Crown Princess Cruise around the British Isles with Sulwen

August 15, 2019 - SFO and onward

We flew from SFO to Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic on a Boeing 787. With Amelia getting wheelchair assist, we jumped the queue at Security, and they took her (and Sulwen and me) straight to the airplane door, bypassing many. We were in Economy Delight and found the whole experience to be pretty satisfactory, a cut above the usual flight. We got away from the gate early at SFO, took a strange route to London, but arrived a little early. Anyway, we flew from SFO pretty much straight to Duluth, MN, when they cut northeast along the west side the Lake Superior shore and on a more or less great circle from there. A few shakes here and there, which I think we got by avoiding worse ones on a great circle route. Longer (close to the scheduled 10 hours), but smoother, I guess.

August 16 - Heathrow to Southampton

Sulwen's birthday! She got a big bag of goodies (some edible) from the cabin crew, and a shout out for her birthday.

In London, again with wheelchair assist, we sped through passport control and saw nothing of customs. We're never traveling without wheelchair assist again.

Due to all that, we were early for our airport taxi, but not much. Some traffic to Southampton, but arrived in under 2 hours. Rain. Supposed to clear tomorrow. Hope getting onboard the Crown Princess goes as smoothly.

August 17 - Board the Crown Princess

Once more, a wheelie pays off. Had no delay at all in getting on board. Actually, it looked pretty easy even if you were able.

Anyway, onboard, we inspected our stateroom, took some pictures (1), (2), and (3). Our luggage has been delivered and we set off for the Horizon Court for a nice buffet lunch. Next up is the safety meeting, then off we go in an hour, around 5pm. Here we are, underway. Then Sulwen spends some time on her homework (maybe).

Weather looks like it might cooperate. Not hot, but very tolerable.

August 18 - Guernsey Island

We arrived on schedule offshore of Guernsey. We were to get our tender tickets at 7:30, which we did. We were ashore by about 8am and then had to hang around until our 9am tour. It could have been worse, as Amelia did find a chair to sit in at the information center. And I managed to get a picture of Town Church, completed in its present form in the mid-15th century.

We had booked a private tour with Annette Henry tours. Here we are gathered and ready to go. Our tour guide gave us a nice tour around the old town of Port St. Peter, along with a lot of history of Guernsey, back to the days they belonged to Normandy when they took Great Britain in 1066. Thus they claim (tongue in check) that they own and have dominion over GB. Actually they are in a bailiwick, a dependency of the British Crown, and the Queen's representative is the Lt. Governor. The Lt. Gov has no power, and the island rules itself.

We had a little rest stop here and there, and Sulwen got a chance to feel a nose. As you can see, they have an open attitude about what makes up a salad.

The had a series of witch trials (ala Salem), which were quite brutal (duh!). Of course they were pretty brutal with thieves and others, for which one possible penalty was demonstrated here. They were visited once by the Queen and the Prince Consort Albert.

They were occupied by the Germans in WWII and GB declared they had no interest in trying to keep it. Many left for GB before the Germain occupation, especially the children (who were looked after by foster parents or relatives). Life was hard (see the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). Life was hard for the Guernseyans and toward the end, also for the Germans.

Then we took a (toy) train tour around the city. Turned out to be a bit disappointing, but it was OK. Back to the ship for another excellent lunch and dinner. Sulwen is eating well and is constantly hungry (well, OK, only if it has been more than an hour since she last ate).

August 19 - Cobh/Cork

Today we slept in late. I got up around 8, but Amelia and Sulwen slept on. Eventually, they were up and we went to breakfast. As Sulwen says, very good. Then we had a look at the scenery off the balcony, Chimneys, no longer smoking as in Mary Poppins, Sulwen getting in a few shore pictures, colorful housing, and St. Colman's Cathedral. of which there will be more later.

Then Sulwen and I went ashore to the Cobh Heritage Center (that's cove), which was just a short walk off of the dock. They commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sailing of the Titanic. Here is a poster for the sailing in April 2012. Frank Browne took a photograph of the departure of the Titanic.

