Viking Jupiter Cruise Review by prudence passenger
- Sail Date: July 2019
- Destination: Europe
Review of Viking Jupiter UK cruise and pre-cruise Zurich trip July/August 2019
We booked a trip on the Viking Jupiter, going around the UK, beginning in Greenwich, London, UK and ending in Bergen, Norway.
We used Viking air, which made it very easy. We upgraded to business, and also added a destination with their program. I like that I can pick my exact flights that I want and even pick my seats. This way, it is possible to have the times that I want, and also the least number of stops, or even nonstop direct.
We flew to Zurich, Switzerland for our first stop. We have flown over, and once stopped in Montreux on Lake Geneva for lunch driving through to France. This was our first time spending a few days in Switzerland. We stayed at the Hotel Widder, which is a real gem, in a perfect downtown location, and dates back to the 12th century. This is a 5 star boutique hotel. We had a very lovely spacious room overlooking their garden. The blend of old and new is beautiful. The architect spent years perfecting this combination and it truly shows. There is an awesome bar with a superb mixologist, and outdoor garden seating and dining. Breakfast is served in a charming café with indoor and outdoor seating. We would highly recommend this hotel for anyone traveling to Zurich. The service was impeccable, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Just so happened, that the Iron Man race was held while we were there. Even closed streets did not impact us at all, and we got to cheer and watch some of the runners.
We visited a small art museum, the Kunsthaus Zurich. I was surprised at the wonderful work that I so enjoyed. The largest collection of Munch outside of Norway, many Giacometti, and Monet, Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky and Brancusi. A Henry Moore, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, a section on Old Masters, and I could go on. Suffice it to say a must do while in Zurich, lovely café outside the front door with a large Rodin “Gates of Hell” to admire while drinking your coffee.
Walking around the downtown, along the river Limatt and down to Lake Zurich, we also visited the Grossmunster and Fraumunster churches. The latter with astounding Chagall windows, no photos were allowed. The original building from 853AD was an abbey for aristocratic women. The former was the starting point of the Reformation in the first half of the 16th century in Zurich.
Our first day trip with a private car service was up to Mount Pilatus and the city of Lucerne. We took the cog wheel train up to the top of the Mount, about 7000 feet. It was a cloudy day and we had nice views until some fog rolled in and we couldn’t even see the gondola to go down. It quickly rolled out and some nice gentlemen serenaded us with yodeling as we waited to go back to the bottom. We saw lots of cows and heard their bells as we went up the train. The views are just like a postcard.
Next, we headed over to Lucerne, on the beautiful lake. We walked the covered bridge (Kapellbrucke) spanning the River Reuss, built circa 1365, and admired the paintings from the 17th century. It also has an octagonal water tower which predates the bridge. It is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world, with strutted and triangulated trusses of moderate span with piled trestles. We also made a quick stop to see the Lion Monument, a rock relief from 1820 to commemorate the Swiss Guards massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.
Our next day trip we did on our own, taking an easy train ride to see the RheinFalls. Here we took the rock tour boat ride going out to a rock at the base of the largest falls in Europe, 75 feet high and 490 feet across. We climbed to the top for spectacular views with spray in our faces. We then took another boat across the river to the castle side for our train ride back.
Our dining adventures in Zurich included a lovely dinner at the Michelin 2 star restaurant Pavillon . Their Head Sommelier, Marc Almert, received Best Sommelier in the World at the March 2019 ceremony in Antwerp by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale. The restaurant received their second star in May 2019 honoring their chef, Laurent Eperon. The swiss chef, Daniel Humm (of 11 Madison Park fame in NYC), spent several years training here. The Pavillon is round, with views out to Lake Zurich and stunning flower arrangements. Needless to say, it was an awesome experience, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
We also had a lovely meal on the outdoor terrace of the Storchen Hotel with views of the River Limmat. This venerable hotel is mentioned in Zurich tax records as early as 1357. It is believed a pair of rare black storks nested on it’s roof, and that is the legend of it’s name.
