I was lucky enough to be invited on a birthday cruise to Bruges for a friends 50th, and honestly, I was a little sceptical at first. A cruise is never something that I have ‘felt the need’ to do or that I am majorly missing out by never having gone on one, and after going on one I am not utterly convinced whether I will step foot on a 140,000+ tonne of floating metal again.
There was 8 of us who went on this trip, 7 of us being ‘first time cruisers’ so we kind of followed the one person who had done an adundance of cruises before around because we had no idea what was going on. So, for the cruise we took a 2 night, 3 day cruise to Bruges, Belgium with P&O, sailing from Southampton. We sailed on the Britannia which is P&O’s flagship cruise ship and honestly, it is like something you have never seen before. Think Titanic glory and you will get the right sort of image. The size of the ship is HUGE and I mean absolutely bloody massive, you can get oh so easily lost and there is so so much to do onboard that you are well and truly spoilt for choice. The ship boasts 12 restaurants (which serve the most delicious food), 12 bars (some of which are your tacky ‘club’ type and others your more traditional cruise dimly lit piano bar), 7 entertainment areas ranging from live lounges to theatres, sporting facilities, pools, the list goes on and on!
So, onto the actual cruise.
We boarded the ship on the Friday afternoon after a somewhat eventful start *quote* Mum to check in woman: “Wait, I don’t need my passport do I?” Yes mum, yes you do…
After the passport fiasco was resolved we boarded the ship and went to our cabins, we stayed in Twin cabins with a balcony and they were so much more roomy than I thought they would be; there was a decent sized open plan wardrobe, bathroom and seating area.
After we had unpacked we went to Horizon which is a buffet style restaurant to grab a bite to eat and well, first impressions were not good. You walked into this absolutely huge space and it was just like walking into a school cafeteria, you grab your tray and plate and help yourself to whatever food you want and then you fight to the deaths for a table. Not quite what I had imagined. Despite this, the food was actually very tasty and there was a huge variety.
After we took a wander around the ship to get our bearings and headed back to our cabins for prosecco and birthday cake!
So, sailing away from Southampton was easier said than done due to a technical error on board which meant the ship did not leave Southampton till around 10:30pm, over 4 hours after it was meant to. However, this didn’t affect us at all as we got glammed up and went down to dinner in the Meridian restaurant. As always, the food was absolutely delicious.
As we were so late departing Southampton the ship was on ‘full speed ahead’ and yes, you could feel it. Our cabin was Starboard side, on the 14th deck (decks 8-15 are cabin decks) and in the middle of the ship. Lets just say lying in bed feeling the ship rocking from side to side and having my phone constantly sliding off of my bedside table onto the floor made me question all of my life choices and I had every cruise ship disaster film repeating themselves in my mind. I popped a Kwells and forced myself to sleep – luckily the movement did not make me feel sea sick because I could not think of anything worse.
When we woke Saturday morning around 9am we were still sailing which was a bit of a shock considering we were meant to dock in Zeebruges port at around 6am. Despite this we carried on and went down to this Horizon restaurant for breakfast and the experience was absolutely awful. There were people everywhere, you couldn’t move without someone bumping into you, there were no tables and I really was not hungry enough (after a 5 course meal the night before I was still pretty stuffed) to deal with a survival of the fittest battle at breakfast. I vowed never again.
Dodgy breakfast experience completed we headed back to our cabins and got ready for our shore excursion. We had booked on the 11:30 shore excursion of ‘Bruges at your own pace’ which was essentially a 20ish minute bus ride into Bruges with a guide giving you lots of info on the journey there. You then had 3-4 hours in Bruges itself on your own to do whatever you wanted and then returned to the bus again to take you back to the ship.
Bruges itself is utterly beautiful, we wondered through some parks on our way into the main city.
We then decided upon doing a boat trip of Bruges as we felt like it was the best way to see the city … you would have thought we would have wanted to stay on dry land for as long as possible, but no. After finally finding a boat station that did not have hours of cues we joined up and it was the best decision we made. For €8 you got an incredibly detailed tour up and down the canals of Bruges, our tour guide was the funniest person I have ever met which I do think made the trip all the more enjoyable and I would 100% recommend doing one.
Obviously, we went to a Belgium Chocolate shop and beer shop and stocked up on some essentials. Our next stop was for waffles because when in Belgium, right? I cannot for the life of me remember what this place was called but OH MY the waffles were delicious. I had a traditional waffle with melted chocolate, whipped cream and strawberries topped with what appears to be one of every sprinkle they had on offer, and yes, I loved it and nothing in the UK will compare to it.
That night on the ship was the Captains Dinner so we got all glammed up in our black tie appropriate attire and had a photo shoot on our balconies before heading down to dinner.
We dined in the Meridian restaurant for Marco Pierre White’s speciality menu and filled our bellies to the max with the most amazing food I have ever tasted.
After seeing a show we headed to the Crow’s Nest bar which is at the top of the ship. It is a traditional cruise ship bar with butler service, live piano, dimmed lights and chandeliers covering ever inch of ceiling, it was the best way to end the cruise.
The Sunday night was a lot more relaxed and you could not feel the ship moving in our cabin which was the biggest relief.
All passengers have to be out of their cabins by 8am so with our new found knowledge of not having to get breakfast from the school cafeteria (from eavesdropping lift conversations) we headed to the Peninsular restaurant for the breakfasts of all breakfasts consisting of freshly baked still warm in the middle croissants, melon trios and scrambled eggs and salmon – a much better experience than the buffet and a perfect end to the trip.
We then went to the Sindhu lounge and waited for our disembarkation time and off home we headed.
Overall the cruise to Bruges was a whole lot of fun, but I have definitely not caught ‘the cruise bug’ as everyone told me I would and I think I will stick to trains, planes and cars as my preferred modes of transport.
That being said, I would do a cruise again but not for more than a couple of days, a 3 day weekend cruise is the perfect amount of time for me!