A relaxing mini-cruise was just what doctor ordered

To celebrate my wife Sarah's birthday, I took her on a two-night cruise to Bruges.

Thursday, 6th October 2016, 6:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 2:36 pm

All we got to see was Zeebrugge harbour, but the trip was just what the doctor ordered and we wondered why we hadn’t done this sooner.

There are lots of two, three or four-night mini-cruises that sail from Southampton and, during the winter months, they happen most weekends.

The ship for this cruise was an old favourite of ours, P&O’s Oriana.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Built in 1995, she replaced the famous liner Canberra and it was on board Oriana that I proposed to Sarah.

Although the elder figure of the fleet, this ship is still in excellent condition. But, unlike modern, apartment block ships, she retains an air of elegance from the traditional days of cruising.

I likened her to what BMW have done with the Mini or Volkswagen have done with the Beetle.

From sophisticated bars like the Crow’s Nest above the bridge, or Anderson’s, down to the traditional pub called The Lord Tavern, there was plenty to eat and drink.

On the second night, we dined in Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu restaurant. After that, I will never order a boring takeaway chicken tikka masala again!

The most important thing for us was R&R. But with ages ranging from 20 to 70-somethings and celebrations from hen dos to golden weddings, there was a great atmosphere on board.

When we reached Zeebrugge, the weather was awful.

The rain was horizontal and the winds were gale force.

We just stayed in bed. Boy, was our bed comfy. But it could have been made of straw and we still wouldn’t have moved.

During the day we read in the library, watched football in the pub and ate to our heart’s content. As we sailed, the ship ploughed through big North Sea waves with hardly any movement and the evening entertainment began once again.

The only negative? We arrived back in Southampton all too soon.

Maybe next time I’ll ask the in-laws to have our kids for longer. Well if you don’t ask you don’t get!


I refuse point blank to put the heating on. It’s early October and hardly cold!

By dawn it’s still 10C on the coast here, but my wife has had her finger hovering over the ‘on’ button this week.

I do agree that our conservatory isn’t the warmest in the morning. But when the sun starts to arrive in the garden, it soon warms up. Nothing wrong with putting a fleece and slippers on first thing...

Sarah then showed me a new report on a big freeze which is supposedly on the way. All the more reason to toughen up now, I say.

But this morning I woke up sweating. Why? Sarah had switched on the heating.

Somehow I knew I’d end up losing that one!


My ‘Stoptober’ aim of not using social media for a month (apart from for work) lasted all of seven hours.

I know, I’m weak. But I couldn’t resist posting a photo of my pint of Peroni and Sarah’s Cosmopolitan cocktail in the Crow’s Nest bar on board Oriana as we sailed down Southampton Water.

A friend then posted a picture of the ship turning off Cowes as we sailed past.

It turns out some of my followers from Twitter were on board with us.

As I tweeted the photo, others responded with their views from the ship.

So thanks to social media, I wasn’t incognito over the cruise weekend.

It’s my friend and sometimes my enemy, but it seems I just can’t live without it.