This was a delightful city, and a perfect way to ease into our trip and get over our jet lag. Then, we were off to London, an easy hop away on British Air, where we arrived at the Hotel Beaumont, which is also a 5 star, luxury boutique hotel located in Mayfair. Inspired by the 1920’s, it is an Art Deco building on a quiet garden square, and steps from Mayfair, St James and the West End and only a few blocks from Hyde Park.
Since we have been in London a few times, we had a different list of what to see and do, than we would have had on a first trip. Of course, we booked theater tickets, and enjoyed the Tina Turner musical, with great music. We had an early pre-theater dinner at the fabulous Eneko Basque Kitchen and Bar just steps away from the theater. The chef, Eneko Atxa, has a three star Michelin restaurant, Azurmendi, in Spain, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. It won the Westholme Highest Climber Award in 2019, a previous winner was Blue Hill at Stone Barns for example. Great selection of tapas style foods, our server helped us to order, and everything was just delicious and service outstanding as well.
If you believe in global warming or not, we hit a 100 degree day in London! This was unexpected, and we rearranged our schedule. The British Library is in a new building, with real cold a/c. Many other places say they have a/c, but not up to our standards, or what we are used to. Since we gave up our trip to Salisbury, due to the heat, we still got to see the Magna Carta. Also, Shakespeare’s first folio, illuminated manuscripts, maps, music; like an original Beatle lyric. The Diamond Sutra, the world’s earliest dated printed book; a Gutenberg bible, original manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, Beowulf manuscript, Dame Anne McLaren notebook – pioneer of in vitro fertilization; a letter from Charles Darwin, Captain Scott’s South Pole diary, letter from Ada Lovelace to Charles Babbage, letter from code breaker Alan Turing, and so much more. King George III library is at the center of the building, with books and other printed material from the mid 15th century. This turned out to be an unexpected treat and kept us cool on the hottest of days.
We spent an afternoon on a walking tour of the Inns of Court, and visited the Royal Courts of Justice, and the Templar Church, built in the 1180’s. Seven signatories of the Declaration of Independence and five to the Constitution, were members of the Middle Temple. We also went into Sir John Soane’s museum, which was his home, circa 1808. He was the architect of the Bank of England. How many people do you know with a sarcophagus in their basement? The home is described as one of the most complex, intricate, and ingenious series of interiors ever conceived.
We did make a quick visit to the British Museum so I could see the Elgin marbles again. It was hot and crowded. Worse than a NYC subway at rush hour, we bailed. Tip, when there are long lines to get in, go around the back, most people don’t know there is another entrance, and no lines.
On the recommendation of a colleague, we visited the Sky Garden. This is free, just need to sign up for a time slot. Fabulous views around London, especially the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, and all along the Thames. Lots of places for a drink or a meal as well. We were lucky to have a clear day for great views, glad we stopped there! Then we decided to eat somewhere nearby, and lucked out to find Blacklock City down a stairway to a basement, in an old electricity substation on the grounds of London’s first meat market. Definitely order the “All in” for 2 people, a compilation of grilled beef, pork and lamb, with sides and grilled flatbread, lots of cool side sauces to boot. Great bar too!
Our final dinner in London was at Berner’s Tavern, on the recommendation of our daughter and SIL. Michelin starred chef, Jason Atherton is at the helm and we made these reservations a long time before we even left the US. It is inside the Edition hotel, a reinvention of a landmark building, and it is hip and innovative. The bar was packed with young elegant folk. Gorgeous room full of mirrors and artwork, and lovely mouldings and ceiling. We went with our servers recommendation for the starter of a traditional British pork pie and we were not disappointed. We both chose the lamb for dinner and it was delicious. Great ending for our sojourn in London.
The next day we packed up and headed out to Greenwich to meet the Viking Jupiter.
