On Friday Mrs PBT’s and I are embarking on our first ever cruise. It’s billed as a “taster cruise” and, as the name suggests, is designed to give novice, “cruise virgins” like us, the chance to experience life afloat, combined with that touch of luxury that seems to be an essential part of the whole package.
We’ll be accompanied on the voyage, by’s Eileen’s sister and her husband, who are both cruise veterans. They have offered to act as our guides, although I suspect their real reason is the desire to enjoy a short break, as what can be a depressing time of year.my sister and brother-in-law obviously know the ropes, and it will be with the little things where their experience will undoubtedly come to the fore.
This being our first cruise, we are pushing the boat out, if you’ll excuse the pun, and will be sailing from Southampton on the Queen Elizabeth; Cunard’s newest ocean liner. If we enjoy it, there’s the possibility of a longer cruise next year, with the Norwegian fjords being my voyage of choice.
I’ve had to pack rather more than I would normally take, and certainly quite a bit more than I took on my recent visit to Krakow, where I crammed everything into a medium-sized rucksack in order to fly with just cabin baggage. That certainly beats queuing at check-in and waiting at baggage reclaim.
Our destination is the Belgian port of Zeebrugge; a town once again in the news for all the wrong reasons. Our ship will dock there for a day, and there are several shore excursions to take advantage of. These are not cheap, and are undoubtedly an easy way for cruise lines to bump up their profits.
I’ve been to Bruges several times, so am not overly concerned at not seeing the place again, but I would have liked to visit Ghent. Also, a trip to the war graves would have been particularly poignant this time of year, but with several operators offering tailor-made guided tours, that is something that can wait for another time.
I was being economical with the truth at the beginning of this post, as I am not a “cruise virgin.” Instead I am the person who, at the tender age of 16, undertook a two week “educational cruise” as a member of a party from my school, along with similar groups of pupils from schools all over Kent.
The “SS Nevassa,” a converted troop ship operated by the now defunct British India Line, acted as our home for a fortnight, as we cruised around the mid-Atlantic, visiting Portugal, the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores. Being “educational” there were lectures, films and slideshows about the places we would be calling at, and there was also plenty to keep a boatful of lively teenagers amused, (no alcohol though, for obvious reasons).
This time though, I’ll be swapping a rather spartan dormitory for a balcony stateroom, and an equally basic ship’s mess-room for fine dining. I will, of course, keep people posted, but not whilst at sea.