We are truly retired now. We were able to take advantage of a last minute e-mailed deal. Just 10 days out we were able to book cabin and air and we were off to London. One bad aspect was; I did not have my usually time to prepare and research. I did not even have time to read all the postings of a very large and active Meet and Greet group.
The weather was wonderful. We were so lucky. We loved all of the ports:
1--St. Peters Port - took the local bus around the island. Popular option, so we had to wait for several busses. Lovely island! Ate ice cream from the food fair and stood in a huge line to tender back to ship. Should have gotten either a second scoop, or sat down at a cafe and waited for line to shorten.
2--Cobh/Cork - took the train to Cork to do the HO/HO. We did not know about the bus to take you from train station to town, so we started walking. Not a scenic area near train station so we changed our minds, and took train back to Cobh. Walked around the pretty town of Cobh. DH did the steep climb to the church. Hint-when buying tickets "Return" = round trip.
3--Dublin - took Princess shuttle to town (don't believe anyone who says "It's a 10 minute walk"...it is not. Unless they are hopping across rooftops like in Mary Poppins.) We took the HOHO bus. I booked online. Saw the Book of Kells and the library at Trinity College. The library is two stories with ancient volumes. DH says it looks like Hogwarts. After 1:00 there was NO LINE. Ate a cheap lunch at Trinity College cafeteria. Excellent fish called Hake.
4--Liverpool -- Took Princess excursion to Lake District. Lovely country, excellent guide. She had a book of all the different sheep - 29 or so. Who knew? And a precious book of Beatrix Potter children's author (who lived in area and purchased up farms to donate) "The Pie and the Patty Pan" about a black pomeranian dog named Duchess. Must get that book, Duchess looks like my daughter's dog. Took a short steam train and a short boat ride on beautiful Lake Windemere--long and skinny like "the Finger lakes" in New York. Ate lunch at Hydro hotel: 1/2 pint of ale, lamb, and a divine dessert called "Sticky Toffee Pudding". Must get recipe! Liverpool looked very interesting--will stay in town next time. Interesting looking Beatles museum.
5--Belfast -- Booked online the McComb's tour to Antrim and Giant's Causeway. Our guide was good. He wanted to squeeze in as much as possible, but it was a long time until we squeezed in a bathroom break! Giant's causeway was interesting to see and will be wonderful when visitor center is finished. Finished tour in the City of Belfast. I was truly stunned by the Peace Wall. In my ignorance, I first thought, "why don't they tear down the wall like in Berlin?" Later, I realized that they can't. Profound.
6--Glasgow - What wonderful pier side volunteers who offered info, free tours, Clan information, and a shot of Scotch whiskey at 8:30am. We took a free tour which was very enjoyable and dropped us off at the train station. Took the train to Glasgow, a huge city. Carry coins for pay toilets. Ate lunch at a Wetherspoon Pub. They are located all over. I had Beef and Abbots Ale pie. Delish. Time and energy was getting low so we passed on the HOHO tour and took the train back to Greenock. Another one of those "10 minute walks". Hint: If you have knee problems, take a taxi. We were "piped away" at sailaway, by bag pipers and drummers and a cute, blow up, dancing highland mascot. Many thanks to the people for making us feel so welcome.
Beautiful day at sea. I think I woke up in time to see the Isle of Barra where my clan comes from. If I didn't, don't correct me. Daylight is early and twilight is very late.
7--Inverness -- We took the Princess tour to Loch Ness with a boat ride on the lake and lunch at a lakeside hotel. Scotland is gorgeous: the moors (would like to see the heather blooming someday), the highlands, the cattle, the lake, the castle ruin. Purchased some Stag's Breath = Scotch and fermented honey. Did not see Nessie. But it was a sunny gorgeous day, so we did not expect to. Pipers again at sailaway. I love Scotland!
8--Edinburgh -- The 119 steps up to and down from the train station sounded too daunting, so at 7:00am we booked a spot on the Princess afternoon bus tour. What a picturesque city! And I saw no graffiti or tagging. Loved the architecture. Wished we had more time to shop.
Another day at sea, which was really needed. This is a rugged cruise for us flatlanders.
9--Paris -- It was a long bus drive but we could not pass up Paris. DH had not been there. Our bus tour showed us the key locations, the horrendous traffic (including experiencing an accident). It was the other guys fault! We had time to go into Notre Dame. Our French lunch was delightful.
The cruise directors Dan and Colin were a great team. They offered 3 shows a night which helped with the anytime dining. My only criticism is that the Caribbean Princess is the WRONG ship for a cold climate. Other grand class ships have a glass enclosed swimming pool. Why not use one of those? It would have helped out with the congestion of passengers in the Horizon Cafe. Also, 4 empty pools and vacant pool decks are a waste.
Prior to the cruise, we stayed overnight at the Premier Inn Terminal 5 hotel for 55 pounds. Purchased their meal plan = 3 course dinner and buffet breakfast for 22 pounds each. Good value, good food, quiet hotel. And it was a pick-up stop for the International Friends shuttle to Southampton with a stop at Stonehenge along the way. We had a 12:05pm flight home so had to board a 6:40am Princess shuttle bus to Heathrow Terminal 4.