A mini cruise is a pretty original hen weekend idea, and when my bride-to-be friend suggested it, we jumped at the opportunity to soak up some sun and see a little piece of Europe while celebrating her upcoming nuptials! We booked a 3-night P&O cruise through Thomson, and left Southampton on the Oriana on the 7th August, to visit Guernsey and Zeebrugge.
There is plenty to do both on and off the ship, so there is no chance of being bored! It’s also a little touch of luxury… When relaxing by the pool, or in the bars, everywhere is table service – waiting staff will take your order and charge it to your personal cruise ID card. The cocktails were amazing! The breakfast and lunch buffet meals were a little disappointing, however the evening sit-down meals more than made up for this! There were 3 GF and a veggie (me) in our group, and we were well catered for with special menus, BUT these meals must be ordered a day in advance, so it’s worth contacting the restaurant as soon as possible when you board the ship – or in advance of the trip if you have allergies or less common requirements. If you are a night owl, there is plenty to keep you entertained, from nightclubs to a cinema, bars to sing-alongs. We opted for karaoke where we discovered our bride is a cracking singer!
I fell in love with Guernsey – St Peter Port is beautiful, and Guernsey is a real shopping haven. Quirky stores selling vintage goods sit comfortably alongside high street favourites like Seasalt, Warehouse, and department stores. I recommend taking a break at Café Delices in the market square – This place served the best ice-cream I’ve had outside of Italy (check out ‘speculoos’ flavour)! I’ve visited Bruges a few times now, and every time I have the feeling of stepping back in time. The canals, horse-drawn carriages, confectioners and stunning architecture create a picture-postcard effect and it’s a perfect destination for romance.
A few things to keep in mind…
Travel insurance is not just advisable, it is compulsory for cruises. It’s also worth checking your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is in date – EHIC isn’t valid on the ship but you never know when you might need it off the ship. If you require medical care on board you will need to pay for this up front and then claim it back – so it is also a good idea to think about your excess when you buy travel insurance.
The standard European data roaming packages you might purchase from your mobile phone provider aren’t valid for the maritime network. This is a mega expensive way to contact family and friends!
Cruise ships can’t enter St Peter Port, so you go aboard ‘by tender’ – This is a bit like a water bus, holding around 100 people, and it is a short transfer from the cruise ship to the port. Though quick, it’s not as smooth as the ship, so remember your sea-bands!
Organised excursions can be a great way to get from A to B, and there are a huge range of activities available, but at approx. £40pp to get from the ship to the town of Bruges, we opted to look after ourselves. If you are docking in Zeebrugge, check the shuttle arrangements – Our ship provided a shuttle to the nearby train station in Blankenberge. We were there on a Sunday so there was an hourly train to Bruges, taking under half an hour, and we paid just 5 Euros for a return ticket to Bruges.
So if you fancy a long weekend with a difference, a cruise could be the answer!