The best laid plans...
A mini cruise to Bruges from Southampton was partly just to give us a chance to investigate the port and partly in order to give P&O another try, having become disillusioned with them a few years ago. We were onboard Ventura, so not one of their newest ships but even so we were largely pleasantly surprised and will be happy to add them back into our list of cruise lines to consider in future. Our cabin was excellent, the food fine, wines good and the shows of a really high standard. I wasn't a huge fan of the modern art but other aspects of the decor were unusually restrained and I didn't feel I needed sunglasses on to look at some of the carpets!
Bruges was pleasant as always, it isn't the most convenient of ports and however you go from the port to the town it will involve some walking. However it is very beautiful, clean, compact and safe with lots to see and do so defiantly worth getting off the ship if you dock here. Our visit coincided with the first weekend of the Christmas Market so that was our primary focus (we had arranged a 5 Euro 'secret Santa' type challenge with the other guests on our table which turned out to be hilarious) and we enjoyed watching the ice skating and sampling the local food and drink. In the main we are outdoor people when travelling. If the weather is good we really like nothing more than to explore the main streets and the hidden corners of a city on foot. If the weather is poor we will happily spend the day in art galleries and museums but we would both much rather just see the city and its people.
Our journey home coincided with a sudden depression sweeping through the channel with gusts of over 35 knots. The pilot came on board at 05.00 as planned (rather him than me!) but the decision was made to abort the approach to Southampton Water and head back out to sea. The 07.00 call from the Captain was a surprise as we expected him to say that we were in dock rather than that were were just entering the Solent for the second time. It really is amazing that the wind could have been that strong and yet it really wasn't rough enough to even wake us up!
Obviously this had knock on effects, the rooms still needed to be turned around and readied for the next guests, the self carrying passengers couldn't leave early and were still on board for breakfast with the rest of us and the ship was heaving with vaguely irritated and grumpy passengers with disrupted travel plans. P&O were excellent, they kept us informed at all times, opened up extra spaces for people to sit and wait, had two sittings for breakfast and handled the long queue to disembark extremely well. The restaurant staff were pleasant and unhurried and the full breakfast menu including specials was available until an hour after the advertised closing time. I can't speak for the buffet where I imagine things were more fraught but the main dining room breakfast was excellent and we were really impressed given the circumstances.
We finally docked about two and a half hours behind schedule but were only about an hour and a half late off the ship.
Very impressive, well done P&O!!