Cruise to Antwerp unveiled

Antwerp's Grote Markt - by Roger Bray

A sailing up the River Scheldt to Antwerp*, one of Europe’s more under rated yet fascinating destinations, features on one of a clutch of new cruises announced for early next year by over-50s specialist Saga. Passengers aboard Spirit of Adventure will depart from Portsmouth on 8 February for seven nights. By then they should be able to take in Antwerp’s Fine Arts Museum, whose much delayed re-opening is set for this September. The ship will berth at 8am and remain overnight near the medieval Het Steen Fortress before sailing again next day. This would allow plenty of time to follow the trail of the city’s favourite son, Peter Paul Rubens, or visit other attractions, such as the home of his rich patron Nicholas Rockox, whose exquisite art collection includes Lucas Cranach the Elder’s sensual Eve, the wonderful Plantin-Moretus Museum, which contains treasures such as rare booksand the world’s oldest printing presses, or the moving Red Star Line Museum, named after the shipping company that carried tens of thousands of emigrants between 1873 and 1934, refugees from anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe, poverty and the Nazis, who sailed on its ships in the hope of better lives in North America. Or just linger over those justly famous Belgian chips with mayonnaise, followed by a “bolleke” of equally celebrated beer at one of Antwerp’s atmospheric bars. The ship then departs for Rotterdam, where the gabled buildings of Delhaven survived shattering wartime bombing, and that which didn’t has been rebuilt with some flair. A sightseeing tour is included. The journey back to the UK includes a day call at Zeebrugge where passengers may take an optional excursion to Bruges. Cruise prices start at £1528 per person.

Other newly unveiled cruises for the start of 2023 are two to the Canary Islands, one to Arctic Norway – including the chance to see the Northern Lights at Alta on an excursion to a spot with no other light to spoil the view – and one to the Western Mediterranean, taking in Spanish and Portuguese cities.

*See my fuller description of Antwerp