The center also has a lot of other Irish history, such as the deportation of criminals and political prisoners (why is that woman smiling? ah this is better) to the Colonies or Canada, and the potato famine with resulting migration by ship (although I think this is rather more roomy and jolly that it really was). Then there was Anne Bonny of Kinsale, a sometime pirate. Interesting.

We took a walk up the hill thinking we would get to St. Colman's Cathedral, but we guessed wrong and wound up nearby, but with no easy way to get to the Cathedral. Oh well, nice walk past a large apartment/condo? building. Back to the ship for lunch. After a little rest and getting Grammy set up to do laundry, Sulwen and I were back out on the quest to find St. Colman's. This time we did very well and found it to be pretty interesting. Beautiful windows and alter and choir. It was finished 100 years ago, to this very week, and it was being celebrated (not in any way we saw, however). Then a little walk along the street, stopping for shopping (not much) in the Euro Saver store.

Then back to ship where Sulwen got a pizza slice to tide her over until dinner time. Then, eventually, strolling along Lido Deck 15 to the Horizon Court for dinner, with hard (crusty) rolls, of course.

Decided to go to some entertainment in the big theater tonight after dinner. It was a Swedish singer and we enjoyed it.

Now underway to Dublin where we have a big day on schedule. Unfortunately, there are potential difficulties getting off the ship and out of the port, but I'm sure we'll surmount them.

August 20 - Dublin

We arrived in Dublin in the morning. We got up early, as we had a city tour booked at 9am, and we were suppose to be queuing up by 8am. We did and finally got on our bus. Dublin was settled by the Celts around 350BC, until around 900AD, or so, when the Vikings arrived. We drove around through Dublin a bit, then were let off at Trinity College, where we got some history lessons. Notables such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Victor Hugo, and others. We then went on (the bus) past one of Dublin's finest watering holes, Kennedys, and past the Dublin Castle to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Statues of notables in the cathedral. Very crowded at all these places. In addition to our 3000 passengers (I'm sure not all went into Dublin), the Pacific Princess was also docked nearby. Smaller, not sure how many passengers. Of course there were many beautiful stained glass windows in St. Patrick's. Contrary to the Vatican claims, it is an Episcopal cathedral. I think I heard, a little confusingly that maybe they think the Episcopalians are Catholic, just not Roman Catholic. Oh well.

Also on the bus tour we saw very wrenching statues of families making their way to the replica of the Jeny Johnston, a ship to the Americas (US, or Canada) during the potato famine of around 1850-60. It is called a coffin ship because of the large percentage of passengers that died (they were very overcrowded, with several times as many passengers as designed for). Yes, potato famine because that was the primary diet of the poor Irish, and when the crops failed there was pretty much nothing to eat. Something like 40-50% of the population died or emigrated during that time.

Lots of flowers around town. Buildings with balconies and so on covered with them. We also drove by some colorful doors, many of which I took pictures. Here's a particularly nice one, I think. It is the Embassy of Peru.

We had a late lunch on the ship. More hard rolls, goody goody. Then some rest, a little nap. A bit after 5 we went off the ship (the port is a large one, and no easy way to get anywhere by walking). Princess was running shuttles to (more of less) downtown Dublin, but for 3 it was cheaper (and more precise) to take a taxi.

We arrived for the Irish House Party plenty early, but eventually got seated for our dinner. The grandparents had a good dinner, and even though they tried to have something nice for Sulwen, she was not real happy with it (but fear not, she had a slice of pizza before we left the ship). The entertainment was good. Irish music, with Irish instruments (well, some weren't Irish) and dancing. Sulwen joined the group learning a dance. Easy, she said: just get the right step, then right, left, in, out, swing your partner, do it again. And again, etc. After, we and group of 5 got two taxis and we got back to the ship before 11pm.

