Boat to Belgium

The next stop in my Eurotour was Belgium, and I opted to mix it up a bit and get the SuperFast ferry across. It’s cheap, £31 for the overnight crossing in an airline style seat, and it means I can visit Bruges which is supposed to be a highlight of the country. Full posts and pictures coming up but here’s some advice and reflections on the crossing.

First up, sleeping, the seats are much bigger and more comfortable than those on a plane. The downside is that the seats are right beside a corridor and the kids play area is just round the corner, worse is that the lighting is left on full power all night. If noise and light are going to keep you up then take earplugs and a eye-mask, I just bundled my jacket over my head and got a fair bit of sleep but the noise was too much by around 9am and I was forced to decamp to the bar with a book.

The buffet on the ship was good, but pricey at just a shade under twenty quid. It looks like it would have been as cheap to eat in the à la carte restaurant, although I’ve no idea about the quality. You’re on the boat for almost 18 hours so you can’t really avoid the food, maybe you could get by with snacks and stuff out the shop but I think you’ll just got to accept that that’s were they make some of their money.

Last piece of advice, be aware there’s no ATM or money exchange in Zeebrugges port. There’s not much to buy but you’ll need money for the bus into Bruges, so have some Euros or buy the ticket on the boat.

So what was the trip like? Well, it was … interesting. As the boat filled up and the night wore on I realised that it was an interesting mix of people. It’s like an alien was charged with assembling a representative group of humanity and he dutifully picked up the business traveller, the young family, the sole blogger, and then got bored and just emptied the worst dancing-round-a-handbag nightclub he could find and mopped up an old folks home to make up the numbers. Perhaps a (blurry) picture will help.

Pink Hat

Those hats were on the tables in the main bar when I first arrived, people supplied their own pink wigs, silly sunglasses and general fancy dress.

There were three bars on the ship, the main bar had the bulk of the clubbers while the others were much quieter, mostly with families or groups of older folk. There was a dubious lounge singer of exactly the sort you’d expect to find on a boat in the more sophisticated bar, but apart from that they were fairly dull and they shut early. There’s also a dubious looking cinema, and what’s laughingly called a casino — in reality a blackjack table and a stack of fruit machines.

Seeking distraction I sat down at the sole gaming table, turns out it wasn’t blackjack but was pontoon which has different rules (notably, the house wins on a draw, giving them an advantage and throwing my strategy into disarray). As always I lost, but I did manage to waste a couple of hours playing and drinking for not much money. Chatting to the other players I discovered that the cruise isn’t always this odd, apparently I’d got caught up in an eighties theme cruise — hence the mad costumes and 80s disco.

The real shock was the number of people that were doing the crossing to spend four hours in Belgium and then just head back that night. It’s really just a big floating nightclub with a few hours to buy duty free thrown in. Each to their own I guess, it just seems a bit strange.

Everything on the boat costs money so it’s always going to be somewhere between boring and expensive. Again I wondered if I should have taken my laptop, but there is nowhere secure to leave it so I’d have to carry it everywhere or chain it to my seat. Overall I enjoyed the crossing, everything is well run and the surreal atmosphere helped. Plus you get some excellent views of Edinburgh as you’re heading out to sea, I’ll try and put some examples on Flickr once I’ve had a chance to sort through my pictures.

There are more ferries in my future so I look forward to comparing the experiences.

One Response to “Boat to Belgium”

  1. UnorthodoxY » Blog Archive » EU 2008: Bruges, Belgium Says:

    […] going to split the Belgium posts to cover each city I visited. First Bruges, I took the ferry from Rosyth which drops you at Zeebrugge, from there it’s a short bus ride into town. The bus […]