Cruise V6129 on the Crystal Symphony around the British Isles

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
23/07/2016 Tilbury
- On board just
after noon
25/07/2016 Guernsey
Time of War Battery, Fort,
Museum & tea!
26/07/2016 Waterford
Historic Walk Tower, Cathedral &
27/07/2016 Liverpool
Cathedral & Walls!
28/07/2016 Dublin
Summer Drive Glendalough &
29/07/2016 Dublin
Malahide &
Castle & Guinness!
30/07/2016 Belfast
Highlights &
Castle & Gardens!
31/07/2016 Portree
Isle of Skye
Armadale Castle & Gardens!
01/08/2016 Kirkwall
Italian Chapel &
02/08/2016 Edinburgh
Quest for the
Holy Grail
Stirling Castle &
Dunfermline Abbey
03/08/2016 Edinburgh
Castle & Palace
05/08/2016 Tilbury
Leeds Castle &
Long delays
at Dartford!
06/08/2016 Tilbury
- Home just
after noon!

Friday the 22nd of July 2016
Tilbury, Essex

I left home just before 8 a.m. and had a clear run through to Essex, despite it being the start of the school holidays. There was only a short queue for the Dartford Tunnels, when the traffic lights went red for both tunnels. However they changed green after a minute and I was breakfasting in IKEA, Lakeside soon after 10 a.m. I shopped in both the Lakeside indoor and outdoor shopping centres, only buying a memory stick as I had left mine at home by mistake. I got to my £40 B&B just before 2 p.m. and had a lie down for half an hour. I then caught the £3 ferry across the Thames from Tilbury in Essex to Gravesend in Kent. This is a charming, historical town where Native American Princess Pocohontas is buried. I dined on a Subway submarine roll, before catching the ferry back to my B&B.

Saturday the 23rd of July 2016
Tilbury, Essex

I had the £7.50 full English breakfast at my B&B chatting to the only other guest, a German young lady. I departed my room at 10 a.m. to await an ABC taxi to the cruise terminal, where I chatted to Canadian Catherine and her friend. Check-in began at 11:30 and I was on board soon after noon. I lunched on a white wine spritzer, beefburger and chips (with no bread), before a short lie down. I then swam and jacuzzied in the hot sunshine, but failed to find the on/off buttons for the bubbles!

At 5:45 the pre-dinner dancing only lasted fifteen minutes! I danced with Kathleen from Houston, Norma from Dallas, Anne from Cape Town and Nancy from near Chicago. At 6 p.m. I dined on the fillet steak with a lady from Las Vegas, Pat and Doug (ex. US Navy) from Arizona, and a mother from Ohio with her daughter and son. The latter is a full Colonel in the US Army living in Hawaii! I ordered my steak medium rare, but unfortunately it arrived well done. With multiple courses and a lively table, I didn't get away until 8 p.m. for the next dance session. At 10:15 I went to the "Taste of things to come" showtime, before bed at 11 p.m.

Sunday the 24th of July 2016
English Channel

I awoke at 7 a.m. and breakfasted on the full English at 7:30. I met up with the technicians at 9 a.m. ready for my first port talk at 10:00 on St. Peter Port, Guernsey. At 11 a.m. I listened to the amusing talk on Donald (Trump) and Hillary (Clinton) by journalist Shelby Coffey III. At noon I attended the entertainments welcome meeting, before lunching on the Chinese buffet in the Lido. I then slept for an hour and a half. At 2:30 I went to Jo & Leighton's salsa dance class, where I danced with three different ladies.

Unfortunately it was too windy to bathe that afternoon, so I changed into my Black Watch kilt and accessories ready for the 5:15 dance set. I dined on veal escalope with Kathleen, Norma, Mary & Louise from Arizona, another lady and a gent. At 7:45 we had the Captain's welcome cocktail party, where I danced the cha cha, the samba and the jive with the lovely Jo. At 8:45 I escorted Anne into the showtime of singer Jacqui Scott. She sang mostly musical theatre numbers, but also did a nice Beatles medley accompanying herself on the piano. At 9:30 I went up to the sparsely populated Palm Court where I had one waltz with Catherine's friend. At 10 p.m. I adjourned to my cabin to update this blog.

