We were on the July 8-23, 2013 British Isles trip on board the beautiful Caribbean Princess. This was our third time on this ship and it is my favorite. We had absolutely no problems on this cruise with the ship or crew. The weather for our trip was incredible. It was very warm for almost the entire trip. Cobb, Dublin and Paris use Euros and all other places use the British Pound. I hope you find this summary helpful. I know I counted on the previous cruise critic reviews to help me plan our trip.
LONDON: We arrived in London two days before the cruise. We took the tube from Heathrow to the stop close to our hotel. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza St. James. The location of the hotel could not have been better. We walked from the hotel to Westminster Abbey, past much of the government buildings, Calvary Museum, over to St. James Park and to Buckingham Palace. The next day we walked over to the Westminster Bridge to catch the River Thames boat ride and saw both Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We took the river boat down to Tower of London. You could spend an entire day here but after about 4 hours we walked (yes, walked) down to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Would highly recommend walking up the 528 steps to the top. What a great view of London. You are higher than the London Eye. We than walked (yes, walked) back to our hotel. Walking does allow you to take in all of the sights and do some people watching. There are plenty of opportunities to ride the bus, which are everywhere. We did purchase the London Pass with the transportation included. It allowed us to skip many of the ques.
Transfer to the Ship: We had International Friends take us from the Hotel to Southampton via Stonehenge. The bus driver that we had was TERRIBLE. Very scary. He cut off numerous cars and would zoom up on the back of cars he was following. Stonehenge was ok, it was one of those things that you go see to say that you saw it.
Guernsey, Channel Islands: This is a tender port. We booked a walking tour with Annette Henry Tours. (www.annettehenrytours.gg) Annette lives in Guernsey and knows so much history on the island. She makes it fun, does some role playing and takes you places that would be missed by other tours. Make sure you walk to the actual town which is behind those building you see from the port. It is a beautiful town. The tour was about 3 hours long and I think it was 10 pounds each. We tipped her very good.
Cob, Ireland: We did the Princess Excursion: Rock of Cashel, The Vee & Lismore. This tour was pretty good. We were able to see a lot of the countryside. The Rock of Cashel was interesting. We were there on a very warm day, close to 70 degrees and we were very lucky that our bus had air conditioning. There were two other buses in our group and both had problems with their air conditioning. There may be better tours offered than this one.
Dublin, Ireland: We took the Princess Shuttle $8.00 per person each way to town. When we got to Dublin there were people there waiting to sell us HOHO tickets. Be careful!!!! Not all buses are the same. The green bus-which we purchased had only a couple of buses. They go in one direction around the whole town so if you want to go backwards you walk. Plus there was a big wait time between buses. Go with the RED HOHO bus. Our bus was €18 each. We did not do any excursions. We planned on doing the Trinity College walking tour but too many people showed up and you couldn’t hear the guide so we went out on our own. We walked around Trinity College, went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (on a Sunday morning between masses) and then went to Guinness Brewery €16.50. Buy your ticket in advance and they have a will call. Otherwise you will stand in line. The best meal on the entire cruise was at the Guinness Storehouse restaurant. Little place that offered a couple of items on the menu, you order at the bar. But their Irish Stew was Fantastic! If you are going to buy things to take back home-Dublin is the place to do it. They have a ton of shops with good prices. This was a hopping town.
Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland: We booked a tour with Discover Scotland Tours, the Highland Lochs, Glens & Castles Shore Excursion 40 £ a couple. Our tour guide was Bobby Toner and he was fantastic!! (www.discoverscotlandtours.com) It probably helped that we are of Scottish decent. He was very interested in teaching us about Scotland. We went to the small village of Luss and what a picturesque little place. The flowers were just beautiful outside the homes. Got a lot of history of the region. We then went to the Inveraray Castle. Looks like a Cinderella castle. Look it up on the internet. It has been used in some of the Downtown Abbey show. The castle fee and lunch is not included in the tour. Actually had to pay to use the bathroom in a town on the tour. Stopped at a small church, he took us on some back roads with beautiful scenery. You don’t go here on a big bus. Our little bus carried 16 people. Bobby will give you lots of history and interesting story telling. Highly recommend!
