We were picked up at Heathrow by Barry of Taranis Travelfirstname.lastname@example.org. He was very efficient and transported us to Southampton via Stonehenge, Salisbury, Avebury, Amesbury. His price was great and we could stay as long as we wished in each place. He also transported us to Bath another day. There is an audio guide to the Baths. Will take you around 2 hours and it could be more if you don’t want to hurry. There are lots of shops, etc. around. Probably 5 hours is what you would need in Bath. We were going to take the train to Bath from Southampton but found that you need to book in advance for the train as the price continues to go up the closer you come to the date you want to go. Just like the airlines. That is why we decided to take private transportation because for the 4 of us, it worked out the same price if not cheaper.
We stayed at the Southampton Park Hotel. It was okay. Very small rooms. No a/c which usually is not a problem but it was warm. The good thing is they had a full made to order breakfast included with our room cost. It was centrally located so walking was not an issue. Staff was friendly. The hotel was inexpensive. Don't know if we would stay here again. We took a cab to the ship which was about 7.8 pounds.
Princess Ship: We signed up for Anytime Dining; however, we could only get reservations at 5:30 or 5:45 and then at 7:30, etc. They would not take reservations for 4 people at 6, 6:30, 7, etc. This has not happened to us before. We always were able to make reservations for 6:30. This time we had to walk in.
Currency: The ship did have an ATM machine for local currencies. The transaction fee was $4.50; Euro exchange rate was $1USD = .70 Euro; $1USD = .56 English pound
Also if you have Bank of America, Barclay Bank is their affiliate and so no foreign transaction fees are charged at the ATM although I was charged a 3% exchange fee. This has not happened before at other affiliated banks. Also, you needed a debit card with the chip in it to use at Barclay’s ATM. Bank of America’s debit card does not have such a chip so I had to go inside the bank to a teller who did the transaction. Perhaps this is why I was charged the 3% fee. However, Bank of America waived it.
In many places you need a credit card with a chip in it. Bank of America suggested I get their travel credit card which has no foreign transaction fees and does have the chip. It came in handy as sometimes American Express (who also no longer charges fees) wasn’t accepted.
Cork: Used Butlers-buses.com for 8 of us. Did Charlesfort, Kinsale, Jameson tour, Cork, and Cobh. Our guide, Steven, was great. Great price and vehicle with a PA system. We did not want to do Blarney but we could have. Cobh is a small town and attractions are within walking distance from the pier. Local train station is right by the ship’s pier and journey to Cork takes about 25 minutes.
Glasgow: Used Great Scot Tours. greatscot-tours.com Our guide was David Frood. I corresponded with Gordon Ross and Gordon had a van of 15. We had a van of 6. David picked us up at 11 a.m. and we did so much. Went to village of Luss, to the Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Callander, Sterling Castle (David explained the various rooms in the Castle with us), and then finally into Edinburgh for the Military Tatoo. He ate with us at Apex Hotel in the Grassmarket area. Things were very busy. We got back to the ship around 12:50 a.m. long before the buses arrived back after 2 a.m. David was absolutely wonderful. A great great tour.
Our tickets for the Military Tatoo were bought by someone on Cruise Critic who joined Friends of the Tatoo so we could get tickets as soon as they were available in December. They were 38 pounds each, Section 12, Row R and great seats. Easy in and out.
Also the ship was docked at Ocean Terminal in Greenock. Town is within walking distance from the port and offers some shopping as well as restaurants and pubs. Glasgow is about 45 minutes from Greenock. When you exit in the terminal, stop and get the free Scotch Whisky tasting available.
Kirkwall: A tender port--takes about 10 min or so. They put extra buses on starting from about 8:30 a.m. to about 10 a.m. to go around the island. It is the T11 bus.There was a PA system. Bus tickets are purchased on the bus or they may have a ticket stand set up at the travel centre. The bus departs from the Travel Centre. Length of tour: 3 hours 30 min. Unfortunately, we did not take the bus but know people who did and they say it was wonderful. If you just do the town, you can skip Bishops Palace and Earls Palace. St. Magnus Cathedral was good (no charge). You cannot go to Highland Park Distillery unless you take the tour. No tastings are even available at a cost. Taxis are available at the City Center but only go locally. They will not take you to Scapa Flow, etc. And the taxis that will are extremely limited. They were all gone when we got into the port because we didn’t go in ourselves that day until around 11. Also, it was a Sunday so many taxis were not even running. There is a visitor center about a 5 minute walk from the port at Castle Street and Junction Roads. There is a team of Welcome Ashore Orkney personnel on hand at the pier side to guide you to the travel centre. Easy walk to town and around town.
