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British Isles Cruise Report--Royal Princess--May 13, 12 Nights

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First of all, thanks to everyone on Cruise Critic who assisted me as I prepared for this wonderful cruise. Overall, Princess provided an excellent cruise and good value. The itinerary was the star of the show as were the warm and friendly people of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

 

Precruise--We flew from Washington Dulles on Icelandair with a change of planes in Reykjavik. Icelandair was approximately $100 cheaper than other airlines and all had mostly terrible reviews on TripAdvisor so decided to try them. The legs from Dulles and Heathrow were uneventful but the legs from Reykjavik were rather unorganized. I would fly with them again if the price was right.

 

We experienced a long line at Heathrow Border Control. The wait time was about an hour which would have been ok if we were not so tired from the flight. We booked Smith's to Southhampton and it was perhaps the best money spent on the entire trip. To walk out of Border Control exhausted and see a friendly face with my name on a piece of paper was priceless.

 

We came in one day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn near the port. $145 per night. The West Quay Mall is right across the street with multiple food options. Thanks to info received on CC I knew that the department store in the mall sold wine and we purchased our two bottles there. The morning of the cruise we took a walking tour of the historic area of Southampton, again, only a short walk from the Holiday Inn. I always dread the chaotic cattle call of grabbing a taxi or shuttle to the ship on the day of departure. England has a better way. You simply ask the desk to ring you a cab. They ask what time and you sit in the lobby until a cabbie walks through the door and calls your name!

 

Embarkation--So........for one reason or another Princess got off to a bad start with many of the passengers as a result of the lengthy, chaotic embarkation process. When our cab dropped us off we were surprised to find a rather long line that moved slowly but steadily. After quite awhile in line we made it to the counter and in short order had our room key. Another line, not well organized, now snaked from the counter and eventually stopped. After 10-15 minutes of the line not moving at all, a Princess rep confirmed the rumor that there was a problem with the alignment of the passenger bridge. It sounded like it was probably a Southampton Port issue but the lack of communication and organization on the part of Princess in dealing with the situation would be a recurring theme. BTW, passengers that boarded very early apparently did not have this problem.

 

The Ship--Royal Princess is a beautiful ship in wonderful condition. The Piazza/Atrium is lovely with all the familiar Princess venues nearby. Getting a seat in the Princess Theater was not a problem, at least during the later shows that we attended. Entertainment in the theater was excellent. Kudos to Princess for taking a chance and breaking the mold with its production of SILK. The pools were open but only a few were brave enough to swim. The hot tubs did get consistent use.The outdoor movie screen seemed to me to be brighter and clearer than I had experienced on previous cruises. There was dancing every evening in the Piazza and the band on board was excellent and played a wide variety of music.

 

We booked a standard balcony (Baja deck) about five months out and Princess offered us a free upgrade two months later to a deluxe balcony on the Carib deck. The extra room was minimal but welcomed. The balcony is very small and I was surprised at how small the bathroom was. The shower stall itself was fine but the rest of the bathroom was cramped. As always, Princess provided more than adequate closet space. The cleanliness and overall condition of the room was fine and the service we received from our cabin attendant was excellent.

 

Food and Bar--We ate 9 out of 12 nights in the Symphony dining room. We arrived each night between 7:45 and 8:15 and never had a wait. We particularly enjoyed our waiter the first night (Cecillio) and asked for his section each night if a table was available. Princess honored our request nightly. Food in the Symphony dining room was consistently good with some dishes excellent. Each menu had something that appealed. Food in the Horizon was a mixed bag. We ate dinner there twice and enjoyed it as a change. Breakfasts, however, got old quickly. We learned to only order eggs from the omelette station. The "hash browns" were pure McDonalds. We ordered room service breakfast on days we needed to leave the shop early for ports and that worked out nicely. Food at the International Cafe was uniformly good. I did not notice a decline in the quality of the pizza as had been reported on CC and ate it a number of times when returning from ports too late for lunch.

