This was a wonderful cruise. Very hectic as we had many full days in ports and only 2 sea days.
We had wonderful weather with only a few showers here and there. Daytime temperatures were warm, morning cool to chilly. We only had a few delays mostly due to unfortunate passenger medical problems and very long lines to reboard the ship in Guernsey. The ship was beautiful, clean and in good working order for our trip. Other recent cruises seem to have been plagued with mechanical problems, but we faired just fine.
We really enjoyed every port, but we're very impressed with Scotland. The scenery was gorgeous and the people very friendly. You don't often get the feeling that you are wanted there except for money but not so in Western Scotland they are justifiably proud of their area and love to show it off. Far different from the feeling we had in France were as Americans we were not treated as well (I'm being very kind in that statement).
We found Princess' prices for their shore excursions to be extremely high and did all the ports except Leharve on our own. In Guernsey we walked to the local bus stop approximately 4-5 blocks from the ships tender dock. The charge is Â£1. We arrived there about 30mins. before the first bus and were pushed out of line so we had to wait for the 2nd bus which was about 15 mins later. My only complaint regarding the bus is that it was full to capacity between the ship passengers and locals. It became very hard to see the sights with everyone standing in front of you. Some people who left the bus on the way around were not able to get back on some of the full busses that came past them. If I ever went back to Guernsey I would check on a local taxi guide for a tour.
In Cobh/Cork we did the ECoach Butler coach tour. It was a nice tour 2 hours in Blarney then a drive thru Cork with lunch and shopping in Kinsale. There isn't too much in Kinsale and the bus parked about as far from the restaurants/shops that he could (it's where the parking is and there were other buses in town). I had delicious local fish chowder at Dino's on the water front.
In Dublin we shared a taxi to town Trinity College with 2 other couples the charge was â‚¬19 split 6 ways, we gave the drive â‚¬10 got his card and called him for a ride back to the ship which was from The Temple Bar area and for the 2 of us was â‚¬13. Princess charges $8 each way for their shuttle which for the 2 of us would have been $32 total so we definitely did better on our own. We bought tickets online for the Green HOHO bus, it does a nice tour of Dublin some buses have live commitary some it's recorded, the buses are labeled which is which. We then went to see the Book of Kells, then some shopping, back on the HOHO to wander thru the Temple Bar area then back to the ship.
In Liverpool we went on our own the ship is maybe about 1/3 mile from Albert Dock. It's a flat walk no hills but there is a local bus that for Â£1.10 will take you near for those with walking problems. We took the Yellow Duck Marine Tour it was a lot of fun. Got a little wet on the splash down but nothing to bad. We then wondered thru the shops and the Maritime Museum, which was very interesting.
In Belfast we did a tour with Odyssey Tours which had been arranged by another member of Cruise Critic David (In Retirement) For Â£25 each we toured Belfast went to the Giants Causeway which of course the weather decided then to rain the hardest, there is a shuttle from the visitor center and the rocks which is Â£1 each way, along the coast to Ballycastle for lunch not much there most of the shops were out of business or they were geared to the locals (hardware butchers etc) We then went to Carrickfergus Castle where we had a short tour. Â£3.
Our next stop was Greenock. I had contacted a local tour group called Inverclyde Touist Group
WWW.inverclydetouristgroup.co.uk they offer 3 different tours of the area. Requesting only a donation towards their petro/gas. It was a lovely tour along the coast to the charming little town of Gourock overlooking the Clyde River. We opted to leave the tour and spend some more time in Gourock, wher we found a wonderful wool shop Once A Sheep where we bought local Scottish and Irish wool for knitting. We then caught a taxi back to the ship stopping to shop in the terminal where there were wonderful local hand made items. A bit of caution they only take cash but the will take dollars, euros and of course pounds. We did an afternoon tour to Newkirk Castle also with the Inverclyde Group. They do a wonderful job. I highly recommend them.
Next was a day at sea finally a little rest. Since we are both crafters we went to the knit group and card making group, had fun at both. Plus we had crafts to take home.
In invergordon we did a tour organized by another Cruise Critic member. The tour was with Gordon from G&S tours. Cost Â£42.50 each. Gordon was great we went to the Calloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Beauly Priory where we had lunch at the Beauly Priory Hotel (great food) a cruise on the Loch Ness (extra Â£12 but really worth it) we viewed Urquhart Castle from the Loch. We then went on an expedition to find the Mermaid of the North and the Salmon Statues just on the other side of the ship. We were the only ones from the ship to see them. I'm not sure it was worth the extra effort but the scenery was gorgeous.
Edinburgh again semi on our own David again organized private bus transport to the Edinburgh Castle and with pick up at The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Our cost Â£10 each for the round trip. We were grateful for the walk down the Royal Mile. I don't think by that time in the cruise I would have been able to make it up the hill. Some shopping as we made our way down the Royal Mile. I bought tickets on line for the Palace. It is a self paced tour using an audio player. The tour was excellent. I really enjoyed seeing things from Mary Queen of Scots. Since we are both stitchers I always felt a little kinship to her.
Another day at sea and rest!
Our last port was Leharve I went to Normandy. It was the 68th anniversary of DDay there were WWII era re-inactors, plane fly overs old jeeps and other army vehicles. Even saw a DUWK (duck) that was not converted to a tour boat. My visit to the Beaches and the Cemetery were very moving. Our tour guide was extremely difficult to understand. Except when he bragged about what a great job the French resistance did in the war. Funny how my father who landed there as a 21 year old US soldier
Told a much different story. My friend went on the ships tour to Honfluer. She said it was a charming town but the tour guide out and out hated Americans. So much for France.
We arrived safely back in Southampton the transfer back to Heathrow went smoothly after a little bit of trouble finding our suitcases in the sea of other cases.
We didn't go to any of the stage shows on the ship we were just too tired but we did enjoy the entertainment in the Piazza.
The food was either very good or average. I really enjoyed of all things the rice pudding it was delicious. And the prawns on lobster night were almost as big as the lobster tail. The orange juice was terrible and the coffee was bad too. My friend thinks they are making the coffee so bad so you have to buy a coffee card to get the good stuff. The ice cream in the dining room was delicious but the stuff at scoops not so much.
Our cabin steward did a wonderful job very attentive and the room was always neat even when we flooded the bathroom.
We had a wonderful time and would definitely do another Princess Cruise in the future