British Isles Cruise 2015

Roger and Linda's cruise Diary, July 7 through July 24, 2015

Linda and I left today at 2:15pm via Delta Airlines on our British Isles 12 day Princess Cruise. We flew to Minneapolis first with a two hour lay over and then to London, a 15 hour ordeal.

07/08/15 We arrived on the ship about 3:00pm London time. Actually we were quite happy with the Delta Airlines planes and the service on board. The coach seats we had were quite roomy and comfortable. We were served two meals on the London leg of our trip. Princess guides met us at the airport and got us loaded onto a comfortable large bus which travel 2 hours to our ship located in South Hampton. We got checked into our room with very little hassle and was allowed to go into it right away. We unpacked our bags and then attended the dreaded safety meeting which lasted 45 minutes. We met Conrad and Kathy and went to the buffet for dinner. The Princess Queen ship was less than a year old and was mostly a very nice comfortable vessel.

07/09/15 We arrived in Lahave Normandy France this morning about 6:30am. Got up at 7:00am for breakfast and met at the meeting place for our hiking excursion to a pretty little old town called Hanfleur, located along the Seine River about 50 miles away. The weather was perfect - partly sunny, in the 70’s, and no wind. The Seine River Valley with main water way and wetlands was very scenic. We enjoyed our French blonde guide very much. The easy hike through the town was extremely scenic. The main alcoholic beverage in this area is Calvados Brandy. There was also many types of apple ciders available for purchase. Normandy produces very little wine as they do not have enough sun for the grapes to develop. Got back about 1:30am and had a very nice salad and pizza with red wine for lunch. Linda and I then both slept for 4 hours trying to counteract our jet lag fatigue problem. Got up and went to dinner about 6:30pm. This ship is very nice but the food is only so so. Next we attended a very enjoyable show put on by a comedian who could also play the piano quite well. Was back in bed by 10:00pm.

07/10/15 This is a sea day. The weather again is beautiful in low 70’s, sunny, with no wind. Sunrise comes early at 4:47am up here in the north. I got up around this time as I finally caught up on my sleep. Had very pleasant fun dinner tonight with 3 other couples - Conrad & Kathy, - a doctor and his politician wife from Bloomington Indiana - a Optometrist and his fun wife who was a gourmet cook and dog trainer & shower. We had so much fun talking together that we missed the song and dance production show tonight which was highly rated by all who saw it.

07/11/15 Arrived in Edinburgh Scotland Queensberry ferry this morning about 6:00am. A beautiful harbor with an old world heritage bridge. We left on our Floors Castle and Dryburgh Abbey excursion quite early, meeting in the ship lounge at 7:00am. Did a pleasant shuttle onto land. The seas so far have been very calm on this cruise. The hilly country side was very beautiful lush green mostly covered with sheep and a few cows. We toured an area inhabited by the great author Walter C Scott. The Abbey ruins dating back to the 1100’s were beautiful. The castle actually still being lived in had very impressive large grounds with the Tweed river running through it. It used to be a royal hunting grounds. The river was full of delicious salmon. The interior of the castle kind of in the Baroque style was not to my liking but had some impressive collections especially the stuffed birds. The tapestries were quite impressive. The tour included a Scottish lunch with fresh salmon which was good. We then returned to Edinburgh and visited the original inner city which was a very active tourist location. Many shops with beautiful wool and cashmere items. Got back to ship and had dinner with our travelling companions Conrad and Kathy. The show tonight done by a Irish singer was very bad and I almost walked out early.

07/12/15 We arrived in Invergordon Scotland today about 8:00am. Our excursion tour left at 9:15am to Urquart Castle on the Lochness lake. Once one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland. It was beautiful ruins right on the Lochness. The occupants destroyed it to keep the Jacobvite’s from using it. Next we did a boat ride across the Lochness. We then visited the Cullodon Moor site where the British defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie (the Jacobvites). We watched a film in 4d of an re-enactment of the bloody battle. Next a great lunch at the best hotel in the area. The final part of the 8 hour tour was a walking tour of inner city of Inverness. Our guide Eon was an exceptional speaker and historian on this excursion. Linda liked him so well that she gave him a $10 tip.

