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British Isles Trip Review w/Pics: A Thesis :)

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Part I: Introduction

 

It’s funny, I’ve been mentally "writing" this trip report in my head over the last few weeks. I’ve daydreamed about how I would point out helpful little details and small snippets of advice for future cruisers. And today I finally sat down at the computer, coffee in hand, three days after arriving home with post-cruise-dizziness, and I am blankly staring at my white computer screen. There’s so much to digest after coming off a two-week "trip of a lifetime." The sights, the smells, the sounds, the people, the weather, the experiences – it’s so wonderfully overwhelming that all I can do is try my best to put it into words and photos.

 

I have to warn you, my trip reports are long. As in, you’d better go turn off the phones and pop some popcorn long. I thrive off of trying to help people with minute details, and I hope some of what I type will be able to help you or someone you know plan and enjoy a successful British Isles vacation. Prior trip reports I have written (especially for the DIS Disney Cruise Line boards) are in story format instead of "liked/didn’t like" format. Reading "I hated the coffee but loved Cork" in others trip reports didn’t help me at all, so I figured I’d go big or go home.

 

Do you want the short version? Here it is:

1.) The ship was great.

2.) The ports were great.

3.) The vacation was incredible.

4.) Yes, I have scanned Patters

 

Do you want the long version? Do you have a cup of tea? Are you comfy?

 

Here goes . . .

 

My husband and I had agreed years and years ago that, if we could spin a globe and put our finger on one area to visit, it would be Ireland and Scotland. Having sailed with Princess before nearly 10 years ago (and hating it and swearing we’d never cruise again -- boy did that change) we received a packet in the mail with their current destinations. I don’t work for Princess (but I do live in Santa Clarita and would love to) and I must say that Princess is truly the only cruise line that will give you a 100% British Isles experience. I commend them for their amazing UK itinerary that other lines have yet to touch.

 

I did a lot of research on land-based vacations while making this decision but we aren’t the type that like being stuck on buses or forced to take a certain route or to stay in a place we’re not familiar with alongside people we’re not familiar with. We’ve been on five cruises with various lines and absolutely love the element of cruising and the ability to visit various ports in one swoop. Friends of ours who had visited Scotland and London were incredibly helpful and I ended up with a small stack of books from them covering the countries as well as Tube maps, castle & pub recommendations and even their leftover British pounds to spend. Christmas morning brought rain jackets, sweaters, and souvenir picture frames from my parents for the upcoming voyage. Every person we talked to gave us great bits of advice, all which came in very handy when we ended up in each country.

 

Having been a fan of CruiseCritic.com and using it for years with prior cruises, I hopped onto the Caribbean Princess Roll Call to see if some equally obsessed early planner like myself had started a thread 13 months prior to sailing. Luckily, there wasn’t one, so I joyfully created the May 26th board (all in caps, which they converted to lower caps, grrrr...) and waited to see who would join us on this exciting voyage!

 

As the months rolled by, people trickled onto the message board. Summer was mostly quiet, as was the Fall, but once the holidays came and went, our little group grew and grew. I had the pleasure of having other members help with the responsibilities of the Meet & Greet and soon enough we had an eagerly excited team of cruisers ready to distribute name tags, introduce everyone, and coordinate private tours and transportation when the time came to meet face-to-face. I expected 40, maybe 50, people to join the Roll Call. When all was said and done, we ended up having nearly 170 people! It was amazing!

 

When January rolled around, it became very real.

"Oh crap, I’ve been planning this trip and now it’s 2012 and I actually have to go on it..."

I always get cold feet before big trips. I get so giddy over planning them that I completely forget that I have to hop on a plane and actually travel to them. On top of that, this trip was so huge that I completely let it take over my life for those months by planning every detail of every port day. From taxis to trains to excursions to currency to buses to hotels to walking routes. Which castles, monuments, cities, roads, and streets to visit? What gear to take, the language barriers, the hotel ratings, the food menus and time difference.

 

In the months before leaving for the trip, it felt like there was a slew of "things going wrong". First, a British Airways flight to London had the emergency "we are going to crash" warning mistakenly go off mid-flight. Then the American Airlines (our airline) pilot went crazy. Then the Heathrow Customs & Immigration debacle made headlines and everyone was freaking out over the 3-hour waiting time at Customs. I had no idea about the Queen’s Jubliee until the last moment and feared that London crowds would be overwhelming. And then the left rear propulsion engine broke on Caribbean Princess, leaving two weeks of cruises in the dust and passengers losing their minds. A Brit told me that the seas in the UK are rough and to prepare myself for motion sickness. A friend of mine so eloquently stated, "Things are all going wrong now so that, by the time you get there, they will all be resolved and perfect."

 

Did all this obsessive planning help me? Sure.

Did I take a day off from work to hide under the covers second-guessing my insane reasoning for traveling this far? Yep.

Did it all work out in the long run? Absolutely.

My husband, God bless him, knows that I am a plan-a-holic and was nice enough to step back and let me be a whirling dervish for months on end. The chap simply stepped on the plane and "showed up".

 

It was the trip of a lifetime, and I can assure you that no question on the Princess or British Isles message board is too silly, too repetitive, or not important enough. The folks on these boards are helpful beyond all belief (I’m looking at you, John Bull, TowncarT, Mrs. Moho and Shogun) and I couldn’t have had such a successful vacation without everyone’s input. :D

 

Next chapter: Packing, Prepping & Perspiring

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Hi There

 

Sorry to tell him about two days after finishing your post you will suddenly start recalling items that you did not cover and have to start adding more and more info,

 

looking forward to the next section

 

glad you had a good trip

 

so when are you coming back to Scotland, next time you might need your passport

 

 

yours Shogun

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Part II: Packing, Prepping, Perspiring

 

If you told me years ago that I would someday go to Europe, I would have never believed you. It sounds so amazing, so grandiose, so far away. It’s something people dream of. Heck, even the wallpaper border in our loft has vintage travel landmarks etched on it that we thought we’d never see. Even when the Princess paperwork started flooding my email, I would stare at the laptop screen in bewilderment. "Itinerary: Europe". It just didn’t feel real. My vacation countdown clock, which had started at 397 days, ticked down to a stomach-tingling 2 days. I gazed at all of the pictures and maps I had pinned up throughout the year on my cork board at work and tried to convince myself that I would actually be visiting those places.

 

I took off an extra day from work and spent it doing endless amounts of laundry and packing. Then I read the message boards and noticed that some had stated that the sun had been coming out and that we could get away with bringing some t-shirts. Having heard that the UK has "all four seasons in one day" left me with no other choice than to be very creative with my packing. Do I need gloves? A peacoat? A t-shirt? Sandals? A scarf? Or sunscreen? And what about separate outfits for dinner? All I heard was to "layer, layer, layer". Living in Southern California has left me with a closet full of shorts, not rain boots. This was going to be interesting.

 

Below is what our suitcases held for two straight weeks. All of the tips I got from CruiseCritic were very helpful and hopefully some of these may help you.

