AMSTERDAM is as beautiful as it looks on the postcards. You see the bikes and bridges you’ve been promised.

But on a postcard you can’t see the twinkle of the canals in the September sunshine, hear the clink of coffee cups outside bustling cafes or smell the sweetness of pastries and pancakes.

And while our trip to the Dutch capital was short, it was as sweet as the smell in the air.

In just five hours we managed to explore many of the city's streets, taking sights including The Royal Palace in Dam Square, De Krijtberg Roman Catholic Church and Amsterdam's oldest building Oude Kerk - a medieval church in the Red Light District. We'd crossed more waterways and bridges than we could count.

Because the sun was shining, and because we'd not seen it for a while at home, like the locals do, we hopped on some bikes and created our own self-made tour. There are guided tours but as a couple we have always enjoyed moving at our own pace.

The cycleways are well marked and while the streets are a hive of activity there’s no hurry to be anywhere fast.

We were blessed with a bright, warm day which would have been a waste to spend indoors, and while we didn't go to Madame Tussauds, Anne Franks House or the Van Gogh Museum, I still came away feeling like I'd absorbed a satisfying sample of what Amsterdam has to offer. We visited Vondelpark and Albert Cuyp Market, where we indulged. De Magere Brug - arguably Amersterdam's most famous and, legend has it, romantic bridge - was another sight we ticked off the list and we even had chance to relax with a pint of Heineken, a spot of people watching and lunch.

Our time in the city was just the filling of our trip, sandwiched between two 15 hours ferry journeys with DFDS.

From the moment we arrived at Royal Quays in North Shields, it really was plain sailing and a pleasant change to air travel. As soon as you step on board there's the obvious luxury of space and with so much on offer - two restaurants, two bars, a club, casino and cinema - we decide to go for a slice of everything.

Marine conservation charity ORCA offers engaging marine wildlife talks on both ferry crossings, held at the front of the ship in a dedicated lounge, which opened this year.

ORCA wildlife officers live on board the ship as it sails to and from Newcastle to Amsterdam. As well as the presentations, they also run run deck watches and organise games and activities to highlight the importance of the North Sea as a marine habitat.

The conservation officer explained the charity’s work and why it’s important to protect the North Sea. She told us about the species we might see and gave us tips of what to look out for in order to spot them.

It was fun - braving the wind the literally takes you breath away. We weren't lucky enough to see any whales or dolphins but I enjoyed the exciting experience of scanning the sea for them nonetheless.

During the 2018 season though, passengers have been treated to over 2,000 marine wildlife sightings including 902 harbour porpoises, 30 bottlenose dolphins, 74 minke whales, 225 grey seals and 652 acrobatic white-beaked dolphins.

I was impressed by the talk and even learnt that Orca's - known as killer whales - are not whales but dolphins and have even been spotted in the North Sea.

The officer also highlighted how many marine animals did each year, with plastic waste playing a major part in their decline.

After our ORCA experience we dined at Explorer's Kitchen, an all you can eat international buffet, before enjoying live music in one of the bars. We won some money at the little casino and treated ourselves to a few drinks at Columbus Club, where there was more live entertainment and for a moment I forgot we were even at sea!

Coming home we enjoyed a rooftop view, a little more sunshine and a brisk wind at the ferry's Sky Bar before the ferry left Amsterdam's port.

The return journey was a highlight. That evening we caught a beautiful sun set and watched as sunk into the sea. We dined at North Sea Bistro, a more intimate setting, and enjoyed a delicious two-course meal.

It's safe to say this was a mini-break like no other I've experience before and has opened my eyes to a new way of travel.

PANEL: DFDS Newcastle-Amsterdam Mini Cruise:

Two-night foot-passenger return crossings, or mini cruises, start from £59 per person return based on four people sharing an en suite cabin.

DFDS also offers a range of themed mini cruises throughout the year which include special on board entertainment. The price includes coach transfers to Amsterdam for up to five hours exploring the Dutch capital. Prices vary according to demand and are subject to change.

Daily overnight departures are offered and crossings take 15 hours. A range of restaurants, bars and on board entertainment is provided throughout the journey. Customers are advised to check in at least 90 minutes prior to departure. Book at