Review-British Isles June 7, 2012
We just returned from our cruise of the British Isles on the Caribbean Princess and found them to be all we had hoped they would be. The intriguing architecture of the buildings in the major cities and the lush, green beauty of the country side of each country was spectacular. We used the Princess tours and found the guides to be excellent and well versed on their subject.
Prior to the cruise,we spent 2 days in London at the Marriott County Hall on the River Thames. It is located right by the London Eye and across from Parliament and Big Ben.We toured the city on the HOHO buses which stopped right at our hotel door. This was our second trip to London and we enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
We used Princess transfers from Victoria Coach Station to South Hampton and arrived at the ship by 1:30. Embarkation was slower than usual because of long security lines.
We took some of our tours in the cities and some away from the ports to explore the country. We did Guernsey on our own visiting a church, walking along the harbor and shopping. In Cobh, we took a tour of Killarney National Park and parts of the Ring of Kerry . We also visited Muckross House while in the Park. The scenery on this excursion was just beautiful. In Dublin, we visited Trinity College and St. Patricks Cathedral and toured the city. In Belfast, Northern Ireland we left the city to visit Londonderry and walk the walled city. Along the way we saw the same beautiful country as we did in Ireland. In Scotland, we took a ferry ride across the River Clyde to Holy Loch and the beauty of lake country. We visited Inverary Castle and had lunch nearby. Then we proceeded to Loch Lomond and the town of Luss. This was one of the best tours.
In Invergordon, we chose to tour the Cawdor Castle, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. The weather was cloudy and cool but the rain held off until we were on the bus heading back to the pier. Once again, the scenery was awesome despite the clouds.
Our last port was Le Havre and we chose to return to Paris for the second time and picked an excursion that would take us to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. On our first visit, we took a trip down the River Seine on a boat that was a dining room for lunch. We were not near windows and the glass top had shades drawn to keep out the sun. It did not have a deck to walk around and take pictures, which was a major disappointment. This time, we made sure we would see Paris.
The bus tour of the city was excellent with picture stops. If we could not stop in some places, the driver found a way to slow down and then go back the other way for the people on the other side of the bus. Our guide was very good and spoke English very well. We had a delightful lunch at Chez Jenny and then went to Notre Dame. The Cathedral was massive in size and the stained glass windows were beautiful. A choir singing inside the cathedral was a treat we did not expect.
We missed Liverpool because of a ship problem and each cruiser received a $75 credit. We missed Edinburgh because of weather ( it was too rough to tender) and this created more unrest aboard the ship. We were disappointed but understood the situation. It should be noted for future cruisers and newbies that if you absolutely cannot accept a missed port, then you should not cruise to that port.
Missed ports happen to every ship sooner or later.
There were many comments about missing Liverpool and not dropping Guernsey and instead of another sea day, going to Le Havre a day early and having another shore excursion day. Logistically, this is hard to do. The ports have schedules and if they have no openings for the ship other then the day it is scheduled, they can't accommodate the ship. Tour groups are booked months in advance. If you should get to a port off schedule, there is no guarantee that there will be guides and transportation for shore excursions.
This was the first time we sailed on the Caribbean Princess and this will be the first time we will criticize the food and dining room. Having just been on the Emerald in March and sailing on other Princess ships, we found the food selection on this ship to be uninspiring and not up to the standards we have experienced on other Princess Cruises. We had three different waiters and assistants in the Island Dining room that were slow and mixed up orders and even one pair that left us waiting for dinner for 30 minutes after the salad. In the Cafe Caribe, there were too many side dishes and only one or two main dishes. The same food was served two days in a row and we found one item on the lunch menu as well. We are not hard to please as food goes, but have been spoiled by the chefs on the other Princess ships we have sailed. I don't know why this one was so different.
On the bright side, we had a new mattress. Princess should replace all of the old ones as soon as possible as there were many gripes onboard about poor mattresses.
The entertainment onboard was enjoyable with plenty of choices to make. Even though the cruise was port intensive and we were tired every night, we managed to see a show most nights because of the new schedules. Some may criticize the new schedules, but we like them. The cruise director, Dave Styne, was quite the comedian when he introduced the shows.
We loved our cruise and highly recommend this itinerary.