I stayed near Heathrow and went back to the airport to catch the bus to Southampton, a 1 Â½ hour drive depending on traffic. The cost was U.S. $49.00 one way from Princess. If I had known, I would have stayed near Victoria Station, another pick up point to the ship by Princess.
The embarkation and disembarkation process went very smooth. The terminal in Southampton has got to be, so far, the best I've seen. My bus got there early so we had to wait for a bit. There's a place to buy coffee and snacks.
I got on the ship about 12:30. Dump my stuff in my room, put valuables in the safe right away and headed for lunch. After I had time to quickly get into Southampton to walk around a bit, and found Internet at Bargate Shopping Mall. I won't use the ships, too expensive and no guarantee of speed.
For the most part, the food was good. I'm not a fussy eater. I dined at the Horizon Court or Cafe Carib for buffet breakfast and lunches.
I had an 8:00 traditional seating. It was OK. Our waitress Zhanina was awesome. She was knowledgeable, and had a great sense of humour. When I opened the menu each night, nothing really appealed to me I'd rather eat at the buffet. I think I'm not going traditional anymore. Either stick to the buffet or maybe once in a while go anytime dining.
The International Cafe is open 24 hours at deck 5 serving sandwiches, salads, soups. You can buy coffee of any kind.
Speaking of coffee, the free stuff tastes awful hence people buy real good coffee though I didn't try that. You can purchase a coffee card. I think the cruise line at least can have a free decent coffee. I guess another money grabber, eh?
Around 3:30 near the cafe, they serve milk and freshly baked cookies. Yum!
Was OK. Not to take away from the talent of the entertainers, personally it's about the same thing now. The best entertainment that I had seen on a cruise or anywhere in my travels was Polish violinist Michal Bacala. He played for a solid hour! And he received a standing ovation.
One night for one time slot only, some of the crew (such as cabin stewards, waiters etc.) got a chance to show their talent (some of them should be headliners). One of them got a standing ovation.
While in I think two ports, they brought in local entertainment. In Dublin, we were entertained by a folkloric show by Gaels Afloat. They were good.
As a solo traveller, I wanted to meet other solos. They had a meeting the first night, to which I was 15 minute late due to my later dining. When I got there, there was one other woman. One of the assistant cruise directors was given a different room to meet than we were. Plus some solos probably didn't show up because it sounded more like a singles party and people didn't really want that. They tried other meetings that I went to and the same four of us showed up. They kind of goofed here, I think.
Ports of Call.
St. Peter Port, Guernsey. Because of rough water and high winds for tenders, the captain had to cancel this port. Safety first. I was looking forward to visiting so I'll have to try again.
Holyhead Wales. Because of yesterday's cancellation, we docked earlier in Holyhead. You had to take the shuttle to the terminal. I had a chance to get into the cute town, walked around and yes found an internet before I caught my Busy Bus tour. For 45 GBP, it was a great tour with Andrea (tour guide) and Jim (driver). We visited Caernarfon, went to Snowdonia, headed over to Betws-Y-Coed (cute town to have stayed longer), spend some time in Conwy and then the last stop of LlanfairPG (the short form of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)
Dublin, Ireland (docked at Ocean Pier): It's a far walk to get into Dublin so the $16.00 return bus ride was worth it. I spent a few hours walking though I thought about taking the hop on and off bus. I saw most of what I wanted. Trinity College, Temple Bar (had a cold beer in Palace Bar), St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle, St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, walked a bit along O'Connell Street.
Belfast: I booked with www.belfastcitytours.com before I left home as well as two couples I had never met until here. What a fantastic tour with our taxi driver, Tommy. He took us to the Giant Causeways, then off to Bushmill Distillery (the oldest at over 400 years old), had lunch at a restaurant in Ballintoy Harbour, the scenic ride back to Belfast was breathtaking, stopped at Titanic Memorial at City Hall, a quick stop to take pictures of the Titanic Museum then see the dry dock where the Titanic started its journey before he dropped us back at our ship. The day was cold, windy, wet and fantastic!
Glasgow (docked in Greenock). I took a tour with Discover Scotland, Inc. We visited Loch Lomond, cute town called Luss, beautiful drive along the countryside, and Stirling Castle (extra 13 GBP if you wanted to go in). Keith, our driver/guide, gave us two hours here. For me it was a bit too long, for others not long enough. But the whole trip was worth it.
Kirkwall (Orkney Islands). Nice town. I basically did my own thing and walked around. Became sunny and bit warmer from the last few days. Walked to St. Magnus Church and went inside. Not far is the Bishop Palace and Earl's Palace. There is a fee to go inside but I passed. I found Orkney Library & Archive. You can use the internet for free. I made a quick stop and visited Orkney Wireless Museum (3.00 GBP) to see radio sets of long ago and rare wartime communication equipment. I heard one of the workers tell someone a lot of these were donated.
Inverness (docked at Invergordon). I ended up taking a private tour with a group of people. George, our driver/guide, took us to a view site to see Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. But he mentioned they've planted a lot of trees so you can't see as well as before hence making you pay extra to go in. We stopped at a farm with working sheepdogs and got a lesson in sheep shearing. (6.00 GBP). Was Ok. We passed by an area where the last battle in Scotland took place in 1745. Then headed to Cawdor Castle (extra 9.50 GBP if you want) for about an hour. We passed by a lot of gorgeous countryside scenery with beautiful yellow flowers that are called rape seed oil (better known here as Canola oil). Won't be pleasant if you've got bad allergies. [I tried to get the name of this company but unfortunately, I didn't. But it was cheaper than the ships tour. Do your homework, you may find something similar to this. Just thought I'd tell you a bit about it anyway]
Edinburgh (docked at South Queensferry). The ships excursion will drop you off in Edinburgh for U.S.$59.00. You have two other choices. One, which the ship doesn't tell you, is a shuttle bus (privately owned I was told by someone at the dock) to get into Edinburgh for 10.00 GBP (someone told me takes about over 30 minutes, depending on traffic) or you can take the 25 minute train ride for 7.40 GBP return. It's about a 10 or so minutes to the train station called Dalmeny. There are a lot of steps to climb. The train is superb. And keep in mind the stop coming back is called Dalmeny. Edinburgh is a beautiful city! I spent walked a lot, spent my time around the Royal Mile and a bit on Princess Street. Some streets have a gradual incline or can be quite steep. It's a city well worth coming back.
Le Havre (France). I didn't do my homework well for this port trying to get some Canadians to maybe take a private tour to our Canadian D-Day landings and failed (the ship only at American D-Day landing tour). I took the ships tour to Honfluer, a beautiful seaside town. Honfluer was on my bucket list. I could have taken the bus or train from Le Havre on my own and wasn't sure where to go. After my tour, I ate lunch on the ship then went inside the cruise terminal to use the Internet. Inside the cruise terminal, you can get information on what to do, where to go. The ship has a shuttle bus into Le Havre's city centre for $16.00. The lady inside the terminal told me it was about a half hour walk. I walked and spent a bit of time here. There's a great memorial for the World War. I walked a bit around the city centre then I stopped a cold beer before heading back to the ship. Here's a website for better tips. http://www.cruiseeurope.com/node/1926 . I wished I'd seen this before I left.
Back at Southampton. I took the ships tour to Stonehenge then they dropped me off at the airport. To be honest, it was nice seeing Stonehenge but it wasn't worth the $139.00 the ship charged. Looking back, I would have taken Princess' bus to the airport ($49.00), checked in if I could then grabbed the tube and headed into London for a few hours