August 21 - Dublin

After breakfast we caught a taxi in to downtown Dublin, in particular Grafton St. We wandered around. Sulwen bought some postcards. We saw these mimes which were good for a picture by Sulwen. We shopped several stores without buying anything. Then we went into Office, where Sulwen bought a needed pair of new shoes. Pretty much like the ones she was wearing, except that they are a different color (and, they fit). For a while, anyway. Oh, but before that we had a look around Marks and Spencer, popularly known in our time as Marks and Sparks. Well, it is M&S. And we had coffee and a little snack (Dick), (Amelia), and (Sulwen) at the M&S cafe.

We caught a taxi back to the ship and got some rejuvenating shut-eye. This was our night to go to a fancy restaurant (not on fancy dress night, though). Only one of those that Sulwen could get much to eat was the Italian Sabatini's. It was a three course (well, four counting the bread and prosciutto to begin). It was all very good, if all too much. I slept poorly after.

August 22 - Belfast

Arrived in Belfast in the morning. We didn't hurry around. Our usual breakfast in the Horizon Court. Well, usual as in at the Horizon, but we had some different things. Of course, since there are about 125 things (not an actual count), the breakfasts are not necessarily usual. Only the hard roll was usual.

Anyway, I looked up the Belfast Titanic Museum, decided 10 am would be a good time to get there, and bought the tickets online. Taxis are usually around the docks, we find, and we waited a little while for one, but not long. Unlike our other taxi drivers, the ones in Belfast didn't seem gregarious at all. But, the museum. Wow! We are overflowing with information. It is located near the yard where the Titanic was constructed. Four floors. The bulk of it has to do with the design and construction, but also a good amount about the amenities for passengers. Even third class passengers didn't have it too bad (especially compared to earlier ships). However, as you may recall, they were so confident of it they did not have anywhere near the amount of safety and emergency equipment (especially lifeboats) that it turned out was needed. Four floors later we had seen lots of information about the design, and construction details, about riveting the plates together with red hot rivets (the plates were not welded). Here is an outside view of the ship during construction. This is a mockup of a dining room. There was also a video where a remotely piloted sub went to the remains and poked around, showing things they knew what were, and things they didn't. Down there more than a hundred years and there is a lot of debris and ocean dust (well, maybe not dust, but ocean settle).

Taxi back was really easy. One company had a phone on the main floor. I called. They said go down to the underground garage. Pretty much got there and there was the taxi. Back "home " for a late lunch in the Horizon Court. Oh yes. One thing we are all enjoying is the fruit. Wonderful watermelon, other melons (well, not all superb), strawberries. ... And desserts - Sulwen usually has one or two. Here's one of her favorites, and you can see why they were popular.

Coming back I was able to get a shot of the Crown Princess showing where our stateroom balcony was, just above the middle of the middle lifeboat. After dinner Thursday we went to see a magic and comedy show by Kristian Grey. He was amusing and puzzling and funny. Our second show in the big theater.

August 23 - Greenock/Glasgow

We had another little big late morning, did some laundry (not me) and so on. We were docked in Greenock, the port for Glasgow. We made a wish at the 8th Wonder of the World and were off the ship to catch our Tour to Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh. We misunderstood we needed to go outside the dock gate, unlike those that booked a Princess tour. Eventually the tour director found us, saying we weren't the first to have that problem.

Anyway, a bit late we were on our way to Loch Ness. Here are some scenery shots along the way: 1, 2, and 3 along the way. We made a short stop at Loch Lomond for a break and pictures. There is a memorial to Tom Weir who championed preservation of the Scottish Highlands. Here's Sulwen and Tom with Loch Lomond in the background. Then, on to Stirling Castle. Here we saw King Robert the Bruce. We had a bit of lunch, then walked around part of the castle. It is built on a hill (aren't they all?) and so there was a bit of up and down. But, we persevered and had a good time.

Then it was on to Edinburgh. Somewhere along the way we saw these horse sculptures.