 

We enjoyed a predinner martini at Crooner's most nights and quickly became friendly with the bar staff (kudos to Glady and Lou!). I thought the drink prices were fair with a premium gin martini going for around $10 and a couple of wines by the glass for $8 or $9. As much as I would like to try a drink package one day the math just doesn't seem to work for me.

 

Ports of Call

Guernsey--A great way to start the cruise with a very small port that is easy to do on your own. We did a walking tour that included the Esplanade, the Candie Gardens (with a wonderful elevated view of the port), an old working library with exhibits on the German occupation, and time for shopping in town. The return to the ship via tender was a fiasco. Again, it is unclear if Princess was responsible for the situation but nevertheless, it was not handled well. There were hundreds of passengers in line who waited in excess of 1 1/2 hours for a tender. The average age on this cruise was high and there were people who really struggled physically with the wait in line. Again, poor communication from Princess during the wait and, unbelievably, water offered at the end of the wait while finally ready to board a tender. Moral of the story--arrive early for a tender ticket to shore and leave St. Peter's Port early.

 

Cobh (Cork)--We decided to do this on our own as well. Dublin and Belfast were large city ports next on the itinerary so we again toured on our own. Cobh is a great town if you are able to walk hills. A beautiful church dominates the town and we were fortunate to have a first communion class practicing their singing when we entered the building. It really brought the church alive. Check out the remains of the wooden pier that was used by passengers boarding the doomed Titanic. The walk to the peaceful Titanic Memorial Gardens is a long one but it gives you the chance to see most of the waterfront. We had a pint and talked to friendly bartenders and fellow passengers at Rob Roy's in town. Shopping is also available in town if interested.

 

Dublin overnight--Day one, we decided on the Jameson factory tour to avoid the crowds at the Guinness factory. Nice walk from the Princess shuttle dropoff taking you past parks and up the river. Tour was informative and fun. On my daughter's recommendation we sought out the Brazen Head pub for a pint and meat stew. Very dark and authentic inside and a busy courtyard outside. Finished the day at Auld Dubliner in Temple Bar for a wild afternoon of live Irish music.

Day two, I signed up about two months out for the Dublin Free Walking Tour. This was one of the highlights of the cruise and I would highly recommend it. Our guide, Conor, was a native Dubliner, funny and knowledgeable. The tour was three hours and hit most of the highlights of the South side of Dublin. Even with a very hefty tip it was a value.

 

Belfast--We booked Odyssey Tours Giant's Causeway, Antrim Coast, and Rope Bridge tour about three months out. The ship was two hours late getting into port due to tides (?!) Odyssey was there to meet us but did have to make a few adjustments to the schedule, primarily eliminating lunch on our own. The smaller coach did indeed provide great access to the coast and the scenery there was as beautiful an any we saw during the entire cruise. We never waited in ticket lines due to Odyssey getting the tixs for us. The Causeway is quite dramatic and worth the time to visit but there are many people there. The rope bride itself is not that impressive but the views are and, again, worth the time an effort to get there. At the end of the day our driver took us for a brief tour of the city of Belfast including the Peace Wall and an informative narrative.

 

Greenock--We intended to take one of the town tours but took our time getting off the ship and got shut out. The local tourist desk has lots of maps and friendly people and we again took a self guided tour on our own. We walked the beautiful Esplanade and then backtracked to walk the city center. Three times we were approached by citizens of Greenock asking us if we needed any help or information. This is an authentic town of locals not yet altered by tourism and gigantic cruise ships. It was one of our favorite ports and a wonderful DIY opportunity.

 

Invergordon--We booked the Princess "Inverness On Your Own" excursion. $50 to get you to town and then more than enough time to walk the entire city. Ancient grave yards, a castle, a beautiful river with walking bridges right in the center of town, shopping and authentic pubs. We had our first fish and chips at Gellions pub in town and again met friendly bartenders, locals and fellow passengers. Not much to do at all in the actual port of Invergordon.

 

Edinburgh--The first excursion I booked was "St. Andrew's, The Home of Golf." It was one of the absolute highlights of the cruise for me to set foot on the Old Course. As a public venue you have full access to the grounds. My favorite keepsake from the entire cruise is a picture of myself on the Swilcan Bridge!

