November Cruise to Bruges and Amsterdam

After a speedy boarding, myself and my partner Paul embarked the ship earlier than we were expected. This was our third P&O cruise, this time on the Arcadia. The ship looked like new as had a recent refit for two weeks. The bars, restaurants and public areas were adorned with new furniture,  wall design and carpets fitting in with the nautical theme.

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Sailing down Southampton Water after dusk we caught a glimpse of Cunard’s Queen Victoria in dock, before cruising towards the Solent and the Channel.

Our inside cabin on C Deck was very comfortable, and our steward welcoming. The food at the Meridian Restaurant was delicious with a great choice on the menu.

Waking up in Zeebrugge to a crisp morning we had the buffet breakfast before heading out into Belgium. The bus tour of Scenic Villages and Chocolates took us to the quaint village of Damme, Roose’s Chocolate World on the edge of Bruges and Loppem Castle. Driving through beautiful scenery with our expert tour guide Bert made it thoroughly engaging. Bert even threw in a few jokes about Ernie not being here and the most famous Belgian’s seeming to be the fictional Tintin and Hercule Poirot. I would recommend this tour to get a flavour of the area outside of Bruges , especially if you are fan of chocolate.

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The second morning brought us right into Amsterdam. We also had longer until early the next morning due to a forecast of strong winds. Packing a full day into the city gave us time to see the main sights while walking around and on a canal boat trip.

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I would recommend Gassan Diamonds for a free tour to see how diamonds are cut and a chance to see some close up with a small exhibition. There is also a large shop full of watches and if you feel the urge can have diamonds set how you like.

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As cats are one of my favourite animals also took a moment to stop by the poezenboot, being a canal boat for stray cats. In mid afternoon also stopped by a museum showing the more seedier side Amsterdam is known for, which does give a few giggles.

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In the evening after a filling and fantastic meal on board at Sindhu, a select restaurant with Indian inspired dishes, we need the chance to walk it off back into the city. This took us to a nice bar for a drink called the Cat in the Vineyard when translated. It was quiet as a slightly windy Monday evening with the barman friendly and welcoming.

The third day gave us some time to relax at sea on the voyage back towards the Channel and Southampton. There is something about cruising I enjoy. There is much to do in board with the entertainment and venued to socialise or just take a book to read by the covered pool area. The Arcadia has a different show each night with British movie theme songs and a Queen tribute with the band’s songs worth seeing. I have already booked on to the next for December 2018 aboard the Aurora heading to Hamburg, Copenhagen, Oslo and back to Amsterdam.

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At 500 days to go hope still remains!

On a November Friday evening in the City of Liverpool a group of North West MPs, MEPs, Councillors and concerned members of the public met to discuss the huge issue of Brexit. Alison McGovern MP, Maria Eagle MP, Julie Ward MEP, Louise Ellman MP and Theresa Griffin MEP attended from the Labour Party. Liverpool City Councillors Richard Kemp of the Liberal Democrats and Tom Crone of the Green Party also participated.

The panel was chaired by Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law at the University of Liverpool. Michael has shared concise videos online surrounding the referendum and since.

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The government may like us to think the country has come together to support the Leave direction, but there is much evidence to say this would be to the detriment of the country. This is also an attempt to keep the Conservative Party together by rallying to an extreme faction, words mirrored by some of the panel.

Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South began with the ironic words of Brexit Secretary, David Davis that in a democracy you can change your mind. As the lies and approach of Theresa May’s government continues to unravel there was consensus this may be sooner rather than later. Maria Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood spoke about how close the Conservative government is to falling apart with a possible election on the horizon. Julie Ward MEP for the North West spoke about constituents’ concerns regarding immigration which can be challenged in the right way.

Cllr Richard Kemp shared his story about his neighbours being from all over Europe and the world. This helps to showcase the city being open and tolerant.

The questions and answers covered the Brexit Withdrawal Bill, a possible second vote, the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland, likely independence for Scotland and fascist similarities in words and actions of the current government. Prof Dougan himself spoke of the current government being proto-fascist in the context of the Henry VIII powers, giving them more control. This especially comes following the letter from MP Chris Heaton-Harris to University Vice Chancellors concerning whose lectures cover Brexit.

The clock is ticking with around 500 days to go until the date Theresa May has set for officially leaving the European Union. This is not a done deal however, as many stumbling blocks exist within parliament; votes in both houses, and changing public opinion will make a difference to the final outcome of the referendum. There is always hope that the UK will not turn its back on the 70 years of peace we have had since the end of Second World War. As quite a poignant thought at the time of Armistice Day, we should not forget all we have achieved together.