07/13/15 Another at sea day. I need a rest as the excursions give me way more exercise than I am used to getting at home. I worked on my diary and website photos a good part of the day. We attended a chef’s cooking demonstration in the morning which was educational and lots of fun. The temperature has dropped to the high fifties, so it is too cold for pool activities today. Sea’s continue to be very smooth. Had a fun group dinner again with 3 other couples from Mississippi. I had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish which was not bad at all. Attended a show put on by an Irish fiddle player and then went to bed by 10:00am.

07/14/15 We arrived in Glasgow Scotland today around 6:00pm. Weather is nice in the low 60’s with partial sun. Our excursion today included the best of Scotland Highlands in the west. Beautiful Loch Lumen, small picturesque towns, stop off at high point of Highlands, Salt water Fjords, and a relatively modern palatial palace which had grounds to die for being run by the Duke of Argoyle. We also had a nice lunch. A very nice please day of sight seeing with some very pleasant sunshine to light up the country side. Scotland is definitely a country worth visiting. Had dinner with Conrad and Kathy tonight. I had a salad and oxtail wagon wheel pasta which was very delicious. Closed the day with a Beattles group concert in the ship theater.

07/15/15 We arrived in Belfast Ireland today around 7:00am. More nice weather partly clouding in the high fifties. Our excursion today is to the Carrickfergus Castle, Cushendall, and Irish Fare. The tour included a restaurant which had a cooking school. When we arrived we were given scones, pastry, and tea or coffee. The owner chef was a very friendly Irishman. After looking around a bit we were taught and instructed how to make soda bread. I put raisins on top of mine and it came out so so. They then took our gourmet lunch orders. While lunch was being made we did a walk around the quaint little town. Returned to the cooking school restaurant and was taught how to pour our own pint of Guiness beer. It was a bit early but is never to early for a good pint of Guiness. The lunch was excellent especial the homemade ice cream with butter brickel caramel sauce Yum Yum. We then visited Carrickfergus Castle originally built in 1200 AD by the Normans. It was basically a defensive castle built right on ocean. Our guide was another excellent historian and was definitely on the Protestant religious/political side of the country. We also stopped at a high country park which was lovely. Linda spotted to Irish Hare’s up there which apparently is a rare site. Returned back to ship along the bay front all the way past some high end residences. It was a nice country oriented tour and a great way to spend the day in Ireland. Watched a musical tribute to the Beatles after dinner.

07/16/15 We arrived today in Liverpool England about 7:00am. The city is large and relatively modern. It is the home of the Beatle musical group. The excursion today is the Best of Lake District. I visited it once before with an Elderhostel group doing a two week hiking excursion with Herb Sinnen. It took the bus about 2 hours to reach the Lakes District on modern 3 lane freeway. Lots of farm land, cattle and sheep grazing. This country is also beautiful and full of lush green grass every where. We walked around town a bit and then had lunch at a hotel where I stayed a few days on my last trip. Then we did a boat ride accrossed the lake followed by a short train ride through some beautiful country side. It was our long time friends Conrad and Kathy’s 27th wedding anniversary today. We celebrated it at an Italian premium restuarant on board the ship called Sabatinos. The food and service was excellent. My lobster and pasta was very high qualitity and very tasty. I brought a nice bottle of Chianti Riserva from home and payed the very reasonable corkage fee of $15. Kathy and I had no problem finishing off the bottle which really paired well with our cuisine. We had a very pleasant time celebrating the anniversary. The show tonight was a girl singer who had won the first ever TV “Voice” show competition in England. Linda said she was a great singer. I liked some of her songs but not all.

