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Mystery Cruise Port. 8

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

15th December, 2013

The pilot for our final port of the mystery cruise was carried from Amsterdam, as the freshening wind looked as though it may have proved impossible to embark him at the Wandelaar pilot station. It was quite a windy night, but went without incident and on arrival we berthed alongside one of curved jetties which had originally been at the very edge of the port limits but is now almost half a mile inside as there has been much enlargement to cater for the container revolution and the expansion of worldwide trade. Zeebrugge in Belgium is effectively the sea port for the historical city of Bruges.

My wife and I managed to hop onto one of the tour buses going first to Loppem Castle, built in the mid-19th century and initially designed by Edward Welby Pugin in the neo Gothic style. Without any heating inside and with scaffolding on the exterior blocking what daylight there was, it certainly felt somewhat Gothic inside. For me the one redeeming feature was a most impressive oak billiards table which had charming hinged pockets that only came down when a ball was potted. Our next stop was at a rather splendid chocolate shop where the chocolatier was busy preparing another batch. A large choir was singing carols in English and I thought it a clever sales technique until I learned that they were English and had just arrived that day from Leicester. They had seen the shop and thought it was a good idea to ask whether they could have their first practise ‘gig’ inside the shop before singing that evening outside the Menin Gate. 

Amsterdam
We continued through the flat Flemish countryside, past canals, drainage channels, leafless trees and the odd windmill to the village of Damme. In the summer this little village, seemingly untouched architecturally, is normally busy with tourists who come down to sit and drink coffee at one of the many cafes, and browse the bookshops of which there are numerous apparently. It was a rather chilly Sunday in December and, although there were a few places open, our very own tourists seemed to be the only ones around, the village gave me the impression that it was really waiting for the spring.

That evening we had the final cocktail party while berthed alongside. I had moved the departure time until the following morning, thus ensuring a calm night without any ‘motion from the ocean’. As the river cruise advert says, there would be no more mystery. 

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.

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