A popular port of call, especially with on mini breaks from Southampton is Bruges, or more precisely the port of Zeebrugge.
Your cruise line will be able to provide many excursions from this port, such as the typical ‘Bruges on your own’ where you will get a guided tour and then some time to explore Bruges or maybe you could go further afield to the city of Ghent or the small town of Ypres which suffered constant bombardment during the Great War.
In this post, I will give you a quick guide of what you can do on your own – I often see on the Cruise groups people asking how to get to Bruges from the ship, hopefully this will give you a one stop guide on how to do it.
One thing to be clear about Bruges is that there are steps and cobblestones to navigate on your travels, usually with some walking required even with the organised excursions – so be sure to contact the excursions department to find out more if you have any mobility issues.
Exiting the port
Zeebrugge is a commercial port, so you are unable to walk around the port on your own. There are two options if you don’t want to opt for a taxi, the free ‘Port Bus’ or shuttle busses arranged by the cruise company.
These red busses will take you from the ship, to the port gates and will run while the ship is in port. They are free of charge.
Cruise ship shuttle bus
The cruise line will arrange shuttle busses that will take you further afield than the Port bus. On P&O and Cunard, these shuttles are free of charge – on our MSC cruise these were charged at 7euro each way per person, other cruise lines may also charge.
The cruise ship bus won’t take you to Bruges, but a seaside town called Blankenberge. From here you can explore the chocolate shops and cafes, or take a walk to the beach for an ice-cream and refreshments. When here we always pop in to Chocolaterie Delhy (www.chocolatesonline.be) to stock up on chocolates.
Getting to Bruges
Great I hear you thinking, I can take a Port Bus to nowhere or pay to go to a Blankenberge – but I wanted to go to Bruges.
The good news is Bruges is really easy to get to!
If you have taken the red port bus, you will be dropped just outside the port gates. You could organise a taxi, which will be roughly 100euro return or you could use the Cruise Express shuttles (www.cruise-express.be). For 20euro return you will be able to take the shuttle from the port gates, check out their website for more information. Note this won’t take you to the centre, you will still need to walk a short distance.
Our favourite way it to take the cruise ship shuttle to Blankenberge, the drop off is just opposite the train station (just behind the new Mercure hotel). The station sells tickets, or you can use the self-service ticket machines. It will cost no more than 5euro return. Trains run every hour, about 30 minutes past the hour to Bruges and then return is about 5minutes pas the hour. There are no stops between and it only takes 15 minutes. For the latest times, be sure to check out https://www.trainline.eu/train-times/blankenberge-to-brugge
Once at the station, you will need to take a walk in to Bruges centre, this is easy enough as you just need to follow the crowds.
So, there you have it, Bruges is really easy to do on your own. If like us you are nervous about getting back in time, make sure you allow enough time, don’t bank on catching the last Bus or Train, take the one before it. Also always make sure you take your daily news paper with you, they usually have emergency contacts for the port if things do go wrong.