So now it’s July and officially less than forty days before we leave. Even that still seems almost unbearable, but it’s a far cry from the almost six months from when we began this whole progression.
One of the biggest reasons we ended up with such a great deal this time around is that we had to give up our normal ‘pick your own room’ capability. Princess Cruise Lines will be assigning us a room. The (potential) downside is that the room location could end up to be somewhat less desirable than what we would have chosen on our own. Another offset is that we may not find out which room it is until we actually board the ship (although it will likely be somewhat sooner than that). The biggest upside is that it can be no less than a mini-suite of a specific category. Why is that an upside? The key is ‘no less than’ so the hope is that particular category (in which there are only 12 suites) will be sold out and we have to settle for something…better. 🙂 Please come visit us, Dear Upgrade Fairy! (BTW…as of this writing, we still don’t know our specific room details.)
There are 12 days on-board the ship which comprises 9 ports of call, 2 sea days and 2 days for embarkation and disembarkation (but those 2 appear to be classed as 1 day). Our ports of call include 1 in the Channel Islands, 3 in Ireland, 4 in Scotland, and 1 in France. These will be filled with a mixture of formal tours and ‘on our own’ adventures. Hopefully the 2 sea days will be enough of a rest in between. 😉
This is meant to be a brief summary of our cruise days or at least what we have ‘planned’. Given possible weather conditions inhibiting some stops, everything is subject to change.
After leaving Southampton, our first stop (ship day 1) will be St. Peter Port, in Guernsey (which is part of the Channel Islands). As this is a tendered stop (get in the life boats to go to shore), there is always a possibility the weather will be less than kind. In that event we may end up missing the port entirely (but would likely make it up by longer times elsewhere). As we have no formal tour, doing our own walkabout is highly anticipated. The 11 hours we have in port should allow us a reasonable time to limber up by sauntering through town. Insights gleaned from numerous sources point out there should be no shortage of intriguing sights and flavors to supplement our visit.
Ship day 2 will be a stop in Cork, Ireland. Here we have a guided tour that will take us to a fascinating variety of places including Cobh where sits the Blarney Castle. (Unless you’re Irish or have been to Cobh I’d be willing to bet you would not expect the pronunciation to be COVE.) Kissing the Blarney Stone holds no special interest for us, however the grounds around the castle are reputed to be quite a sight to see. A drive through Cork City, a stop at Charlesfort, lunch in Kinsale and, hopefully, a visit to Cobh’s Cathedral…photo ops abound.
Ship day 3 is rise and shine again (though perhaps a ~little~ later) for a stroll around Dublin on our own. I suspect the HOHO bus may be in order, but we’re flexible (well…maybe not as much as in our younger days…)
Belfast awaits on ship day 4 and we will join another guided tour. Off to the Giant’s Causeway, a scenic drive along the coast to arrive at Ballycastle for lunch followed by a return to Belfast to visit where the Titanic was built. A visit through Belfast proper and a return to the ship rounds out the day. Yes…it’s a whirlwind of experiences anytime in port.
Another day (5), another port and this one is Glasgow, Scotland. A pickup at the port takes us to Loch Lomond for another boat ride with a drop-off at the village of Luss. A drive through the Trossachs National Park (Rob Roy country) ends at the Stirling Castle for some personal reconnaissance and then on to Glasgow proper. More time spent there to do a thorough ramble about town.
Finally a day at sea to cool one’s heels on ship day 6! I’m inclined to believe breakfast time will be much closer to lunch time and the rest of the day will be spent with butt firmly implanted somewhere soft. There may even be a glass of wine involved…perhaps two…
Ship days 7 and 8 are both time on our own days. One day at Kirkwall (on the Orkney Islands) and one day at Invergordon (visiting Inverness) will give our legs a prime opportunity to stretch out once again.
Ship day 9 will see us split up. Twice the cultural immersion / sight-seeing to give us each an evaluation of much different areas of Edinburgh. Rose will be driven out to Edinburgh’s Old Town to start a jaunty walk on the famed Royal Mile. Taking in the twisting streets, the birthplace of Harry Potter, Castle Rock and Grassmarket and then on to Georgian New Town to see the elegant comparison of New versus Old. A stop for lunch and on to Rosslyn Chapel.
I, on the other hand, will be spending the better part of my day in the lovely town of St. Andrews. Hmmmmm…I wonder what the attraction there might be??? If you guessed wandering about a quaint, historic town and enjoying a scenic drive around the immediate area, you’d be quite right indeed.
Oh…did I forget to mention the lengthy stop at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club with its eye-popping scenery and jaw-dropping golf history? The highlight of this entire British Isles tour, for me from day one, has been this stop in particular. However, to be fair, by the time we actually get here, I have a sneaking suspicion we will have seen numerous things that will be no less impressive.
Ship day 10 –> see ship day 6 above. Some things you just never tire of repeating. 🙂
Ship day 11 will be our final stop prior to our return to England. This will be in La Havre, France. Many of the ship passengers have elected to go to Paris for the day. We’ve been there twice and would certainly go again without question. However, this time around it seems…counter-productive. It takes 3 hours to get there, 3 hours to return which will then leave, at best, 4 hours to actually spend in Paris. That’s barely enough time to enjoy a croissant and coffee on the Champs-Élysées. For us, this day will be spent with 5 other people from the ship. We’ll share a taxi tour to the little town of Honfluer. After we arrive we’ll meander around enjoying the picturesque town and its lifestyle. There will likely be a beverage or two found, accompanied by some wonderful French cuisine…right on the seashore. There are times when you just have to sit and watch the day unfold around you. 🙂
Our last day on the ship brings us back full circle to Southampton. Waving goodbye (til next time!) to the ship we’ll find a taxi to the train station. Then, for the next couple of hours, we’ll simply sit back and watch the countryside fly by as we make our way to London. Our Best Western hotel room will be ready for our arrival and the week ahead of us (at that point) will be filled once more with roaming, visitations, general musing…and probably a pint or two. 🙂