I’m saying Day 3 but, who knows what day it is? I have no clue. Today was Zeebrugge, that much I do know. But Zeebrugge isn’t much to look at, so, having been to Bruges several times before, we knew that the best place to go would be Blankenberg. Interestingly, P&O had obviously heard the same thing, so they put on a free shuttle bus to Blankenberg. Or, as Dad put it, the City of Blankenberg put on a shuttle bus to the ship!
We trekked down about half a mile of the folded airbridge, only to discover that there was a lower gangplank that they simply hadn’t bothered to mention. It’s so unkind. You KNOW that a large proportion of your passengers have mobility limitations, it’s just so thoughtless and inconsiderate, it makes me quite sick.
It was mizzly and grey and miserable in the morning, but by the time the 20 minute drive was done, at about 10.30, the sun came out. We played “spot the bit you remember” as we haven’t been here for about twenty years – I found the swimming pool (now hidden behind a sealife centre) and Dad remembered the location of a Delhaize supermarket and a Leonidas chocolate shop (nothing wrong with his priorities!). I photographed some public sculpture and a double-decker carousel (?!).
We pootled down the main street, shopping and browsing – rather successfully. We got the cheese we had been looking for for about three years since it was last spotted in Holland, and the chocolates we had been looking for for about ten years since the last shop we knew that sold them closed down in Lille. I found a shop that sold exactly the things I like to wear for work – thin knitted tops with short sleeves – so I bought loads there.
Then we scaled the staircase up to the beach. It looks like quite a mountain, but even mum survived relatively unscathed. We browsed a few restaurant menus before we chose Le Petit Rouge. The food was superb, although our waitress didn’t seem to understand any languages at all (we tried English, French and pidgin Dutch) and at first brought Mum and Dad the wrong dish, but once that had been fixed, it was all delicious and highly successful. With their meals, the parents received two of the biggest bread rolls I have ever seen – maybe twice or three times normal size. The whole meal was also about half the price of Amsterdam yesterday. The waitress was quite stunned to be left a tip!
Then we wended our way back to the shuttle and to the ship. Via some pancakes – although we caused much consternation when we asked for lemon with our sugar pancakes. They were most intrigued.
Bob was 4.30 and we got back at 4. No idea why Bob was 4.30 and not 6 or so, it’s not like it’s going to take long to get home from here, but P&O will always mar a trip somehow if they can.
There was then a very loud sailaway party on the back of 8. This was Right Next to my cabin, but wax earplugs are a wonder and I managed to nap for about half an hour – which I really needed. At the party, they announced the winner of the draw to win a free World Cruise. Everyone was very excited. Except the woman who’d won. You would think from her demeanour that she’d won the execution of her choice. She didn’t smile, she didn’t wave, she didn’t shake the hands of the people giving her the THIRTY THOUSAND POUNDS-WORTH OF HOLIDAY FOR TWO. It made everyone quite upset/angry how bloody ungrateful she was and rather ruined the mood of the entire party. If you don’t want it, love, I’ll take it off your hands. Why are we all (about 1000 people) singing ‘Congratulations’ to you, when you can’t even bother to raise a smile?! Ungrateful cow.
I had a grateful moment after the sailaway party. They kept playing rousing/ water-related/ cruising music, and so I was leaning on the rail, watching the seagulls scanning our wake for fish, listening to This is the Life and Wonderful World, and it dawned on me just how lucky we all are. It is so easy to take it for granted, or forget it entirely with all the rushing around we do, but what we cruisers do is still very special and out of the reach of most people on the planet. Very few have the finances to allow this kind of luxury, and even fewer have the time to spend doing so little and being so spoilt and pampered. I know how blessed I am that I get to do this, and it was a quiet moment where I got to gaze out at the setting sun and the beauty of the ocean and appreciate just what an amazing adventure this way of life is.
Then to dinner with the lovely ladies of table 20. Good food and (relatively) good service (as long as you weren’t thirsty, which I was) and souvenir menus. Alison had two desserts, which we had to reassure her was perfectly acceptable behaviour, particularly as she hadn’t had an hors d’oeuvre. Address swappage and goodbyes and off to do chores.
Collect photographs from Ship’s Photographers: not printed, not bearable or ready, depending on which photo you were trying to collect. I got a lovely photo of all seven ships taken on Tuesday, and a great pic of Mum, Dad, Ann and Enid at the sailaway (after a half hour wait). The solo photo of me taken last night went straight in the bin – badly lit and unflattering.
Trip to Reception: You’re not going to believe this. Do you remember the package we booked – the hotel room, free parking at the hotel for a week and free transfers to and from the ship? Well, apparently, we were only booked ONE WAY. No transfer back to the hotel. Have you ever heard anything so stupid? What use is a ONE WAY transfer?! How are we supposed to get back to the hotel? Teleport?! Magic carpet?! Of course, the girl that Dad spoke to at Reception, Amy, just told Dad to book a taxi and send the bill to P&O. We had a rant, but no one could fix it because no one has the authority to take responsibility to make any decision of any kind. But I told Dad we will simply find the transfer bus and get on it. All I have to do is find out when it is due to pick up. I’m guessing the other people on the bus are allowed to go back again? It’s either just us or there are going to be a lot of irate people tomorrow morning. What a farce. Just when you think there is nothing left that P&O can do to bugger up your holiday, they find something. I wonder what it would be like to have a hassle-free holiday.
Trip to the shop. We get a 10% discount as we have accrued loyalty points over the years, but as we haven’t left the EU on this cruise, there is VAT on everything. So we put everything back. When we go to Norway, we’ll leave the EU and everything in the shop will be 20% cheaper! You couldn’t make it up. So silly. Quiz and bed. We lost on the tie-break, which is a good thing, because it means we don’t have to drink/ carry home the foul liquid known officially as P&O red, white or rose. Frankly, I wouldn’t polish the silver with it.
And so another cruise ends. We’re not going to do any more short ones. What a hassle. By the time you’ve settled in, it’s time to go home again. Three weeks til the next one, so watch this space.