 

Clothing that worked:

Unlike Hawaii or Alaska where you sort of know what you’re getting into, UK weather is finicky and the rumor of "pack for everything" was very true. In London, the day would start off raining, then drizzle, then the sun would come out, then it would get incredibly windy, then it would get cloudy, then it would sprinkle, then the sun would come out, then it would get warm, then it would get cloudy again. If you look at my photos in order, you’d swear we visited the same city during different parts of the year.

 

The list below is what we packed that always got used:

 

1. Light shell rain jackets with hoods. The rain was never "cold", so having a lightweight jacket that you could crumple into a ball was great. The hoods are essential.

2. Hats. My hubby brought a beanie (soft fabric hat) which kept his head and ears warm. I brought two short-brimmed hats which were fantastic for all those windy days and bad hair days!

3. Black leather sandals for dinner. They went with everything.

4. Khaki pants for dinner. Yet again, they went with everything. I only wish I had brought black slacks as well. (Note: We don’t do formal nights so that saved room in our luggage and we simply ate in the buffet those two nights.)

5. Nylon dresses that could also be folded up really tiny for packing yet never wrinkled. It was a simple grab-and-go outfit for dinners.

6. Good walking shoes. Aside from dress sandals, I brought two pairs of shoes: one soft pair to walk on flat ground, and Columbia walking boots that had a rugged bottom for uneven terrain such as cobblestone streets and dirt hills that also were padded enough to be considered walking shoes. The most important thing I did to my Columbia’s was spray them with waterproof spray. You can buy this can at any outdoors store, or probably even Target. My casual shoes got soaked right through to my socks, but my boots stayed dry.

7. Sunglasses. My hubby left both our sunglasses in the truck at home and it took us the first 6 days of the cruise to find a decent, cheap pair to wear on land. Our eyes were burnin’ every day until we found the plastic black pairs we bought, regardless if it’s cloudy or not!

 

 

This is what I am glad I brought:

 

1. Umbrella. We only packed one and I wish we packed two.

2. A watch that had military time. I noticed that some signs were in 24-hour format. I found a white watch at Walmart for $12 that had our normal 12-hour format but with tiny 13-24 numbers written in red in case a sign read "Closes at 17:30" or "Open until 23:00".

3. A travel alarm clock. I don’t know how you expect to go on a cruise without one. Do you use the phone’s wake-up service everyday? I bought the "Elgin Travel Alarm Clock" from Amazon and this little guy was a life saver. It’s only $10, weighs one ounce, folds in half, and lights up when you push the big button so you can check the time in the middle of the night. When the alarm goes off, it blinks in red and also has a snooze button. It’s incredibly simple to set, with only 4 buttons. I highly recommend it!

4. Binoculars. For those of you who have a balcony room, this is very fun to have. You will sail by so many amazing things that having a small set of binoculars was imperative. You could look into town, at a castle, at a lighthouse, or at people waving to you from afar.

5. Two cameras and a camcorder. I say "two cameras" because I gave my husband our small point & shoot camera so that I could actually be in some photos. If it were just me taking photos with my good camera, our album would have mostly pictures of beautiful vistas and my husband sans myself! Having a secondary tiny camera to put in a pocket was nice to have if you were walking around the ship and didn’t want a full, bulky DSLR around your neck. The camcorder needs no explanation. This itinerary is too amazing not to bring one. Luckily camcorders these days are the size of the palm of your hand, which is where ours ended up during most days on land.

6. Sleeping pills. With a 8-hour time difference and a go-go-go itinerary, it was helpful to try to attempt to sleep at night and wake up at a decent hour. Our 11pm bedtime felt like 3pm California time, and waking up at 9am felt like waking up at 1am. It took two to three days to get adjusted, but it worked.

7. Brita water bottle. My husband thought it was pointless to bring a refillable water bottle, but two days into the trip he murmured, "I’m glad you brought this." The $10 bottle is available anywhere but I grabbed it on Amazon and it has a small filter built into the top to filter water. I wasn’t sure if water on land was safe or unsafe so I would fill it on the ship and take it with us. It came in handy when we got thirsty after walking up some steep hills.

8. A backpack. I deliberated for months whether to invest in a safe purse or a backpack. I wanted a backpack for even distribution of weight while walking around town. Some people said backpacks weren’t safe enough, especially in pickpocket areas. In the end, we used the backpack nearly every day and everyone around us also had backpacks so we felt very safe. It was a blessing to be able to stuff our jackets inside the backpack along with souvenirs. We used the outer compartments for Purell, Chap Stick, and maps. One side net held the umbrella while the other side net held the water bottle. It was fantastic and you will see the backpack in nearly all our photos. (Kudos to my hubby for wearing it even though I picked out a girly white & pink color!)

9. A Pac Safe purse. I heard excellent reviews about Pac Safe bags. They are slash-proof, water-proof, theft-proof, and have tons of compartments. I ended up investing in a messenger-style medium sized purse from eBags.com and the bag was on sale so it was only $30. I loved it. There are inner zippers which are hidden and very safe and clips to hold onto keys and other items. There are two velcro areas which held my cell phone and iTouch. We kept our passports in the hidden inner zippers and I kept my camera in the main compartment. Having it slung across me with no outer zipper made me not worry about anything being stolen and there was a mesh area on each end to yet again hold the umbrella and water bottle. Also, I always wore the bag across my chest underneath my rain jacket. Yes, this made my hips look huge in most photos, but at least I felt safe! I told my husband it was a "bag" and not a "purse" and he happily carried it. (It was totally a purse - ha!)

10. A small Purell bottle. No explanation needed.

11. A snack bag. We don’t have kids (yet), but I’ve been through enough expeditions to know that a hungry traveler is a snappy traveler. I packed Keebler crackers, 100 calorie chocolate bites, Atkins bars, Clif bars, and Crystal Light powdered iced tea packets. My hubby scoffed that the gallon Ziploc was too huge and we wouldn’t need it, but two hours into a flight with no in-flight meal service was all it took to break that bag out of our backpack. We also used it on bus rides and middle of the night munchies when our body clocks were wide awake.

12. Our iPad. I know not everyone has these, but if you own a tablet of any sort, it was a life saver. Granted, you have to purchase internet minutes onboard, but it was so very worth it. I was able to stay in touch with people back home as well as share photos and use pre-downloaded maps, currency calculators, and city-specific apps for the ports we’d be in (most of them free). I will explain more about using WiFi on the ship later.

13. Tickets for trains, buses and popular attractions. If there is one thing I can’t stress enough, it is to buy tickets for popular attractions ahead of time. Oh my goodness, if you saw the line to get into Edinburgh Castle you would cry. Ahead of time, I purchased: Heathrow Express tickets, Edinburgh Castle tickets, the Jacobite Sensation Loch Ness tour, The Original Sightseeing London HOHO + Tower of London tickets, and the green Dublin HOHO bus tickets.

