Wonderful cruise on an old girl!
Europe - British Isles & Western
Just finished a grand cruise around the British Isles. Ports of call, Paris, Edinburgh, Inverness, Orkney Islands, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, Cork and almost Guernsey.
Traveled on the Caribbean Princess. She is definitely an older ship, with some of the nice benefits of one, however, she does need a face-lift. We especially like the ability to walk around the 7th deck totally outside, something missing on the newer ships. Also noticed some places which a fresh coat of paint, or varnish, would add to the ambiance. The mattresses also need to be replaced as they are somewhat hard. The balcony furniture was newer looking and comfortable. Most of the things inside the cabin worked well, but the toilet did stop working twice, but quickly repaired.
Our cabin Steward Sergio was a lovely, quiet, concerned, young man who was always responsive to any requests. You will be lucky to have him. Also two good bar hosts were Inna and Andrew at the Martini Bar next to Crooners. More
They knew our names after the first visit and always made us great drinks. They smiled all the time.
The food on this particular cruise was excellent. With few exceptions we enjoyed every meal we had. The Palm Dining room had delicious offerings, hot, and plentiful. Also one plate of food not enough, then have more. Their offerings of Home Made specials were the best offerings on the menu. They also had offerings for our Vegetarian cruisers. Kudos to the master chefs.
Our general experience on the ship was very good. Everyone we dealt with, from the cabin Steward, to bar tenders, to front desk attendants, were good experiences.
Finally excursions. We had planned an excursion for each port. However, thanks to some great table mates we managed to change a lot of them and just go out on our own. Most every port had either complimentary transportation, or reasonably priced buses, cabs, and trains. You can negotiate with most of the cab drivers, and senior prices are available on most also. Excursion report to follow. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Took a cab into the city, negotiated a good rate, even though it is on the meter. The cab dropped us off at the Hop On-Hop Off stop and we got a most amazing driver, Domonick, try to get him. He was funny and informative. The whole trip takes 1-1/2 hours, but you can get off and on as often as you want. We went to the "oldest" bar in Ireland, The Brazen Head, (Domonick will take you there). We had some Guiness beers and a great lunch. This is well worth stopping at. After we got back on thr bus and went into the heart of the city. It was a great place to visit. Again no excursion, unless you need it.
Our next port, and our absolute favourite, was Cobh/Cork. It is like looking at a picture postcard when you arrive, beautiful! We took the little train into Cork, but frankly we were not particularly impressed with this little city. But we took the train back to Cobh early and just fell in love with this cute little town. Take a look at the huge Cathedral which takes over the town, stunning. We stopped at Kellys for a Guiness, then around the corner for some lunch. We also visited the small Titanic Museum at the train station, which was very very nice. If you are lucky you may see the ladies of the 1900's dressed in their lovely white costumes. Perhaps ghosts of the Titanic? It was so lovely casting off as the lots of the residents of this little town can out to the port to wave us off. This was such a tremendous stop.
Edinburgh is a lovely little city. We took a bus into the city, which was just outside the cruise ship, and was very reasonable. We visited the Edinburgh Castle, which was very interesting, but a long walk uphill, so keep that in mind. We stopped at a little restaurant called Howies and the food was very good. First taste of Haggis, and it was very tasty. Give it a try, forget the bad reviews about Haggis. No need to pay for an expensive excursion, do it on your own.
The next port was Invergordon, Inverness/Loch Ness, which is not listed as a port here. Again a lovely little area. We did go on a ship excursion to Loch Ness, where we visited a castle which was very interesting, although it is slowly eroding. The Loch was beautiful, scenery awesome, but sadly no Nessie.
Again probably no need to spend money on the excursion, but we did, not sorry.
We followed with a visit to the Orkney Islands, Kirkwall, and were pleased with our visit. It is a very small place, and surprisingly the little shopping area somewhat hard to find. However, take the free buses outside the cruise ship and take a ride into the city. The driver will show you how to find the shopping area. We visited the lovely Chapel and just wandered around the city. We did take an excursion in the afternoon, to the Highland Park Distillery and the Italian Church, but no need again to pay for this, you can do much better on your own. Sorry Princess.
Our final port in Scotland was Glasgow. We shared a cab with our table mates into the city, then got on a Hop On-Hop Off bus. This is a great way to see the city. Glasgow was interesting, but a big city, which did not have the charm of the smaller ones we had just visited. We saw lots of interesting stuff, but sadly trying to get lunch was a bit of a mess. Saw a lovely Botanical Garden. We took the Scot Train back to the ship, and decided we really should have taken it both ways. It is close to the ship.
We went on the excursion presented by Princess. We did the cruise which included a bus ride into the heart of the city, with a lunch cruise on a river boat along the Seine. An extraordinary experience. We were concerned we would not get the cruise along the river, due to high waters. Just before we arrived we were advised by our Tour Guide that indeed we would get the cruise in. And were we happy about that as the cruise was lovely, the food delicious, and the entertainment delightful. This particular excursion, though spendy, was worth every dime.
Paris was the most beautiful city we have seen. We are now planning on going to spend more time in this most romantic city.
Sadly like so many other ships we did not port here, seas too dangerous. It looked nice from the ship though. Princess should perhaps give some thought to changing this as a stop, they seem to have a lot of problems porting here.
However, finishing off with Cobh/Cork was the best way to end.