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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 5: Friday, Inverness
InvernessHaving learned from (yesterday's) experience that in some ports of call it's a good idea to make advance plans, we called Hertz to reserve a car in Inverness.

The only challenge? We actually docked in Invergordon, a town so small we couldn't find it in guidebooks. The cosmopolitan and quite lovely city of Inverness, alas, was a 50-minute (and 50-pound, roundtrip) taxi ride from the ship. Add to that the 36-pound rental car charge (plus seven pounds for a gas fill-up) -- at $1.92 to the pound -- and the day's 7 1/2-hour adventure cost about $200.

It was worth every penny.

Inverness is the urban hub of the Highlands, and though we didn't spend much time here (we were in a big hurry to get into the countryside), it -- and the area in general -- is definitely on our list of come-back-to places. Beyond the city itself, which was charming, parts of it quite historic (not to mention its own castle, which loomed over Inverness from a nearby hilltop), there is so much to do! Plenty of golf courses, lots of castles (a handful still inhabited by their native families), a "whisky trail" of malt distilleries -- similar to, for instance, California's Napa and Sonoma valley wine regions.

We opted for a scenic country drive on Scottish back roads (maps and road signs are so clearly marked that this is a great place to just "wander") and wound our way toward western Scotland. The narrow two-lane roadways took us past magnificent scenery -- mountain ranges that dipped right down into clear lochs (or lakes), hillsides graced with wildflowers, and a handful of charming villages. A whole new world, and yet of course there's nothing new about this ancient part of the country.

Shoppers alert! Passing through the town of Beauly (about ten minutes outside of Inverness and just beyond the Glen Ord distillery) we stumbled onto on a swank shop and cafe called Made In Scotland. Stocked full of gorgeous merchandise, it sold, of course, items made locally. While a handful were the kind of well-known brands you can buy at home (Famous Grouse Whisky, Walker's Shortbread cookies), much of their stock was unique and beautiful. The two-story shop, officially opened by Queen Elizabeth a few years back, featured gorgeous glassware and apparel (sweaters especially but also scarves, dresses, pants, suits and a whole men's department). There were books on Scotland and on clans, fresh-made soaps and lotions and bath bubbles. And foodstuffs, such as marmalade and even cheese. You could even buy a wrought iron and glass coffee table!

It also had a charming cafe which served up homemade fare and was quite reasonably priced (and populated not just with tourists but also with locals, which is a bit revealing).

Our last adventure of the day was to head toward the area's best-known sights: Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. For the first time all day we were in "motorcoach country" (and indeed the ship led a tour here). The castle, perched on the edge of Loch Ness, is a ruin but offers splendid views. If Loch Ness itself sounds familiar it's because you've heard the story of the "Loch Ness Monster." It was first spotted in the sixth century (and most recently some photos from the 1930s depicted a monster-like form). We didn't, alas, see him. The nearby town of Drumnadrochit has all sorts of exhibitions.

At that point we raced back to Inverness, unexpectedly halted for fifteen minutes by a bridge-turning at the Caledonian Canal, where we waited as sailboats and a barge-cruise vessel sallied forth. We'd arranged for our morning taxi driver to meet us at Hertz and he duly delivered us to the ship.

A tip: if you're renting a car in Inverness but your ship docks at Invergordon, make sure to have the ship arrange for a private taxi to meet you at the dock. Beyond Hertz, Europcar and Budget were other agencies we saw in Inverness. Even better: if your ship will actually arrange for the car hire -- and work with a firm that will deliver the auto to the pier at Invergordon -- the convenience is worth whatever extra surcharge you have to pay.

Returning to Insignia was a pleasure after such a hectic day. The atmosphere on board, as I've mentioned earlier, is really quite warm and friendly. And while passengers get credit for part of that, kudos also have to go to the officers and crew onboard. If you have sailed on Regatta, one passenger told me, coming to Insignia is much like returning to a family. This is true even if you haven't; this is my first cruise on Oceania and tonight, for instance, when we arrived at Toscana, the ship's alternative Italian restaurant (ooh la la -- the most elegant Italian eatery afloat), the maitre d' said, "We've met!" And after running through our mutual resumes (ships he's worked on and cruises I've taken) we figured out we'd sailed together on Celebrity Infinity.

Every eatery we've tried, from reservations-only Toscana to the Grand Dining Room to Waves, has been excellent both in service and substance, which is no surprise considering that much of the restaurant staff comes from three cruise lines -- Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Celebrity. One exception was our quite personable wine steward tonight, who was full of fascinating stories about his stint on the now-defunct Festival/First European Cruises.

It was a great evening.

Tomorrow we head for Lerwick, Shetland Islands.
Day 4: Peterhead red arrow Day 6: Shetlands

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