We boarded the ship and went to check out our cabin. Oh, la di da! (to quote from Diane Keaton in Manhattan) The Explorer Suite was just awesome. We think it is about the same square footage as our apartment in NYC. The bathroom is to die for, and so spacious for a cruise ship. There are double sinks, and a large shower room, with a tub and expansive walk in shower with great water pressure. Think we could fit half a dozen people in it for a party. The bedroom is large as well, with full floor to ceiling windows out the front of the ship, and below the bridge, so we have the same view. Then, the living space has a desk area, a nice round table with four chairs, perfect for those early morning breakfasts before a long tour day, and a couch and two chairs with a coffee table. We appreciated the small fridge with snacks and our preferred beverages kept everyday, including water, and a daily fruit bowl. Two large flat screen TV’s also in the cabin. There are expansive windows on two sides. The veranda has two lounge chairs and a table and chairs. Windows in front keep out the wind and the deck overhead makes for shade and no rain. The only problem was the floor was always flooded after a rain, something must be wrong with the drain design. Our exceptional housekeeper cleaned it on her hands and knees with towels and a bucket so we could sit out there one afternoon. If this had not been such a port intensive trip, that would have become a problem. This was a truly wonderful space for a two week journey. We could easily see staying here for an around the world cruise and being very comfortable.
The rest of the ship totally lives up to any and all hype. It is elegant and well designed. The spaces really feel like you are on a private and luxurious yacht. There was never a feeling of being crowded, and you could always find a place to sit and have a coffee, or read, or do a puzzle, or play cards, etc. The thought and care that went into decorating the ship truly shows, and I enjoyed all the artwork and information on the pieces. The best place for a latte, cappuccino or expresso was on deck 1, with a real deal machine. They did make them up on deck 7 at the World Cafe, but not the same. The bars and bartenders were all great, and after a few days they remembered your name and your drink! This reminded us of Crystal cruise service.
The spa is awesome. We made our own second sea day while we had only a half day tendered stop at Ullapool in the Highlands. When we first got there one other person was in the hot tub, but she soon left and we had it all to ourselves. So, hot tub, steam room, cold snow room, hot tub, you get the idea. I chickened out, no bucket of cold water over my head. The dressing rooms also had a sauna and cold plunge pool, as well as showers. I had both a massage one day, and a facial another day. Great technicians and I enjoyed them both. I also had a manicure and hair blowouts. Competent and nice staff. Indulge when you are there, so worth it.
There is a large pool with a retractable roof. We never went in, but saw a few people enjoying. There is also an infinity pool at the back. Being a part time Floridian with a pool and hot tub, waterfall in our backyard I rarely go in the pool on a ship. It was never crowded. Also, no problem finding a lounge chair. The Wintergarden was lovely, and we went one day to check out the high tea which is served everyday between 4 and 5. I am not a fan of cucumber sandwiches, but everything was presented beautifully and elegantly, and loved the tea.
We did have our Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle in the Wintergarten. There were canapés and drinks. Many high level staff were there to greet us and chat. Unfortunately, only about half of those signed up came. To be fair, the captain had just announced that we were headed into a front and it might be rough seas. That may have kept some people away. Since we were a small group, we were invited to use the private dining room at the Manfredi Italian Restaurant, and a group of about 10 or 12 of us enjoyed a lovely dinner with pleasant conversation and got to know each other a little better. Thank you Viking for treating our cruise critic group so well.
Another superb aspect of the ship is a planetarium on the second level of the Explorer Lounge. We saw all three of the shows, and two were 3D. Lots of fun and so unexpected on a cruise ship. Remember to sit as far to the back as you can for best viewing and no crick in your neck.
On to the theater and the entertainment. The four singers were young and enthusiastic, with lots of energy. High powered shows with lots of costume changes. There was a Beatles show, perfect before Liverpool, a combo 50’s 60’s 70’s show and an ABBA show. We missed the comedian/magician on his first show, and caught the last half of the second show. He was fun and the audience really appreciated him. The assistant cruise director proved that Elvis is still coming back, and was in the room. He did an awesome job and it was very entertaining. The Viking band is good and although I missed their show they were awesome backup and played at the Torshavn in the late evenings. We only made it once, this was so port intensive and we had long days and we were tired. We also enjoyed the other two singers although we missed some of their performances. The string duo was elegant and classy, and we always enjoyed their playing. The same for the pianist. So much of the time they seemed to be playing to an empty room, which was sad, but that was later in the evening, and again, port intensive with long days, so I think many passengers retired early.
