By Jana Jones, Cruise Critic contributor
Shannon Princess II Overview
Shannon Princess II was custom-built as a hotel river barge. Its route through Ireland takes you from the Lough Ree down the Shannon River to Killaloe.
Built in 2003, the 106-foot long and 20-foot wide boat can accommodate up to 10 passengers. Guest rooms and the saloon are on the same deck, with large windows well above the waterline for maximum viewing and light.
The five staterooms are all the same size, about 131 sq. feet. Each has twin beds that can convert to a double, closets, individual heat control, and bedside tables with lamps. Beds are dressed in elegant Irish linen; arriving guests will find chocolates and bottled water waiting for them. The en-suite bathrooms have white tiles and sleek stainless-steel fittings. Amenities include a hairdryer, towels, robes, soap, shower gel, shower cap and shampoo. All current is 220 to 240 volts (North American appliances need converters) with the exception of the bathrooms, which have a 110 outlet for shaving only.
The spacious saloon is furnished with several sofas and armchairs, occasional tables, dining tables, a bar, a small library and a stereo with CDs. The boat also offers Internet access that works -- occasionally -- on passengers' personal laptops while the boat is moored in certain cities and villages.
Because of the flat construction of the vessel, the sundeck spans the width of the boat and is a wonderful place to enjoy the fine weather. It's furnished with steamer chairs, recliners and other deck furniture.
Meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch offered buffet-style. Breakfast is Continental with breads, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea; a full Irish breakfast can be served on request. Lunch is typically a light buffet with breads, salads, pate or fish, and cheeses. Sometimes the midday meal is served as a picnic out and occasionally as a three-course meal. In addition, one lunch on this voyage is served at the Derg Inn in the village of Terryglass and another at a pub in Galway for oysters and Guinness. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, with regional -- Irish, British and Continental -- cuisine paired with wine, desserts, cheeses, coffee and liqueurs. The dress code at all meals is resort casual, except for the Captain’s dinner on the last evening, which requires cocktail attire.
As on all of the hotel barges in European Waterways' fleet, Shannon Princess II is an all-inclusive product, with wines, soft drinks, bottled water, beer, liquor and liqueurs, as well as all onboard meals and snacks, included. (Certain vintages of wine and Champagne -- except for the Welcome Aboard greeting -- are not included, but can be provided for a fee.) Shore excursions, usually lasting from two to four hours, typically take place once a day; all entry fees are included with your cruise fare. Optional activities, such as golf, cost extra. A twelve-passenger mini-bus follows the barge's route and is available at designated times for transport. It also brings cruise passengers from Dublin to the boat at either Lough Ree or Killaloe and back to the city at the end of the trip.
Excursions on this trip might include a visit to Leap Castle, reputedly the "most haunted house" in Ireland, and a full-day visit in Galway City with its Galway Crystal works and various craft and linen shops. Golf excursions are available, but guests must pay for cab fare from the dock, greens fees, equipment and cart rental. The Captain has a list of courses and can make arrangements in advance once you decide where you want to play. Be advised that you will need a handicap rate card and a letter of introduction from your hometown club manager.
Shannon Princess II has four crew members: skipper (captain), chef and two hostesses, all of whom speak English. Gratuities are discretionary and typically average between 4 and 7 percent of the fare paid, given to the Captain for distribution.
There is no smoking inside the boat; smoking is allowed outside on the deck only.