This was our 8th cruise. We have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Norwegian. We are not terribly brand loyal, we base the decision more on itinerary, but we both agree we tend to like Princess best (of all the lines we have cruised).
Pre-cruise: Flew overnight to Gatwick. Easily found the trains and took a train down to Southampton. We walked (easily) to our hotel (the Novotel), and amazingly, they had a room ready for us. We checked in, and then took the train to Salisbury, had lunch, and took the bus to Stonehenge.
Embarkation: very smooth and quick, although we did not arrive until 2 hours after embarkation had begun.
Cabin: We had a double balcony cabin Aloha deck, room 701. It was certainly big enough for the two of us. The cabin was clean and comfortable. We found the bed comfortable to sleep on. Our cabin steward (Evgeny)was EXCELLENT. Very attentive and friendly, and a wealth of information on our ports of call.
Dining: We only ate in the dining room (Michelangelo, anytime dining)once, but we enjoyed dinner. It was nothing spectacular, but it certainly wasn't bad. We dined @the Crown Grill once, and it was excellent. My husband had the ribeye and I had lobster tails. Both were very good, and dessert was excellent. Our waiter was also very good. The buffets are a mixed bag. Not bad for buffets, but the type of food was not always something I was interested in. However, Cafe Caribe was definitely better than Horizon Court. International Cafe is great! Love the coffees, my husband said the tuna salad was the best he ever had, loved the espresso panna cotta (when available), and the hazelnut gelato was great too. Loved the pizza, too. We did have the pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Pub. I enjoyed it (Ploughman's lunch and bread and butter pudding) and husband thought it was OK (fish and chips and bread and butter pudding). Of note...this was the only bar on the ship that served Strongbow cider (or any cider). I love that stuff, so I was there quite a bit.
Entertainment: didn't go to the shows, etc.
Spa: this was the first cruise, I didn't get a high pressure sales pitch for the spa, which was incredibly welcome. I had 2 hot stone massages and a pedicure. The massages were excellent, the pedicure was OK.
Bars: our favorite was Skywalkers both for the view and the staff (which were a lot of fun). I also liked the wine bar (Vines). The wine flights seemed like a good value to me. Also, the sushi and tapas were good.
Service: we really had excellent service throughout.
St. Peter Port/Guernsey: This was our first port. The weather was beautiful. We boarded a tender quick and easy and were soon on the island. This is a beautiful place. Lots of flowers and greenery. We walked to Castle Cornet and toured it, which we both found very interesting. Next, had lunch @The Terrace (mainly Thai food), which had incredible views and very good Thai food. Took the bus to Sausmaurez Manor and then around the rest of the island. By then, it was time to head back to the ship. A very enjoyable day.
Cobh, Republic of Ireland: The views as we entered the harbor were incredible. Decent weather here as well. We arranged our own tour via eCoach/Butler's Buses. We went to Blarney Castle first. We got there fairly early and the line to kiss the Blarney Stone was short. We did that and then had time to tour the castle grounds and shop @nearby Blarney Woolen Village. Next we drove through Cork and then to Fort Charles (near Kinsale). We stopped briefly at Fort Charles to take pics and then continued to Kinsale for lunch. We ate lunch @Fishy Fishy Cafe and it was very, very good. I had avocado stuffed w/prawns and topped w/Marie Rose sauce and a fresh berry trifle. We drove back to Cobh and past St. Coleman's Cathedral. We could not go in b/c there was a funeral at the time. Eleanor (our guide) and Edwin (our driver) were great fun.
Glasgow (Greenock): took a train to Glasgow and ate lunch at a pub, then took the HOHO bus, we stopped @St. Mungo's cathedral to tour it. Very pretty. This is a pretty city and the HOHO bus gave a very good view of everything. We enjoyed nice weather again this day.
Invergordon: booked a private excursion through the Taxi Tour Experience. We went on a large tour bus. It was raining when we first arrived, but by the end of the day, the sun was shining. We drove to Loch Ness and toured Urqhart Castle. The views here were breathtaking. No way to explain. Next, we went to Inverness. Had lunch at an incredible Indian restaurant (Tandoori Spice) w/great views of the river. Next we went to Culloden Battlefield and had a few minutes there. Our last stop was Cawdor Castle. We had plenty of time here to tour the castle and grounds, and we really enjoyed this stop. Our driver/guide was excellent.