August 25, 2018
Subject: British Isles cruise
We had a great flight (Aug 24) on United, #16, a Boeing 767, seats 28A,B exit row, a bit cool (near the emergency door) but one of the smoothest rides ever.
An hour late boarding start in Newark with delayed arrival at Heathrow due to ground traffic and a verrrrry long walk from the gate to border control and baggage but all’s well.
Viking representatives were visible everywhere to assist in our getting checked in, to and on the bus and for the 90 minute ride from the airport to the Greenwich port.
It’s in the mid 50’s overcast ... cool enough for jackets.
At the port, we received our key cards and boarded a tender for a 5 minute tender ride to the “on the hook”... Viking Sun.
Our cabin 3078 was ready. We are tired, it’s been a long day, freshened up, put a few things away, then went for a lite lunch in the World Cafe on deck 7. Absolutely delicious choice selections of meats, pasta, fish, cold cuts salads and deserts...all beautifully presented ... with complimentary wine and the usual Viking excellent service.
Back to the comfortable cabin, at 5pm we had the mandatory emergency drill then at 6 a fabulous snack and then to bed!
Overnighting in Greenwich, predict 60 degrees tomorrow, possible showers...
Day 2 – Greenwich, (London)
Sunday, August 26, 2018
So, it’s 4:51 pm as I write this and we are still on the hook in Greenwich due to weather and tide issues and the narrow “Flood Gates” we have to pass through. Strong winds have forced the delay of our leaving until 2AM tomorrow morning.
The weather .. still in the 60’s, overcast.
Diane and I were scheduled for the 90 minute (included) walking tour, however it began raining hard and so as only she had dressed appropriately, she proceeded with the group of 15 ... I returned to the ship.
At about 1:30 Diane returned to the cabin soaked from head to toe, but happy she went. She promised to tell us about the trivia she learned .
Lunch in the world cafe was wonderful. Pictures will show.
Met Susan and Carl from Marlboro NJ, chatted about growing up in Brooklyn etc.
Just heard from the captain, due to our late arrival in Dover, all previously booked tours tomorrow have been cancelled, they have instead arranged for a 4 hr tour (complimentary). Details to follow.
I spent much of the morning taking photos of the ship and looking for an app that would allow me to resize them for email.
Hope you will like... sending soon.
Day 3 – Dover – (Canterbury) England
Following the death of Senator John McCain, the flag is still at full staff over the Whitehouse... despite protocol ... as is over the Capital Rotunda, to be at half staff.
Later in the day, after much criticism and outrage, the flag was lowered.
Due to our late departure from Greenwich, our arrival in Dover was also late (at 1pm, ) causing most tours to be cancelled.
Instead, Viking arranged for tours to Canterbury or into Dover for us.
After lunch, we hopped on the last bus #22 (only five on the bus) to Canterbury.
Today is a holiday and the sun is out...so as you will see, there are crowds in the streets. Many families, stores are open modified hours, lots of dogs.
Canterbury suffered a great deal of damage from WW2 bombings. The cathedral was targeted as it represented a historic, important site to the people and country. While the cathedral had only minor damage, bombs that fell nearby (and fires) did destroy about half of the town.
Properties rebuilt were done so to match the old architecture to keep in character and beauty of the town.
We returned to the ship, by joining a near full bus #4.
Tonight’s production show is 60-70’s music, at 6:30.
It was terrific, we really enjoyed the Viking singers and band. Interesting creative digital graphic sets were very effective.
At 7:30 we went for dinner to “the restaurant” .. service, selections, presentation and taste ... perfect.
For starters, Diane had the Waldorf salad, I, the Caesar salad with prawns.
I had the grilled salmon entree, Diane had the steak. Wine flowed.
Absolutely delicious dinner.
Learned that each of the two alternate restaurants are booked solid for early dining until Sept 3. Made a reservation for Manfredi’s.
Cabin attendants Tedy and assistant Jess are doing a great job ... working around us this morning.
