|Date:||Port:||Flag:||Tour escort:||Comment:||22/05/2012||Dover, United Kingdom||Only two hours from Harlow!|
|24/05/2012||Dublin, Ireland||Dublin Highlights||Book of Kells & St. Patrick's|
|25/05/2012||Dublin, Ireland||Helen Dillon's Garden||Misty then sunny|
|26/05/2012||Belfast, Northern Ireland||Panoramic||Titanic Garden & Belfast Castle|
|28/05/2012||Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland||Skara Brae & Skaill House||Blustery but bright|
|29/05/2012||Invergordon, Ross, Scotland||Mysteries of Loch Ness||Overcast but atmospheric!|
|31/05/2012||Dover, England||Only two hours back to Harlow!|
This was my first cruise with my father since 2005. We spent a week dog sitting at my brother's house in Harlow before driving down to Dover. We then found out that we had been upgraded from deck 2 to deck 3 since the ship was not full. On the first sea day I gave my well received port talks on Dublin, Belfast, Kirkwall and Invergordon and thus had the rest of the cruise as holiday!
The first morning in Dublin saw me escort the highlights tour in lovely weather. The visit to the library at Trinity College included the Book of Kells. I found this disappointing since the page on display showing St. Matthew had no gold on it. The long gallery was however magnificent. The stop at St. Patrick's protestant cathedral included the "chance your arm" door and Dean Jonathan Swift's bust and tomb.
In the afternoon I walked to the Point tram terminus and took the "Jerry Lee" Luas to Heuston Station. I found the "Floozie in the Jacuzzi" statue in her new lake setting bereft of her jacuzzi! I walked back along the Liffey board walk passing by a drunk, unmarried mother throwing herself into the water. Her brother called the emergency services and the Gardai arrived within two minutes closely followed by the fire brigade. The little rescue craft then pulled the unconscious girl from the river. I then caught the shuttle bus back to the ship.
On the second morning in Dublin I was tour escort to Helen Dillon's charming house and garden at Ranelagh. The morning was misty but the afternoon was glorious. My father watched as I swam and jacuzzied the afternoon away!
In Belfast I escorted the panoramic coach trip. The new Titanic memorial garden was beautiful so I took my father back there in the afternoon. I re-visited the catholic Falls Road murals and saw the protestant Shankill Road for the first time. At Stormont the coach drove off without me and the last two ladies from the toilets. It took them ten minutes to realise we were missing and come back for us! My first visit to Belfast Castle was in glorious sunshine and I spotted 5 of the 9 model cats in the gardens.
The sea day traversing the Hebrides was idyllic with a mirror-like sea and extensive views of the islands on both sides of us. Again my father watched as I swam and jacuzzied the afternoon away!
In Kirkwall on Orkney I went to the impressive neolithic village of Skara Brae and to nearby Skaill House. On the way back to the ship we stopped at the Brodgar stone circle and passed by Scapa Flow. In the afternoon I took my father around St. Magnus' cathedral and the museum gardens in town.
At Invergordon I escorted the Mysteries of Loch Ness tour. We had a brief photo stop/loo visit at Beauly Priory before reaching the Loch. The Loch Ness Visitor Centre's audio-visual presentation was rather speculative but vaguely informative. In the afternoon I took my father on the mural trail around Invergordon and paid a brief visit to the museum there.
The return voyage down the North Sea was mainly in mist, the dreaded 'haar' of East Scotland or the Geordie 'sea fret'. A real contrast to the 73 degrees we had had in both Dublin & Belfast!
Most evenings I danced with Margaret Jones and the other dancing ladies before watching the show in the Neptune Lounge and then having an earliesh night with the old man. We went to both of the lovely Jackie Probert's shows in the Coral Club together with a couple of the show company's mini-productions there. We ate mostly in the lovely triple-aspect Palms Café buffet except for two nights in the Thistle restaurant when speciality buffets were held in the Palms. I only stayed up for the midnight buffet twice!
This cruise was characterised by a larger number than usual of separate groups under the overall Vistas house & gardens theme:
One of these groups (probably the latter) had the distinguished gardener and broadcaster Tony Russell as their exclusive lecturer. So we never got to hear from him but I did meet him on the Helen Dillon garden tour in Dublin. With so many lecturers on board (including the jewellery salesman who gave three lectures) and so few sea days no wonder we were rationed to only two lectures each!
The old Fitness Centre is now the new Arts & Crafts room while the under utilised Skylark discotheque is now the posh new Fitness Centre. Discos are now held in the Coral Club after Fourth Dimension have finished playing for the night. The Rosario Classical Trio have been moved from the Braemar room into the Morning Light Pub to replace the troubador acts like the excellent Rob Bee and the entertaining Pat Shannon.
On our return to my brother's house in Harlow we viewed some sheltered accomodation for my father. Thankfully he signed the tenancy agreement and we hope to move him in soon. It has a nurse on 24 hour call and serves a hot lunch every single day. It needs a new carpet in the bedroom so my father climbed up his loft ladder at his current home without my knowledge to search for some. I heard an almighty crash and found him on the floor of the hallway having slipped coming down the ladder. After 3 and 1/2 hours at Colchester General A&E he had to have stitches in both hands. He had been so well behaved for the week of dog sitting and the nine day cruise but had to get into a scrape at the very end!