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Home > Virtual Cruises > Oceania's Insignia: Dover to Dublin
Oceania's Insignia: Dover to Dublin
Day 1: Departure from Dover
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Edinburgh
Day 4: Peterhead
Day 5: Inverness
Day 6: Shetlands
Day 7: Orkney
Day 8: At Sea
Day 9: Dublin
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Day 3: Wednesday, Edinburgh
EdinburghOne major advantage to cruising the British Isles (over, say, an independent trip using rental cars and trains) is that, for Americans, it's a much better value. The American dollar is worth less against the Great Britain pound than any time in recent history (at least in the two decades I've been visiting the U.K.!), even more so than in Europe, where our buying power against the Euro has eroded.

The ship's conversion table, according to our daily Currents newsletter, offers an exchange rate of 1.92 dollars to the pound -- and that's a big ouch. But (of course) onboard Insignia, everything's charged in dollars rather than pounds, from cruise fare to gift shop items to cocktails. After just a couple of meals off-ship (in Dover and in Edinburgh) -- which were delightful, to be sure -- we find that, when possible, we make a point to eat onboard.

Which is absolutely no sacrifice. While it looks like the service issues we experienced early on have ironed themselves out, the food onboard, has been consistently superb. Last night we checked out "Tapas on the Terrace" and, while it was too nippy and misty to actually sup outdoors, the experience was fantastic. Basically, the "tapas" concept focuses on a variety of hors d'oeuvres, buffet-style, that included, at least last night, a lovely seafood salad, antipasto, chicken satay with peanut sauce, grilled shrimp and a gazpacho that was so smooth it almost tasted creamy. You can make a dinner out of a variety of these -- or move on to a good variety of main courses. Choices last night included both a seafood and vegetarian paella, a chicken and pineapple dish, and beef tenderloin.

What's also fun is the "tapas" approach to desserts. Everything, save for the freshly made crepes Suzette, came in mini-pots -- and the chocolate souffle and flan were particularly supreme.

The whole idea is it's an opportunity to take a break from cruise food indulgence and eat a light meal (though to be honest the choices were so tantalizing, self-discipline was a challenge). The service was excellent, too; there's a wine steward (you can order freshly made Sangria, though we opted for a Spanish chardonnay) for cocktails and the like. While the food is serve-yourself (well, actually, you point out your selections to a crewmember and they dish it up), busboys and waiters are hovering nearby to carry plates and refill water glasses.

Today was a "big" port day as we called at Edinburgh. To be factual, we officially docked at the Port of Leith. Once a downtrodden, separate port city (it lies right on the Firth of Forth whereas Edinburgh doesn't have waterfront footage), it's grown so -- and is undergoing massive and quite tasteful redevelopment -- that the two basically merge.

Heading off-ship, we were serenaded by a lone bagpiper. Edinburgh itself is about a 15-minute taxi ride (there were taxis at the dock) but we walked over to Ocean Terminal, the area's fairly new shopping mall, where you can easily catch a city bus. There we were distracted by one of Edinburgh's hottest attractions -- Britannia, the former royal yacht for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and which undertook its last cruise in 1997 -- is now a museum. If you are a ship lover (not to mention a fan of the Royals) it's absolutely a must-visit -- most, if not all, furnishings are left as they were and it provides a wonderful view of the Queen's castle-at-sea. Fun fact: Only twin beds were permitted onboard (even in the separate-but-connected bedrooms of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip) until Prince Charles married Princess Diana. They honeymooned there ... and he ordered up a double bed.

Britannia is docked right at Ocean Terminal.

Heading into Edinburgh, our first stop was the Royal Mile. It was a bit of a mess, to be honest, as the recently formed Scottish Parliament has set up temporary headquarters at one end -- and is building its monumental-tribute-to-Scotland permanent headquarters at the other. Add to that the usual knot of summertime tourists and let us just offer this tip: be patient!

The medieval roadway of the Royal Mile is the anchor of the city's historic old town and from top (Edinburgh Castle) to bottom (the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Queen Elizabeth's official Scotland residence) there's much to see. Start at the top (it's a heck of a lot easier walking downhill than up) at Edinburgh Castle (the Scottish Crown Jewel exhibit is pretty fascinating). Other nearby attractions worth the diversion include the 1,000-year-old St. Giles' Cathedral, Camera Obscura, and the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center (you ride around the exhibits in a little whiskey barrel, then are dropped off for a quick "sampling"). A buyer's tip, by the way, for anyone wanting to pick up that special souvenir bottle of single-malt scotch: shop like the locals by heading to Oddbins, a chain of discount liquor stores, for the best prices.

Royal Mile is actually known for different street names, which change as you wander down the hill -- Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is magnificent -- but we skipped it (had seen it on another trip) and instead headed to Arthur's Seat. Adjacent to the palace grounds, the 800-foot-high Arthur's Seat -- once a volcano -- is one of Edinburgh's landmarks (we could see it clearly even from our ship in Leith!). A climb up the curving trails that wind around it is not for those scared of heights -- but otherwise it's not only a great work-out, but also offers phenomenal views of the city. It took us about an hour but we walked pretty briskly.

After that -- completely exhausted and rubber-legged -- we made our way over to the New Town (its buildings date back to the 18th century) for a little necessity-shopping (sodas and water to bring on board and such). Princes Street there is the main drag -- and that's where you'll find the U.K's "High Street" (otherwise known as big chain department stores and boutiques). If you've got time (and a heavily pound-padded wallet), venture a few blocks north towards the Firth of Forth to Georges Street where the truly elegant shops are located.

We hopped on a double-decker bus and headed back. It was a pleasant half-hour ride, even at rush hour, that cost just 80 pence (in contrast to our 10-pound cab ride earlier) and enjoyed the respite. The Edinburgh-to-Leith buses all wind up at Ocean Terminal -- and that was about a 20-minute walk (with the ship in sight at all times!) back to Insignia.

Tomorrow we head even further north, to the port town of Peterhead.
Day 2: At Sea red arrow Day 4: Peterhead

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