Introduction

IMG_8906This blog is intended primarily as my personal journal of our travel and I’m sure a lot of it is factual and pretty mundane. You are welcome to read it at your own risk…

BTW: For anyone unfamiliar with blogging formats, the newest post is at the top and older ones further below.

Holyhead, Wales – Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alison left early on a tour to Carnarvon Castle, while I stayed behind and blogged in the library. When Alison returned, I joined her for lunch out on the back of the Varanda restaurant. It was an amazing warm sunny day for September in North Wales. After checking in for the afternoon tour in the theatre, we went straight out to find our coach which had not arrived yet. There was an unpleasant security lady who engaged Alison in a heated discussion over where we would sit on the coach. In contrast, there was a very pleasant welsh lady organizing guests who we talked to while we waited.

Eventually, the bus from Conwy returned carrying the Boruck’s and this turned around and changed to our coach. There was no time for Sarah, the guide, nor Armed, the driver, to rest before we were preparing to go out again. Armed was quite a character who graduated from Bangor in Computer Science and was born while we were attending University there. We got along famously.

We drove along a winding route to get out of the dock then a 45-minute drive along the highway and a narrow winding road to Beaumaris. It was great to recognize the places that were so familiar from our time in Bangor. At Beaumaris, we parked on the large grassed car park by the seafront then walked to the castle.

Sarah took us into the castle and escorted us around the inner wall then into the centre of the castle. We explored the narrow and dark passageways within the walls and saw a chapel. On leaving the castle, we walked along the road to a hotel for afternoon tea. After this, we decided to split from the group and walk along the seafront and pier then reminisce on our time in Bangor.

We all arrived back at the coach and left 20 minutes ahead of schedule, which allowed time to stop at Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and a viewpoint to phot the Menai Bridge on the way back. We arrived back at the ship on time and were surprised to see that we were sailing 20 minutes later and 40 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure.

We had dinner in the Compass Rose as usual followed by a show with a classical singer in the theatre.

 

Liverpool, England – Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Another early start and breakfast in our room. For the first time, the order is correct. Everyone in our party went on the Liverpool city sightseeing tour. I collected Paul to take him to the rendezvous in the theatre, only to find he had forgotten his ticket. By the time we got back, everyone had left. Outside we found a double-decker coach and I had been allocated a front seat downstairs while everyone else went upstairs. There were spare seats next to me and I was later joined by a very large man who took over the entire row, leaving me about half of my seat. He also had BO and I felt very uncomfortable.

The tour was led by our lady guide, Charlie, with Paul, our driver. She was very enthusiastic about Liverpool and the architecture of the old buildings. We passed by the ferry terminal to the song of “Ferry, across the Mersey”. Nearby there were statues of the Beatles. The guide pointed out the Liverbird building, Cunard building and White Star building where the announcement of Titanic sinking was made. We toured the streets passing the Cavern club, Anfield stadium, home of Liverpool football club and the Everton football ground just across the park from Anfield. We finally stopped for photos in Penny Lane then continued on to see the bus shelter, bank and barber described in the song. Continuing along, we passed the Catholic church known as Paddy’s wigwam and stopped at the Anglican cathedral. After exploring the inside for a while, Paul and I stopped for coffee in the cafe which was a reward for him coming with us. It was only a short ride back to the ship for lunch.

We had only 15 minutes for lunch in The Cafe before going back to the theatre for our second tour of the day, in the steps of the Beatles. Meanwhile, Alison went on another tour to Port Sunlight which is a village created for the Sunlight factory workers. On the Beatles tour, our guide was Peter with Lawrence as our driver. The first stop was Mathew Street where we walked along to see the entrance to the reconstructed Cavern. Further along, we saw a statue of Elinor Rigby. Then we returned to the ferry terminal and got out for photos with the statues of the Beatles. Continuing along we stopped at the Beatles museum where we spent an hour with audio guides following the history of the Beatles and saw a reproduction of the Cavern. There was not enough time to see everything and listen to the guide so we cut the museum short so that Paul could buy a Beatles T-shirt. As a result, we were the last back to the bus.