Monday the 25th of July 2016
St. Peter Port, Guernsey

Lighthouse in St. Peter Port, Guernsey

Lighthouse in St. Peter Port, Guernsey

I awoke at 6 a.m. and fifteen minutes later the tender outside my picture window was lowered. I breakfasted at 7 a.m. before getting ready for escorting my first choice tour "Time of War: German Occupation in Guernsey". I led my group down to the tender and up from the pier to the waiting bus. We stopped first at one of the coastal batteries in the south west corner of the island. Next up, we explored Fort Hommet where grey concrete German bunkers had been inserted into a red granite Napoleonic fortress. After tea and fruit loaf at the posh golf club hotel, we visited the German Occupation museum near the airport. I caught the tender back to the ship for a late lunch of ham and chips, before sleeping for an hour and a half.

At 4 o'clock I listened to Shelby's second talk, on ISIS. At 5 pm I watched Jo & Leighton's amazing dance show "Stepping into Hollywood". This included Scott & Fran's Paso Doble from the Australian film Strictly Ballroom and Cher's Tango from Burlesque! This atheltic and acrobatic performance deserves to be an evening show in its own right!

I dined on rib-eye steak at 6 p.m. with two Canadian ladies and a couple formerly from New Orleans, but now living in Columbus, Ohio. They had an horrific tale of their house being devastated as a result of Hurricane Katrina. At 8 pm I had a dance with Norma and Nancy, before moving to the Galaxy Lounge for the Curtain Call musical theatre production show. I then worked on my next two port talks, before going to bed at 10:45.

Tuesday the 26th of July 2016
Dunmore East for Waterford, Ireland

I awoke at 6:30 and spent nearly half an hour walking around the swimming pool until breakfast started at 7:30. I had my first cheese omelette of the cruise. At 9 a.m. I gave my port talks on Waterford and Liverpool. There were technical issues with the recording of the latter. At 10:10 I was on the first or second tender ashore. I photographed most of the sights in Dunmore East on my first visit.

Back on the ship by noon, I lunched on turkey and chips, before escorting my first choice Waterford Historical Walk. This was led by the very amusing Jack Burtchaell. After two hours, including visiting the Protestant cathderal, we ended up at the Munster pub for a pint of Guinness. I rushed around the Waterford Crystal showroom and popped into the tourist information office, before getting back to the coach. I dined on fillet steak with Craig from L.A., Linda & Nancy from New Mexico, Jerry & Carol from Florida and the lovely Pat and Doug from Arizona for a second time. I gave the classical pianist a miss and worked on my Dublin port talk until I went to bed at 11 p.m.

Wednesday the 27th of July 2016
Liverpool for Chester, England

I awoke at 7:30 and had my second cheese omelette for breakfast. Whilst Eva was doing my stateroom, I slipped ashore to pick up the tourist leaflets. At 9:30 I escorted my first choice tour to the Roman city of Chester. We began with tea or coffee and biscuits in the Cathedral's old refectory. After touring the Cathedral itself, we listened to the amusing Town Crier at the city's central cross. During our free time, I walked the two mile circuit of the town walls in 40 minutes. Chester has perhaps the best preserved wall walk in England!

Back at the ship, I had a late lunch of burger and chips without bread. I then slept for an hour before giving my Dublin port talk at 5 p.m. Again there were technical issues with the recording. Working on my next three presentations, I waited until the second dinner sitting at 8:30 before eating. I dined on beef with a couple from L.A., Catherine & her friend from Montreal, a couple from Broadway in the Cotswolds, and their daughter Susan, who is the Headmistress of a girls' public school in Bolton. At 10:30 I enjoyed the Beatles Celebration tribute group, before going to bed at 11:30.

Thursday the 28th of July 2016
Dublin, Ireland

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on a cheese omelette at 7 a.m. Standing in the queue for it, a guest told me that they put preservative in the omelette mixture and scrambled eggs which acts as a laxative. For the second time this cruise he was proved right, so I will ask for freshly fried eggs from now on! At 8:45 I went to the Starlight Club to escort my first choice Summer's Drive tour down to the bus. We began with tea and fruit scone at the Glendalough Hotel in the middle of the Wicklow Mountains, before exploring the famous monastic site next door. We then stopped at the Grange Kitchen for lunch of potato and leek soup; chicken, mashed potato & vegetables; apple pie and drinks. I opted for Guinness with the meal and tea afterwards. After a photo stop in Enniskerry village, we arrived at the Powerscourt estate. The magnificent gardens exceeded my expectations, but the mansion, having been gutted by fire, was only partially restored.

Back at the ship I dined on a pleasingly small steak & mushroom pie with a gent from Carmel and a lady from Honolulu. The dining room was half empty as lots of people were on the Irish dinner and dance tour. At 7:45 a trio of Irish musicians and a trio of Irish dancers entertained us with all the Irish folk classics like "Tell me Ma" and "Whiskey in the Jar". When they called for volunteers to dance on stage with them, no-one was forthcoming, so I stepped forward, followed by half a dozen others, including the Captain. After the show I danced in the Palm Court to the resident trio with Norma and Ikuko the Japanese dancing lady.