14. A Capital One credit card. We got the Capital One Venture card a few months before our trip and my personal experience with it has left me overjoyed. It’s a superb card with no foreign transaction fees and excellent customer service. You get double miles for every dollar spent and I never ever had an issue using it in Ireland, Scotland, England and France. I simply notified them ahead of time of my travel plans, and they put a note on my account and e-mailed me a list of phone numbers abroad to contact them should any problem arise. I did have to create a 4-digit pin when I activated the account, but I never had to use any form of pin transaction while in Europe. We are going to hang onto this card simply for the double airline miles.

15. A loofah and travel-sized amenities. I didn’t bring shampoo or conditioner because Princess provides shampoo/conditioner/lotion bottles in your bathroom, but I did bring a travel-sized bottle of Dove body wash and a travel-sized loofah which was way better than the mini bar of soap. My reviews on the ship’s small shower will come later! Their shampoo & conditioner wasn’t amazing, but it did the job.

16. A 1" three-ring binder. Granted, this is for obsessive plan-a-holics but this red binder was my Bible for a year. I literally had dividers for all 9 ports and within each divider were my printed out e-mails, tickets, maps, and lined paper for notes. Every night, I would open the binder and take a look at what was going on the next day. I would take out any printed out tickets or papers with barcodes that I needed, along with some maps that I had pre-printed out from Google Earth for walking just in case Princess’ maps didn’t work out. I even printed out some Cruise Critic posts and highlighted others advice on places to visit. When one day was done, I’d throw it out until everything was empty and I tossed the binder on the last day of the cruise.

17. Wall chargers. Camera charger, camcorder charger, cell-phone charger, iPad charger. There are 2 American outlets next to the writing desk.

18. A travel hair dryer. I bought an awesome hair dryer from Amazon called the Babylisspro Tourmaline Titanium Travel Dryer which got amazing reviews. It folded in half, was small but incredibly powerful, and came with a nozzle. I had used the cruise ship dryers before but this one was so much more helpful.

19. Downy Wrinkle Release. Holy suitcase wrinkles, Batman! Hanging some items near the shower (there’s a clothesline but it’s IN the shower) as well as spraying the fantastic smelling Downy Wrinkle Release (travel size) on articles of clothing and then straightening them out by hand was very helpful.

20. Tide detergent and dryer sheets. We used the laundry room twice. I heard odd reviews about the ships detergent so I stopped by Target and got two red travel pouches of Tide detergent and put them in a baggie along with a few dryer sheets from home. It worked perfectly!

21. A pop-up hamper. I bought this for a cruise years ago based on recommendations and this little guy has been wonderful! I got it for $5 at CVS and it’s a mesh hamper that folds flat yet holds a good 4+ days of clothes for 2 people. It has handles so we simply carried it down to the laundry room.

22. A flattened empty duffel bag. I knew we’d be bringing home souvenirs and I didn’t want to compromise the weight or space of our suitcases which were already both packed to the brim under 50 pounds. So I flattened a simplistic duffel bag and put it in the bottom of our suitcase to use on the way back. Sure enough, we ended up putting souvenirs and breakables and jackets in it which we carried on the flight home.

 

Things I brought that we didn’t need:

 

1. Clorox wipes. I used a few of them, mainly to wipe down the stateroom phone and door handles and whatnot. But after a few days I forgot about it. Also, Clorox wipes do not get rid of the Norovirus strain, so we just made sure to wash our hands a lot and use Purell to avoid catching a cold.

2. A money belt. I know, blasphemy, right? We bought a Rick Steves money pouch that loops into your belt that you wear on your hip under your clothes, but we never felt like we truly had to use it. I’m sure I’ll get barked at for this. We did put our money IN the money belt and we kept it in the stateroom safe and only took out what we needed that day on land. After a few days, the money pouch ended up zipped away in the inner zipper of my PacSafe bag which was slung across my body underneath my rain jacket. My husband also wore his wallet in his front pocket as he does at home with the money in it. He felt safer knowing it was in the front and his fleece sweater and jacket both were long enough that they covered his pockets. We were never in a crowded area where people were brushed up against us. Had we been in Paris or any other city, this would be a different case.

3. A 32-gig memory card. Okay so I got a little carried away. Just because the card holds 4,200 photos doesn’t mean I’m going to take 4,200 photos. Only a mere 1,152.

4. A night light. It does get nearly pitch black in the room at first, but there’s a sliver of light through the curtains and the box on the ceiling (which the Bridge can monitor the smoke and temperature of your room) has a green light on it which very softly illuminated the room after your eyes adjusted. Those of you with interiors I would recommend a soft LED nightlight for the room possibly. I wanted to put it in the bathroom until I realized the bathroom does not have any kind of plug except for shavers. Otherwise, you could leave the bathroom light on and just close the door.

5. Magazines and books. I know that some people love to sit out on their balcony and read a book, but this didn’t work in our case. If we were out on our balcony, we were watching something amazing pass by or it was too windy/cold and our two sea days were spent doing laundry or sleeping in or doing something onboard. The magazines and downloaded books I brought never got touched, even on the long flights!

 

 

What I wish I had brought:

 

1. Plastic hangars. The closet comes with 20 wood hangars. Some with pant clips, some without. I had to double up with some sweaters because there weren’t enough hangars (for a 12-day cruise with 2 people). I guess technically you could just fold your pants and put them in the shelves and save space which we did with jeans, but in our case I simply wish I slid some cheap hangars in our suitcase.

2. Quarters for the laundry. Yes, you can get quarters from the Passenger Services desk and, yes, it takes the Princess Casino quarter tokens. But in hindsight I wish I could save myself a trip and bring $8 ($2 wash/$2 dry x 2) worth of quarters in a baggie. I will explain laundry in another post.

3. Sunscreen. Never thought we’d need it, and we were rosy pink by the first day. Luckily my facial moisturizer had SPF 28 built in so we dabbed that on.

 

:o

 

Next Chapter: Yes, we actually get on the boat and yes there are photos...

Edited by DeloreanGirl

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After you mentioned it, I used your Capital One strategy too, God bless those Vikings.

 

Looking forward to your future postings and the upcoming motion picture! You can just remember Kim and I as the couple who followed you to the Jacobite bus, and talked funny!

Edited by nostalgiaguru

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Thank you for posting the review. I was looking at this same cruise to book out in the future as well but just wasn't sure it would be the one, now I get first hand experience (yours) to determine if we want to do this cruise or not. I am going on an Alaskan cruise in Aug and was thinking of looking at getting the cruise credit for future cruises and use it on that particular one. The cost is substantial so we are kind of in the wait and see mode at this time. But anxiously await more of yoru review and photo's. what type of room did you have?

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Excellent review so far. Did you know there was another outlet behind the tv? A friend packs a small power bar for his trips. ;)

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I am so enjoying this. Particularly liked the packing suggestions. We are doing the Baltic and TA next April, so weather wise will be very similar. Can't wait till next installment.

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Emily - You go girl!! I am going to enjoy reading your review! It will be interesting to note your observations on the cruise. We had such a good time! I will say.....I had a notebook too!!! :eek:

 

Kamac56. Go. I do hope you do! It was a great itinerary! We picked up a couple FCCs as well during this cruise.