Edinburgh. Wow! You talk about crowded. Wall to wall cars, trucks, buses, people,... We eventually got to the bus parking place around 6pm. Our tour director was wonderful. We were among a few having dinner reservations. She got us a taxi to the pub, and then showed up there, too, having walked some steep streets and steps. I had chosen the Biddy Mulligans online. Had some good ratings and had reservations available. It was an interesting place. Very loud musician/singer, and we were right under speakers. Lots of young singles and couples, along with some older folks, all shouting to be heard over the "music". We eventually got a waiter, and even more eventually got served. It was good enough, but I have no plans to return. Our tour director showed up and we puzzled over how to get up to the Tattoo. (Interesting point: In Edinburgh they say ta-TOO, not TAA-too.) Taxis (all pre-ordered only) going our way up a crowded street. There was a bicycle cab there, and he said he could take all three of us up the hill. I walked with the tour director, and the "cab" took off pedaling about 25 revolutions per five feet of movement. We met at the RED door ( not visible here, but off to the left).

Some problems with the wheelchair, but our tour director fixed that, and a couple of small girls pushed Amelia up the hill. Well, mostly one of the small girls. We were seated on the second and third rows of seats (said to be partially view restricted), but we had a great view, and easier to get out from. The Tattoo was pretty spectacular. Probably 15-20 different countries had military bands, marching, and dancing. First, in turn, then together for a grand finale. Here are some pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4. It was all very colorful and precise. Some fireworks to begin, some during, most at the end. It lasted about 2 hours. 8000 folks trying to get out at one time. Being low down was great (see where we were looking from in this picture). It also gave us decent position in the toilet lines on the way out. We eventually made our way back to the RED door to meet up with our tour group. Pretty long downhill walk to the bus, but eventually got there. We were (fortunately) at the front of the bus line and got out easily, unlike some buses that had to (I suspect) wait a long time to get away from the parking. It took the better part of 2 hours to get back to Greenock and we barely made the (1:30am) curfew. Long day, tiring, but some new experiences (see dinner, above).

August 24 - At sea

Late getting away from Greenock, but not much. Had a real rocking experience upon getting up. The ship was pitching some, and rolling some. Enough to be glad to have a rail to hang onto, although Sulwen and I did OK. The swimming pools were sloshing out and over the deck.

We didn't do a lot. Usual meals, did some reading, thought about shopping the sales onboard (but really didn't). Sulwen and Amelia went to the Princess Theater for a flashback to Disco Days (I guess that's what it was; I didn't go).

There's lots we haven't done. We want to go to the sit down restaurant once. Maybe tonight. Last night was dress-up night, which I'm not doing next time, either. Looking forward to Loch Ness and search for Nessie tomorrow. No doubt a report will be forthcoming.

Oh yes, Sulwen is keeping up with her schooling (when she knows she has some to do). Also dance, and fiddle. I keep telling her I want to put her out busking, but so far she hasn't done it. Kidding, actually.

OK, about those HARD rolls. Yes, they are hard (on the outside). A better term would probably be CRUSTY. Hard crust, but nice on the inside. Just to whet your appetite for something I'm not going to bring to you, These three pictures you could probably figure yourself: Hard rolls! Split, with butter, and Buttered! Have to try to figure out how to make these. I seem to remember pan of water in the lower part of the oven. Anyone?

August 25 - Invergordon

We arrived in Invergordon this morning after bit pitch and roll, but not like yesterday before we got on the leeward side of the Hebrides. Our tour started at 10 and we went through Invergordon our way through the backwoods (and beautiful backwoods they were) toward Loch Ness. It was a beautiful day with very pleasant temperatures, although there was a bit of haze.

There were standing stones, (and somewhere along the way, we saw this guy), beautiful fields with cattle and sheep, and lots of barley and wheat fields. Looked very much like they had been ripe for some time. Seemed strange since in the Midwest we always harvested as quickly as possible in order to beat the arrival of rain or hail. Anyway, did see a couple of combines working. We saw a few castles along the way.

