We set off to Southampton Docks on a wet cold morning, we had decided to take the coach and the company we used had a drop step which made it very easy for me to board rather than be stuck in my wheelchair for the 4hr journey to the docks I was able to sit in the very comfortable reserved front seats!
We arrived at the MSC terminal and was ushered through quickly as the disabled check in had no one in the queue so was on the board the nice warm ship in no time and was able to find our cabin and get rid of the heavy hand luggage, relax and start our holiday!!
The ship has 16 decks, including 5 gourmet restaurants serving food from around the world and12 bars but getting to them in a wheelchair when everyone is on the ship was a nightmare!! People just stopped dead and would talk not realising they had blocked the way and just didn't move!!
There where a lot of disabled toilets on board which was a god send! The only gripe was there where raised lips in every doorway/enterance which where very hard to get the wheelchair over and did my back in!! In the Buffet restaurant they had reserved Disabled Tables which was great but they only had 2 tables for a good 25 disabled guests!! The theatre had a dedicated disabled area for wheelchair guests and was at a good height for the stage. There where a lot of pro's and cons about the ship, it wasn't the best cruise ship we have been on but it was okay for the week. We certainly wouldn't go on a cruise round Europe again this time of year as it was freezing the whole week!!
I didn't get off my husband did but it was a working port and they only had coaches running to La Halve which took an hour each way or Paris which was three hours each way.
We got off the ship in Zeebrugge and there was a coach which was adapted and very clever which took us to Bruges which was comfortable. As for Bruges well it's paths are pretty much made of the arched slabs which where a nightmare for the wheelchair and my back and the shops where all old fashioned and had raised steps. I think we lasted 30 minutes walking and had to head back to the coach on the way we found a restaurant which was an old tour boat, so we stopped and had a lovely lunch on the boat.
Well this was the main place we wanted to go to on the cruise as we had tickets for the 'My Name Is Prince Exhibition' at the Beurs van Berlage (an Exhibition hall). It took about 20 minutes to get to it from the port the ship was in. We got there earlier than our ticket entrance time and I noticed the café that people on Twitter kept raving about inside the Exhibition hall but the entrance to the café was at the side of the building and had stairs, so we went inside the Exhibition hall and I got on with the security man and cheekily asked if there was anyway we could get into the café with my wheelchair and he took us to a different entrance that was locked and unlocked it for us which was very nice. The café was lovely and I recommend it if you ever go to Amsterdam it's called 'New York, New York'. I won't go on about the Exhibition but all I will say is it was Amazing!! As for Amsterdam, well it's busy people everywhere and using a wheelchair round there is crazy! Amsterdam it's self is very interesting, we would have enjoyed it more if it was quieter maybe it was the time of day we where walking round I don't know. I would like to go back but the thought of it being that busy again does put me off.
We arrived there on the worst day of the cruise, it was torrential rain! Which was a shame as the view from our Balcony it looked Interesting. My Husband decided to be brave and head out in the heavy rain. He followed other passengers out of the port and headed to where the shops where. What he saw did make him blush row upon row of sex shops and brothels!! It wasn't was he expected to see, when he got back to the ship he was soaked throw he had to go to the cabin and get changed and when he got back to myself and another disabled English passenger I had got talking to he told me what he found and showed me the proof in photo's. I think if we had taken a coach trip we would have seen a totally different side of Hamburg but that was what was close to the port.
I don't think we will ever go on another cruise this time of year again, before the warmer weather arrives in Europe. We prefer the sun to the cold, wet weather. The week was nice for me and my husband we met a lot of lovely people on the cruise and we had fun, that was the main thing!!