This is the third cruise my husband and I have done on an R class ship. We love this size of ship and really appreciate the intimate feel of the cruise experience.
We always arrive at the embarkation port at least a day early, especially when we are flying from the west coast of Canada all the way to Europe. We have plenty of time to recover from jet-lag, and get a chance to see a bit more of Europe too. We arrived at Dover the day before departure and checked in to the Dover Inn, a hotel right on the promenade along the harbour. We had requested a non-smoking room facing the sea and were very happy with our choice. The hotel was a bit worn around the edges, but the desk staff was friendly and very helpful. We dropped our luggage off and took off to explore.
The hotel is within walking distance of Dover Castle. It is a steep climb but it was exactly what we needed to clear the cobwebs from our head after a long overnight flight. We are both interested in history and found our tour of the castle very interesting. It is a fortress rather than a palace, but it has been a part of the defence of Britain for 800 years. We spent 4 hours touring the castle and could have spent much longer but we were starting to play out.
After a very comfortable night, we were up early to walk along the harbour and find a place for breakfast. We could see the Ocean Princess tied up at the pier from our bedroom window.
Embarkation was the fastest we have every experienced. The taxi dropped us off at the terminal and 10 minutes later we were in our stateroom.
As I said, we have sailed in the sister ships to the Ocean Princess twice before and are very familiar with the layout. We took a quick tour to get orientated again. We love the fact that there is never a line up for anything on the ship. We never had to wait for a chair, or a lounge, or a spot on a tender. There was no problem finding a good seat for the evening entertainment. The staff gets to know you so quickly on a ship this size. The service is so friendly and efficient. You are really made to feel like a welcome guest.
There is a small casino, which we never used. The fitness facilities were excellent. Both of us used to walking/jogging track (13 times around is a nautical mile). I took a couple of fitness classes and found the instructor to be excellent. The yoga classes were popular. The pool is not covered but we had some lovely warm days and there were plenty of people enjoying the pool deck and the hot tubs. There are no facilities for children on the class of ship and there were only a couple of children on board. I did talk to a couple of young people ( late teens/early twenties ) They were celebrating a family event and were a bit bored. There is no loud music by the pool, late night partying, or activities geared for the younger crowd.
We loved it. Most of the passengers were well travelled, well educated and very interesting. We made some great friends. I like the assigned seating at dinner but we could just as easily decided to go to a specialty restaurant for dinner, or enjoyed a casual meal up on the Panorama deck where there is table service in the evening.
I was expecting cool, wet weather for at least part of the trip. It can also be rough in the English Channel or the North Atlantic The first two evenings, there was some motion of the ship and I heard a few people say they were bothered by it. We took our anti-nausea pills and were fine. The movement of the ship and the breeze coming in through the balcony windows certainly guaranteed us a great sleep. The remaining time on board the seas were calm. It was a bit breezy across the upper decks at times but, in general, the weather was much nicer than we expected. We had some showers a time or two but they always seemed to occur when we were indoors. We had a couple of lovely sunny days at sea and lots of people working on their tans.
Ports of Call
St. Peter's Port, Guernsey - We tendered in at this port. The narrow streets are charming. It was a great place to stroll, and search for a few drinks to stock up the fridge in our stateroom. I like diet 7-up or ginger ale and for some reason it is in short supply on board. We hopped on the island bus and took a tour completely around the island. It cost 2 Pounds each and was a real deal.
We took the shuttle in to the centre of town and walked everywhere we wanted. Toured the Waterford Crystal factory. Found a really fascinating old pub and started an interesting research project on where the best beer in the British Isles can be found. I'm not telling you the results - very subjective
We bought tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus on-line. We spent the day touring the city, walked the grounds of Trinity College, and met some wonderful people ( who had relatives in Toronto and "did we know them?" We live over 3,000 miles west of Toronto so it turns out we were not acquainted.
Took the train in to the city centre. The train station was an easy walk from the ship. The train whisked us in to the city in about 30 minutes. Glasgow central is one of the biggest train stations in Europe but is easy to navigate. We got lost on the way to find the first stop of the hop-on hop-off bus- but had plenty of lovely people who steered us right. They must be very accustomed to bewildered tourists. We had a lovely day, taking our time and stopping off at any location that looked interesting. There was always another bus no more than 10 minutes away.
Took a taxi to the train station and then a train in to Edinburgh. We toured Edinburgh Castle, walked the Royal Mile, marveled at the Fringe Festival ( I know there is some meaning to all that performance art - at least, I think there is) We walked, stopped for research for the beer project, and I enjoyed a cream tea. We had booked tickets for the Edinburgh tattoo but cancelled them. It was disappointing but a minor medical issue made it too difficult to go.
We had a relaxing day at sea before arriving back at Dover. Disembarkation was quick and well organized. Terminal staff helped us to locate the car and driver we had booked to take us to London. We continued our vacation with a stay in London and a land tour of Devon and Cornwall.
All along the way, we found we were much better off using the local transportation system to tour on our own. The train system is great and there are lots of information services for tourists.
Friends of our who were with us on this cruise had a medical emergency in Dublin and had to leave the ship. They have told us that the Princess staff were wonderful. They had a cruise line representative help them every step of the way, getting them to hospital, helping with accommodation and onward transportation. They are very appreciative.
It was a wonderful, relaxing holiday in a very interesting part of the world. We will certainly be making plans to travel on this ship or one of her sisters soon.