At Loch Ness we took a couple of pictures and boarded a boat and took a little cruise down the loch. Beautiful hillsides along the loch. Well, then there was this clearcut area. Saw more castles (or ruins), another view. I think Sulwen enjoyed it all. Back at the landing, Sulwen barely saved her ice cream cone from Nessie. Had a bit of time to grab a snack, then on our way to Inverness we saw this pond and a circus.

We had a short stop to look a little at Inverness and the Inverness Cathedral. Here are some other views: ( 1), ( 2), and ( 3). Then a little time to see signs for other other attractions. Then there was this guy. Lots more of the old chimneys.

Back to Invergordon by a different route, but one just a pretty as going out. Everything seems to be very green (well, except the wheat and barley fields) and I suppose that means they get a lot of rain. But not today. Coming back into Invergordon I got this photo of the Invergordon Church of Scotland.

This afternoon we went to the Princess Theater to see some Scottish music and dancing, while Sulwen caught up on her school work. A bit later we were getting ready to sail, and a pipe and drum band was piping us out of the dock. In the meantime, the dockworkers were removing the ramp.

August 26 - Queensferry/Edinburgh

We didn't get around in any particular hurry. The ship came into Queensferry in sight of some bridges with some nice clouds in the background. We had decided not to go into "downtown" Edinburgh, so we kind of lazed around in the morning. In the afternoon Sulwen and I took the tender into the port. Along the way we saw what I surmise is an old prison. Since we were two of three passengers on the tender, and the only ones on top, Sulwen took the opportunity to practice her highland dancing. There is kind of a development near the port (Queensferry), with junk stores, ice cream shops, hostels, hotels, and other. Got a nice view of the Crown Princess at anchor. We did some shopping (Sulwen bought a magnet, but passed on a kilt and some socks), and walked 3/4 mile along the shore, passing by Nessie who seems to have escaped Loch Ness, and on to the Jubilee clock, and returned. Along the way, Sulwen tried out a Brit phone box, palled up with Nessie, but just for a little while. I stopped to smell the flowers and Sulwen got this guy to pose with her, and also a seal and pup. We ran into a man that we have seen from time to time, and he remembers Sulwen, partly because he made her eat some of his BRITISH french fries at the Holiday Inn in Southampton. She didn't resist too much on that. We were on a much more loaded tender going back.

When we got back, we got all dressed up (in our swim suits and and robes) and went to the hot tub and the pool. Sulwen actually swam, while we lounged in the too cool "hot" tub.

At 5:30 we went to the DaVinci restaurant for a real sit-down meal. They are very attentive to Sulwen's dietary restraints and she was pleased with what she got. She could have used some different and more desserts, but managed to survive until the next morning.

August 27 - At sea

The sea was quite calm this morning. We lost an hour overnight since we moved into European time instead of Brit time. We are now on Central European Daylight time, and somewhat late going to breakfast at 9:30. Then to the competitive cook-off in the Princess Theater. Got to go!

The competitive cook-off was a hoot. The "chef" and the real chef had a competition. The "chef" had a helper (boy, did he need it). Here's a bit long video showing how classy the "chef" was. I leave it to you to guess who won.

Mostly, we took it pretty easy today. Sulwen did some dance practice on the balconey. We watched a movie in the afternoon and then went to DaVinci restaurant again, and they had a parade of the baked Alaska desserts, Again the food was very good and here we are looking happy. We were a bit late going to the evening entertainment in the Princess Theater, but saw most of a combination song and dance/magic show. Enjoyed the part we saw.

Anyway, to bed early since we had to be up early the next day.

August 28 - Le Havre

Up early today because Sulwen and I had to be ready to go off ship to take the tour to Mont St. Michel at 8:00. A little smaller breakfast (maybe) since it was early. We were on-time and the bus was on the way at 8:30, right on time. They really do organize getting hoards of people off the ship and into buses in a pretty good way. It was a three hour trip to MSM, during a good part of which it rained, sometimes pretty hard. We went across this bridge along the way.