Friday the 29th of July 2016
Dublin, Ireland

Dublin Castle
Trinity College, Dublin

Dublin Castle Tower & Trinity College Tower

I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on two fried eggs with bacon. At 9:15 I recorded my next three port talks: Belfast, Portree & Kirkwall. I then caught the 11 o'clock shuttle into Dublin. I walked out from (and later back to) the new shuttle drop off point outside Oscar Wilde's childhood home, through the lovely quadrangles of Trinity College. I popped into the Irish House of Lords and the new central tourist information office, which has moved out of St. Andrew's redundant church. I followed the newly installed tram tacks across the Liffey to visit, for the first time, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral. The 'Pro' prefix stands not for Protestant, but for Provisional, as the Catholics fondly hope that one of the two medieval cathedrals, both Protestant since the Reformation, will be returned to its rightful owner! St. Mary's is a fine neo-classical church tucked away in a back street and off the tourist trail. I caught the 12:30 shuttle bus back to the ship, lunched on chicken and chips and was on duty by 1:15 p.m.

Malahide Castle, Co. Dublin

Malahide Castle, Co. Dublin

I escorted my second choice tour to Malahide Castle and the seaside resort of Howth. We had a guided tour and free time in the lovely gardens of the former. I had the couple from Cambria, California in tow, despite their best attempts to get lost! We then had an Irish coffee in the Abbey Tavern in the fishing village of Howth. I also saw the ruined Abbey here for the first time.

Back at the ship at 6 p.m., I dined on the best fillet steak so far with dance host John, dancer Nancy from Chicago and Jill. At 7:45 I had one dance each with Norma, Katheen, Nancy and Anne - the regular dancers. At 8:45 I watched the iLuminate Imagine flourescent dancing in the dark. Better than the white gloved hand mimes of the Saga crew shows, but thirty minutes of the same thing palled a little. I then worked on this blog and backupped my slides.

Saturday the 30th of July 2016
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Victoria Square, Belfast

Victoria Square, Belfast

After breakfast of two fried eggs and bacon, I caught the first shuttle bus into the city. As I got off the bus, Carol from Honolulu asked to walk with me, so I warned her that I walk far and fast! We began at the lovely St. George's market hall, before following the River Lagan waterfront. We crossed over on the new pedestrian bridge and walked the length of the Titanic quarter. I photographed SS Nomadic, the new Titanic Exhibition building, HMS Caroline and the Pump House. At the latter I bought both of us refreshments, before retracing out steps.

Back at the ship I had an early lunch, before escorting my third choice tour to Hillsborough Castle. This was an impressive mansion where the Queen and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland stay. After the tour of the house, I rushed around the lovely gardens, but it started to drizzle as I photographed the Georgian village. The couple from Cambria were relatively well behaved for a change! At 6 p.m. I dined on my own in the Silk Road Japanese speciality restaurant. I started with giant prawn tempura followed by mushroom soup served in a tea pot and cup! I had the green salad with soy dressing followed by the Wagyu rib eye steak. I chatted with a single lady and a single gent from L.A. sat beside me. I then watched the Route 66 production show, before adjourning to the Palm Court to sit with Norma, Kathleen and two of the dance hosts watching the glorious sunset.

Sunday the 31st of July 2016
Portree, Isle of Skye

Tower at Portree on Skye

Tower at Portree on Skye

After breakfast, I worked on my Edinburgh and London presentations, before escorting my second choice tour to Armadale at 11 a.m. I led my group down to the tender and off again at the pontoon. Driving south we went through a short shower as we passed the famous Cuillin Hills. The sun came out at Armadale where we saw the ruined castle, the museum of the Isle of Skye and the lovely gardens. I enjoyed a cornetto ice cream in lieu of lunch. The couple from Cambria thought that they had lost their white carrier bag in the gardens, so the guide had to go all the way back to the museum searching for it in vain since it was on the coach all the time! On the way back we had another shower at the Sligachan bridge photo-stop.

Back at the ship the gent from Cambria was panicking that he had lost the white carrier bag again, but his wife had it in their stateroom! Not having had lunch, I had a cherry garcia ice cream in a warm waffle cone on the top deck. At 7 p.m. I listened to Kai McKenzie, the wonderful Michael Bublé tribute act. You could close your eyes and hear the original! He sang all my favourites including "Everthing" and "Save the Last Dance for Me". I then went to the post dinner dance session where I danced with both Norma and Kathleen, together with a cha cha and jive with the lovely Jo. At 8:30 I dined alone in the Prego Italian speciality restaurant. I began with the mushroom soup served inside a small loaf, followed by a small Insalata Caprese. The main course was an enormous Osso Bucco (veal shank), followed by Gelato (vanilla and chocolate ice cream). At 10 p.m. I went to bed bloated!

