|18/08/2012||Dover, England||Train from Dulwich|
|20/08/2012||Cobh, Co. Cork||Cork City & Blarney Castle||No kissing!|
|21/08/2012||Dublin, Ireland||Dublin City Walk||"Story of the Irish Sea" lecture|
|24/08/2012||Kirkwall, Orkney||Spirit of the South Isles||Highland Park Distillery|
|25/08/2012||Tórshavn, Færoes||Island Tour||Dramatic views|
|28/08/2012||Akureyri||Jewels of the North||Volcanoes & Waterfalls|
|01/09/2012||Reykjavik||City & Surroundings||Wet afternoon|
This was another five star cruise on one of my favourite ships.
I drove up to Mark's place in Dulwich on the Friday, getting there at noon. We then cycled into Camberwell for a bargain lunch at a Turkish restaurant. In the afternoon we cycled up to Southwark bridge before going along the south bank cycle way to Greenwich. We saw the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast with her new paint job. At Greenwich we turned south and headed back to Dulwich.
On Saturday morning I took the bus to Forest Hill station and the train via London Bridge to Dover Priory. I got to the ship just after 11 am and checked my case in so that I could explore the Dover waterfront. That first evening on board saw my colleague Michael Locke and I appear in the introductory walk-on in the Discovery Lounge.
On the first sea day I led my first line dancing class. With 25 dancers we needed to move the furniture and dance on the carpet! I met Adam Reece the cocktail pianist for the first time in five years. He reminded me that I had helped him with the statistics for his MSc thesis and later in the cruise I helped him with the statistics for his PhD thesis too!
In the first port of call, Cobh in County Cork, I escorted my first choice Cork City & Blarney Castle tour. I had never been to the attractive castle but declined to kiss the Blarney Stone! A lovely professional Irish soprano came on board in the late afternoon to entertain us all.
In Dublin I went on the City Walk which concentrated on Trinity College and the Georgian Squares before going to a pub for a lovely pint of Guinness! That afternoon I gave my well-received lecture on "The Story of the Irish Sea". Later an Irish dancing troupe came aboard.
In the evening it transpired that one of our lifeboats was broken and we had to spend another day in Dublin for repairs but with the loss of the planned call into Lerwick on Shetland. Unfortunately that was one of the main reasons for me choosing to do this cruise never having been there! Later that evening we had a deck party which ran on after midnight.
The next day in Dublin I took the shuttle bus into the city. I had some Open University work to do at an internet café before visiting the impressive tourist information office in a redundant, converted protestant church. I walked up O'Connell Street to see the General Post Office (GPO), scene of the Easter Rising. I enjoyed the Garden of Remembrance which our Queen had visited last year. At the Hugh Lane City Art Gallery, I enjoyed the impressionist paintings and was very impressed with the reconstruction of Francis Bacon's studio, if not with his paintings! The Irish House of Lords has two impressive tapestries: the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Londonderry. I'm surprised that the republic keeps such echoes of the union and the protestant ascendancy on such prominent, public display!
On the next sea day I was kept busy with line and ballroom dancing classes punctuated by a singles lunch.
In Kirkwall on Orkney I escorted my first choice Spirit of the South tour which included a visit to the Highland Park distillery. In the afternoon I led another line dance class in the Shackleton lounge.
The next day in Tórshavn the capital of the Færoe islands I walked around the small town in the morning taking pictures for a future port presentation. In the afternoon I escorted my first choice Island Tour which consisted of 4 photo stops at different viewpoints across the dramatic landscapes.
We were still at sea the next morning and I had back-to-back dance classes: line dancing at 10 am and ballroom dancing at 11 am! After lunch I took the tender into our first Icelandic port - Djúpivogur which was a first time for me. I particularly enjoyed seeing the distinctive rock gardens with red and green volcanic stones.
In Seyðisfjörður I escorted the Hengifoss Waterfall Hike. The Litlanesfoss waterfall half way up was much more spectacular surrounded by hexagonal basalt columns. Hengifoss waterfall itself was disappointing because Iceland has had a very dry summer with the jet stream stuck over Britain. I nearly panicked back at the bottom when I mistakenly thought I had lost a passenger on the hike!
The next day in Akureyri I was escort on the lovely Jewels of the North tour. We started out at some hot baths before visiting the field of fumaroles - steaming cairns and boiling mud! The walk through the natural rock sculptures was puncuatated with silly stories of elves and trolls. We then partook of a traditional Icelandic lunch of tomato soup, delicious trout and yoghourt with bilberries. On the way back to the ship we viewed the magnificent Gods' Force (Godafoss) waterfall, apparently unaffected by the drought. That evening saw an indoor deck party in the Shackleton lounge.
On my first visit to Ísafjörður I had no tour to escort so I went into the small town twice, separated by lunch and a siesta back on the ship. The morning was overcast but it brightened up in the afternoon and the day culminated in a glorious red sunset. The maritime museum and a period café were the only really interesting sites in the one horse town. The botanic garden in particular was pathetic compared with the extensive one in Akureyri. The free internet on the quayside and the free wi-fi outside the burger bar were however compensations. The afternoon ended with my fifth and final line dancing class, much to Nicky the cruise hostess's pleasure.
No tour on my first visit to Grundarfjörður either so again I went into the even smaller town twice. The morning was bright but the afternoon was overcast so I spent an hour on the internet in the library. In the evening I was invited into the Ward Room private dining room for the very first time for dinner after the farewell cocktail party.
I walked into a very breezy Reykjavik in the morning but, always dressed emaculately, I was asked to do a photo shoot for the Icelandic Tourist Board in the newly completed Harpa Concert Hall on the promenade! It was my ruby red shoes that captivated the photographic team I think. So look out for me in next year Icelandic brochures! That afternoon I donned the ruby red shirt and fleece as well to complete the escorts' uniform for the City & Surroundings tour. Unfortunately the rain curtailed the city walk on the only bad day of the entire cruise.
On the last morning we got up at 5 am, had a continental breakfast and caught a bus to the airport just after 6 am. Check in was straightforward even though I was 2.5 kilograms over my limit! The flight was also straightforward and I partook of Icelandic smoked lamb in flatbread. I took the train from Gatwick to Forest Hill and then drove home via Croydon, getting back just after 6 pm.
One lady later wrote "Many thanks again for a great holiday, I will let you know if I do any more dancing!" Another said "Thank you for your patience, sorry my dancing aptitude left a lot to be desired!!"
7 Tours escorted 5 Line dance classes led 3 Cocktail parties attended 2 Ballroom dance classes taught 1 Lecture delivered