 

LaHarve (Normandie)--This was a no brainer. An expensive, 10 hour trip to the landing beaches and the American cemetery. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and highly recommended. We took the Princess tour but I could see the advantages with a smaller group. Still, it was a wonderful experience and the lunch provided blew us away--salad, chicken, potatoes, bread, desert and an entire bottle of wine at each table of four.

 

Disembarkation--Again chaotic. We chose self-walk off and made it to the meeting area by 6:15. Once there we found a long line that was not moving. After a 15 minute wait, again with little communication from Princess, we find out that the passenger bridge is AGAIN not aligning properly and we will need to take the elevator down two floors to a lower lever to bypass the bridge problem. Obviously, the wait for elevators was now impossible so passengers start to steam down the stairs with their luggage. You can imagine what that scene was like. Again, not sure who is responsible for the bridge situation but even if it is completely the port's fault you would think that Princess would have enough clout to insist that it is fixed sometime during the 12 days the ship was out of port.

 

Final Thoughts--

Self service laundry was a first for me and a real positive. I washed once mid cruise and was able to pack everything in a large carry on and a back pack.

 

Princess for some reason has eliminated the TV map that shows the current position of the ship--I really missed it.

 

I learned from discussions with staff that the nomination forms we are invited to submit for outstanding service can actually result in a financial bonus for them.

 

IMO, finding good coffee on any cruise line is as difficult as finding an unpleasant Canadian or Australian cruiser!

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Many thanks! We're sailing on a similar itinerary on Royal in under 2 weeks, and have been looking daily for reviews of sailings from this season. Sorry to heard of the odd embarkation/disembarkation issues. We're really hoping that our sailing will make Guernsey; we have some fun planned with a rental car (no we don't get charged if we miss port), and the fascinating history have me wanting to see it.

 

Glad to hear Odyssey went well - so did you do the 19-person mini-bus tour? We've booked their "Shore Excursion Giants Causeway (Extra Leg Room)" and I'm hoping that was yours, too, as it sounds like it went well.

 

Also VERY glad to hear that the late shows were not overflowing for you. I think the younger 2/3rds of our crew want to catch them.

 

We're tempted to move the younger 2/3 of our crew to ATD (which is, I assume what you did?). The older crew might prefer our current 6pm booking, but for the rest of us, 7:45-8:15 is perfection.

 

However, many reviews note that dining in the MDRs takes HOURS. I take it you did not find it that way if you were showing up at ~8 and making it to the late show?

 

Once again, many thanks for your report!

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Thanks for the review. We are taking the Royal British Isles cruise at the end of August.

Was the Princess shuttle in Dublin a free shuttle? Was it real busy to get on it?

Glad to hear you had a good experience with Smiths. That is who we are using for Heathrow to Southampton.

Again thanks for the review.

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Thanks for the review! We are on the Aug 5th sailing.

 

A disappointment to hear about the Guernsey tenders. Any better for Queensferry?

 

Ps: I will remember to pack my unpleasantness just to thwart your statistics!

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Embarkation--...a Princess rep confirmed the rumor that there was a problem with the alignment of the passenger bridge. It sounded like it was probably a Southampton Port issue but the lack of communication and organization on the part of Princess in dealing with the situation would be a recurring theme. BTW, passengers that boarded very early apparently did not have this problem.

 

 

We were on the cruise that disembarked on May 13, and had similar issues in multiple ports (As you noted later, you had this problem when you disembarked as well). This is clearly a Royal problem, not the port since it keeps happening. It can make getting on and off very difficult, especially if you aren't very mobile. One time, it was a complete cluster as they had people in wheelchairs, get out of chairs, walk up the ramp, then get back in the chair at the top. It seemed very odd to us.

 

The Ship--Royal Princess is a beautiful ship in wonderful condition. ... the band on board was excellent and played a wide variety of music.

 

Not our experience--the music was too loud all the time and it was mostly terrible. One night the vocalist was just like a cat screeching, not exaggerating :D

 

Food and Bar--We ate 9 out of 12 nights in the Symphony dining room. We arrived each night.