Last... today is Tues the 28, a sea day. The seas are very calm, not even a ripple, the temperature is in the low 60’s with overcast skies.
Diane is in the laundry room, doing a wash, ironing shirts and blouses. Finding the ironing board uncomfortable to use due to the way it’s mounted to the wall. Better if there was a way to drape items over the board on that side. Perhaps the next ship.
Dublin, Sept 29, 2018
A lovely day in Dublin.
Spent the early morning enjoying the ship’s program the sunshine and comfortable temperature (65).
Watched the results of last nights primaries in Florida and Arizona... and that WH council Don McGahn will soon be leaving... he did not know, he learned from a tweet.
We have CNBC, MSNBC, FOX, BBC and other British TV channels.
Excellent selection of music and other shows like movies, TED programs etc. Great interactive TV. (would love if there were a TV speaker in the lavatory)
At noon, we had a lite lunch at the World Cafe before joining our group #33 for the
3 hr included Dublin Tour.
Traffic leaving this especially busy commercial port was made even worse due to an accident on the other major truck route. As a result, it took us about 1/2 hour just to exit.
Our guide Simon and driver Jim were a great team. The coach was spotless the windows crystal clear and clean (perfect for picture taking).
Or first stop was at Trinity college. Diane went with the group for a brief 20 minute tour, I opted out (having been here before)
Our bus then meandered the narrow streets of Dublin, traffic and pedestrians provided for a challenging course for driver, Jim.
We did get to see everything on the tour, including a brief visit to St. Patrick Cathedral and Park ... as beautiful and peaceful as when last we were here in 2013. The flowers still in bloom, children playing, a small dog playing fetch with his owner... a special moment for us.
Back on the bus, we arrived to the ship at 5, freshened up and went to The Restaurant for another dinner with wine.
Exhausted... we retired.... tomorrow Holyhead,
Day 6 Holyhead, Wales, Aug 30, 2018
Sunny, no humidity, about 65 degrees...
Most of the morning relaxing, looking at future cruises and enjoying breakfast and or lunch before our 3 hour tour of Edwardian Beaumaris.
Bus 27, from the pier, only a few steps from the ship, the very comfortable coach loaded the 30 of us for the 30 minute drive to the small town. Guide Roy and driver Kevin did well.
The road from the port to the pier is so narrow, it fits only one vehicle at a time... traveling in only one direction.
The ride to Beaumaris was beautiful, it is lined with lush greens, sheep and cows, the winding narrow road made for interesting maneuvers when a sharp curve met 2 vehicles in opposite directions.... One must pull over to allow the other to pass by.
The town was brimming with visitors ... seemed everyone here has a dog and eats ice cream.
One shopkeeper told us she had never seen so many dogs!
It’s an easy walk, no hills, decent sidewalks, many lovely shops with antiques, food, or ice cream, line the narrow road.
At the end of the town, the castle built by Edward 1, is famous for its design:
Beaumaris Castle (Welsh: Castell Biwmares), in Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales, was built as part of Edward I's campaign to conquer the north Wales after 1282. Plans were probably first made to construct the castle in 1284, but this was delayed due to lack of funds and work only began in 1295 following the Madog ap Llywelyn uprising. A substantial workforce was employed in the initial years under the direction of James of St George. Edward's invasion of Scotland soon diverted funding from the project, however, and work stopped, only recommencing after an invasion scare in 1306. When work finally ceased around 1330 a total of £15,000 had been spent, a huge sum for the period, but the castle remained incomplete.
Fishing, shell fish, farming and tourism keep everyone here busy.
Purchased a few items ... appear to have been made in Wales.
Returned at 5, in time for the Explorer party... (for return Viking guests) much too crowded) not sure everyone at the event met the Explorer member only requirement.
At 6 PM, we went to the world cafe for a delicious dinner... Caesar salad, chateaubriand, pork chop, pasta... you name it, here at the cafe one can sample or share without guilt... or with guilt!