After a long drive into the suburbs, we stopped again for photos at Penny Lane and drove by the roundabout without stopping. Then went out to Strawberry Field and stopped again for photos. Nearby we drove past John Lennon’s childhood home and stopped by Paul McCartney’s childhood home. Both of these are now owned by the National Trust and have been restored to their 1950’s condition although we were not able to go inside. This was our last stop before returning to the ship where we went straight to the theatre for a Beatles tribute band. The group played songs from the early years of the Beatles and were not the best tribute band I have seen. In the end, Paul was invited backstage for a photo with the group.

We ended the long day with our usual dinner in the Compass Rose restaurant before retiring for an early night.

Douglas, Isle of Man – Tuesday, September 17, 2019

With no morning tour, we were able to have a relaxed breakfast in the Veranda restaurant. We were anchored offshore so had another tender ride into town. Once on land, Alison went shopping with Louise while Paul and I went to the local library in the hope of getting high-speed Internet. Instead, we found the data rate was very slow and probably slower than the ship’s service. Consequently, we walked back and found a Starbucks with much faster data rates. Eventually, we were joined by the girls and all headed back to the dock to join our tour.

By the time we arrived, the bus was filling up and I was not able to get my preferred spot near the front which was disappointing. However, the first leg was just a 5-minute ride to the railway station. Our train was an old steam engine complete with the smells of coal smoke. We sat in a rather small carriage but had the whole place to ourselves so there was plenty of room to spread out. It took about an hour for the journey from Douglas to the end of the line at Port Erin and stopping at every station along the way. Here we transferred back to the coach for a 45-minute ride to Peel where we had time to explore the area. We joined the tour guide for a walk around the castle and then waited until it was time to join the bus for the last leg back to Douglas.

Back onboard the ship, we had another Italian dinner in the Veranda restaurant, this time without Sam and Rose who had been invited out with one of the cast members. We finished the evening with a performance of the assistant cruise director singing songs of Frankie Valli. He was a good entertainer but the music was not to my taste.

Belfast, Northern Ireland – Monday, September 16, 2019

We started with breakfast in our room for an early getaway. As usual, the tray was missing a few items that were brought up a little time later. Paul, Louise, Arlo and I went on the Titanic tour while everyone else went to see rocks in the ocean. I think we had a more interesting tour. We went out to get settled on the bus ahead of the crowd but the guide, Shirley, was not impressed and tried to send us back. After explaining our unique circumstances she allowed us on to the bus.

It was a short ride to the area where the Titanic was built and we picked up an expert guide, Alan, along the way. Once at the site, we walked into the shipyard through the gates that the workers went through 100 years earlier. The administration buildings have been turned into a hotel but remain open to the public to experience. Inside the building, we saw the drawing-room where all the details plans were drawn. There was a lot of glass to let in light since there was no artificial lighting in the day. From there we explored the offices and boardroom where all critical decisions were taken including the one to reduce the number of lifeboats so that passengers were not be alarmed by unnecessary precautions.

Back on the bus, it was only a couple of minutes to the dry dock which was the largest in the world back in the day. Here the three sister ships, Olympic, Titanic and Britanic were completed before sailing away. Olympic was completed first and the Titanic sank only 12 days after leaving dry dock. Louise and Paul descended the 40 feet to the floor of the dry dock while I stayed above to look after Arlo. Nearby was a first world warship called HMS Caroline where we boarded for refreshments of tea/coffee and scones. There was a really long line once we got below and we had little time to rest before we were off again.

This time the bus took us to the Titanic Museum where we had about 90 minutes to explore on our own. We were given audio guides to explain things as we walked through the galleries. It followed a timeline of the concept, design, building, etc. Towards the end, we realized that we were out of time and needed to skip the last few galleries to rejoin the bus.