 

Yes, going later is definitely faster. We found if we waited until 7:30, we could be seated right away. We had ATD.

 

Food in the Horizon was a mixed bag. We ate dinner there twice and enjoyed it as a change. Breakfasts, however, got old quickly.

 

We ate in the buffet every morning and enjoyed the breakfasts, but all I had was scrambled eggs and fruit, so I didn't try a lot. DH had fried eggs or omelets, which he liked. he didn't like the link sausage. We had about half our dinners in the buffet, and they were quite good. I loved the nightly mixed vegetable curry--nicely seasoned and a different mix each night. Service in the buffet ranged from not very good (breakfast) to great (dinner). The buffet food was definitely more than we expected and as good as others have posted about on Royal.

 

Ports of Call

Guernsey--A great way to start the cruise with a very small port that is easy to do on your own.

 

Lucky you--we missed this port (it happens a lot). I would have liked to have seen it, but I'm glad we didn't have to experience the tender waits.

 

Final Thoughts--

Self service laundry was a first for me and a real positive.

 

Love the self-service laundry and I don't think it ever closes on Royal (no sign, and I walked down at 11 pm one night and it was open--and no machines in use :D)

 

Princess for some reason has eliminated the TV map that shows the current position of the ship--I really missed it.

 

Actually it is still there, but hard to find. On the TV, you need to scroll all the way to right for "Information". Under that tab is a screen with ships location (and you zoom in or out) and also the weather forecast. hard to find but helpful.

 

 

I agree with most of your comments, added a few notes in blue just to help others later. It was a great cruise, with excellent ports, and something we have wanted to do for some time. We also went to Normandy out of Le Havre, but with a private guide and a small group (5 of us). It was a truly moving day for me and a bucket list item.

 

Thanks for your review, very fair.

 

ML

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Was the Princess shuttle in Dublin a free shuttle? Was it real busy to get on it?

Again thanks for the review.

 

Shuttle was free, drops you at Merrion Square. I heard there were crowds the first day, but we got off in one of the first groups, so didn't have this experience. The 2nd day it was fine. I think people distributed themselves better over the course of the morning.

 

ML

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Thanks for the review! We are on the Aug 5th sailing.

 

A disappointment to hear about the Guernsey tenders. Any better for Queensferry?

 

 

We had no issues at Queensferry. The shuttle ride takes 15-20 minutes. It was a rainy day when we were there and the skies opened up when we got back from Edinburgh. We were going to walk into Queensferry but decided to go back to the ship since it was pouring. )Looking back on it, we should have gone into the restaurant/pub right there for a pint.) We waited about 20 minutes to get onto a tender. Not bad, just wet :D

 

Also, there is a a new shuttle service into Edinburgh this year. 4 pouns one-way, 6 return. Or, you could pay 20 and get the RT shuttle and the HOHO bus. We did this and used the green HOHO, with the live English-speaking guide. There is a thread on this under the Britain Ports of Call, here:

 

boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2626769

 

have fun,

ML

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Thanks, I was booked on your cruise, and had made a lot of homework about it; but, unfortunately, I had to cancel a few days before departure because my 88 years old mother suffered from a stroke and was in hospital (happily, she's better now). I followed your cruise with the ship's webcam, (weather seemed to be nice!) but I'm very happy to participate a little, reading your review : thanks again!

 

 

Envoyé de mon iPad en utilisant Forums

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Thanks for a great review! We are doing this cruise next summer on the Crown and I appreciate your information about the ports.

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Was the shuttle into Belfast free? Sounds like it was complimentary before 2016, cut for cost in 2016, then free again last year. Will be taking it in just over a week.

 

I was in Dublin (but not Belfast) in April last year when they first offered the free shuttle there. Was surprised to see it listed in the Patter the night before, after reading so many reviews of it being for-fee, but was glad to save that $16 USD round-trip.