Off to the Explorer lounge for music and then trivia. Our team, Sue, Gary, and Jen won again ... our second win! two out of 3 so far. STILL NO PRIZES!
Getting ready for tomorrow at Liverpool.
Day 7 Aug 31 2018, Liverpool
Liverpool... home of the Beatles
Just arrived at Liverpool, long, interesting pier, it floats to compensate for 32ft. tides.
When we first docked, the gangway was at deck 2...when we came back at 5pm, it was on deck A...
The weather is perfect. Clear skies, 68 degrees, and hardly any humidity.
Our tour of Liverpool on coach #24 with guide Peter and Andrew, driver.
BTW, our British pounds the are older, (paper notes) and not accepted at most stores, they need to be exchanged at local bank, fortunately, our guide Peter was kind enough to exchange ours.
Much of the time was on the bus with excellent narration about the points of interest...then... we arrived at Abby Road.
From that moment on, it was all about Beatles!
Who lived where, when, how Paul was in the church choir, told “he would never make a living at music and guitar playing” ... who knew?
Lots of photos of this busy place and of the port.
Back on board at 5, freshened up for a lobster dinner in The Restaurant.
We wore jeans ... a no...no ... but we were forgiven. (So sorry about that)
Our waiter, Alex took good care of us. This is his second contract with Viking.
He had been with Celebrity for 14 years on Revelation... we must have sailed with him!
Prawns on Caesar salad to start, followed by WHOLE Maine lobster, white wine, then the fruit plate for me, Diane had the sugar free offering.
more about Liverpool
Protestant from the days of Henry VIII. All others were killed or left. Catholics came with the potato famine, many left for the U S, many remained. We road buy the most unusual Catholic Cathedral, newly constructed in a modern style. We visited the Protestant Cathedral, the largest in England and 100 years old. Protestants and Catholics frequently argued until both Arch Bishops worked to secure peace between both groups. A thriving Chinese community also graces the city.
Of interest the Protestant Cathedral faces north, unlike all others that face east due to it’s size and lot.
Full...tired... we retired.
September 1, 2018
Perfect... the only way to describe our day here.
Breakfast in the World Cafe, the bakery made me my whole grain bagel! Thank you Martin! So accommodating!
Diane enjoyed her corned beef hash over a poached egg.
The weather continues to cooperate. 68 degrees, partly sunny, no wind, great for our 3 hr. tour of Belfast and the countryside.
After lunch, we met on the pier, boarded the awaiting coach #33 with 24 guests for our afternoon with Robin and her driver Fabritzio.
Belfast is a major shipping port, famous too for where the Titanic was built and more recently, where Game of Thrones was and continues to be filmed.
We passed ancient buildings, 100 year old mostly attached homes, noted only few single family buildings. The roads again were narrow, tree lined difficult for vehicles to travel if and when someone decided to park in a no parking zone.
Parking is impossible, none of the homes or apartments have garages, so those folks with autos must find street space... like Manhattan.
Learned when the “troubles period” began, the Jewish population was about 3000, however, most decided to leave Belfast and today only 80 remain.
Still much evidence of the struggle remains with walls and graphics painted on them depicting the years of fighting between the Catholics and Protestants. Although the bombings and fighting has ended, there remains some hostility between them.
The streets are spotless! Fines for discarding even a cigarette butt are 100.00 dollars. Throwing a piece of chewing gum, too is forbidden on the street, as is a stiff fine not picking up after your pet.
Drove by churches with many being the oldest, one with the first electric clock, homes (cold water flats) with fireplaces in each room for heat.
The most attractive sights were of the Belfast Castle... some rooms off limits today as a wedding and reception was going on. (As were many elsewhere today)
We passed by the Titanic Museum ... with great memories of our previous visit here.
Robin pointed out the burned out set of Game Of Thrones castle ...