 

Melissa

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What I wish I had brought:

 

1. Plastic hangars. The closet comes with 20 wood hangars. Some with pant clips, some without. I had to double up with some sweaters because there weren’t enough hangars (for a 12-day cruise with 2 people). I guess technically you could just fold your pants and put them in the shelves and save space which we did with jeans, but in our case I simply wish I slid some cheap hangars in our suitcase.

 

No need to bring hangers. Your cabin steward will gladly bring you more if you need them.

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Thank you for posting the review. I was looking at this same cruise to book out in the future as well but just wasn't sure it would be the one, now I get first hand experience (yours) to determine if we want to do this cruise or not. I am going on an Alaskan cruise in Aug and was thinking of looking at getting the cruise credit for future cruises and use it on that particular one. The cost is substantial so we are kind of in the wait and see mode at this time. But anxiously await more of yoru review and photo's. what type of room did you have?

Alaska is fantastic, you will love it! Our room was C218 which was pretty far forward on the Caribe deck, Deck 10. We loved it. My next installment will cover the room and balcony.

 

Excellent review so far. Did you know there was another outlet behind the tv? A friend packs a small power bar for his trips. ;)

I KNEW someone would find a hidden one!

 

No need to bring hangers. Your cabin steward will gladly bring you more if you need them.

Ah! Good to know! I never knew that.

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The making's of of Epic Saga. :)

 

 

Chapter one : "The Caribbean Princess"

 

*Page #1 " It was the best of times, it was the worst of t.......

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the Thesis :D

Srpilo

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The making's of of Epic Saga. :)

 

 

Chapter one : "The Caribbean Princess"

 

*Page #1 " It was the best of times, it was the worst of t.......

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the Thesis :D

Srpilo

 

I love it! At least, this is how it sounds in my head...

 

Loving this--we are going in 2013. Can't wait for the rest. Can you email the patters? I have been anxiously waiting for someone to come back and scan them. pizzalady1@earthlink.net.

 

thanks:)

 

No problem. I scanned them because I remember wanting them when the 2011 folks went. I will bring them into work tomorrow and should have them ready by Thursday night.

 

congrats on being able to do this right away after a cruise !

 

have to go somewhere right now but looking forward to reading and viewing photos etc tomorrow !!

 

thanks !!!:)

 

Hello So Cal neighbors. I was actually going partially nuts by waiting 3 days as I wanted to write the report and put pics up right away before I forgot anything. But the first night home, I caught a cold (airplanes will do that to ya) so today is my first non-foggy day.

 

I have the next installment written. I just have to figure out this whole Photobucket thing....:eek:

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Not only are you writing an enormously helpful review for us doing the Ireland/Scotland 8-day on the Ocean Princess, but you are also an amazing writer. Can't wait to read more!:)

 

Do the same four-seasons-in-a- day hold true for August? Should we leave shorts at home?:confused: I know I am not packing for the Caribbean and to be ready for rain and drizzle at all times, but not sure about the temperature factor.

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Emily,

Thanks so much for your day to day postings you did on the June 7th thread while you were on the trip as well as these review installments!!! We're on the July 8th trip and it has given us both alot of information as well as get us more excited than ever. Again, thanks so much. Hope we'll be on a future cruise with you.......:)

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Thanks for the great review. Here are a couple of other suggestions: disposable undies for travel, particularly if you're spending overnight on a plane and a day or two in a hotel pre-cruise. I discovered them when packing for my safari and now I'm a firm believer.

 

Put a lightweight tall kitchen trash bag at the bottom of your suitcase and another at the top. If your bags are left in the rain, this will help keep your clothing dry. You can use one or both of them as laundry bags instead of the pop-up bag and when going home, replace the bags at the top and bottom and pack your dirty clothes in them. When you get home, lift out and toss in the laundry basket.

 

When packing toiletries and sundries, I get only travel sizes and sort them by type. I put the daily use items in their own Ziploc bag, laundry and fabric care items in another, over-the-counter medications in another, etc. These tuck into the odd spaces in the suitcase. I also always include an Ace bandage. You never know if you'll turn an ankle or need it. It can even be used to hold a suitcase together if it's damaged.

 

Instead of sleeping pills for long flights or to help me sleep, I have a minimum dosage of Xanax as I've found that what's keeping me awake is my mind going a mile a minute in anticipation and excitement. I split the pills which works great for me. I'm not "buzzed" when it's time to wake up when landing. On long lights, no alcohol. The effect is short-term.

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Put a lightweight tall kitchen trash bag at the bottom of your suitcase and another at the top. If your bags are left in the rain, this will help keep your clothing dry. You can use one or both of them as laundry bags instead of the pop-up bag and when going home, replace the bags at the top and bottom and pack your dirty clothes in them. When you get home, lift out and toss in the laundry basket.

 

I use the trash bags to hold the clean clothes while traveling to the cruise. Protects them from the rain better.

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Not only are you writing an enormously helpful review for us doing the Ireland/Scotland 8-day on the Ocean Princess, but you are also an amazing writer. Can't wait to read more!:)

 

Do the same four-seasons-in-a- day hold true for August? Should we leave shorts at home?:confused: I know I am not packing for the Caribbean and to be ready for rain and drizzle at all times, but not sure about the temperature factor.

 

I would think that the crazy weather pattern does hold true for August. My boss and her family went in August (at least to London and Edinburgh) and all her photos show them drenched! I heard that one of the summer months is actually their raniest seasons. However, I don't think it would be "cold", as it wasn't "cold" for us in some ports, so you might be able to get away with some bermuda shorts or capris that would be cool enough. :)

 

Emily,

Thanks so much for your day to day postings you did on the June 7th thread while you were on the trip as well as these review installments!!! We're on the July 8th trip and it has given us both alot of information as well as get us more excited than ever. Again, thanks so much. Hope we'll be on a future cruise with you.......:)

 

No problem! "Dog" posted on our thread when he was on the May 14th sailing and all of us were clinging to him for advice and updates! I knew how exciting and important it was to get actual on-the-ship reviews and I told myself that I'd help out the June 7th folks by giving them a heads up on what to expect. :rolleyes:

 

Thanks for the great review. Here are a couple of other suggestions: disposable undies for travel, particularly if you're spending overnight on a plane and a day or two in a hotel pre-cruise. I discovered them when packing for my safari and now I'm a firm believer.

 

Put a lightweight tall kitchen trash bag at the bottom of your suitcase and another at the top. If your bags are left in the rain, this will help keep your clothing dry. You can use one or both of them as laundry bags instead of the pop-up bag and when going home, replace the bags at the top and bottom and pack your dirty clothes in them. When you get home, lift out and toss in the laundry basket.

 

When packing toiletries and sundries, I get only travel sizes and sort them by type. I put the daily use items in their own Ziploc bag, laundry and fabric care items in another, over-the-counter medications in another, etc. These tuck into the odd spaces in the suitcase. I also always include an Ace bandage. You never know if you'll turn an ankle or need it. It can even be used to hold a suitcase together if it's damaged.