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The shuttle in Dublin and Belfast are free. You have to go to one of dining room and get a ticket and wait for your number to be called. In Dublin there was plenty of taxi waiting on the pier of you didn't want the shuttle. There also a marked path if you want to walk. Taxi is around 10 euro to the center of town. You don't need a ticket to get off the ship, you need it for the shuttle.

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Thanks. The part about getting a ticket (like a tender) is new compared to Dublin last year -- we just walked off the ship and onto the bus then. But that was a smaller ship in a less busy month.

 

Meanwhile, I was hoping Royal would handle the return tender from Guernsey better than Caribbean did last year, but it sounds like the same 90+ minute wait I experienced then -- and we were only in port half as long. I'll make sure to come back earlier this time.

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HI! Were there tour operators outside the ports offering transportation into towns? We are going on the June 30th sailing and I have not booked our transportation from Invergordon into Inverness. I was hoping there were perhaps cabs or tour operators offering transportation on the fly (I am envisioning all the operators that hang outside the port in Conzumel, LOL). Also, hoping for the same thing in LeHavre - a taxi or tour at the port ready and willing to take me to Honfleur...??? Did you notice? Hoping.....

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MrsEmmaPeel--yes, Odyssey provided the minibus as advertised. I remember the extended leg room option and do not believe I selected it. Either way you cannot go wrong as there was plenty of leg room on our bus. Take some cash or an ATM card as our driver (also the company owner) purchased our tickets for the rope bridge for us and then we paid him in cash at the end. This eliminated a need to wait in lines.

 

I did not find the dining room service to be slow at all. If anything, a couple of evenings it seemed like the courses came too soon after one another! I think it must be a function of a fewer number of people eating later. 8:00 seems to be a perfect time to walk right in and be able to easily make a 10:00 show.

 

Vjblk--As reported the Dublin shuttle is free and was crowded the first day. The line to return to the ship looks long at times but we never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a bus. If you want something to do near the pick up point try O'Donahue's pub a couple of blocks away. It was recommended to us by our Dublin Walking tour guy and it was very authentic. Small, dark, friendly and with very informal live Irish music. Order a gin and tonic--a different system than in the states!

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The itinerary was the star of the show as were the warm and friendly people of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

 

and

 

IMO, finding good coffee on any cruise line is as difficult as finding an unpleasant Canadian or Australian cruiser!

 

Was this necessary?

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Compliments are not necessary but they can be nice.

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First of all, thanks to everyone on Cruise Critic who assisted me as I prepared for this wonderful cruise. Overall, Princess provided an excellent cruise and good value. The itinerary was the star of the show as were the warm and friendly people of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

 

Precruise--We flew from Washington Dulles on Icelandair with a change of planes in Reykjavik. Icelandair was approximately $100 cheaper than other airlines and all had mostly terrible reviews on TripAdvisor so decided to try them. The legs from Dulles and Heathrow were uneventful but the legs from Reykjavik were rather unorganized. I would fly with them again if the price was right.

 

We experienced a long line at Heathrow Border Control. The wait time was about an hour which would have been ok if we were not so tired from the flight. We booked Smith's to Southhampton and it was perhaps the best money spent on the entire trip. To walk out of Border Control exhausted and see a friendly face with my name on a piece of paper was priceless.

 

We came in one day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn near the port. $145 per night. The West Quay Mall is right across the street with multiple food options. Thanks to info received on CC I knew that the department store in the mall sold wine and we purchased our two bottles there. The morning of the cruise we took a walking tour of the historic area of Southampton, again, only a short walk from the Holiday Inn. I always dread the chaotic cattle call of grabbing a taxi or shuttle to the ship on the day of departure. England has a better way. You simply ask the desk to ring you a cab. They ask what time and you sit in the lobby until a cabbie walks through the door and calls your name!

 

Embarkation--So........for one reason or another Princess got off to a bad start with many of the passengers as a result of the lengthy, chaotic embarkation process. When our cab dropped us off we were surprised to find a rather long line that moved slowly but steadily. After quite awhile in line we made it to the counter and in short order had our room key. Another line, not well organized, now snaked from the counter and eventually stopped. After 10-15 minutes of the line not moving at all, a Princess rep confirmed the rumor that there was a problem with the alignment of the passenger bridge. It sounded like it was probably a Southampton Port issue but the lack of communication and organization on the part of Princess in dealing with the situation would be a recurring theme. BTW, passengers that boarded very early apparently did not have this problem.

