The P&O Hull to Zeebrugge ferry: A tribute

Coronavirus has so many things to answer for. In the melee of real tragedies, one small thing popped up on the news this week that chipped another piece out of my heart. As if life isn’t bad enough for the north of England, locked down in a confusing array of different regulations that mean that many of us can’t even entertain a couple of friends two metres away in a garden, P&O Ferries announce they are ending the Hull to Zeebrugge route.

This news bought back so many memories of holidays that always began the moment we opened the bottle of red wine and proposed a toast to happy holidays in the P&O Four Seasons Buffet. Catching the ferry from Hull was such a leisurely affair. We would leave home after lunch and usually stop for a brew in our campervan overlooking the Humber before checking in. After finding our cabin in the maze of corridors [always with a window], we would climb on deck and watch the large ship making its sedate way through the lock at the port of Hull, eventually reaching the river Humber. In the Four Seasons restaurant we would hope to get a window seat so that we could watch the magnificent Spurn Point go by as we had our relaxing meal. The buffet might sound tacky but we were like children every time, enjoying the chance to try new and interesting combinations of food. While I would have numerous platefuls of different salads and cheeses, Anthony would add extra vegetables to his plateful of vegetable curry and then indulge in more than one pudding! As the restaurant cleared, we would chat to the waiting staff who always had interesting sailor’s stories Meanwhile, from Spurn Point the ship would leave the shelter of the Humber and we navigated into the will of the North Sea weather. By then we would be safely tucked up in our beds dreaming of the continent.

Waking up there was only time for a quick breakfast and before we knew it we were driving through the small port town of Zeebrugge and across Belgium via its motorway network. The Brussels ring road was always busy with traffic and sometimes we got lost but we were soon beyond its confusing junctions and on our way to France or Germany and further afield.

Occasionally we wouldn’t just race through the small country of Belgium, we would linger and explore some of its pretty corners, something we would never have done if we weren’t travelling to and from Zeebrugge. I have plenty of happy memories of fun and lovely places we have visited thanks to this ferry and have scattered some photographs in this post and many are in my travel article about Belgium [June 2017].

Sometimes we would have spare time on our last day and stop at a small Belgium town to explore before checking in at Zeebrugge. We have walked along the prom at Blankenberge, wandered around Zeebrugge itself and discovered gems like Veurne in rural Flanders. We picked Veurne randomly and found a small town with a beautifully preserved Grote Markt that was just right for some leg stretching before catching the ferry.

We have also stopped in the charming chic town of Spa and feasted on frites. The frites stall offered a bewildering row of different sauces to accompany their frites but traditional mayonnaise is always my preferred combination.  Sitting in the park eating frites and watching the intricacies of a pétanque tournament was an unforgettable Belgian moment.

Belgian food is outstanding and on another occasion we discovered delicious ice-cream in Sint-Truiden.  This wealthy and dapper town with high-class shops and tubs of colourful flowers has a splendid market place, dominated by the town hall.  Ijssalon Venise is a smart and popular cafe in the square and it served up an excellent banana split with rich warm chocolate sauce. And all within striking distance of our ferry home.

I can’t really believe we won’t make this journey again and feel stupidly sad. Surely another ferry company will take the route on. The ferry always seemed busy, there were generally school groups, weekenders visiting Bruges, freight and other holidaymakers from the north of England and Scotland that can’t face tackling the long drive around the M25 to Dover. Crossing the Pennines to Hull and waking up in mainland Europe was such a relaxing start to our adventures.

This virus has taken away so much away it is hard to mourn everything but I find I am cursing coronavirus once again.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

5 thoughts on “The P&O Hull to Zeebrugge ferry: A tribute”

  1. Very sad. I am sure that unfortunately, this will not be the only casualty of the pandemic.
    We mourn the loss of the Swansea to Cork ferry, which used to whisk us away to do battle with the North Atlantic on our windsurfing adventures in Kerry. I loved the fact that on one return journey, we had to sit for 12 hours outside Swansea harbour, because the ferry, which plied the route regularly, missed the tide. We thought they were joking at first. Only an Irish ferry…
    At least we got a free second breakfast!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, there will be other casualties – although apparently Hull to Rotterdam will continue. I love ferry trips and Swansea to Cork sounds like a good one. Our ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth was early once and the captain said we would have to cruise slowly around the Isle of Wight while we waited for a free berth. We did this for a few hours and got lovely views of the island but it wasn’t as much as 12 hours!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Getting on board in Hull was very quick and efficient. Crew were all very friendly and helpful. Food and service in the a la Carte restaurant was good. Entertainment in the lounge bar was also good. Breakfast in the buffet restaurant was quite good. A bit of a delay once we got off at Zeebrugge going through passport control. On return the port area seemed a bit disorganised and we went through two passport checks. However, once onboard again the crew were friendly and helpful. Food again was good, and Dave Dove was good entertainment in the lounge bar. Again a delay of an hour going through passport control. The Ships and crews were great, the Ports just need to get themselves sorted out and the whole thing would be a much better experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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