07/17/15 We arrived in Dublin Ireland today around 7:00am. The temperature dropped about 10 F. today into the low 60’s. Rain is forcast. The city of Dublin was very impressive. Many beautiful parks and old historic buildings. After touring the city for perhaps and hour with a couple photo stops we went to Christ Church which was very impressive. Next we headed out into the country highlands for lunch and then visited an very old scenic monastery. Apparently the main employment of these monks was to reproduce the religious manuscripts which did preserve a record of the history of the time. Lots of sheep and cows in the country all feeding on lush green grass with a few golf links and occasional streams. Really a beautiful country with virtually no slums. Apparently the only religious/political problems they have now, is in Belfast between the Catholics and the Protestants. It is basically a socialist country that has mostly recovered from the financial down turn. Apparently the politicians are spending more money then they take in just like in the US. We got back to the ship 45 minutes late because of bad traffic in Dublin. Conrad and Kathy also attended this tour. I struck up conversations a stockbroker and his wife from Oklahoma which proved to be entertaining helping us pass extensive buss riding time.

07/18/15 We arrived in Cork Ireland this morning about 8:00am. Weather is clear and perfect in the 60’s. Cork is another interesting scenic historic area of Ireland. Kathy and Conrad went with us on our excursion today. We toured various small towns before lunch leaving the bus several times for photo opportunities. For the included lunch we went to an upscale hotel. The food was good, especially the root vegetables carrots, potatoes, and turnips Yum Yum. The main course was chicken again with a great whisky sauce and very fresh tasty watercress. Desert was something similar to flaming ice cream except the ice cream instead was whipped cream. During the entire lunch a two piece band played and sang loud Irish music. The best part however was two young Irish girl dancers performing various Irish jigs and dances. Next we went to Blarni Castle the home of the famous Blarni stone. The stone was 110 steps up into the castle. Kathy wanted to go touch it but the line was one hour long so she skipped it. It is said, that if you touch it in the correct manor, then you will be given the gift of gab using it to your own advantage. The castle grounds were the prettiest of all the castles we have ever visited. We almost got lost taking a trail around an lake that would have caused us to miss our bus. Fortunately we game to our senses and turned around before we into the point of no return. I had caught a cold from the rainy cool temperatures yesterday and was sniffling bad by the end of the day. Returned to ship and ate at the buffet on the 16th floor. It was Italian night and food was not bad. Was in bad by 9:30pm.

07/19/15 Feeling better this morning and decided not to cancel my last excursion today. Arrived in St. Peters England today around 9:30am. Started packing this morning for disembarkation tomorrow morning. Our excursion today went to the Island of Sark a small island about 1 hour boat ride from St. Peters coast line. It was a beautiful sunny day in the low 70’s with no wave action. The island was actually a small country and had no cars on it having only horses and tractors for transportation. It was breath takenly beautiful especially La Seigneurie Gardens a private residence with beautifully manicured formal gardens and some old brick building houses and other structures. We toured the island stopping several times in a wagon pulled by an horse similar to a Clydesdale. We had a lunch at a tea house that served excellent food. Truly a nice relaxing and beautiful place to visit. I am glad I did not cancel this excursion. Had our final cruise dinner in the formal dining room with Conrad and Kathy

07/20/15 Arrived in South Hampton England this morning which is the end of our cruise in the British Isles. I would give this cruise a very high rating especially for Americans who want to learn a bit about their ancestors history. We made it to London today around noon. Linda thought that she had lost her passport but found it to my and her relief. London is sure a busy city 26 million during the day and 10 million at night. It is quite congested for my taste. Very amazing the cross section of people that visit this most popular travel destination in the world. We checked into our hotel called the Premier Inn about 6 blocks from the British Museum. The cost was about $300 per night considered a low end hotel here in London. It is clean, large, good location close to the Underground, has very good internet wifi at a low price. We went to the theater district via the underground to buy - Book of Mormon - tickets for a Thursday matinee. The London underground subway system is amazing and is relatively easy to use. Tonight Kathy found a local pub that had excellent food and beers. Linda had fish and chips which she loved. I had an excellent beef and mushroom pot pie with a wonderful puff pastry top and a Guinness brown gravy which really went well with a pint of Guinness beer. Went to bed early nursing my cold which I caught on the ship about 3 days ago.