Anyway, back on board
we met briefly with Nathan in future cruises to discuss opportunities, then off to dinner .. and special treatment when Martin, manager of the kitchen staff prepared grilled swordfish for me.
After a few shrimp, king crabs legs... the swordfish arrived.
Tomorrow we arrive at noon in Ullapool Scotland.
Day 9 September 2, 2018
Subject: Ullapool Scotland
We have been blessed again with excellent weather, calm seas and interesting included tours.
Our ship is anchored about 5 minutes from the small dock where our tenders will unload and load passengers wanting to visit this very small town.
Our guide, Jim took us on the 1.5 hour walking tour, which covered the entire perimeter of Ullapool and ended at a local pub for beer, tea, coffee, and shortbread cookies.
Population 1500, (grows to 3000 during summer) B&B’s are everywhere as are sailboats, fishing boats and camping grounds.
Sunday, so only a few of the shops are open, but Diane was able to find one that had some delightful items... and they accepted our old pounds!
Beautiful views, red sandstone buildings.. typical for the area.
The production show this evening was absolutely wonderful. Music selections from Broadway shows, fabulous voices!
Won trivia again this morning...still no prizes! (will write that up on the comment survey) For such a first class cruise company... a disappointment no token prize.
Tomorrow, Lerwick, Shetland Islands
Date: September 3, 2018
Subject: Shetland Island and ponies
Been a day since we reported...all’s well, weather still spectacular, tours, food etc. wonderful.
We took the panoramic Shetland tour, bus 26 with guide Christine and Andrew driver.
The countryside is magnificent. Everywhere one looks, the hills are green with grass, cows, sheep and small, local farms. Occasionally you see horses, then if on our tour... Shetland ponies.
The town ... fishing, then tourism, make up for the primary employment.
Again, older small homes, well maintained, sandstone.
Once in the suburbs, the open spaces are dotted with views of large lots, separated by fence or vegetation, animals grazing everywhere.
Carol... the Shetland breeder we visited did a nice job of introduction to her ponies.
The oldest she ever had reach 75 years. She has 50 ponies, they each have names and respond to her call!
Not much of a market at the moment but breeders are hoping for a resurgent... they are used for pony rides, child photos and as beasts of burden.
The tour was comfortable, spotless coach.. about 40 passengers on the 52 capacity bus.
Back in time for reserved dinner at Manfredi's.
It was one of the best.. I had the ribeye steak, Diane had the sea food platter...pasta, langoustines, mussels, and shrimp. Delicious
Sept 4th – Day 11
It was Tuesday Sept 4 when we reached Invergordon, Scotland a day we have been planning for ever since booking this cruise. It’s when we get to see and hug Sheila and Alistair!
Having met them 20 years ago on our Canada/Hawaii voyage, we have made it our objective to sail or meet with them whenever possible.
The very long one way road from the pier to the small port requires we use the shuttle bus.
We Immediately spotted them waiting for us!
They live about 150 miles from here, so they arrived the night before, stayed in a hotel and will return home tomorrow!
What truly remarkable friends!
A warm greeting then we were off to see Falls of Shin.. the site Alistair learned about from folks who had been here before.
The hour ride gave us a chance to catch up on each of our families, grandchildren and great grandchildren in their case.
The countryside and the weather remained remarkably beautiful!
Thank goodness for GPS and navigation devices.
Finding the Falls was challenging. No signs!
Great place for families. Plenty of playground areas for kids!
Nice snack bar, Scottish treats! Diane, Sheila and Alistair each had scones. Mmmm good.
After about an hour of admiring the area and more family catch up, we departed for Invergordon.
There we found an absolutely charming restaurant, Tucker’s Inn.
Busy, with 2 ships in town (Mein Schiff) filled with 10 heavy metal bands)... smokers, tattoos galore ... we ate inside the restaurant (they were on the patio) the fish and chips were absolutely delicious and portions more than adequate. I took a photo to prove! (Not handicap accessible) Prices were quite reasonable.