Now, for the biggest entertainment surprise, was the cruise director, Heather. OMG, does this woman have pipes!!! She is a mezzo soprano, and I would be willing to listen to her every evening. She sang some favorites that Andrea Boccelli sings, like Nessun Dorma and Con Te Partiro (duet he made famous with Sarah Brightman) She is enormously talented and brings it up a notch.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
BelfastOur next day saw us arrive at Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had contacted a private tour and Alister picked us up for our custom excursion. In my genealogy research I found that my 2X great grandfather had been in Belfast, County Antrim in 1824-1826. A researcher had found 2 baptism certificates for children born to his first wife before they immigrated to the US in 1826. These children were baptized in St Ann’s. A new cathedral was built on the same spot as the old parish church and this was a definite on my list to visit. We awoke to a drizzly foggy day and hoped it would clear up soon. We headed out of the city past Ballymena and on to the Torr coastal road. Unfortunately, the fog persisted along this coastal route and we missed out on the amazing views along here. But the day was not lost, and the weather improved. We paused at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Ballintoy and watched people walking along the precarious route. Then stopped at the Ballintoy Harbor beach where GOT (Game of Thrones) was filmed. People stop here all the time in costume with swords and take videos on the beach. We stretched our legs and scrambled over some rocks along the shore. Then off to my top destination of the Giant’s Causeway. The sun came out and we had a nice long walk down to the causeway and spent considerable time walking, climbing and just sitting on the stones. Then we lazy people took the bus back up to the visitors center and met Alister to move on for a lovely lunch sitting outside at the quaint Wee Cottage. This small restaurant was just perfect, and we shared homemade soup and a sandwich. Then we were treated to the absolute best ever homemade scones with strawberry and the freshest whipped cream, oh my! Across the road are the ruins of Dunluce Castle, another location used for GOT, an album cover for Led Zeppelin in 1973, and Winston Churchill once owned it. This castle has dramatic medieval ruins and views out over the sea. Our last stop before heading back into the city was at the Dark Hedges, a final GOT location. We walked along the avenue of 150 beech trees, which was planted as the entrance to the Georgian estate, Gracehill House, of the Stuart family. Back in Belfast, we went to St Anns Cathedral and I marveled at the fact that a family member of mine stood in the same spot 285 years before. Another fun and tiring day as we headed back to Viking Jupiter.View All 12,802 Belfast Cruise Port Reviews
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Troldhaugen ConcertFinally, our last stop would be Bergen, Norway for an overnight. We have been to Bergen before and tried to find something a little different to do. It was the only tour from Viking that we booked, and I liked that it was in the afternoon, giving us a nice quiet morning and time to start some packing. We never got to see any of the Stave Churches on our last visit to Norway, so that was on my list. I found a trip to see the composer Griegs house, and hear a concert, with a stop at a Stave Church, so bingo, I found our excursion. This was our most rainy day, and I was glad most of the time we would be inside. I am not sure if it was made clear that at both stops there would be at least a 5 minute walk, and so this may have been problematic for some of the participants. We arrived at Griegs home, Troldhaugen, and went first to the chamber music hall for a concert by pianist Martha Berit Belt. Great acoustics and beautiful water views. Then we broke up into two groups with a little confusion, and saw the home and walked around the grounds a little, and saw his music studio.View All 24 Troldhaugen Concert Reviews
From there we traveled to the Fantoft Stave Church, which was moved to this location to preserve it. The church was built in about 1150 and moved to this location in 1883. The name is from the distinctive architectural style with wooden columns. The timber is from 350-400 year old pine trees. We noticed a distinct similarity to shipbuilding. The church kept some of the old religion before Christianity by having elements of Norse mythology as well. There was a belief that dragons kept evil spirits away, and the top of the church has dragonheads, similar to the ones in the bow and stern of a ship. It also reminded me of spirit houses in Thailand. The bus took us back, stopping for those that wanted to get off and see the old Hanseatic Wharf and the colorful houses. I enjoyed the excursion stops, but not being on a bus tour, so this reminded me why I prefer small group or private tours.
