Published: 12:00, 07 November 2017
Imagine a wonderful week-long trip visiting three countries and four cities – Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rouen and Honfleur – full of lovely scenery, architecture, art and history.
Now imagine organising that trip independently. An anxious drive to the airport and a flight, or maybe a ferry and car, more driving, unpacking and repacking your bags at each stop on the way, hours spent either behind the wheel or confined to a coach seat or train carriage.
Or, you could simply cross over to Tilbury and get on a cruise ship.
That’s the stress-free option I took, and the holiday began as soon as I set foot on board the Magellan, one of a fleet of five mid-sized ships operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
The chance to see the Kent coast from the Thames Estuary was just the start of the fresh perspectives on this voyage. I saw Amsterdam on a canal boat trip – and from the viewing deck of the multi-storey A’Dam Tower. If you’re brave, try a swing which launches you out over the edge from the top of the tower.
Treasures awaited at the Amsterdam Hermitage Dutch Masters exhibition, with art on loan from the Hermitage St Petersburg, most of which hadn’t been seen outside St Petersburg for 200 years – including six wonderful portraits by Rembrandt.
One of the beauties of a cruise is waking up each morning in a new destination – our next port of call was Antwerp, and the Magellan docks right in the heart of the city.
You just walk off the ship, cross the road and you’re in the centre, within sight of its beautiful cathedral. As well as Gothic, Renaissance and even Art Deco architecture, the city is famed for diamonds, chocolates, high fashion and, of course, beer. On a tour of the De Koninck brewery I tried three, including a mint and chocolate one which may be an experiment too far!
A couple of fellow passengers who had been on numerous CMV cruises told me they were returning to this one because they so loved the journey to Rouen along the Seine.
I can see why. The sunny afternoon we spent gliding up the Seine, passing picturesque towns, countryside, castles and churches so close you felt you could touch them, was the highlight of the trip for me too.
This cruise included a bonus Cricketing Legends theme, and it’s a testament to the pulling power of the sport that some 500 passengers sacrificed an hour or two of the river views to see David Gower, Chris Cowdrey, Alan Wells, along with Ray East, John Lever, Don Topley and Ken McEwan, with TV’s Nick Hancock hosting a quiz and a chat.
Rouen was memorable – dining out in the 14th century gourmet restaurant La Couronne, visiting the Joan of Arc museum, marvelling at the stunning cathedral, and a little further afield the impresssive ruins of the Abbey at Jumieges.
There was one more medieval gem left – Honfleur. This little port of 8,500 people punches well above its weight when it comes to gorgeous medieval buildings, a picturesque harbour and narrow cobbled streets.
We may have thought it was all over after that, but there was one last little treat in store – a stunning sunrise as we sailed back up the Thames Estuary past Gravesend.
Find out all about Cruise & Maritime Voyages upcoming programme of holidays and special offers at www.cruiseandmaritime.com.
The company has a fleet of five ships and sails from 11 ports.
Each cruise averages 40 per cent repeat passengers, attracted by the more intimate and relaxed atmosphere of the mid-size, adults-only ships.
Its cruises range from short breaks to spectacular around the world voyages.
The Magellan has capacity for around 1250 passengers over nine decks, with eight lifts, and offers three restaurants, numerous lounges and bars, pools and jacuzzis, a gym and show lounge.
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