 

The Ship--Royal Princess is a beautiful ship in wonderful condition. The Piazza/Atrium is lovely with all the familiar Princess venues nearby. Getting a seat in the Princess Theater was not a problem, at least during the later shows that we attended. Entertainment in the theater was excellent. Kudos to Princess for taking a chance and breaking the mold with its production of SILK. The pools were open but only a few were brave enough to swim. The hot tubs did get consistent use.The outdoor movie screen seemed to me to be brighter and clearer than I had experienced on previous cruises. There was dancing every evening in the Piazza and the band on board was excellent and played a wide variety of music.

 

We booked a standard balcony (Baja deck) about five months out and Princess offered us a free upgrade two months later to a deluxe balcony on the Carib deck. The extra room was minimal but welcomed. The balcony is very small and I was surprised at how small the bathroom was. The shower stall itself was fine but the rest of the bathroom was cramped. As always, Princess provided more than adequate closet space. The cleanliness and overall condition of the room was fine and the service we received from our cabin attendant was excellent.

 

Food and Bar--We ate 9 out of 12 nights in the Symphony dining room. We arrived each night between 7:45 and 8:15 and never had a wait. We particularly enjoyed our waiter the first night (Cecillio) and asked for his section each night if a table was available. Princess honored our request nightly. Food in the Symphony dining room was consistently good with some dishes excellent. Each menu had something that appealed. Food in the Horizon was a mixed bag. We ate dinner there twice and enjoyed it as a change. Breakfasts, however, got old quickly. We learned to only order eggs from the omelette station. The "hash browns" were pure McDonalds. We ordered room service breakfast on days we needed to leave the shop early for ports and that worked out nicely. Food at the International Cafe was uniformly good. I did not notice a decline in the quality of the pizza as had been reported on CC and ate it a number of times when returning from ports too late for lunch.

 

We enjoyed a predinner martini at Crooner's most nights and quickly became friendly with the bar staff (kudos to Glady and Lou!). I thought the drink prices were fair with a premium gin martini going for around $10 and a couple of wines by the glass for $8 or $9. As much as I would like to try a drink package one day the math just doesn't seem to work for me.

 

Ports of Call

Guernsey--A great way to start the cruise with a very small port that is easy to do on your own. We did a walking tour that included the Esplanade, the Candie Gardens (with a wonderful elevated view of the port), an old working library with exhibits on the German occupation, and time for shopping in town. The return to the ship via tender was a fiasco. Again, it is unclear if Princess was responsible for the situation but nevertheless, it was not handled well. There were hundreds of passengers in line who waited in excess of 1 1/2 hours for a tender. The average age on this cruise was high and there were people who really struggled physically with the wait in line. Again, poor communication from Princess during the wait and, unbelievably, water offered at the end of the wait while finally ready to board a tender. Moral of the story--arrive early for a tender ticket to shore and leave St. Peter's Port early.

 

Cobh (Cork)--We decided to do this on our own as well. Dublin and Belfast were large city ports next on the itinerary so we again toured on our own. Cobh is a great town if you are able to walk hills. A beautiful church dominates the town and we were fortunate to have a first communion class practicing their singing when we entered the building. It really brought the church alive. Check out the remains of the wooden pier that was used by passengers boarding the doomed Titanic. The walk to the peaceful Titanic Memorial Gardens is a long one but it gives you the chance to see most of the waterfront. We had a pint and talked to friendly bartenders and fellow passengers at Rob Roy's in town. Shopping is also available in town if interested.

 

Dublin overnight--Day one, we decided on the Jameson factory tour to avoid the crowds at the Guinness factory. Nice walk from the Princess shuttle dropoff taking you past parks and up the river. Tour was informative and fun. On my daughter's recommendation we sought out the Brazen Head pub for a pint and meat stew. Very dark and authentic inside and a busy courtyard outside. Finished the day at Auld Dubliner in Temple Bar for a wild afternoon of live Irish music.