We were back aboard the ship for lunch and decided to stay out on the pool deck. After which, I was ready for a nap only to be woken by Alison to get ready for the evening. There was a cultural event before dinner and we made our way to the theatre to see Irish folk music and dance. The performance was very good but made us late for dinner. As a result, it was almost time for the show when we finished. The entertainment was a comedian from a couple of nights ago, so Alison and I decided to skip the show and get an early night. Meanwhile, Paul went to the show and sat at the front as usual.

Glasgow, Scotland – Sunday, September 15, 2019

We had an early start so had breakfast in our room again with Paul and catering forgot several items again so this time we phoned down. As usual, we went to the theatre 1/2 hour before the tour time to ensure we could get a front-row seat on the bus. We also left before our number was called just to be sure.

Our guide, Alan, gave an informative commentary as we drove around the city. We stopped in a couple of places to examine landmarks and take photos. Our final destination was a museum which contained an eclectic collection of world artifacts and paintings. After walking around for 45 minutes I decided to visit the cafe with Paul until it was time to return to the bus. Our guide continued the commentary all the way back to the dock.

Having had a late snack, I did not feel like lunch so went back to the cabin for a nap. Waking up after 2:00 pm again, I went to The Cafe for another snack. The remainder of the evening was pretty routine. The show was another performance of the singers and dancers. This time it was a world tour of dance and song and equally impressive to their show a couple of days ago.

At Sea – Saturday, September 14, 2019

Alison decided it would be nice t have coffee in our room and called for it to be brought to our cabin and it arrived a few minutes later. Once refreshed and dressed we made our way to the Compass Rose restaurant. The sea was quite rough and I seemed to be surviving well with the patches placed behind the ear. Later I went up to the Library to do some work, but after a while, the heavy sea swell got the better of me and I returned to the cabin to lie down.

It was 2:00 pm when I woke and felt better. All of the restaurants had closed so I went to The Cafe for a snack. Back in the room I blogged and was joined by Alison and Louise giving Arlo a bath. We had dinner at the back of Compass Rose because our regular table was being used by the captain. Service was much faster than the other table and we thought we would come back to this one again.

In the evening the sea seemed to pick up and I still wasn’t feeling well so decided to skip the show and have an early night. The others went to see the cruise director, David, singing and Paul was delighted that he sang songs from Joseph.

Edinburgh, Scotland – Friday September 13, 2019

Since we had an early start to the day with a tour, we had breakfast in the room and joined by Paul. The order was well presented but missing a few items obviously thinking there were only two of us, even though we had stated three. We met in the theatre for the tour and following a long wait had a very long tender ride taking about 30 minutes to the shore. We were off the tender quickly and on the bus to get the front row seats since my reservation request hadn’t been communicated. It was a 1-hour drive to Perth and to the castle of Scone. Our tour guide had a posh English accent but said she was Scottish.

We walk around the castle while the staff in each room told us about the history of royal visits. We saw the original coronation chair with a replica of the stone of destiny underneath. After winding our way through all the rooms and corridors, we exited by the usual tourist shop. Across the path, we explored another replica of the stone of destiny at the location where kings and queens were crowned. Next to it was a small chapel. We continued our walk through the gardens to a maze. I memorized the route through and the three of us went in and I led the group out in about 5 minutes. It was another hour riding back to the ship but without a commentary on the return journey.

It was 3:00 pm by the time we returned and most places had stopped serving lunch so we went up to the pool deck again where we were able to get lunch. In the afternoon, Paul and Alison played bools followed by afternoon tea with scones in the Observation Lounge.

At 6:00 pm, we had the block party where people stood outside their rooms to meet neighbours while the stewards came around serving drinks and canape. In our corridor very few people came out and we saw more guests returning from tours than we had neighbours. Most of our family joined us outside our room and Arlo seemed to attract a crowd. Shortly after, we all met up in the Veranda restaurant for an Italian themed dinner. We managed to get the only table for 8 which we added chairs to for the larger group.

In the evening, we had a comedian from Newcastle. We went upstairs in the theatre to watch from a distance while Paul remained on the front row and was inevitably picked on during the show.