 

Instead of sleeping pills for long flights or to help me sleep, I have a minimum dosage of Xanax as I've found that what's keeping me awake is my mind going a mile a minute in anticipation and excitement. I split the pills which works great for me. I'm not "buzzed" when it's time to wake up when landing. On long lights, no alcohol. The effect is short-term.

 

Pam, you are the mother hen of the cruise boards and someone I look up to! In the past, we have done the trash bag trick but only brought grocery store bags to wrap our shoes in. The garbage bag trick is actually essential as one cruiser from our group had her suitcases left out in the rain while disembarking and all her stuff was wet except for what she smartly packed in plastic bags!

 

And yep, I was able to grab a bottle of 0.5mg of Xanax for the flight out and this worked much better than sleeping pills. I was mellow and in a fantastic mood! You are correct that my mind was going nuts with anticipation and excitement. The second morning of the cruise, I woke up at 4:30am with my mind reeling with thoughts and sounds and experiences from all the travel and people I had met the day before.

 

Only 29 more minutes of work until I can drive home and get this story continued with photos! :D

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Day 1: Planes, Coaches & A Ship - Oh My!

 

The Flight:

I’ll spare you the long details of our 24 hours of travel. We simply left Southern California at 8am on Friday and landed at Heathrow on 8am Saturday. Between those hours we were first on a S-80 in which I thought I’d be "cool" and get us seats in the back row, only to find that our view was of a giant jet engine...

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Then later cozied up in the middle section of a 777 which had zig-zagging turbulence and non-working headrest televisions throughout the nightly 9-hour ride. It was at this point in which I thanked whomever invented Xanax. (American Airlines ended up giving everyone 10,000 airline miles which was nice.)

 

Heathrow T3 Customs & Immigration:

We landed at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and proceeded down the loooooooooong hallways that lead you to UK Border Control and Customs. I had heard the dreaded stories of how awful the lines were at Heathrow for entering the UK. It made front page news and there were nightmare tales of 2-3 hour waits. I secretly hoped that our early flight would grant us less of a wait in line. Lucky for us, it did. We entered the big hall full of "queue" ropes (get ready to hear "queue" a lot instead of "line") and stood in the Non-EU line with others from our plane. The line for EU passengers only had a handful of locals in it. It took us 35 minutes to get through Customs. I know, because I clocked it (and was thanking my lucky stars it was that short.)

 

The Customs folks are really nice. The lady that stamped our passport looked like J.K. Rowling. Heck, EVERYONE in the UK was nice, but that’s a whole other story. After being questioned, having our passports stamped and turning in the blue sheet we filled out on the plane, we proceeded into another walkway area with the green and red hallways for "declaring" and "not declaring". The green "not declaring" hallway is obviously larger and we breezed right through that. I might be writing this out of order, but I think we got our bags last. Or maybe you get them before the colored hallways. I forget. Once retrieving our bags, we followed the herd down to what is the Arrivals hall. Once you see people in the Arrivals hall waiting with signs, you know you’ve made it out safely!

 

Princess Luggage Tags:

Regarding the Princess luggage tags: I did not put them on before leaving home. I put clear packing tape around them after they were folded to make them strong and I kept them in my bag. Once we got our luggage off the carousel, I walked over to an empty rental car booth at the airport and kindly asked the man working there if I could borrow his stapler to staple my tags on. He jokingly said, "Yes, ten pounds cash only please!" to which I laughed. I stapled my tag around each suitcase handle. You can put the tags on before you leave home if you want, but I wanted to keep the least amount of bar codes on each bag until they were needed.

 

 

Princess Coach Transfer:

Since we booked the Princess coach transfer from Heathrow to the ship ($49/pp each way), I kept my eyes peeled for a Princess representative. Sure enough, right smack there at the front of the fence in Arrivals with a clipboard with a Princess logo on it was a nice British lady. We didn’t have to show her anything, we just told her our last names and she checked her clipboard, gave us a green sticker and told us to "sit with the others".

 

The area where you sit is a "Meeting Point" area and it is next to a snack shop and a small café which was fabulous because we were starving. I bought a bottled water (make sure to get "still") from the shop and handed over two pound coins – the first time I’d ever used foreign currency – and I was very giddy! The café is great and has sandwiches, fruit, yogurts, etc. Bathrooms (get ready to say "toilets") are right around the corner from the adorable painted wall that says "Welcome To London".

 

We waited for about 30-40 minutes until the lady called our color (I saw others with blue stickers as well). It was probably 10am at this point. I’m not sure if buses arrive any earlier than this or not. We followed her outside to the bus area and waiting for us was a Crawley Luxury coach. I was secretly hoping it would be a big, white National Express bus since I heard they were super comfy. My fears were put to rest when we climbed aboard the Crawley bus and they had reclining seats and a toilet. (Plus the word Crawley just brought up my secret passion for the Downton Abbey show...)

 

Crawley.jpg

 

Let me note that I am so completely happy that I booked the Princess coach transfer. I’ve had transfers on other cruise lines that were crowded and pointless but I knew this one would be worth it because I didn’t want to lug our giant suitcases on a train or in a cab. A private car was out of our budget, and I didn’t dare trust either of us to attempt to rent a car and drive on the opposite side of the road with foreign signs and roundabouts.

 

The ride from Heathrow directly to the ship was 90 minutes. This was on a Saturday so I wasn’t worried about traffic, though there was a spot of traffic about 10 miles out from Southampton and I remembered John Bull saying that folks like to head to the beach on the weekends. The coach was extremely comfy. Everyone was chatty the first 15 minutes after we took off but after that most of them fell fast asleep. I was wide awake and giddy just to be in another country, noting the different signs and companies and vehicles (the cars are all hatchbacks!)

 

Don't we look so awake? I'm trying to hide my double-chin. :D

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The scenery between the two stops is beautiful! I didn’t know we’d be driving through what felt like the English countryside. I marveled at the miles of rolling green hills, sheep, horses and barns. It was a beautiful departure from Los Angeles. Once in Southampton, our driver weaved the bus all over the town streets and it was very noticeable how incredibly far away each cruise terminal is. I now know why you can’t "just walk it". Southampton looks to be quite a cute little city and I noticed a few of the hotels that people were probably staying at.

 

 

Embarkation:

The bus pulled up to the Ocean Terminal and we exited and walked across the pavement into the modern building. Here is the part that a few folks are eagerly waiting for: In our case (not all, but for us) there was no staggered boarding. Or if there was, I sure as heck didn’t see it happening. It was nearly noon at this point, and the terminal wasn’t that busy at all. Maybe 200 people, give or take? A nice lady gave us both a red card with the letter "R" and a pamphlet about our health to fill out. I looked up and noticed that the folks currently in line were from the "P" section, so we weren’t far behind. I think we waited all of 15 minutes in the terminal until they called the "R" group and we quickly headed into the queue line. In the line, I don’t think we waited more than 5 minutes since there were so many windows with representatives open.

 

The three things we brought that were needed at check-in were:

1.) The health card you just filled out right then and there, swearing that you’re not sick.

2.) Your printed out Princess e-ticket boarding pass from your Cruise Personalizer page (or travel agent).

