But within hours of leaving Hull on our P&O mini cruise we were literally rocking and rolling around the Christmas tree.
We’d expected a boat load of snoozing truckers, but there was a real party atmosphere aboard the Pride Of York.
Families and friends heading for Bruges’ Christmas markets hit the dancefloor as a live band kicked off the Show Bar’s entertainment.
We’d taken a Club cabin upgrade for our overnight crossing to Zeebrugge and weren’t disappointed as the decent-sized room with two bunk beds slept five of us comfortably.
My wife was chuffed with the Clarins toiletries in our bathroom and an added bonus was a fully-stocked mini bar.
There’s an a la carte menu in the brasserie but that wasn’t enough to tempt us from the child-friendly buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner, where the varied choice meant even the fussiest of eaters in our family — me — was satisfied.
The chicken tikka rogan josh was as good as anything from our local takeaway.
After a great night’s sleep on surprisingly comfortable beds, our early wake-up call was a ding-dong on the tannoy and a jovial voice to announce our arrival in Zeebrugge.
A rather slow disembarkation followed — apparently not the norm and perhaps an early taste of post-Brexit passport queues — and we hopped on the coach for a speedy transfer to Bruges, the capital of beer and chocolate.
From the finest Belgian beers to chocolates in all shapes and sizes (including lipsticks and willies) the city has it all.
We spent most of our time in and around Market Square with its atmospheric Christmas Market.
With twinkling lights aplenty and stalls selling crafts, foodie treats and all sorts of other festive frippery, we splashed out on a few last-minute Christmas gifts before warming up with hot chocolate and mulled wine.
The square, famous for its belfry tower, has for centuries been the scene of medieval fairs and, though not so much nowadays, uprisings and executions.
Inspired by the history, we skipped traditional museums to visit the nearby torture museum.
Located underground inside one of Europe’s oldest prisons it’s a shocking collection of gruesome tools and contraptions used over the centuries to extract confessions.
The kids were fascinated.
The bonkers Friet Museum was also a hit — a cute run through the history of the potato and how they are transformed into the crispy fries beloved by Belgians and, well, everyone else.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: P&O Ferries offer mini cruises from Hull to Zeebrugge including two nights onboard in an ensuite cabin and coach transfers to Bruges from £40pp between October and December.
For drivers, fares from Hull to Zeebrugge from £169each way, including cabin.
Pets welcome for drivers.
After a whizz round the interactive exhibition there’s a chance to sample a plateful for yourself in the museum’s restaurant.
As the hours ticked down it was time to get our skates on, so we headed for the ice rink.
I was swiftly humiliated by my wife and children, who took to the rink like ducks to melted ice.
We strolled back to our coach via the old cobbled streets but not without a stop for some amazing waffles, more frites and Belgian beer.
Exhausted after a day of walking we took to the The Lounge bar for a more relaxing night on the return trip.
It was the perfect excuse for me to get my casino legs, while my wife hit the duty-free shop.
For a visit to Bruges, it’s definitely the most wonderful time of the year.
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