07/21/15 After sleeping about 12 hours I finally got up and I felt a little better. Linda and I walked about 30 US blocks to visit the British Museum. I wanted to take the bus or underground because of my cold, but could not talk “she who must be obeyed” into it. I enjoyed the museum immensely in spite of my cold. The Egyptian, Greek, Roman, etc statues and mummies where especially interesting to me. Without a doubt one of the top 3 museums I have ever seen. Conrad and Kathy did a matinee play called Billy Elliot which they like a lot. We them for dinner at a local Pub. I had a beef puff pastry pie with Guinesse brown gravy which was very good. Of course I also washed it down with a pint of Guinesse. Retired to bed early.

07/22/15 I slept about 12 hours and felt better today. We visited the Buckingham Palace with Conrad and Kathy to watch the changing of guard this morning. After that we had lunch and then went to the play “Book of Morman” matinée performance. The play was excellent, great acting, singing, dancing, choreography and definitely in my top 10 list of plays I have seen. We sat on the first level 9 rows back from the front. The seats were excellent and cost us $75 pounds per seat which is about $112 US dollars. Some of the language in the play is quite crude, so I would not recommend it to anyone who is sensitive to bad language. After the play, around 5:00pm we went to Jamie’s Italian restaurant run by Jamie Oliver the famous food network chef & host. My pasta Bolognese, wine, and desert - lemon polenta cake with fresh pomegranates & creme fraich sauce was excellent. The Bolognese sauce was actually better than my version. Took the underground home and was in bed by 8:30pm.

07/23/15 Slept reasonably well for 12 hours and got up for that horrible English breakfast buffet at our hotel. Fortunately there was a Starbucks two buildings down so I always went there after breakfast for some good coffee. Linda and I got ready for our first underground excursion alone to the Towers of London. We screwed up immediately by taking the wrong train and having to turn around. We did not realize that the line has several trains, not just one. We met some very helpful passengers from New Zealand and the UK which got us straightened out. The Underground is amazingly fast, reliable, and a inexpensive way to travel in London. We got to the Towers of London stopped and negotiated our way down to the castle. We had purchased tickets in the underground info and ticket office, so we did not have to wait in line, a very good move. The site was full of tourist and extremely busy. We did a tour lead by a very entertaining and knowledgeable BeefEater who was employed by the Queen’s staff. The Crown Jewels and mideavel weapons collection was worth the trip alone. We toured the site about 2 hours and then another 1/2 hour viewing the London bridge and the waterfront along the Thames River. This area is one reason this is the most visited city in the world. Had no trouble finding the Underground again and heading back to our hotel. Started packing for our disembarkation tomorrow morning. Kathy and Conrad returned at 6:00pm and we had our final dinner at a local pub near our Hotel. The pub beer is good, food sometimes is good, but the fish and chips are never good to taste or for your health. Stay away from these greasy things.

07/24/15 Kathy and Conrad’s scheduled River tour in Germany was cancelled at the last minute because of low water. They rebooked their flights home and we all took a cab together to the airport at 9:30am. The cost was $75 pounds about $115 dollars plus tip. Both Linda and I had a great time on this trip with our friends Conrad and Kathy. Kathy is a good person to travel with as she enjoys studying the maps and taking charge of our travel details which can be daunting at times in strange cities with strange costumes.

We were to the airport early, but the security was gruesome as they decided to check my computer bag for a bomb and took 45 minutes to do it. We only had about 10 minutes to spare boarding our plane home. We had no other problems getting home, but it was still a long gruesome trip home. I had a cold and could not really sleep at all. Thank God for my audible John Grissom book called “Sycamore Road” which really helped counteract the boredom of flying. We arrived home about 9:30pm SD time, very happy to be on Terra Firma near home with our own beds again.