We returned to the ship at about 4, freshened up rested a bit before a lite dinner in World Cafe.
Trivia at 8:30, Diane went, she and her team won again. I went to bed.
A lovely day..
Day 12 Sept 5, 2018 Newhaven, (Edinburgh) Scotland
Early to rise... Today we have our one and only “optional tour” 4.5 hours to The Da Vinci Code’s Rosslyn Chapel and Glenkinchie Distillery.
Diane is sooo excited! She loves learning about the Knights Templar, anything to do with the Da Vinci Code, the Masons and such. Ahhh then... this is the perfect place to visit.
The sun was shining, the temperatures in the mid 60’s – could not be better!
Our tour met in the Theater until called for boarding of the tender to shore. Again, this process was quite orderly compared to other (non-Viking) cruises. The ride took about 10 minutes.
Once on the pier, we were greeted by a lady bagpiper! We then boarded our bus for the tour.
Again the bus was clean and very comfortable.
The ride to the Chapel took about an hour and twenty minutes.
En route, we drove thru the busy streets of Edinburgh, able to capture photos of the many sights and architectural beauty of the old town. Building (cranes) are visible in many areas. The contrast of old to new structures is vivid.
Upon arrival to the Chapel we gathered briefly while our guide arranged for the tickets to enter the venue.
Entering the grounds of the Chapel, one has to be impressed with the structure itself. Built in 1446, of Sandstone, tall and unusual buttress design, we learned that the height of the building is equal to the depth of same.
Once in the Chapel, no photos are permitted. The tour guide spent about 30 minutes explaining the unique carvings, methods of preservation, crypts, underground excavations and financial benefits and donations derived from proceeds of Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code.
Apparently, many years ago, in an effort to preserve the structure, the main columns were sprayed with concrete which did severe damage to them by keeping the moisture within from escaping. Ultimately, a roof like covering over the entire Chapel and an elaborate system of fans and heaters reduced much of the dampness ... and with it the moss, mold etc.
Wherever you look, there are signs of (and stone carvings) to do with Knights Templar, the mysteries, artifacts and some evidence supporting alien theories (UFO)
To learn more, visit www.rosslynchapel.com
A very informative tour, once past the gift shop.... we boarded our bus for the next tour of The Glenkinchie Distillery.
The bus lets us off near a long, path of steps from the parking lot to the entrance of the distillery. (Not a very accessible tour)
There we were met by Jimmy, a 7 year veteran here, who took us thru the years long process from start to finish of making fine Single Malt distilled beverages.
At the end of the tour, we were invited to sample 3 different types of product... each determined by age... I’ll describe the taste like.. young = hard, strong, nostril clearing medium age = smooth, aged = mellow... slides down your throat, feel no pain soon after!!
Many of the guests purchased (at 5% discount) the alcohol.
This company owns 20 plus distilleries.
A great day...
Highly recommend the distillery tour. HOWEVER .. (Not a very accessible, MANY STEPS and lots of walking)
Day 13 - Sept 6. Orkney Islands- Anchored
included tour was to Historic Orkney.
Our tour guide and driver again were pro’s. Karen explained that the captain asked each afternoon tour guide to modify the 2.5 hr. plan a bit so the ship could depart a little earlier than scheduled. She promised we would not miss any venues.
The day was again, perfect for sightseeing and picture taking.
The coach was comfortable and immaculate.
The ride included 4 stops for photos and walking tours. We are always impressed with the mobility challenged guests who with walker or cane make their way on and off the bus to see the sights.
An interesting stop ...
The Standing Stones of Stenness are carbon dated about 5000 years ago are believed to have aided in determining the solstices using the stones, sun and shadow alignment. Originally it appears there were 360 stones.
Many have fallen due to weather and strong winds. Each of the many tours walked the path to the edge of the circle. Photos will show.
We stopped too, at the village of Stromness for a brief walk the quaint village ... big seller there was ice cream at the bakery.