3.) Passports

I did not have to show them a credit card since I already activated our Capital One card as the card that we would be putting purchases on online in the Cruise Personalizer.

 

The nice person at the desk will take your passport and keep it for a few days. I believe we got ours back from our room steward between Dublin and Liverpool. They will give you a yellow claim tag that they tear off when they take your passports at the terminal. Do not lose this. You will need this little yellow tag to give to your room steward in return for your passports. Put this little tag in your wallet or your stateroom safe. Then they will give you a pocket map of the ship as well as your cruise cards. I noticed that your cruise cards are colored based on your Captains Circle color. Ours were gold. I’m sure others had silver and I think newbies had blue?

 

After that, you head to a section behind the glass walls where security is. Yes, after traveling lord knows how many miles and through various airports, you have to yet again take off your watch, wallet, jacket, belt, shoes, etc. to put into bins and to walk through a security area similar to an airport. However, in the line to do this, they have photographers to take your photo against a blue backdrop which will later be turned into your cheese-tastic embarkation photo. I use cheese-tastic lightly, as I secretly wanted to purchase the photo but never got around to it. I chuckle because everyone is so jet-lagged and out of it that all we could do is put on our best disheveled smiles while trying to drop whatever carry-on baggage we had for the picture. After that, it’s onto the ship! (You never thought I’d get to this part, right?)

 

On the ship:

I heard somewhere that rooms are ready right away on Princess because they kick everyone off so early on debarkation day. I can see how this is true. Our room was C218 which is a very far forward "BB" Balcony room on the Caribe deck, Deck 10. Here is the part of the story in which I get tomatoes thrown at me from the audience.

 

This room was an upgrade. From an Interior.

 

I know, I know, right?!?!? It’s like I cashed in all my Karma points. We originally booked an Interior in November of 2011 when they were having an apparent Veteran’s Day sale, or as I like to call it, "The OMG I Just Logged In And Prices Dropped 40% And Nobody Told Me" sale! I closed my eyes, squealed, clicked the computer mouse and made it official. Of course I did all of this at work, which forced me to bite my lip and attempt not to scream like a crazy person while sitting at my office desk in pure silence, toes curled.

 

"We’re going to the British Isles! We’re going to the British Isles! Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!"

 

It was an Interior on Plaza Deck 5, which I convinced my husband was great since we’d be right next to the main dining room and all the activities. I should also note that this was our first time ever booking an Interior. On our other cruises (which were shorter and decidedly less expensive) we would get balconies. But I touted that we’d "be on land so much" and would "only use the room to sleep" and "it would force us to do more activities onboard instead of lounging in the room".

 

I read all the fun "Upgrade Fairy" threads on the message boards and knew that there was a slim chance they might upgrade us. A few months after booking, in the Spring of 2012, I got an "Upgrade Notice" email. They had moved us from Plaza, Deck 5 to the very rear of Deck 10. No problemo. Same room, better deck. Sounds good. I heard that getting an upgrade was nice and that double upgrades rarely ever happen.

 

...Until 30 days before sailing, when I was casually perusing my e-mail one night in the kitchen when my Inbox chimed.

"Upgrade Notice"

My husband was right there when it happened. All I did was scroll a few inches down the page until I saw the Holy Grail letters...... "BB". Then I started shaking. I shook like one of those crazy contestants on The Price Is Right when they outbid their neighbor by $1.00 and they get to run up on stage and spin the big wheel. I quickly Googled "BB Caribbean Princess room" and it only took a mere three seconds for a webpage to pop up that had the glorious words...... Balcony.

 

I screamed. It’s true. I screamed like a crazy lady and I jumped off the barstool and did a running lap through the downstairs, winding my way around the front door and ending up back at the computer table. My husband, equally excited, had no clue how someone could get upgraded so many categories. All I could think of is that they were massively dropping prices (they were, it was quite a steal if you booked less than 30 days out) and that they wanted to fill up the "cheap rooms", I suppose.

 

And that, my friends, is when I started fanning my face with my hands, figuring that all of the stress and sleepless nights and obsessive planning and what-if’s and crazy airplane news and making an OCD three-ring binder was all for. This.....was fate’s way of saying "Chill out and enjoy."

 

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(Technically our 7-year anniversary was on the 21st, but this was a pleasant surprise on Day 2.) :o

 

 

Next chapter: The Room, The Food & Officer Eye Candy.

Edited by DeloreanGirl

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emily, i am enjoying this so much. i look forward to more as this has been one of the cruises i check out all the time.

pam, i've never heard of disposable undies! that's the something new i've learned today...i wonder what the person who has to take out the garbage thinks?! and your garbage bag tip, i've used before. simple, effective, brilliant.

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I'm loving your review. You really took me back to my first visit to England -- I, too, was soooooooooo excited the first time I used English money (pound coins; how cool are they?!) and I, too, marveled at how much unspoiled countryside was. Your enthusiasm is jumping off the screen and it's fantastic! Looking forward to more . . .

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emily, i am enjoying this so much. i look forward to more as this has been one of the cruises i check out all the time.

pam, i've never heard of disposable undies! that's the something new i've learned today...i wonder what the person who has to take out the garbage thinks?! and your garbage bag tip, i've used before. simple, effective, brilliant.

 

Hi there. Actually, it was us visiting your city (Victoria, British Columbia - during an Alaskan cruise) with it's small hints of British charm that started my longing for wanting to visit Britain. So, thank you!

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Thank you for posting a detailed review..I am really enjoying it. My cousin and I are planning on taking this trip in a couple years for 'our' big 40 birthday and this is really getting me excited about planning :D

 

My favorite part so far: "We’re going to the British Isles! We’re going to the British Isles! Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!"

I laughed so hard at that because just to my first cruise to Alaska (and I mean first cruise period) and I kept saying. - Oh my god, oh my god, we are on a cruise ship! :D

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Hi there. Actually, it was us visiting your city (Victoria, British Columbia - during an Alaskan cruise) with it's small hints of British charm that started my longing for wanting to visit Britain. So, thank you!

 

awww shucks, i do what i can. ;)

i had my first visit to london this past november and i want to go back! i reeeeaaaaaallly want to see scotland though. i can't wait for more of your review. i love the "hide your double chin photo".

where are you going next? you can do the legwork beforehand and i'll just show up to tag along!

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I would rank your review up there with those of Sailor Jack. Can't wait for the next installment. Hope you don't have to work until your review is done!:)

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awww shucks, i do what i can. ;)

i had my first visit to london this past november and i want to go back! i reeeeaaaaaallly want to see scotland though. i can't wait for more of your review. i love the "hide your double chin photo".

where are you going next? you can do the legwork beforehand and i'll just show up to tag along!