Monday the 1st of August 2016
Kirkwall, Orkney

Orkney cliffs

Orkney cliffs

I awoke at 6 a.m. and worked on this blog, before breakfasting on two fried eggs with bacon. I then escorted my second choice tour "Leisurely Orkney". We began at the famous Italian chapel, before having a cream tea at 10 o'clock in the morning. We spent some time at St. Margaret Hope, before returning to the ship. I lunched on roast beef with dance host John, before sleeping for two hours. After some exercise around the swimming pool, I gave my penultimate port talk on Edinburgh at 5 p.m.

At 6 p.m. I dined on prime rib with Linda & Hilton from Brisbane, Eunice & John from Wyoming & Arizona and another American couple. At 8:30 I watched the 5,6,7,8 production dance show. At 10 p.m. I sat with Norma, Kathleen and Nancy to watch Jo & Leighton's Argentine Tango show. I then led off the first dance, a cha cha with Ikuko the Japanese lady.

Tuesday the 2nd of August 2016
Edinburgh, Scotland

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace

After breakfast of two fried eggs and bacon, I escorted my second choice all day "Quest for the Holy Grail" tour. We began at the fantastic Rosslyn chapel which featured in the Da Vinci Code book and film. We then drove along the M9 to Stirling Castle. The guide rabbitted on for too long, so I didn't have quite enough free time to do all the castle's sights. We lunched on goat cheese salad, poached salmon and chocolate mousse. I had a glass of lager and a cup of tea, to go with the lovely meal in Hermann's Restaurant in Stirling. We had some free time after lunch, so I visited the Holy Rude church where King James VI was crowned. We then drove over the new Clackmannanshire bridge, alongside the old Kincardine bridge to Dunfermline. We toured the large Abbey there, which has a magnificent Norman/Romanesque nave.

Back at the ship, I dined in the Silk Road Japanese themed speciality restaurant for the second time. I began with miso soup, followed by the green salad. I had the sampler 'box' of rock shrimp, black cod and wagyu beef, followed by the tapioca pudding with green tea ice cream. I had the Sapporo Japanese beer to go with my meal, sat between Lucy & her husband from Toronto and lecturer Shelby, his wife & her lady friend. At 7:45 I watched the excellent Scottish Folk music and dance show. Unfortunately I kept falling asleep, as I had missed out on my siesta in the afternoon. The violinist was particularly good. I then adjourned to the Palm Court where I danced with Norma and Ikuko the Japanese lady. I went to bed at 10 p.m. exhausted after the all day tour.

Wednesday the 3rd of August 2016
Edinburgh, Scotland

HMY Britannia

HMY Britannia

I awoke at 6 a.m. and watched my Edinburgh port talk on the television. I breakfasted on two croissants with ham and cheese, before updating this blog. I caught the 9 a.m. port shuttle bus the 200 yards to the terminal building, but then had to wait half an hour for the second port shuttle bus to Dunfermline town. I browsed the local charity shops, looking for a formal Scottish jacket without success. I then visited the Andrew Carnegie birthplace house and museum. This was very moving. He lived the American dream by rising from very humble circumstances to a $600 million fortune. The very first of thousands of libraries he bequeathed around the world was back in his home town of Dunfermline. Unfortunately this was closed for refurbishment and the addition of a new museum wing at the back.

Back at ship I lunched on shrimp, salmon and crisps (which they call potato chips), before escorting the Edinburgh Exploration tour to the castle and the palace. Unfortunately I had the couple from Cambria in tow. At Jim's suggestion, I tried to persuade them to stay on the coach, but the wife insisted on climbing up to the castle. I helped the 92 year old husband up to the esplanade, where a disabled vehicle took them to the top of the castle. They were later returned to the esplanade, so I then helped them down the hill back to the coach. He slipped me a $5 dollar bill in gratitude! We had a photo stop outside the Holyroodhouse Palace, before returning to the ship. Unfortunately there were enormous queues for the old Forth Road Bridge, owing to the works for the new Forth Road Bridge.

