2017 is coming to an end and I think we can all agree it’s been a bloody awful year if you’re at all interested in politics and bettering the species. If you’re not at all interested in politics and bettering the species then you’re probably part of the reason it’s been a bloody awful year. But this site isn’t here to moan about politics and species-regression because the last time I looked I’d decided (in 2017 no less!) to focus on travelling and photography so, as is customary on this planet we call Earth at this time, here’s a fairly short retrospective of 2017 in terms of my travelling experiences followed by a look ahead to what’s planned for 2018.
National Travel In 2017
We ended up travelling a lot less in and around the UK in 2017 than in previous years but a lot of that was down to doing some more international travel (more on that below) than usual in its place. Of the places that we did visit there was only one – Stonehenge – that we’d not actually been to before, and it’s pretty shocking that we’d not been to the stone circle as we live less than a couple of hours from it and it’s one of the most famous historical sites in England.
Another place in the UK we visited included our annual trip to Wakefield back in April to catch a game of rugby. We happened upon a Classic and American car show at the time but otherwise saw very little else in the region as we’ve been there many times over the years. I’ve not got around to putting any pictures up from that yet as I’ve been concentrating on catching up with cruises but they’ll turn up eventually.
Our trip to Stonehenge took place at the same time as us taking in trips to Bristol, primarily to see the Grayson Perry art exhibition and aquarium, en route to Weston-super-Mare and a long day out visiting Tintagel Castle, a place we’d last visited when my wife and I were fist dating mumble-something years ago. We also popped into Avebury, a place we’ve visited many times over the years to pick sloes for gin.
At the start of the year we’d popped along the coast to Bournemouth for a couple of days which included a trip to its Oceanarium. Including the aquarium visit in Bristol and the SeaQuarium in Weston-super-Mare plus a trip locally to the Blue Reef in Portsmouth a couple of months ago it’s not unreasonable to label 2017 as The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarium.
International Travel In 2017
We’ve been getting away for an increasing number of cruises each year recently and 2017 was our cruisiest (not a word) yet. This was mostly down to belatedly realising that P&O cruises counted towards Princess loyalty (a scheme that has since stopped which I’ve argued is to the detriment of both cruise lines and its parent organisation Carnival here). So, where did we go?
Well, we started off with a weekend cruise to Belgium on Azura (our first time visiting Belgium despite its proximity to the UK) as a pretty late booking back in April. We forewent the obvious tourist draw of Bruges on that occasion in favour of visiting Ghent which was absolutely wonderful and included discovering the best soap ever, some lovely beers, stumbling on a wedding shoot, and climbing to the top of Gravensteen Castle.
The reason we snuck in that trip was to push us to Platinum level with Princess Cruises meaning we could get some free internet time (handy) and bypass the boarding queue (more fun than it should be) for our big cruise of the year around the Baltics. None of the write-ups from that cruise have been put up on this site yet but the raw photography can be seen on Flickr: Crown Princess, Baltic Heritage, 2017. That trip saw us visit Belgium for the second this year (this time actually visiting Bruges), along with six new countries for us: Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Poland. A great trip and at some point in 2018 I’ll get around to putting the posts online.
We then did two more cruises with P&O. The first of these was a 5-day cruise in October that was supposed to take in the Netherlands and France on Azura once more. A combination of strong winds and a striking workforce in Le Havre turned this into an extended stay in Amsterdam instead and that was no bad thing. Loved Amsterdam. It’s not a cheap place to visit but it can be made more affordable with the I Amsterdam city card and we saw an awful lot in our time there. We wouldn’t hesitate to return. Our final cruise of 2017 was another weekend trip to Belgium (making three visits to the country we’d never been to before this year) and a second visit to Bruges but this time on board the Ventura. We made a point to visit the Torture Museum in Bruges and it’s a highly recommended trip.
Travel In 2018
We went to a lot of new places in 2017 when we travelled internationally (seven new countries in total) but 2018 will be markedly different. Our plans for this year do include a few new ports of call but in terms of new countries visited the number will be… zero. I know! We’re as shocked as anyone. Here’s what’s coming up:
Belgium (again) on P&O (again) for a weekend trip (again) but on something new for us and the smallest cruise ship we’ll have been on, the Oriana. We’re looking forward to seeing how the older, smaller ship stacks up against what we’ve become accustomed to.
We’ll then be hitting France, Spain, and the Channel Islands on a week-long cruise aboard Sapphire Princess. We’ve been to Spain before but never on a cruise ship and not to the planned ports of Bilbao and La Coruna. We’ve technically been to France once before but I’m not sure if a one-day booze cruise to Cherbourg really counts. Anyway, if the French allow us to dock then we’ll be hitting Bordeaux. Guernsey is the other destination; we’ve not been to any of the Channel Islands before but it doesn’t really count as a new country. Maybe half a country. Sapphire Princess will be a new ship for us although she’s the sister ship of the Diamond, the first ship we ever cruised on when we had our honeymoon.
And speaking of Diamond Princess, for close to our tenth wedding anniversary we’ll be getting back on board her for another cruise around Asia taking in Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Some of the ports will be the same as those we took on our honeymoon back in 2008 – Okinawa, Keelung, and Hong Kong – and one Vietnamese port – Chan May – is very close to where we stopped off once before but the other ports – Tokyo, Cai Lan, Kagoshima, and Xiamen – will all be new for us.
Nationally, we’re not sure right now. The problem with working for a living is that we have a limited number of days holiday we can take and as it stands we’ve got four more days we can book off in 2018. Internationally, other potential short cruises are problematic as well. Princess don’t really do short cruises from the UK and P&O’s options are limited if we don’t want to hit Belgium yet again, and with the loyalty system no longer applying there doesn’t seem a huge amount of point in repeating just for the sake of it. We’ve been looking at other cruise lines but there seem to be a shortage of Southampton round trips with a lot of expectations that people will be happy to cruise out of the city but fly back into London afterwards. Convenient, it is not. Anyway, we’ll be keeping our eyes open because – and this may come as a bit of a shock – we are quite fond of travelling.