There’s also time to visit the Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre founded by the “father of nature conservation”, Sir Peter Scott, and an excursion to the Cotswolds Canal Trust Heritage Centre, where you’ll discover the history of the local waterways.
English Holiday Cruises (01452 410411) offers the three-night Ship Canal Explorer cruise from £595 per person, on board Edward Elgar, departing March 29 2024, (round trip from Gloucester)
Feast on culture in Zeebrugge and Le Havre
For incredibly fresh seafood and excellent beer (frequently served together), you needn’t look further than Zeebrugge, Belgium’s biggest fishing port. There’s a unique mix of sights and sounds to absorb here, but the nostalgic gem of Admiral Keyes Square is the town’s most enchanting corner, a haven of peace and quiet.
Next it’s on to Le Havre, which lost most of its medieval buildings during the Second World War. Yet from the ashes rose an incredible concrete mix of industrial and natural grandeur – an extraordinary combination, which has since seen it honoured by Unesco.
Cunard (0344 3388641) offers the three-night Bruges and Le Havre Short Break cruise from £689 per person, departing May 30 2024, on-board Queen Mary 2 (round trip from Southampton)
Take the tykes to Belgium
If you’re searching for a great first-time cruise for young children, it makes sense to opt for Disney, with its pools, on-board shows and range of kids’ clubs. Spend time exploring Southampton before you board, with its glimpse into the past at the Tudor House and Garden or the Maritime Museum, then its onward to Zeebrugge. Here, the children’s beach village – with swings, climbing frames and even a life-size play boat – are guaranteed to please, but if you’d like to add a bit of culture, Brussels is a short hop away.