DoverOur first port was Dover. We hired a private company to take us for our day trip, and we are so glad we found him. Ed is a local, and knew the private streets to take us for up close and personal views of the cliffs, and a nice easy walk. We also went to the bottom of the cliffs, but unfortunately it was not low tide so we couldn’t walk down and out on the sand. Our next stop was at the Cathedral in Canterbury, where Ed dropped us off for our visit and picked us up when we were ready. This is the mother church of the worldwide Anglican communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first Archbishop was Augustine, who established Christianity in England and arrived in 597 AD. It was the site of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett in 1170, after King Henry II famously said, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” and the area is now called the Martyrdom. Today the Cathedral is a place that has had prayers to G-d daily for over 1400 years, and that was very impressive to me. We visited a charming timbered village, in Chilham on the way to Leeds Castle.View All 12,802 Dover Cruise Port Reviews
At Leeds Castle we had a leisurely walk in the beautiful gardens up to the Castle. Lots of families were picnicking on the lawns. If the walk is difficult there is a cute train up to the castle. We had a limited time, or we would have attended the falconry show and seen the maze. We had a quick bite at their restaurant, and toured the Castle. This was the private home of six of England’s medieval Queens.
From here we traveled back towards Dover, and Ed took us to a little known gem, the Kent Battle of Britain Museum Trust. If you have any interest in WWII, and RAF fighter pilots and their planes, this is the place for you. What an incredible collection! We were totally blown away, and no pun intended. There are planes, and engines, and stories and photos of the men that flew them making it personal and real. There are vehicles, uniforms, weapons and memorabilia. There is a small mess and tea room. We would never have known or found this place on our own. The final stop was the Battle of Britain Memorial and a fitting end to a wonderful and full day.
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DublinNext was our sea day, and then our stop in Dublin. In Dublin, I wanted to see the Book of Kells and the Trinity College library. These tickets were easily bought online before the trip. We took the shuttle into town, walked over to Trinity and saw the exhibit. A little crowded, but doable, and very enjoyable. I started chatting with an employee at the library, and it turned out he was the holder of the keys, and opened the library everyday. It was so interesting to talk with him, and he was so proud of the libraries vast and wonderful holdings. We then took a leisurely walk around Dublin, down to the river Liffey and across the Ha’Penny bridge. We stopped for lunch at the Klaw, best oysters ever, terrific seafood and bloody Mary’s. Next we meandered over to Temple Bar to have a drink and listen to some great music. We ended up by the Castle and Chester Beatty Library and garden, and after that walked back to the meeting place for the shuttle back to the ship.View All 12,802 Dublin Cruise Port Reviews
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Edinburgh (South Queensferry)Onward to Edinburgh next. We did our own thing in Edinburgh as well. Unfortunately, we ended up changing our berth due to wind and choppy seas. So, instead of close and easy Newhaven, we ended up across the bridge in Rosyth, opposite South Queensferry. Okay, not so terrible, we had purchased our tickets to see Holyrood Palace and also the Royal Brittania. We took a taxi into town directly to Holyrood. We had a garden tour, and tour of the house and the Queens gallery. Our last visit in Edinburgh the Queen was in attendance and the Palace was closed to visitors. We did see a long line of people dressed in their best, hats and kilts, waiting to get in for the Garden Party. Since we made the berth change, and as it was Tatoo and also Festival Fringe, we skipped our tickets to Brittania, and headed back to the ship by taxi, a little concerned about traffic, and we were further away and had to also be back early. Sad we didn’t get to spend more time, but happy we got to see what we did and didn’t miss the port entirely.View All 12,802 Edinburgh (South Queensferry) Cruise Port Reviews