Back to the bus, we arrived back to the ship with enough time to freshen up and enjoy dinner in the World Cafe.
Day 14 - Sept 7th, 2018
Subject: Bergen, Norway
Yes, it’s day 14 of our British Isles cruise.
We are docked overnight for this last day of what has been a delightful cruise.
Once again, the we have been blessed with great weather, calm seas and good health.
Our included tour Panoramic Bergen will meet in the terminal later this afternoon.
Most of our packing is done, just enjoying the beautiful scenes of this busy port.
Much as we remembered it, a picturesque city of mostly wooden buildings and attached homes have burned several times throughout the years.
In 1944 the town was nearly completely destroyed when a ship in harbor (Voorbode) loaded with 273,000 lb of explosives caught fire and blew up, taking with it most of the town.
Still, almost all of the houses are wooden!
Even more difficult to believe, much of the harbor is built on wooden pilings which over years are beginning to rot. One “leaning” (Their leaning tower of Pisa) building is under repair ... said it will take 4 years to repair.
Our 2 hr tour of this second largest city (also once the capital) took us past King Haakon’s Hall, the Rosenkrantz Tower, the fish market...and though the busy streets of Bergen. How do these coach drivers do it ?
Back to the ship after the short tour.
Finished dinner in World Cafe.. delicious king crab legs, large prawns, a NY strip steak and sugar free desert.
Tomorrow... we fly home!
Bergen to Toronto, Toronto to Newark
All in all a great cruise.
Sept 8, 2018
Bergen NO. to USA
Loved that Viking permitted (actually encouraged) room service on this, the day of disembarkation.
I ordered a bagel and salmon plate... beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.
Diane asked for her muffin and hot coffee. BTW, the room service morning coffee has been better ever since we mentioned how terrible it had been! Often seemed as if it was from the previous night!
Anyway, at 8:15AM sharp, our ticket color and number was called. We proceeded to the pier where we identified our luggage and boarded a coach for the 20 minute ride to the Bergen airport. Upon arrival we waited until the luggage was unloaded and with the help of many porters and many wonderful Viking representatives, we were directed to the Air Canada Rouge desk. There our bags were checked, boarding passes printed etc. Everything was very orderly.
Getting to the departure gate was however, a challenge. We had to wait (conveniently located near a food court with plenty of seats) until we could pass thru an immigration check point which had yet to open.
Finally, we sat comfortably until the flight (a Viking Charter) was ready to board. Then, after calling the first 4 rows, the gate agent called for ALL REMAINING passengers!!! NO boarding by row as one would expect, just EVERYONE at once and there must have been 150 of us, trying to get to the plane then past one another when on board! Plenty of room for improvement here!!
The 7 hour flight was fine, there were plenty of open seats, we found 3 seats to play iPad scrabble and relax. The seat bottoms were very (very) uncomfortable, I used two pillows to help “soften the pain”. Flight attendant service, food and ride were good. The crew was very attentive to each passenger’s call. Wine was available (red or white) and was complimentary.
We arrived Toronto on time, went thru passport control and GOES (Government Overseas Entry System) where somehow or other the number of our checked bags became an issue. We had 3, the system showed 5, 6, then 7... unable to explain, security told us to just go thru to the kiosk and prepare to get to gate F64 for our Air Canada short flight home.
The gate agent, Tamara was especially kind and needed to make seat changes for weights and balances, so as Premier 1K and Gold Alliance members, she moved us to the more comfortable forward section of the plane.
An hour later, we were in Newark, waiting for luggage and our pick-up for the 1 hour ride home with Patrick (Wally’s) to Sea Girt!
Must again mention how incredible the Viking Crew was. This was our 79th cruise, so we know what sets one cruise from another ... service and attention to every detail. This crew was remarkable! They paid attention, nothing was too hard!! They aimed to please and please us they did. Kudos!
PS just booked West Indies Viking Ocean.. Read Less