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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

3rd December, 2018

After a night weaving around the North Sea’s various vessel routing schemes in a general south-west direction, we found ourselves as planned at the Wandelaar Pilot Station at just after 06:00hrs. This pilotage serves all vessels bound for Euro-port as well as Zeebrugge and is a busy station around the clock. A large pilot ‘mothership’ drifts within the designated pick-up / drop-off zone, launching smaller vessels as required to deliver or retrieve pilots from ships entering or leaving the area.

With our Pilot safely on board, we then skirted the northern coast of Belgium in between various charted sandbanks before entering the large harbour of Zeebrugge just before 08:00hrs. Although calm inside, the wind still howled from the west-south-west, requiring tugboat assistance to help push us alongside our berth, which lay exposed to these winds.

Construction of this gigantic harbour first commenced in 1895 when the tiny village of Zeebrugge presumably housed extremely ambitious residents. It became one of the busiest sea ports in north Europe, and in WW2 several attempts were made to destroy this important port. Nearby is the seaside town of Blankenberge, which has a lovely beach waterfront and a town centre lined with dozens of Belgian chocolate shops – perfect for some Christmas shopping perhaps. We ran a free shuttle service to the town centre, which many passengers took advantage of.

Alternatively, the most popular option for passengers here, is to take a trip to the famous town of Bruges, some 45 minutes away by regular train service. Of course, we also offer organised excursion to Bruges for those who prefer a more effortless tour, without having to worry about becoming lost in the narrow backstreets or risk missing their return train back to port.

The beauty and attraction of Bruges probably doesn’t need describing for most, however it is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List and possesses a wealth of culture and splendid scenery. Canal cruises are a must, as well as a good stroll around the winding cobbled streets. Plenty of restaurants offer a selection of feasts including the traditional Moules Frites, and of course you can never wander too far without coming across those famous Belgian chocolate shops.

For those non-romantics onboard, who had seen or visited Bruges before, there were of course, other tours on offer which explored nearby areas including the town of Damme, stunning Loppem Castle, or even the Battlefields of Waterloo or Ypres.

Well, once everyone was back on board again at 18:00hrs it was time to cast off our lines and head back out of this Belgian harbour again, turning to port, (or the left) pointing the ship’s nose towards the English Channel and this time the port of Portsmouth. The holiday was not over yet though, for after yet another delicious supper our evening’s entertainment featured Internationally acclaimed Comedy Magician “Romany” (she’s won more magic awards than I could care to count) followed by a good old party into the early hours in Shackleton’s bar.

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.