Belfast, Northern Ireland: We booked a Tax Tour with Belfast City Tours 125 £ a couple. There were just the 4 of us with a cab driver. At first, we weren’t sure about this tour. We were picked up at the dock and RUSHED to the Northern Coast. The good thing is that we beat all of the tours so when we got to the Carrick-A-Rede (7 £ each) there was not anyone there. Good for us! We paid our entry fee and proceeded to walk all the way down to the rope bridge, walked over to the island and WOW was it ever beautiful. Well worth the walk. But it is a long walk. Then our driver, William, took us over to the Giants Causeway (8.50 £ each). This is another site worth seeing. From the welcome center down to the causeway is a long walk. However, if you ride the bus be prepared to stand in line at both ends because the road only allows one bus at a time. We rode down but decided to walk back up. Watch your step on the rocks as they can be wet and slippery. We then headed to the Bushmills Distillery (8.50 £ each). We went on the tour and got our free drink. Up until this point William did not have much to say. We told him we were interested in seeing the city and learning about the conflict. William took us to both sides of the Peace Wall and explained the history about the conflict. This was very interesting. None of the sites were included in the price of the tour. Would recommend Belfast City Tours and William! (Belfast City Tours TD Taxis Booking TJ Doyle)
Kirkwall, Scotland: Tender port. We did not book any tours. We took the shuttle (free) to town. Cute little town. We walked to St. Magnus Cathedral (free) and Bishop’s and Earl’s Palace (entry fee). We looked around for tartans and there are some nice shops. The wind was blowing so hard at this port that our captain had to have Tugs sent in from hours away to pull us away from the dock so the boat would not be damaged. We were over two hours late leaving port. Very light up here since it is so far north.
Inverness, Scotland: We booked a tour with George Munro of Munro Highland Tours. George@munrohighlandtours.co.uk (195 £ a couple) This was not a typical tour in that we want to a lot of back road places that only a small vehicle could go. Nature walks, waterfalls, beautiful flowers, herds of deer. We drove through historic Beauly and we give a short guided walk around the 13th century priory (free entry) Stunning hilltop drive through crofting communities to Loch Ness. We took the 30 minute boat trip to Urquhart Castle £18.50 per person for this including the castle entry. The boat trip is nothing special in itself, but avoiding the queues and seeing the castle from the water makes it more than worthwhile. This was a good trip and George knows a lot of history. He also does distillery tours. It was a bit pricey. We did not see the Loch Ness monster!
South Queensferry (Edinburgh): This is a tender port. Based on what I read on Cruise Critic I figured out how to get where we wanted to go. You walk up from the tender across the street and follow the people to the stairs. Straight up all 139 steps. Then you turn left and follow the path along the chainlink fence to the Dalmeny Train station. Take the train (£9.60) to Edinburgh. When you walk up the stairs from the train be ready to be wowed! Edinburgh is beautiful!!! We could spend a week here. Get a HOHO ticket and travel around the city. The HOHO starts at 9 am for $22. We took the bus through the city two times. We pre-purchased tickets to go see the Edinburgh Castle which was smart because the ques were VERY long. The Castle is worth seeing. Then we walked the Royal Mile and city streets. There is a great shop the Tartan Weaving Mill & Exhibition on the Royal Mall. Very interesting. The one thing we did not do but was highly recommended is going to see the St. Mary’s Close.
Le Havre (Paris, France): Princess Excursion: Paris City Drive & The Louvre Museum with lunch at the Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Very interesting day. We visited Paris on Monday the day after the Tour de France race finished in Paris. Monday is also the day that one of the other major museums in Paris is closed. So EVERYONE was at the Louvre! It was packed. First, make sure you go to the bathroom on the bus. Because the lines are so long for the bathroom that you will lose your tour group. We saw the big three-Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Can take that off my bucket list-Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t on my list. My brother-in-law went to the top of the Louvre to take pictures of the pyramid on the outside (you arrive via bus in the basement). Well, he got locked outside (no receipt for re-entry) and we were all separated and lost from our tour group. The four of us finally got back together and were reunited with our group which did an ovation for us when we finally got on the bus. Went to the Eiffel Tower-extremely crowded, and went to lunch in the restaurant. Great view from up there. The food was not great at the restaurant. Then we headed back to the bus. It was about 2.5 hours each way on the bus. I would not recommend this expensive tour. Also, no chance to buy any souvenirs on this tour. Did see some pretty sights of the city including the Arc De Triomphe Etoile.
Hope this summary helps someone plan their trip. I know I received lots of good tips from Cruise Critic!