, we switched on the TV and changed to the channel showing the kennels, while having a glass of champagne. The TV channel is a security-type set-up that alternates between about 6 cameras.

Unfortunately (or luckily?) no sound is broadcast, but it’s still fairly easy to tell if the dogs are barking or settled. We had planned to return downstairs to check up on Schnitzel again, but realising from the TV channel that we would disturb both him and all of the other dogs upon entering the room, we decided against it. We fell asleep quite awhile after the ship departed at midnight (Central European time).

Morning on the Ferry

The morning on the ferry before we docked was quite rushed. After a short night’s sleep, my alarm went off at 6:30am. This was almost immediately followed by an announcement over the ship’s speaker system – a way to ensure everyone was up and had breakfasted before the ship docked at 8am! As we also wanted to head downstairs and check on Schnitzel, we rushed through having showers and then the buffet breakfast we had paid for in advance.

Cabin by Day
Waking up early to a cloudy day in the Netherlands

Arriving downstairs at the kennels, Schnitzel seemed quite fine. We’re not sure whether having the other dogs around him helped (or hindered, if they barked or fretted).

Stena Line kennels
Reunited with Schnitzel in the morning

We packed up his stuff and then headed downstairs to the dog exercise area for his morning business. Unfortunately though, it’s just a small section of deck, with no artificial grass, and there was no way he was doing anything unless he really needed to.

So, we headed back upstairs with Schnitzel to await the time to disembark. A tip – only do this after you’re fully packed up and ready with your luggage, as no, you can’t take your dog along to your cabin!

Disembarkation at Hook of Holland

As we were travelling with a dog, we disembarked before all the other foot passengers, meaning that there were no queues for the immigration desk. Schnitzel was able to work straight out into and through the arrival hall.

Arriving with Schnitzel
The arrival hall at Hook of Holland

It was a short walk to the waiting bus, included in our ticket, which transport us to Schiedam train station, just outside of Rotterdam. From Schiedam train station, we then took two further trains, arriving at Amsterdam train station around 10am.

Everything went smoothly and quickly, and we were ready to explore Amsterdam with our pup. If like us it’s not possible for you to check into your accommodation early, it’s possible to leave luggage at the station for €10 for a large locker.

Crossing the English Channel with a dog
Schnitzel enjoying Amsterdam after the ferry trip

Overall Cost of Our Journey

If travelling via this route, you can conveniently buy a single ticket for all the transport (the train from London, the ferry, then all transport to anywhere in the Netherlands). This cost us £110 for 2 adults, although the fare varies depending on the date. Additionally, the fee for a dog was £16, meaning that the cost of £126 was actually cheaper than our fare on the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry.

However, as it was an overnight ferry, it was compulsory to book a cabin. Our Captain’s Class cabin cost an extra £139, meaning the total cost of our journey was £265. However, there are also inside cabins are far cheaper, and still include the all-important TV to watch your dog.

Alternatively, there is a daytime crossing, departing at  9am and arriving at 5:15pm. The base fare is usually the same for both, but there is no need to book a cabin. However, you would then need to leave London about 5am, making for a very early start to a long day! And while you could visit your dog multiple times during the day, if all the dog owners did that, it would mean a lot more disturbances for the dogs.

Click here for more information about travelling with a dog on Stena Line across the Channel

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Stena Line Ferry to Hook of Holland with a Dog

10 thoughts on “Review: Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland with a Dog”

  1. Shandos,

    Thanks very much for such comprehensive information about the ferry! We’re looking forward to taking our terrier Ernie over in the summer!

    All the best

    Martin, Emma and Ernie

    Reply
  2. Thank you, this is very interesting and helpful. I’m adopting brother and sister doggies from Turkey and they may be flying them to Amsterdam for me to pick them up. So I may be driving from West London. This is the most comprehensive review I have found, even with photos! They are inseparable and was hoping they may be able to go in the same ‘kennel’.

    Reply
    • Maeve – Wishing you all the best for transporting your new pups home! Glad I could be of assistance. I’m pretty sure they’ll allow two siblings to go in the same “kennel”, but just check when boarding.

      Reply
  3. I can not see how to book the complete cost that included train and bus tickets on the website. Can you give some more information about that please?

    Reply
  4. If you are not taking the dog with you, the ferry is a fine experience. The service is really nice, the cabins clean. I just wish we could have traveled alone without our pet.

    We took the ferry during the day and our dog went through a trauma. She was placed in one room with all the other dogs on the ferry. They were barking throughout the whole trip, some of them even whining. We couldn’t see much from the video in the cabin as the cameras were very bad quality. We tried to exercise our dog, but taking her to the spot meant that we and our pet will be stepping on other dogs’ urine, as no-one was cleaning this spot during the trip and it was just pure concrete. When we picked her up she was terribly shaking from stress (as some of the other dogs).

    I recommend taking your own blanket, which we gladly had, but the ones which are free to use in the room are just old unwashed blankets, which other dogs were sleeping onto. I completely don’t understand why they don’t let dogs into cabins, it’s just not logical. It seems that the night ferry was a better experience for you, but I will never repeat using this service during the day with a pet. 

    I gave Stena line feedback, but I doubt they will ever change something as they never got back to me.

    Reply
    • Hi Natalia, so sorry to hear about your experience. I would definitely take your dog’s own bed or blanket, so they have something familiar. The experience probably also depends on the other dogs on the same trip, and whether any are fretting. I think our night time crossing also helped, with most of the dogs sleeping. Plus it means that less owners are visiting the pets, which can sometimes set off some of the dogs.

      On the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, there are dog-friendly cabins, although it’s best to book well in advance as they book out quickly. I will be trying these cabins next time we cross using a ferry.

      Reply
  5. Hi,

    What about the other way around?
    What if we are traveling from Hook of Holland to Harwich in our own van. Where are the checks expected? Before boarding and after coming off the boat too?
    I think we may have to travel before 21 days is over so probably need to hide her, do you think it is possible, or more like ‘mission impossible’?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I haven’t travelled the reverse way on this ferry, but I travelled on another ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven, a couple of years ago (pre-Brexit). In that case my dog’s passport was checked during check-in, at the office in France (no checks after disembarking). The UK border control were very fastidious about checking the rabies vaccine, so if your dog’s vaccine isn’t done at least 21 days in advance, I would expect issues. In this case they won’t let your board the vessel.

      Reply

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