Back at the ship I was too late for first sitting dinner, so I worked on this blog and backupped my photos. At 7:45 I danced with Norma and Ikuko the Japanese lady, but not Kathleen. She did however give me $40 in return for the £20 I had lent her that morning! I dined on fillet steak at 8:30 with the couple from Broadway in the Cotswolds and their daughter Susan, who is the Headmistress of a girls' public school in Bolton. At 10:30 I listened to Roger Wright's show of Motown and Musical songs.

Thursday the 4th of August 2016
North Sea

I awoke at 7:30 and breakfasted on two croissants with ham and cheese, before preparing my final port talk. At 10 o'clock I gave my 40 minute lecture on London. At 11 a.m. I listened to Shelby's talk on modern scandals. At noon I lunched on roast lamb, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then swam and wallowed in the huge jacuzzi. At 5:15 I danced with Norma, Kathleen, Anne, Nancy and Ikuko the Japanese lady. At 6 p.m. I ate alone in the Silk Road Japanese restaurant. I began with the rock shrimps, followed by the mushroom soup, the grilled salmon and the cappucino ice cream. I drank the Japanese Sapporo beer again. At 7:45 I attended the Captain's farewell cocktail party and danced with the usual suspects. At 8:45 I went to Elio Pace's excellent Elton John tribute show. At 10 p.m. there were no ladies in the Palm Court, so I went to bed.

Friday the 5th of August 2016
Tilbury, Essex

After breakfast, I escorted the all day tour to Kent. It took us 70 minutes to cross the Queen Elizabeth the Second bridge from Essex to Kent, as a horse box had overturned allowing a horse to run loose on the M25 motorway. Several road traffic accidents ensued, the motorway was closed and the horse had to be shot. I had the couple from Cambria in tow yet again, but at Leeds Castle they were conveyed by disabled vehicle through the park and we all caught the land train back to the coach park.

We lunched on fish & chips followed by chocolate brownies. I had a half pint of John Smith's beer from the bar, in the lovely Abbots Barton Hotel in Canterbury. Unfortunately the walk from the coach park to the Cathedral was long and hot, and the the couple from Cambria struggled, so I had to sit with them by the famous gatehouse before walking them slowly back. The gent then had a fall in the cubicle of the toilets at the coach park, so the coach driver and I had to do some first aid as he had cut his head. One of the other guests was a physician, so I got him to inspect the wound and fill in a short report. The gent turned out to be a 92 year old World War II veteran who should never have been allowed on tours rated "strenuous"! He did however slip me a fiver for my endeavours on his behalf.

The return via the Dartford tunnel involved queuing for 95 minutes as it was the Friday afternoon rush hour. Getting back to the ship at 6:50, I missed the first sitting dinner. I quickly showered, packed and then danced for one last time with Anne, Kathleen, Norma, Nancy and Ikuko the Japanese lady, who had kindly had three photographs delivered to my stateroom. At 8:30 I dined on the entrecote steak with two couples from California. After two glasses of red wine with my meal, I went to bed at 10 p.m.

Saturday the 6th of August 2016
Tilbury, Essex

I awoke at 6 a.m. and watched my destination lecture on London for one last time. After breakfast, I finished packing and was off the ship by 8:30. I caught a £14 taxi back to my B&B to collect my car. The Dartford bridge and M25 were clear. The first delay was ahead of me, so I turned off on to the A3 and A31. The M3 at Winchester was congested, so I took the back roads via Hursley, Romsey and Linwood. I got home just after noon, had some lunch and a lie down, before attending Ross's line dance birthday party in Tuckton at 2 p.m.!

One lady wrote: "I really enjoyed dancing with you. Hope to see you soon on Crystal again."

Another said: "I really enjoyed your lectures, and the dancing, and hope to meet you again on future cruises."

A third lady wrote: "Thank you for the great time."

Score card:

11 Tours escorted
10 Tables hosted
 9 Destination lectures given
 5 Regular dancing ladies
 5 Production shows
 4 Dance hosts
 3 Visits to the Japanese speciality restaurant
 2 Local folkloric show (Irish & Scottish)
 1 Visit to the Italian speciality restaurant

Good points were:

  1. Stateroom on deck 8 all to myself!
  2. Dining with guests in the main dining room
  3. Dining in two complimentary (and complementary!) speciality restaurants
  4. Galaxy Show Lounge orchestra, Starlite Club dancing sextet and Palm Court dancing trio
  5. Triple aspect Palm Court observation lounge
  6. One large, deep sea water swimming pool
  7. Efficient stewardess (Eva from Croatia)
  8. All round promenade deck
  9. Luxury dressing gown
  10. Free launderette
  11. Full sized bath
  12. Free ice cream
  13. Huge jacuzzi
  14. All inclusive
  15. Great shows
  16. Great tours

For the record ...