My husband Michael and I went on Fred. Olsen’s Braemar this year, visiting the Waterways of Belgium and Holland. This was Michael’s second cruise, which took some encouragement to book, as he didn’t enjoy the first.
We started our holiday with a coach transfer with Eavesway from Lancaster. This enabled us to sit back and enjoy the journey down to Southampton. I have always settled straight in to holiday mode, but it usually takes Michael a couple of days to wind down. However, because of the restful transfer down to Southampton, he immediately unwound and was ready to enjoy the rest of our holiday.
The itinerary was perfect for him packed full of culture, architecture and history, which we both love.
Our first port of call was Antwerp. Here we found that it was the religious celebration of Assumption Day, which meant that there was a huge procession from all the churches in the city. We watched in wonder as they paraded through the cobbled streets, carrying a huge statue of Virgin Mary and Child. Afterwards we enjoyed some local wine and beer in the square and watched the world go by. As the ship had overnighted in Antwerp, we had a second day to enjoy more of the sights. So, we headed to the huge market in the square. It gave us a taste of the city and its local offerings, and we could pick up a souvenir or two.
On to Ghent, where we decided to catch a train to Bruges. We loved the huge square with its bustling activities and we just had to sample their gorgeous chocolate! Immersed in this activity, as you would be, we were last minute going to the station to get the train back to Ghent. In our haste we jumped on what we thought was our train, which set off almost immediately, we then realised that it wasn’t going back to Ghent, but instead we were going the opposite way to Ostend! Luckily it was the next station and only took about twenty minutes. We returned to Bruges and then onwards to Ghent. Even after all that excitement we were back on the ship in plenty of time. The next port of call was Rotterdam a city well known for bold, modern architecture.
Then we sailed on to Amsterdam. In this vibrant city we took a canal boat trip, which we could hop on and off at our leisure. We visited the Diamond Factory where we got the chance to try on rings worth thousands of pounds. Michael did start to sweat slightly when I had a twentythousand- pound ring on my finger though. He hurried me out before I had chance to order one! Maybe next time?
Cruising for us is destination led. However, the crew of Braemar were so friendly and welcoming that our time on board was a pleasure too. By the end of the cruise we didn’t even have to tell the bar staff what our cabin number was! Or what we wanted to drink!
We had a wonderful time and with renewed vigour Michael found his sea legs and is already planning our next cruise!