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HolyheadOur next port of call was Holyhead, Wales. We had a private tour operator and we had the good fortune to have Carl as our guide and driver. We had told them we wanted to see Caernarfon Castle and the beauty of Snowdonia National Park. Traveling over the causeway we left the Isle of Anglesey and headed to Caernarfon Castle. This is a picture perfect medieval fortress castle built by King Edward I. It has polygonal towers, eagle statues and multi-coloured masonry to emulate imperial Rome. The first English Prince of Wales was born here in 1284. We then started our drive up into Snowdonia National Park, keeping our eye out for Snowdon, the mountain the park is named after. Have I mentioned how lucky we were with weather on this trip? We had some clouds, fog and drizzles, but no real downpours of rain until the last days. So today is partly cloudy but with good visibility up into the mountains. As we get closer and closer, they get clearer and clearer. We stop at a really cute little village, Beddgelert. Serendipity strikes as there is a flower show at the local church and we stop for a visit and a lovely walk along a stream. There is a wonderful legend from the 13th century about a dog named Gelert, belonging to Prince Llywelyn and his grave is here. Then it is off to the magic of the vistas of Snowdonia. What beautiful countryside, and we wish we had lots of time to go hiking up here. On to a stop at the National Slate Museum, the biggest industry that used to be here in Wales. We got to watch a forge in action and learned about the slate industry. There are more sheep in Wales than people, about 3 to 1. Mostly used for the meat, not for wool. We see them everywhere, with bright colors dyed on their backs, used to tell your sheep from far away. We stop at a charming spot for lunch in a building that was a small church at one time. We carry on and drive along the beach roads to south stack and more beautiful views. See lots of sea birds along the cliffs and the lighthouse. Our day comes to an end as we return to the port of Holyhead and our ship.View All 12,802 Holyhead Cruise Port Reviews
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Invergordon (Inverness)The next day we went to Invergordon. Here again I used a recommendation, and hired a local Invergordon company, and had Allan pick us up for our days excursion. (He was wearing a very fetching kilt I might add) I had told them I wanted to see Dunrobin Castle and their falconry show. We started off and made a quick stop to see the “Millionaires View, and the Falls of Shin, where we did see a few salmon trying to jump upstream. Luckily we arrived before a bus load of people and had some clear viewing, and took off when they all got there. We then went on to Dunrobin Castle, which looks like a real fairy tale version of what you think a castle should be. We walked right down into the beautiful gardens, which were laid out in 1850 inspired by the Palace of Versailles in Paris, by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament, and headed for the seating area for the falconry show. The professional resident Falconer is Andy Hughes. Falconry was originally developed as a means of hunting for food for the table, especially before guns were available. The demonstrations were awesome and we saw Peregrine Falcons, Hawks, Golden Eagles and Owls. Training these birds is a long arduous process, requiring much patience, expertise and dedication.View All 12,802 Invergordon (Inverness) Cruise Port Reviews
We then went to the Castles museum situated in the former summer house. It is two floors full of animals shot by the family on safari (more heads than one can count) and ethnographic items collected from all over the world. There were Pictish symbol stones carved over 1500 years ago, and was quite a remarkable collection. We then had our opportunity to walk back up to the castle and head inside. It has been the home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century and overlooks the Moray Firth. The original keep with walls six feet thick and a vaulted ceiling is now encased within the structure by all the remodeling and extensions. The French influence as seen in the gardens, continues in the home with the conical spires and turrets, much beloved by Disney in his Cinderella castle. The castle was exquisitely decorated with antiques and artwork. The views out over the gardens and to the sea are magnificent. We had a quick spot of tea and snack in their restaurant and headed off for the charming town of Dornoch. On the way, Allan found some Hairy Coos for me as he had promised. I was out of the car in a flash to take some photos for our grandkids. We drove by the Royal Dornoch Championship golfcourse, and the lovely town. We stopped into the Cathedral of Dornoch, which is a 13th century parish church. We searched for the angel playing bagpipes and the stained glass donated by Andrew Carnegie who was born in Dumfermline and summered nearby at his estate, Skibo. Another claim to fame is that Madonna married Guy Richie here in 2000. ( as a side note, they are no longer married) Upon returning to the ship a troop of Highlanders serenaded us with bagpipes and drums.
