Three nights cruise in the stretch of sea that divides France and England. We have been doing it on the Independence of the Seas of the Royal Caribbean. It was the first time for Giovanni on a cruise and his idea about it before the departure was not a very positive one.
We got a National Express from London Victoria to Southampton. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to destination. The cruise terminal is located about 10 minutes walking from the coach station. The boarding process was very smooth and in less than 10 minutes we were in our room. We got an internal cabin as we booked at the very last minute.
The cabin was surprisingly spacious and the first impression of the ship was a positive one with the crew members friendly and helpful. The ship has 14 decks, multiple restaurants, pool area, jacuzzis, play area and all what one can imagine to find on a ship.
DAY 1 – SOUTHAMPTON TO BRUGES
We departed on time, at 17:00. The first day, while cruising to Bruges, we have been discovering more of the ship. We did book our dinner but we missed it, as our phones automatically switched to GMT time, so we recommend to download the Royal Caribbean APP so you can check the “Ship time”, use the screen you can find at any deck to check the “Ship time”, or simply disable the automatic time on the phone and use a defined time zone.
Later in the evening we went to the “Silent disco”, where everyone wear a headset to listen to the music instead of having it loud in the room. It was a funny alternative to the normal disco. We have also been to the Royal Theatre for a standup comedy show, before to head to our room.
The next morning we arrived to Bruges and after breakfast we left the ship at 10:30. Royal Caribbean offers different options for excursion but we do think they are overpriced (they go from about $100 to $200) so we decided to do a self-excursion.
We got the shuttle to get to the terminal, as it is forbidden to walk inside the port. In the terminal we bought the return ticket to Bruges for €20.00 each. The bus takes about 20 to 30 minutes. The walk from the bus station to the city centre is about 15 minutes.
Bruges is a nice city but it is neither big nor a jaw-dropping destination. This means that half day is enough to enjoy a walk in the city, taste a few beers and climb the Belfry of Bruges (the bell tower in the city centre) despite over 1 hour of queue.
More info: Belfry of Bruges
DAY 2 – BRUGES TO LE HAVRE
Back to the ship and cruising towards Le Havre by 18:00.
This time we had our dinner and despite the fact that we were unable to reserve a seat we were immediately seated as we walked-in. The dinner was good and the service fast. We will have the same good experience on day 3.
The show of the day was Grease, it was good but on a negative note we had to watch it standing as all the seats were taken. The rest of the night went fine as different shows on the promenade were keeping the passengers entertained. Every day a programme was given to us with all the activities for the day. We have spent most of the time on the land, so we did not have many chance to do any daytime activity, but there is plenty to do.
The next morning we have been lucky to rent a car in Le Havre to go to Mont Saint Michel, a UNESCO site on the north-east of France. We did not pre-book the car and in fact we were given a 7 seaters as it was the last vehicle available. Saint Michel is about 2.5 hours (225 Km) driving from Le Havre. Most of it was highway/motorway for a total cost in road toll of about €10.00 each way. Once in Saint Michel we parked next to the information centre (cost of the parking €14.00 high season, €9.00 low season) and took a 10 minutes shuttle bus to the actual site. The place is really cool, and it can be visited in 2 to 3 hours with no rush. To enter the abbey at the top of the island you must buy a ticket for the cost of € 10.00.
More info: Mont Saint-Michel
It seemed all good, until we did risk not to make it back to the cruise. The car we rented was not starting as there was no AdBlue liquid in the tank. We were 2.5 hours away from the cruise and only 4 hours from the departure time. After a very stressful hour Elena was able to buy, thanks to a taxi driver and the help of the people in the information centre, a tank of AdBlue. Just enough to make the car start. We were on a very tight schedule now, any problem on the road would mean missing the departure with all the bad consequences.
Fortunately we did it. Also thanks to the car rental employee that agreed for us to leave the car in the port instead of the rental office.
Sharing our experience we do not want to give you the impression that going to Mont Saint Michel is a bad idea. In fact it is an amazing place to visit and it id worth it. Just plan it accurately and leave enough time ahead. We recommend you to depart from Le Havre not later than 11:00 to make sure to have enough time to cover eventual issues.
DAY 3 – LE HAVRE TO SOUTHAMPTON
Back on the ship then, just on time.
The last night was a relaxing one. Just enjoying the last few hours on the ship and complaining about the cruise being too short 🙂
The next morning the alarm was very early, as we had to leave the ship before 8:00 AM. Just the time to pack and enjoy our last breakfast with a view.
The disembarking was fast and flawless. We were at the coach station by 08:30.