 

In a perfect world, Pacific Coastal would be next. I'm a Californian since birth and have never been to Santa Barbara or San Francisco. Blasphemy! It hits Astoria and I think Victoria or Vancouver. ;)

 

I would rank your review up there with those of Sailor Jack. Can't wait for the next installment. Hope you don't have to work until your review is done!:)

 

Oooo, thank you! I think I've seen his name somewhere before. I'll have to seek him out. :cool:

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Chapter 3: The Room, The Food & Officer Eye Candy. (Day 1)

 

Back when the Caribbean Princess was out of commission straddled alongside San Juan’s port, there was a Cruise Critic member named MD Sue who saved our sanity by posting updates about the ship as she limped back to life with a new left rear propulsion engine. When MD Sue finally went on her trip, the first one after two weeks of cancelled sailings, she had a forward port balcony room on one of the upper decks with “officer eye candy”. I laughed at her comment and subsequent photos until I realized that I, too, had a similar room and view.

 

It was great to see the captain give the stink eye to those lazy passengers boarding 30 minutes late. (I kid, the captain is a total sweetheart.)

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The Room: C218 – Forward Port BB Balcony

Our home away from home, C218, was perfect. The cabin size is modest but the balcony was massive! All balconies on Caribe Deck 10 truly are 9’x9’. They are partially covered and partially uncovered, which for this itinerary was perfect seeing as we had drizzly mornings and sunny afternoons. The Caribe balconies had two chairs with adjustable lounge chair backings and a small table. I read a few threads about how “awfully small” the tables are. But unless you’re eating dinner out there for two, I really didn’t find a problem with it. It’s enough space to hold a book and a drink. Or two drinks and a pastry.

DSCF4769.jpg

 

I did notice that the balcony below ours had nicer chairs, ottomans, and a much larger table. Are these mini-suites?

 

This is the view from the entryway/closet/hallway. There’s more than enough room for two people to hang out in here. We never used the circular table for dining and I only sat in the chair a few times. The cruise was nearly over until I realized that the light switch for the two halogen lights over the reading desk is next to the wall outlet, and also that there was an outside balcony light tucked behind the curtains.

DSCF4770-1.jpg

 

So, I read a few posts about how awful the beds were. I blew it off and played the whole “it won’t happen to me” card. And oh, it happened. It truly was awful. You can literally see in this photo how lumpy the bed is. The two twins pushed together were concave, like a lower cased “w” from being so worn in. They were a combination of flat, hard, and lumpy. I figured an egg crate couldn’t possibly help this situation any and we decided to blow it off as they were still bearable and anything to sleep on other than an airplane seat sounded great at the moment. I should also note that, as others have mentioned, the pillows are insanely soft and puffy. If you like this sort of thing, great. But they were too puffy for us and we had to nearly fold them over in half to create a firmness that worked for our heads and neck. Again, it wasn’t anything we griped about. We just accepted it and moved on.

 

Onto the closet…

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I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of closet space that was given. It really worked well with the room layout. Someone once wrote that you had ample room to get dressed with a dividing wall between you and the room and you wouldn’t have to worry about closing the curtains all the time.

As mentioned earlier, the closet comes with 20 hangars. I tried to immediately hang everything up and spray my Downy Wrinkle Release on it. We folded jeans and wrinkle-free dresses into the vertical cabinet which also house the safe. We created our safe code and put my iPad, wallet, and money pouch in it. There’s tons of room up top where the life jackets and pool towels are. Down below, I had more than enough room to house both large suitcases, four pairs of shoes and my hamper. Voila!

 

The bathroom was one of the smaller bathrooms I have seen on a ship. We didn’t mind. It has enough shelves to hold some makeup and other toiletries. I always put our toothbrushes in the glass cup they provide. They give you 2 washcloths, 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels along with a floor towel. The shower is a hexagonal tube of sorts and way smaller than other cruise lines. However, instead of the claustrophobia –inducing plastic Star Trek door like Royal Caribbean, they simply use a fabric liner to close. This liner gets very wet when showering and I found that even if the curtain stays inside the shower (via a very, very small lip on the floor) our bathroom floor still got soaked - towel and all. Just make sure to tell the person you’re with to not step into the bathroom with nice dry socks after someone has showered.

 

At this point, our stateroom steward knocked on the door and had our luggage. His name was Roberto and good lord, if you are ever lucky enough to be on this deck and have Roberto (from Mexico) as your steward – he is AMAZING. His enthusiasm was off the charts. He was young, peppy, funny, reliable, and apparently a big Lady Gaga fan. ;) I swear he never sleeps. He’s up in the morning cleaning rooms, during the afternoon, and late into the evenings. We would step out for 60 seconds and he would magically appear out of nowhere and have turndown service completely done with a Patter and two pillow chocolates. I have no idea when he took breaks. We are the type of cruisers that sleep in really late and lounge around so I’m sure he hated that we threw off his cleaning schedule. Nonetheless, he was full of smiles and hello’s whenever we would see him – even if it was in an elevator or on land! I left him a raving review at the end of the voyage.

 

Since there wasn’t much of a “sailaway” (it’s a very, very different vibe than a young Caribbean cruise) we decided to hang out on our balcony while we pulled out of port and later moved down to Deck 7 for better views. I must add that Mike and I are huge (like….ridiculously huge) Titanic fans and I want to warn you that a lot of our photos throughout the trip have a constant Titanic theme. After all, Cobh, Liverpool, Southampton and Belfast were all HUGE Titanic ports. I say this because the Caribbean Princes s was berthed at 144. And Titanic was berthed at 146 which was right across from us. (Remember the movie? Where Jack won the poker hand and Rose got out of the car with her big hat? Yep, that was Southampton.) Spooky.

 

Once we gently and quietly left Southampton, Mike and I stayed on Deck 7 and watched beautiful England pass us by. It was then and there that I saw my first official castle…

DSCF4743.jpg

 

Can you tell I was a wee bit excited?

You have to understand, I’m from California. The closest thing we have to a castle is the Disneyland castle, Hearst Castle, and the Medieval Times castle. Two of those three are fake. This was the real deal. Everything I was about to see was legit. Not a façade -- like the streets of my first job, Universal Studios. Oh no, this was real. No foam and plywood here.

As the evening progressed, we did the whole lets-walk-around-the-ship thing. The Piazza was perfectly sized and elegant. Though I must say that it’s really trippy being on a Caribbean-themed ship when you’re cruising in a British, cold climate. The whales and coral and palm trees were an interesting sight.

 

There was a quartet (yay, funding for real musicians!) playing in the Piazza and we grabbed a quick bite from the International Café. I have to say that I expected the International Café to be bigger. Maybe it’s because they use the word “café”. Regardless, a turkey sandwich was enough to hold us over for now. I never got a chance to sample their highly-reviewed cold pasta salads, which I regret.

 

Dining: aka The Table For Two Fiasco That Wasn’t

One of the first things we do on our first day of being onboard is to visit the Maitre ‘D to request a table for two. I asked a nearby employee where we could meet him and he led us to a short line that had formed inside one of the main dining rooms. Apparently quite a few people had extra “requests” like us.

 

Here comes the really bizarre/funny part:

The Maître D wasn’t at his wood podium like he normally is. Oh no. This was epic. This was out of a Godfather movie. The Maître D had his own fancy table next to the window. If you saw it, you would laugh. The window was so bright and sunny and he was sitting in front of it, backlit, with two other waiters and the seating chart and paperwork in front of him. One by one, a server would “allow” you to walk up to him to talk to him.