Day two, I signed up about two months out for the Dublin Free Walking Tour. This was one of the highlights of the cruise and I would highly recommend it. Our guide, Conor, was a native Dubliner, funny and knowledgeable. The tour was three hours and hit most of the highlights of the South side of Dublin. Even with a very hefty tip it was a value.

 

Belfast--We booked Odyssey Tours Giant's Causeway, Antrim Coast, and Rope Bridge tour about three months out. The ship was two hours late getting into port due to tides (?!) Odyssey was there to meet us but did have to make a few adjustments to the schedule, primarily eliminating lunch on our own. The smaller coach did indeed provide great access to the coast and the scenery there was as beautiful an any we saw during the entire cruise. We never waited in ticket lines due to Odyssey getting the tixs for us. The Causeway is quite dramatic and worth the time to visit but there are many people there. The rope bride itself is not that impressive but the views are and, again, worth the time an effort to get there. At the end of the day our driver took us for a brief tour of the city of Belfast including the Peace Wall and an informative narrative.

 

Greenock--We intended to take one of the town tours but took our time getting off the ship and got shut out. The local tourist desk has lots of maps and friendly people and we again took a self guided tour on our own. We walked the beautiful Esplanade and then backtracked to walk the city center. Three times we were approached by citizens of Greenock asking us if we needed any help or information. This is an authentic town of locals not yet altered by tourism and gigantic cruise ships. It was one of our favorite ports and a wonderful DIY opportunity.

 

Invergordon--We booked the Princess "Inverness On Your Own" excursion. $50 to get you to town and then more than enough time to walk the entire city. Ancient grave yards, a castle, a beautiful river with walking bridges right in the center of town, shopping and authentic pubs. We had our first fish and chips at Gellions pub in town and again met friendly bartenders, locals and fellow passengers. Not much to do at all in the actual port of Invergordon.

 

Edinburgh--The first excursion I booked was "St. Andrew's, The Home of Golf." It was one of the absolute highlights of the cruise for me to set foot on the Old Course. As a public venue you have full access to the grounds. My favorite keepsake from the entire cruise is a picture of myself on the Swilcan Bridge!

 

LaHarve (Normandie)--This was a no brainer. An expensive, 10 hour trip to the landing beaches and the American cemetery. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and highly recommended. We took the Princess tour but I could see the advantages with a smaller group. Still, it was a wonderful experience and the lunch provided blew us away--salad, chicken, potatoes, bread, desert and an entire bottle of wine at each table of four.

 

Disembarkation--Again chaotic. We chose self-walk off and made it to the meeting area by 6:15. Once there we found a long line that was not moving. After a 15 minute wait, again with little communication from Princess, we find out that the passenger bridge is AGAIN not aligning properly and we will need to take the elevator down two floors to a lower lever to bypass the bridge problem. Obviously, the wait for elevators was now impossible so passengers start to steam down the stairs with their luggage. You can imagine what that scene was like. Again, not sure who is responsible for the bridge situation but even if it is completely the port's fault you would think that Princess would have enough clout to insist that it is fixed sometime during the 12 days the ship was out of port.

 

Final Thoughts--

Self service laundry was a first for me and a real positive. I washed once mid cruise and was able to pack everything in a large carry on and a back pack.

 

Princess for some reason has eliminated the TV map that shows the current position of the ship--I really missed it.

 

I learned from discussions with staff that the nomination forms we are invited to submit for outstanding service can actually result in a financial bonus for them.

 

IMO, finding good coffee on any cruise line is as difficult as finding an unpleasant Canadian or Australian cruiser!

 

Thanks for sharing! What time did you finally walk off for disembarkation?

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I would guess around 6:35 but that was only because we joined the stampede down the stairs! GF had a 9:20 flight out of Southampton airport and made it with plenty of time to spare. Tons of taxis and an orderly process to get one.

