Day 1: Embark Royal Princess, Southampton, England
What a ridiculously efficient embarkation! Rather than a cattle call line that I’ve experienced on other cruise lines, we were able to just walk up to the check-in counter. We were then given a number to wait for security. No pushing, no standing for what would seem like an eternity, just organized movement. Now that is a good way to start a cruise! We were able to find our staterooms easily, get cleaned up, and get changed before muster. We were even able to unpack quite a bit before dinner. Muster (mandatory maritime emergency drill) was even efficient, and the staff was very pleasant. And here’s another wonderful thing- Princess is very accommodating to dietary restrictions. They took our diabetes and lactose intolerance request very seriously. It really helped take some of the worry out of dining (and how one might feel the next day because of it). Thank you, Princess!
Day 2: Guernsey (St. Peter Port), England & Excursion: Guernsey Island Drive & Sausmarez Manor
Our first day at port was overcast and chilly. We were supposed to have a scenic drive across the island, visit the Little Chapel of Guernsey, and visit Sausmarez Manor…but we missed our departure time because one of us lost her stateroom card, which is absolutely a necessity in getting on/off the ship. Now, I’m not usually one to say “you should do this” or “you should do that” but in this case I will. DO get a lanyard for your stateroom card and wear that baby like a precious diamond. So, we missed our non-refundable excursion while we waited for a new card to be made. After shock, anger, and blame wore off, we boarded a small tender boat to St. Peter Port and had a few hours to walk around on our own. We had refreshments at a café, shopped, visited a nice garden, met a sweet elderly local, had more refreshments in an open air market, and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of lentil and onion soup at a small local family owned restaurant. This turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Day 3: Cork, Ireland (Cobh – For Blarney Castle) & Excursion: Best of Cork & Countryside
On this day our port docked in Cobh, Ireland. Princess is also very efficient with getting people on and off the ship. Colored and numbered stickers for tours make such a difference…almost idiot proof. We also appreciated how accommodating the ship staff was for mobility impaired. There was a second ramp available at a lower angled slope for anyone needing it. Anyway, we had a lovely drive through the countryside to the harbor town of Youghal where we visited the Collegiate Church of Saint Mary and tried some pastries from a local shop. We then drove to Blarney Castle where we enjoyed a few hours walking around the grounds and shopping at the Woolen Mill Shop. We didn’t kiss the Blarney stone…the lines were terrible, and that’s just not sanitary anyway. The castle grounds were beautiful and while looking for the poison garden, I was delighted to walk a trail through wild garlic.
Day 4: Dublin (Dun Laoghaire), Ireland & Excursion: Dublin Highlights
Dublin was a fun day. Our excursion was a half day; with the other half open for free time. We spent quite a bit of time on the bus driving through the city in the morning, with a stop at the gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and then a drop off at Trinity College. From there we were free to explore on our own (we had pre-purchased double-decker bus tickets back to the ship). We tried porridge and shopped at Kilkenny, walked around downtown Dublin, found a wine bar (that made me happy), then had some stew and cider at a local pub, The Duke. A good, gluttonous day, indeed!
Day 5: Belfast, Northern Ireland & Excursion: Giant’s Causeway & Antrim Coast
Our day in Northern Ireland was all about geology! We drove 2 hours from Belfast up the Antrim Coast to Ballycastle, Dunluce Castle, and then Giant’s Causeway. Near Dunluce we stopped for lunch at a hotel, which was a feast! It was there that I fell in love with Pavlovas, a meringue-based dessert. I was already in love with potatoes, so what was the harm in a few more calories? Our visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Giant’s Causeway site worked those calories off anyway, as we walked down to the basalt columns rather than take the shuttle. It was only about a mile or so. Having a background in geology, I was just giddy to see these huge basalt columns in person. Reading about the ophiolite sequence in school was one thing, but seeing it was something else!