by Neville Legge

Marco Polo cruise takes in sights of Rouen and Bruges from Tilbury

by Neville Legge

If you been put off from taking a short European break because you can face the hassle of travelling, think again.

A mini cruise is a brilliant, carefree option. The benefits are many, there no flying, no airport hassle, no luggage restrictions and far less to concern yourself with.

My wife and I travelled on Cruise and Maritime ship Marco Polo on a four night adults only trip to Rouen and Bruges, sailing from Tilbury. There is a choice of itineraries, all you have to do is choose, sit back and relax as everything else is done for you.

It couldn have been less stress free. Tilbury, being just the other side of the Dartford Crossing, is quick and easy to get to for people living in Kent. As you arrive your bags are taken to your cabin, leaving you to simply park your car and board the ship.

Our beds were extremely comfortable and the cabin was spotless. The crew were cheap jerseys polite, friendly and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble for them.

rouen and bruges four night cruise started from year, marco polo will be back in rouen during its great european waterways cruise, a five night voyage departing tilbury on october 5, 2012 calling at: amsterdam, rouen (overnight), antwerp (for excursions to bruges) and back to tilbury.

saver fares start from for bookings made by november 30, 2011 with prices guaranteed against surcharge. this includes accommodation, all main meals, afternoon teas, late night snacks, free tea and coffee (6am 10pm) and entertainment on board included.

cruise and maritime is also offering a number of other short break cruises throughout 2012, with prices from as little as for a three night bulbfields weekend cruise to amsterdam and antwerp on march 30, 2012.

The Marco Polo is one of the last classic ocean liners in the world today, and probably the last one of its kind in full operation. It has 425 cabins and carries about 800 passengers. Its biggest advantage is that it is small enough to travel up rivers, right into the heart of lovely cities like Rouen.

We sailed from Tilbury at 6.30pm on a Wednesday and docked in Rouen at 4pm the next day. The time flew past as we enjoyed the food and entertainment on board and watched the countryside go by as we sailed at a gentle 13 knots up the Seine.

Often bypassed by visitors to France on their way to other destinations, Rouen is the historic capital city of Normandy and a real gem. Our overnight stay gave us plenty of time to explore.

City of Joan of Arc, France greatest heroine, who was burned at the stake in 1431, Rouen historic heart with its half timbered houses overhanging the narrow cobblestoned streets and magnificent churches is compact and can easily be covered by foot.

Rouen Cathedral is one of the finest churches in France and was painted over and over again by Claude Monet who was regarded as the greatest of the impressionists. After Paris, the city Musee des Beaux Arts has the second biggest collection after of paintings by the impressionists.

While in Rouen passengers also have the opportunity to go by coach to visit Monet house in Giverny or a tour across Normandy with visits to renowned Norman abbeys.

We had a truly memorable meal on Thursday night in Rouen at the oldest inn in France, La Couronne, not cheap but a gastronomic experience.

We sailed from Rouen at 6.45pm for Zeebrugge in Belgium and arrived at 2.30pm on Saturday. A short coach trip later and we were in the beautiful city of Bruges, the ‘Venice of the north with its picturesque canals and preserved old buildings.

It is a Unesco World Heritage site and has long been Belgium most popular destination.

Besides its architecture it has wonderful little shops, boutiques and markets, brilliant beer and chocolates.

From Zeebrugge we sailed overnight to Tilbury and the ease of disembarkation was a fitting end to a truly memorable trip that was outstanding value for money.