Invergordon: Our ship could not make port because of Hurricane Bertha and 75 mph winds and 55 mph winds in the port. We were to have toured with exquisitescotland.co.uk We had arranged Dunrobin Castle and the falconry exhibition as well as 2 scotch distilleries and other places. We really missed seeing this port. We were to dock at Admiralty Pier—small town with shops, cafes, etc. Inverness is about 40 min. away.
Disembarkation: David Stubbs of londoncountrytours.co.uk picked us up at port. He drove us to Oxford, the Cotswolds, Stratford on Avon. Very good guide. Very good vehicle. We didn't get to the Ibis Hotel at Heathrow until 9 p.m. at night. Was a long day, but a great one!!
Ibis Hotel on Bath Road: was a decent hotel; bigger rooms than the Southampton Park, reasonable price. The 4 of us took a taxi to the airport at 19 pounds. However, they had a shuttle running every minutes for 4 pounds each. We had a very early flight and decided on the taxi.
Actually the category is B1 now. The room was nice. Typical room. Great location. By the elevators but never any noise.
Guernsey Islands: Tender Port. Took about 10 min. We took the bus, route 91, around the island. It cost 1 pound each. It was okay. No commentary. Two scenic stops. Took 1 hour and 40 min. The tourist center is easy to find—turn left off the dock and keep walking. Tourist Center is on the right. The bus stop is just past the tourist center by the church. Could have walked around in town or gone to the Military Hospital or Underground or Castle Cornet on our own.
Dublin: Used Garvan Rusche or dublintourguide.ie. Very knowledgeable in history. 5 hour walking tour for 6 of us. Would do bigger groups but we like to keep our groups to 6-8 people in all our excursions. We took taxi into Dublin. Was 20 Euros for 6 of us. It is about a 15 minute drive. You can also do Dublin on your own. The Princess shuttle was $8 pp each way which is why we took a taxi. You can walk around Dublin. There is a tourist center right by Trinity College and the taxi rank to go back to the ship is also right in that vicinity. We docked at Ocean Pier #33 in Alexandra Basin.
LeHavre: We had already done Paris and Normandy on previous trips so we just took a taxi (8 Euros) into town. I had printed out a walking tour and we followed that. We walked back to the ship. Easy time. The ship’s shuttle was $8 pp each way. Nice city.
Was part of our walking tour.View All 11 Dublin Castle Reviews
Garvan was very knowledgeable and stayed with us at Trinity College and the Book of Kells.View All 24 Trinity College Reviews
Belfast: Used cityandcausewaytours.com--Alister. Absolutely wonderful. Mercedes van was great with a PA system. There were 6 of us. Did Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Bridge, Antrim Coast, Dunluce Castle, Belfast. Game of Thrones Hedges. A great great tour. Loved this area. There was a shuttle service provided by local authorities on a complimentary basis. The ship docked at Stormont Wharf and the port is located about 15 minutes drive from the city center.View All 29 City Tour Reviews
Absolutely excellent!!!!View All 94 Giant's Causeway Reviews
I bought the tickets for the Castle and Audio Guide before we left the U.S.A. The Castle was wonderful!! Probably allow about 2 hours.View All 37 Edinburgh Castle Reviews
Edinburgh: Tender port and we waited an hour to get a tender back to the ship and it was 1 1/2 hours before the final tender departed from shore!!! Long, long wait. Also that is because the tide is in and they can't dock but 1 or 2 tenders at that time of day. We had a tour with Tours by Locals, the gentleman is retiring. He picked us up at port. I think I would take the transportation into Edinburgh and do the Castle with the audio tour and then walk the Royal Mile and perhaps see Holyroodhouse. You can do all this on your own. Go to the Scotch Whisky place by the Castle and do tastings. Our guide also took us to Rosslyn Chapel which was interesting. The ship docked at South Queensferry and there were a few shops there.View All 43 City Tour Reviews
Someone from Cruise Critic joined Friends of the Tatoo so we could get our tickets as soon as they were available. They were in Section 12, Row R, 38 pounds each. Easy in and out. Excellent excellent show!!We had private transportation so we got back to the ship well before the ship's buses.View All 12 The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Reviews