by Paul Wojnicki

NOBODY likes to be left behind when the family are going on holiday, least of all Falco, our seven-year-old Jack Russell. We’ve gone to great lengths over the years to take Falco with us overseas, but the long slog between Yorkshire and the Eurotunnel can ruin even the sunniest vacation.

Luckily this year DFDS have seen the light and introduced dog friendly cabins on their Newcastle-Amsterdam route, so what better excuse for a family holiday than to test them out.

I have to be honest, the dog friendly cabin that we are assigned isn’t as luxurious as the Commodore Class cabins we enjoyed last year, but we’d be happy to sleep in the kennels if it meant not having to leave Falco alone overnight.

Luckily the cabins are far more comfortable than the kennels and all our basic needs are attended to; four bunk beds, bathroom, sea view and Falco! The kids love it, and so does Falco, who’s clearly relieved not to be in the nearby “dog hotel”.

My wife and I take turns to accompany the kids to the free soft play and ball pool areas, while the other waits with Falco in the cabin. DFDS aren’t ready to allow dogs into the bars, shops, cinema or restaurants just yet! But it’s a pleasant overnight cruise for all concerned and we’re rested and ready to explore Europe the following morning.

The kids don’t want to get off the ship when we arrive in Amsterdam next morning, they’re having so much fun on-board, but they soon cheer up when we explore the canals and bridges on one of Amsterdam’s more child friendly forms of transport, a pedalo, bookable right outside the Anne Frank Museum.

We lunch in the dog-friendly SkyLounge next to Centraal Station then board an ICE train to Cologne in Germany at speeds that the Trans Pennine Express can only dream of. The children are buzzing with excitement as the flat Dutch landscape heightens and we zoom through Germany toward Cologne

The first thing we see approaching the station are the twin towers of the UNESCO listed Kölner Dom- or cathedral- which stand at a staggering 157 metres and are a mere stone’s throw from the station and our hotel.

We spend the next hour or so exploring the city’s main square and taking in the massive gothic façade from a variety of angles before strolling to the banks of the Rhine watching hundreds of boats small and large ply their route down the river.

“Can we go on a boat daddy?” Harrison asks. “Those will have to wait until tomorrow,” I tell him, pointing my finger toward the cable cars that cross from the Rheinpark to Cologne Zoo. “We’re going up there now.”

“Wow!” Harrison replies.

The following morning we’re up early and eating German bagels on the mini train as we rumble through cobbled streets from the old town to the riverfront. Here we jump on-board one of KD Rhine’s daily sailings to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It’s a wonderful way to travel between the two UNESCO listed sites and well worth the 70€ we pay for five of us, especially when you know that the five star cruise boats beside us charge thousands of pounds for the same route.

We sail through Bonn, former capital of West Germany, where some of our fellow passengers hop off. We stay aboard and then disembark further down river in a town called Königswinter, famous throughout Germany for the legendary Drachenfels- or Dragons Rock- a hill where supposedly a dragon once lived.

The hill does look a little daunting, not because of dragons but because the road that leads to the summit is so steep. Luckily there’s a handy funicular service from the town to the summit.

Half way up the summit we hop off the funicular at Schloss Drachenburg, a fairy tale palace with views across the Rhine Valley. Dogs are allowed inside the grounds and we wander the gardens, taking in views of the Rhine all the way back to Cologne on the horizon. It’s possible even from this distance to make out the twin towered Dom which was built using stone quarried from this very hill.

We’re a little too far away to make out the castles further south in Koblenz but then again we’ll be sailing there in a couple of hours anyway.

DFDS ferries accept dogs in a limited number of cabins so book early to avoid disappointment. There are also kennel facilities onboard if the cabins are sold out or you prefer a luxury cabin. You’ll need a pet passport to take your dog overseas and need to worm your dog with a registered vet between one and five days before returning to the UK.

* For full details on travelling with pets visit the DFDS website,

* Trains between Amsterdam and Germany can be booked at and start at 29 euros.