Cruise Around the UK: Westerdam Cruise Review by Steveinflorida

Westerdam 4
Member Since 2010
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Cruise Around the UK

Sail Date: August 2010
Destination: Europe - British Isles & Western
Embarkation: Rotterdam
We chose the August departure on the Westerdam from Rotterdam around the UK because of the itinerary and were not disappointed. The weather was (for the most part)accommodating (although the crew had a challenge with tenders in Portree with 50 mph winds and five foot swells. The service was exemplary and the food quite good. The dessert extravaganza was not to be missed. The only negative part was the smoking. With so many Dutch on board, smoking in some of the lounges (and especially in the casino) was annoying, and some of the hallways smelled a bit of smoke. Our, non-smoking cabin, though, was pristine.

We enjoyed the extended stay in Edinburgh, which is crazy at festival time. The scenery in Skye was magnificent. Those were two reasons we chose this cruise, and we were happy we did.

One area that I think HAL can do better is their packaged shore excursions. In general we struck out on our own or did a pre-arranged tour. In all cases they were far less costly, More more personalized, and in general better, than the HAL tours.

In Belfast we had a private cab from BelfastAttactions for less than the packaged HAL bus tour. The driver, Girard, was very informative and very personable. He had a full history file of "the Troubles" which he shared with us. It gave us a lot more insight into the history than we had picked up from the media. The North Antrim Coast is spectacular and not to be missed, the best parts being off the standard tourist tracks. Girard was also taking pictures with his iPhone at each stop and e-mailed them all to us; a nice touch.

In Inverness we used ocean-links-golf. That tour was again, less costly and far more personalized than the HAL tour. We visited a number of places where the large coaches simply could not get in, and avoided some of the coach tourist traps. Our guide Cyd (in full kilts) was great.

We initially viewed Newcastle as a "throwaway" but found the city's Georgian and Victorian architecture quite interesting, and its riverfront (and bridges) enjoyable. Newcastle was a pleasant surprise. On the other side of the coin we were disappointed in Stirling Castle. While there's a lot of history there the castle itself it a bit of a downer, and the rush hour traffic though Glasgow made for a tedious trip. From a castle standpoint we did, however thoroughly enjoy Cawdor (which by the way has a very good small cafeteria); and Eileen Donan, while not particularly historic, is a lot of fun and has a spectacular setting.

By the way, if you have some extra time in South Queensferry (Edinburgh) walk the five minutes into town. It's cute and has some nice pubs and galleries.

As a final note; try to avoid the internet access on the ship. It's quite expensive and very slow. If you buy 30 minutes of time expect to do about 10 minutes of work at best because of the connection speed and the technology they use. McD's and Starbucks on shore have WiFi, and for the price of a cup of coffee you can get a lot more done. Less

Published 08/30/10

Cabin review: SC Neptune Deluxe Verandah Suite

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Port and Shore Excursions

A lively city. The newly restored Royal Palace is well worth a visit. All the standard tourist things are described in the guidebooks. If you have a chance take a short day trip to Haarlam. It's a pleasant commuter town with some nice squares and architecture, and it's less frenetic than Amsterdam.

The Antrim Coast is absolutely beautiful. The Giant's Causeway is interesting but I don't think worth the drive if you are going direct. The coast drive is what makes it all worthwhile. We used BelfastAttactions for a private cab tour though the city and up the coast. Put over 200 miles on the cab, and it was well worthwhile. Our driver, Girard, for informative, personable and great about showing us out of the way things that we would have easily missed on our own. A nice touch was his iPhone camera which he used at every stop - instant e-mail pictures.

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Dublin is a short cab ride from where the ships dock and has a bit of something for everyone. St. Stephans Green on a sunny day is hard to beat for flowers, greenery, and just watching the locals enjoying themselves. If you want to see the Book of Kells get their early to avoid the lines. Personally, I think Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library (free)are a better use of time. A lot of history around the Irish uprising is there for the viewing and gives you a good perspective on their more recent history.

Read 184 Dublin Reviews

Use the hop on/hop off for local transportation. Hint: If you are doing the Royal Mile. Start at Edinburgh Castle. From there it's all down hill. So much to see and do; manage your time. My top rated site: Hollyrood House, see how royalty lives. They also have a good lunch room. Right across the street is the new Scottish Parliament building. You'll either love it or hate it, but either way go see it and visit the public galleries.

The Georgian and Victorian architecture on the avenues leading from the train station to the river front are delightful. The riverfront and the bridges spanning the Tyne are well worh a visit. The restored riverfront makes for a pleasant walk.

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