 

We couldn’t stop laughing because it was so overblown. We felt like we were at a bank getting ready to sit at a table to apply for a home loan! Luckily, everyone who left “The Table” was smiling. When it was our turn, I suddenly wondered that maybe our request was too petty for “The Almighty Maître D”. When we got up to “The Table” and sat down in front of “His Presence”, we kindly stated that we had Anytime Dining and we were hoping that maybe we could wait for a table for two to open up.

 

He chuckled and explained in a much romanticized Italian accent that it was no big deal for a table for two. You could call ahead and make a reservation or simply show up later in the night when the chaos dies down and there would be plenty open. He didn’t have to write down anything on our card or make any crazy arrangements. I basically just waited in line for a suave guy in a white tux to tell me, “Just show up. You’ll be fine.” We smiled, thanked him, and walked away bashfully with an embarrassing halo around us. And that, folks, is the extent of the drama when it comes to “getting a table for two”. We asked – so that you don’t have to!

 

We ate in the main dining room that night. Every night of the cruise is “Smart Casual” in the dining rooms except for the second night in (Guernsey night) which is “Formal” and your first Sea Day which was also “Formal”. Since we were “Anytime Dining”, we could eat between 6:30pm-9:30pm in either the Coral or Island dining rooms. We looooooved Anytime Dining. I didn’t mind that we had different servers sometimes. Our servers (except for 1-2 of them) were great . We didn’t have one bad meal on the boat. Also, my goal on cruises is to “not eat chicken”. I force myself to eat something other than what I eat at home. So I think the first night I had veal or lamb. I should also note that due to jet-lag and whatnot, we ate really late that night. We ate at 9pm in the MDR and gosh golly there were lots of 2-person tables available and we were seated within seconds. This would later become a pattern in the cruise.

 

There are four courses to each dinner, though you’re not required to pick from all four. One would be a tiny appetizer, the second would be a soup (cold and hot) or salad, the third would be the entrée, and the fourth would be dessert. If you order a cold soup (like a chilled mango soup, etc.) they will serve it to you in a cocktail glass with a straw. It’s really odd. It looks like you’re the lush ordering Pina Coladas every night at dinner.

The desserts ranged from various ice cream flavors, floating islands, crème brulee, tiramisu, Princess Love Boat Dream, cobblers, chocolate cakes, and my all-time favorite – the cheesecake. I don’t care if it’s flash frozen back there. It was GOOD.

 

P.S. Why do they ask for your room number on some nights in the dining room? Is it a survey? Do they want to keep track of when you eat, or what you eat? I found it perplexing. I should have asked.

 

Oh, let me also note that Dan Styne was the cruise director. I’m glad the Patter told us, because I never saw him anywhere except an intro or two on our stateroom television when he emceed the beginning of a show.

 

Movies Under The Stars = ESPN & “The Iron Lady” (these movies also play in your stateroom television)

Theater: “Welcome Aboard Showtime with Comedian Lenny Windsor” (cricket…..cricket…)

Dining Room: “Boy Voyage Dinner” in the buffet, and I think the fancy MDR menu was “Princess Dinner” or “Captains Dinner”. The titles really didn’t mean anything. The food was darn good in my opinion and anyone who says “it’s cafeteria food” must be a Michelin Chef at home because I sure as heck don’t get to eat veal, lamb, lobster, prawns, steaks and amazing salmon every night of the week. Just sayin’.

The “Ultimate Soda Package” is $7.00 per person per day + 15% gratuity. You have to drink a heck of a lot of soda. Wowza.

 

I should also note that my hubby drank the coffee in the buffet every morning and thought it was totally normal. He’s not an everyday coffee drinker so I can understand why people avoid it or bring the Starbucks Via packs. But he’d pipe up if he didn’t like it and he never griped about it.

 

To those who say the orange juice is gross, I’d have to partially disagree. It tasted like orange juice, but they pour it out of room-temperature plastic pitchers that sit at the drink stations without being refrigerated. Maybe that’s why. We also found it funny that they REALLY push the orange juice on you. My hubby said, “Do you think it’s because they want you to stay healthy?” He may have been proven right when a German server said, “Have orange juice. You need. Yes. I pour. It is vitamin C.” Hmm, okay then.

 

Next chapter: Chancing Guernsey – Day 2

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P.S. Why do they ask for your room number on some nights in the dining room? Is it a survey? Do they want to keep track of when you eat, or what you eat? I found it perplexing. I should have asked.

 

 

They want to make sure that you are assigned to Anytime and not Traditional dining.

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Thanks for bringing the cruise back to life!

Re: August 2009 we did this cruise with Liverpool & cork. You needed layers. Not scarf & mitts like may 14 th cruise I just did, but I remember I wore spring jacket a couple of days.

 

Also take US quarters for laundry. Purser only had a few when we needed them. Those 3 in 1 laundry sheets work well.

 

In mini suite you get 2 chairs, 2 footstools, 1 higher table. It was nice but we prefer aft facing cabins for view.

 

Thanks again for posting.

Dog

Edited by dog

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We still have over a year until our British Isles cruise--I am even more excited! I have been following all of your questions pre-cruise and this is great hearing all about it now! Thank you for taking the time to help all of us "soon to be" British Isles cruisers! :D

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We had the opposite dining issue: we wanted Traditional dining at a table of 6-8 (love to bond over dinner with new folks during the cruise, we traded email addresses!), and instead were seated by ourselves at a table of 4 (2 empty seats). So, upon our request, they moved us to a table of 6 beginning the next night.

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Emily - you write a great review!

 

And what makes it so exciting for me is that in a year we will be doing the same cruise! Oh please keep writing, it is wonderful! I am so full of anticipation!!!!:):D:)

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Hi Emily,

 

I too am loving reading your review, and can't wait for next installment! It is really interesting to see through your eyes (and excitement) of how it is for you to see the UK, I am the same as you when I go to the US, which I love!! either cruising or land holidays, I thought the comment when you got to the other side of airport and went to the shop and handed over £2 was so funny, are bless!!

 

Yes I know what you mean by get used to saying 'toilet' I however have got used to saying bathroom or rest room and sometimes say over here now!!

 

We are cruising end of Sept, New England, with 3 nights in New York prior, this is one cruise I have always wanted to do and am as excited as you were when you came to the UK!! I too am doing loads of research on each Port and weather....................layer layer and layers haha.

 

I think you were lucky with the weather, or had you just missed our 'heat wave'? the weather here at the moment is awful ..... winds and rain, can't plan anything with bl**dy British weather!!

 

Looking for to your next installment xx

 

Mel

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Hey sunluva7,

 

Bring your shorts in August but not as many as you would for Caribbean! We tend to wear shorts/ capris and jumpers!! Weather here awful at moment lets hope we get some proper summer in August for you and everyone else!!

 

The evenings can be cold also, which I hate as love sitting out side in the evening with a glass of wine (or 2)!!

 

Mel

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