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KirkwallFeeling refreshed and ready to go again after our self made sea day, our next port of call was the Orkney Islands. We had booked on recommendation with a private tour company and David was there to meet us. We had a lot of Neolithic places to visit and got right on the road. This was one of our most interesting days and we learned the most. First off we visited a working archaeological site, the Ness of Brodgar, with students from Williamette University in Oregon. This site, discovered in 2002, is unearthing a Neolithic cathedral, a massive complex of monumental Neolithic buildings along with associated artwork, pottery, bones and stone tools from 2500 BC. Pretty fascinating to think of the knowledge and complexity of this civilization so long ago. All the sites in the area are believed to be connected, and this thin strip of land is between Loch Harray, freshwater, and Loch Stenness, a sea loch. This site is between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness. We then went over to the Standing Stones of Stenness and we were able to walk among them and touch them. These are the oldest henge site in Britain, even older than Stonehenge. It is believed that at one time there were 12 stones in the circle, there are four today. We then moved on to the Ring of Brodgar, which has 36 surviving stones out of 60. This site has a large rock-cut ditch surrounding the site and we could only walk around it. It has never been excavated and was scheduled in 1882, one of the first places to be protected as a site of historical significance in the British Isles. The erection and construction of the site would have required considerable manpower and organization. There had been much rain in the proceeding weeks and the heather was blooming everywhere. We then moved on to Skara Brae, a Neolithic village. It is charmingly set up so that as you walk the path towards the site stones mark highlights in history in a timeline as you travel back 5000 years. It was uncovered by a storm in 1850. The homes have stone beds, dressers and seats. The structures of this semi-subterranean village are in impressive condition. Most telling, among all the artifacts, no weapons have been found. Although, among the hand tools, pottery and jewelry, gaming dice were discovered. The visitor center had a small café and we stopped for a quick snack and coffee before heading into Skaill House. This is a 17th century mansion, originally built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham. This house was lived in by a succession of relatives for over 400 years. We saw an original Orkney chair here and it was just as beautiful as the day it was made. Our last stop was at Maeshowe, which is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave. It was probably built about 2800 BC. It is aligned so that the rear wall of the chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice. The modern opening was in 1861, and the workmen discovered Norse runes, proof that Norsemen had broken in probably in the 12th century. Their runic inscriptions are like modern day graffiti. This was such an interesting and informative day, and David did an amazing job of explaining it to us in laymen’s terms so we were not overwhelmed.View All 179 Kirkwall Cruise Port Reviews
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LiverpoolOur next port of call is Liverpool. We looked forward to a fun kitschy day of Beatlemania. We had a private taxi lined up to chauffeur us around. Our driver/guide Tom picked us up and off we went. Liverpool is a maritime city where the river Mersey meets the Irish Sea. First to the waterfront to see the Three Graces, the mercantile buildings associated with Cunard and the port. There is a statue of the Beatles, each with secret hidden items, and Tom pointed them out to us. From here with Tom telling us stories all along the way, we visited the homes of Paul, John, Ringo and George. Four regular guys from Liverpool, all living relatively close to one another. We stopped at Strawberry Fields, cruised along Penny Lane, and stopped at the church and cemetery to see Eleanor Rigby’s tombstone and walked the street of the Cavern Club. We visited the Royal Albert dock. We visited the enormous Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in Britain, and the 5th largest in Europe. Then we saw the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, the largest Catholic Cathedral in Britain, a most unusual round building that reminds one of a spaceship ready to take off. We even stopped at St Peters Church where John was playing with the Quarrymen and met Paul for the very first time. A fun time was had by all. The Beatlemania and tourism is helping Liverpool as the city fell on hard times after all the shipping and related maritime activity stopped.View All 12,802 Liverpool Cruise Port Reviews
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