We had a rest stop about two hours in and Sulwen got a little sustenance. (an aside, gas seems to be about 1.8 euros/liter ~ $7.60/gallon). Here's proof we were heading on the right direction. That is, if I was on the right side of the bus (that is the left-side). Along the way we saw corn fields and sheep pastures. When we got to MSM we got off the bus, walked a couple hundred yards or more to the shuttle bus, behind a crowd, which we rode about 2 km (one thing I like about the French, or at least our tour guide), KIL o meters, not ki LOM eters. {What the heck, no one says ki LOG rams or cen TIM eters. But I digress.} Then we walked another couple hundred meters to the entrance to the "town" part of MSM. The tide was out so we were in good shape going in. A zoom shot of the steeple. Sulwen was happy to finally be there.

What a crowd! As bad as Edinburgh, I think, but not so big. The "shopping" street up to the entrance has lots of restaurants, semi-fast food, junk shops, maybe some serious shops, and so on. Pretty steep street. I don't suppose anyone counted, but there are a lot of steps up to the "pay your money here" place, and then many more once you are inside the chapel/monastery/cathedral/etc.

Here's Sulwen paying rapt attention to the tour guide, and me taking a little break and looking happy. It was an interesting about how it came to be built (the archangel Michel leaned pretty hard on Aubert of Avranches until he convinced him to build it, according to the tour guide). Here are some photos of the chapel (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), and (9). It went through some hard times starting around 850 AD. Part fell down and was rebuilt. It was used as a state prison for a time.

As I mentioned, the tide was out, and groups) were out on the tidal flats (people have been caught when the tide comes in rather quickly). We went past the alpha and omega wall. There is a Pieta on the wall nearby.

After the tour, Sulwen and I went down the shopping street, did a little of that, found a place to have something to eat ( salad for Sulwen, tagliatelle bolognese for me). Then we walked around the base a very little, sat and watched people and birds. Tide still well out. Then we walked back and caught the shuttle to the parking area. Bus headed back before 4, and arrived back at the ship by 7.

Amelia had a day on board. She did a lot of packing (suitcases we're not carrying off needed to be outside our door before dinner), but also got a hot stones massage. She asked that they not try to sell her the ship, and they didn't.

Sulwen was pretty well starved by that time, so we we to the Horizon Court to eat. Sulwen had had a couple of pieces of cherry pie for dessert, when an attendant came by and Amelia asked if they had any whipped cream. He went to look. When he returned with a can of it, the spout broke off. He went to get another and another piece of pie. When he got back, he had also included a scoop of ice cream. Sulwen can't eat eggs, so back he went for another piece of pie and came back with it topped by about a pint of whipped cream. Sulwen persevered and it disappeared.

To bed early (yippee, we get our hour back), then up early to eat something, debark, catch our ride to Heathrow, etc.

August 29 - Southampton to SFO

Got up early today (5:30), got breakfast and off the ship by about 7:30. I had been pessimistic about how long that would take, so we had to wait for our airport taxi. But, it was wait there or wait at Heathrow (which we did plenty of anyway). Anyway, our 787 left Heathrow about 1:40pm. Smooth flight. We had upgraded to Economy Delight, so we had a bit more room between rows. Virgin Atlantic does pretty well on service onboard. We thought we had missed ordering special meals for Sulwen (I thought the order going over would carry over to coming back). Not to worry, they delivered her special meal, so I guess it did carry over. We got lots of little meals (more than going over), some of which were pretty good. Anyway, got into SFO around 4:10pm, a bit ahead of schedule. Once more, being wheelchair assisted really paid off. Not so much at Heathrow (but still worthwhile). At SFO they had one guy handling 5 wheelchairs (take one forward a couple hundred feet, run back and get another), but we bypassed the line at customs and passport control and got though pretty handily. Tanna was there to meet us and took us to our hotel. Home to Ashland tomorrow.