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MrsEmmaPeel--yes, Odyssey provided the minibus as advertised. I remember the extended leg room option and do not believe I selected it. Either way you cannot go wrong as there was plenty of leg room on our bus. Take some cash or an ATM card as our driver (also the company owner) purchased our tickets for the rope bridge for us and then we paid him in cash at the end. This eliminated a need to wait in lines.

 

I did not find the dining room service to be slow at all. If anything, a couple of evenings it seemed like the courses came too soon after one another! I think it must be a function of a fewer number of people eating later. 8:00 seems to be a perfect time to walk right in and be able to easily make a 10:00 show.

 

Vjblk--As reported the Dublin shuttle is free and was crowded the first day. The line to return to the ship looks long at times but we never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a bus. If you want something to do near the pick up point try O'Donahue's pub a couple of blocks away. It was recommended to us by our Dublin Walking tour guy and it was very authentic. Small, dark, friendly and with very informal live Irish music. Order a gin and tonic--a different system than in the states!

 

 

I have a question about the Odyssey Tour, we're doing the TA in September and wanted to book the Odyssey Tour in Belfast. We wondered how much walking is involved? We don't have a wheelchair or walker, etc but we are a little limited in how far we can walk without resting. Thanks for our review.

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Thanks for the nice review. We are on the June 30 cruise and I have anxious awaiting some news. Started this trip in Sept 2017 but had to leave due to family emergency. This time we will finish. Last time we skipped Gurnsey so now we will have a second chance. counting the days.

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Thank you for taking the time to post this summary. I am considering this cruise at the end of the summer and just started trying to figure things out. You gave me a lot of helpful info

 

Thanks again!

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Thank you for the trip review. I will be on this ship doing the British Isles cruise later in the summer and your information is very helpful. I have been especially concerned about the shuttle in Dublin and everyone in this thread who gave answers has been most helpful. Thanks to all of you.

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53sunset--There is some difficult walking involved but you have some options. At the Giant's Causeway they have a shuttle that takes you from the Visitor Center to the stones. You are allowed to walk but it is about a 20 minute hike. There were lines for the shuttle when we were there. The stones themselves can be difficult to walk on as they are very irregular and slippery if you get close to the water.

 

Walking to the rope bridge is the only option that I observed and it is not only a decent distance, it also includes two steep staircases.

 

The drive along the coast however is truly beautiful and may be worth the trip in and of itself.

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Ports of Call

Guernsey--A great way to start the cruise with a very small port that is easy to do on your own. We did a walking tour that included the Esplanade, the Candie Gardens (with a wonderful elevated view of the port), an old working library with exhibits on the German occupation, and time for shopping in town. The return to the ship via tender was a fiasco. Again, it is unclear if Princess was responsible for the situation but nevertheless, it was not handled well. There were hundreds of passengers in line who waited in excess of 1 1/2 hours for a tender. The average age on this cruise was high and there were people who really struggled physically with the wait in line. Again, poor communication from Princess during the wait and, unbelievably, water offered at the end of the wait while finally ready to board a tender.

 

 

When we were in Guernsey two years ago there was also a long wait for the tender to get back to the ship. Not only was the line long, but it was also pouring rain. The reason in our case for the long wait was that the winds from the storm required the suspension of tendering for a while. Once tendering could resume, the line did move quickly.

 

Belfast--We booked Odyssey Tours Giant's Causeway, Antrim Coast, and Rope Bridge tour about three months out. The ship was two hours late getting into port due to tides (?!)

 

 

The excuse of tides being the reason for a delay is very puzzling to me since tides are very predictable and are known at the time the original itinerary is developed. We have heard that excuse before, sometimes for arrival delays and sometimes as the reason for an early departure. It is just hard to believe that a cruise company does not take the tide schedules into account when setting up the itineraries.

 

 

 

Thanks for your comprehensive report.

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We embark on the Royal on Wednesday, thx for the tips! If we make it to Guernsey (fingers crossed) will head back early. Also good tip about cab in Dublin, we are already in London and have been using Uber all over the place. For a small group cheaper and easier than shuttles or buses.

 

I hope embarkation is smoother although I know some of that is the fault of the port not the cruise line.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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