If you are a regular cruiser, or indeed someone who has tried a mini-cruise, the chances are that you have stopped at the port of Zeebrugge. It's a popular calling point from Southampton and often known as the 'Gateway to Bruges'. Travellers can take an organised coach excursion from the ship to the outskirts of Bruges or do a DIY trip by shuttling into Blankenberge and catching the train.
If, like me, you have been to Bruges several times, then you might want to choose an easier option and simply wander around Blankenberge for a few hours. So here is a taste of what you might find there.
Before I proceed, I have to confess that I've always found myself in Blankenberge in the Winter months, so there are no seafront pictures, but I can tell you that the promenade is lovely, and, if ever I go there on a warm day, I will take some pictures to prove it. Unless you are a lot hardier than me, I would not recommend staying too long on the Blankenberge seafront in the Winter.
You will see from my photos that on our last (November) visit to Blankenburg, the weather was dull and the sky was grey.....ah well, we were on a cruise and so we just had to make the best of it.
When we woke up in Zeebrugge, this was the view which greeted us.
We had decided not to take an organised trip, so could indulge in a leisurely breakfast, while the early birds were already waiting for their tour buses.
We left the ship mid-morning and caught the shuttle bus into Blankenberge. If you purchased a P&O select fair, the shuttle buses were included in the fare. They were comfortable, and many had facilities for wheel-chairs. The bus stopped opposite the station in Blankenberge, which was convenient for all passengers wishing to take the train to Bruges. It was also only a five minute walk through the adjacent grassed area to find the centre of town.
We were fascinated by the WC which had popped up on our way into town, but I couldn't persuade my husband to try it out!
.The route into town from there on was obvious, and I noticed that the shopping precinct had been considerably updated since my last visit. Had we wanted a bit of history or a Belgian cafe, there were plenty to choose from in the little side streets which led away from the main pedestrianised walk way.
Once past the green we came to a busy road junction, fortunately, with pedestrian friendly traffic lights.
For those with sufficient fitness levels, the seafront could be accessed via the steep steps at the far end of the central street.
But we chose to wander around the main pedestrian shopping area and spend a few Euros. Although it was a Sunday, there was plenty to tempt us.
There were mouth-watering displays of cakes and sweets.
We entered a local supermarket selling a wide range of cheese, pate and spicy sausage. I bought several gifts of local cheeses for friends (and for me!). But I have to admit we spent most of our time browsing in the Belgian equivalent of a 'cheap' shop. There we purchased Christmas decorations and chocolates, and were tempted by a variety of Blankenberge gadgets.
We walked back to the coach hoping to be in time for a late lunch, but did stop to admire the Meerkat sculptures outside the civic building.
What did take us by surprise was the fact that we had to change buses at the port gates. They offloaded us all into the cruise terminal building (where usefully there were indoor loos) and sent us onto a red shuttle bus....all still disabled friendly though.
So that's it really....just a little taste of Blakenberge from P&O Ventura on a grey November day. And perhaps the best sight of all was knowing we had missed the queues when the tour busses returned!