Welcome back to my Cruise Travel Blog, the continuation of my journey from Greenwich through to Bergen, commencing 24 August 2018.
Sea Day – 28 August
My sea days have become cabin days. Guests are obviously all on board, enjoying all the venues and facilities throughout the ship, including the gym and the beautiful Wintergarden – my usual favourite writing spot. So I hide out in the peace and quiet of our cabin, appearing for meals, port talk and evening entertainment only!
The evening’s show was by guest entertainer, Simeon Wood, an English multi-instrumentalist. Very talented guy with good humour between songs, he was received pretty well by the audience.
Dublin, Ireland – 29 August
Matt (Assistant Cruise Director), messaged me to join him for breakfast in the World Cafe and Beven ran in to meet us briefly too. We had originally planned to head into Dublin this evening to enjoy a local pub but as usual, things change and Beven was required to be on board for the local show who were performing for the first time and therefore needed to be critiqued. So, we decided to head into town for lunch instead.
I’ve been to Dublin a couple of times before, back in my student days (a long long time ago…!). It seemed a little weird this time that they are now using the Euro, it was still Irish pounds when I was last here!
There are complimentary shuttle buses into town but by the time Beven had finished with his work, we got the gangway just as the 12pm bus left, and the next one wasn’t due to depart until 12.45pm. Being on limited time anyway, we ordered an Uber with Koogan, the ship’s Doctor, and headed to Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. Whilst it is still a little ‘touristy’ there were locals dining inside – always a good sign I reckon – and it had a nice cosy feel about it, so we took a seat and ordered a Guinness and local cider. It’s true that Guinness tastes better in Dublin and there’s a simple reason for it. Every pub which sells it has to be quality tested regularly, to ensure they are serving it correctly. This includes the storing and cleaning methods being used and the temperature it is served at. When it’s exported, obviously this isn’t possible and therefore the quality won’t be as good as it’s intended to be.
I absolutely love traditional pub meals and they don’t get much better than from an Irish Pub. We ordered steak and Guinness stew and bangers and mash. We were served huge portions and they didn’t disappoint. We followed this up with Baileys Coffees (a twist on the usual Irish coffee) which warmed us up before heading back out into the colder weather. After taking a quick walk around the rest of the pub to look at the historic building, we went for a wander along the river into the Temple Bar area. This is probably the most touristy part of Dublin and it’s lined with pubs and souvenir shops. We took a few photos for other tourists and somehow managed to spend over $30 on a few sweets in an English sweet shop before heading into the main city area. After a quick stop to top up on some toiletries, we ordered an Uber Black (you can’t get a ‘normal’ Uber in Dublin for some reason) and waited on the corner of a street for it to arrive…which took much longer than expected. I’m glad we had decided to head back to the ship early as the traffic was horrendous and the trip took about 45 minutes, which should have been about 15. Apparently a lorry had overturned in the tunnel right next to the port. Cue lots of unhappy guests for the rest of the afternoon, complaining about the delay…
We had a quick nap and then it was time for Beven’s Port Talk. Dinner was in the World Cafe with Judi, the Shore Excursions Manager and Matt ACD.
Obviously we had to watch the new local Irish show which was performing in the Star Theatre. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much, but they were actually really great! Three guys played instruments and there were 4 dancers. The lead guy was getting the audience to learn some local songs and clap and sing along with them, with hilarious results. I think it’s safe to say that they will be a regular on the ships from now onward!
Holyhead, Wales – 30 August
Judi jokes that the person who designed the pier in Holyhead needs to go back to architect school as it is so poorly done and creates a huge challenge/headache for every cruise ship that visits. It’s a very long narrow pier which only one coach can pass and when it gets to the main car park in the port area, it collides with the other docks, meaning that when you have more than one ship in at a time, you have coaches coming from all directions, causing one huge gridlock!
It was a pretty dismal and gray day and Beven had a lot on, so I decided that perhaps it should be another ‘sea’ day for me and I’d stay on board. A good time to utilise the gym, jump on my laptop and kick back.
I went to the Port Talk and then caught up with Judi after to arrange some shore excursions for the rest of the cruise. Most of them with Beven seemed to involve Whisky tasting…!
Matt and Beven have made friends with the Pizza chef in the World Cafe so their latest favourite thing is to request their own pizzas to be made just for us (rather than taking the slices on offer). I can see this getting dangerous, my clothes are getting tighter already!
Matt hosted Trivia this evening so we went along to watch and then went onto the second show of Simeon Wood in the Star Theatre.
Liverpool, England – 31 August
The last time I was in Liverpool was when I was about 19 years old and my best mate’s boyfriend was at Liverpool University so we went up to spend a ‘clubbing’ weekend with him…needless to say, I don’t remember too much!
As a port, Liverpool couldn’t be better located. You quite literally walk off the ship into the town centre, or The Albert Docks. The weather was great and there was a little fairground happening right in front of the Port with some great kids rides, a Gin bar, sweet kiosks, donut and pastry kiosks, beer huts…it was a great atmosphere. We walked through here to the statue of the Beatles for a couple of photos and then on into the town to do some shopping. We managed to fit in two visits to Pret a Manager, my favourite sandwich/cafe chain and stocked up on English snacks.
As a kid, I grew up watching a TV show called ‘This Morning’. It was filmed in Albert Dock and had a weather man called Fred who presented the weather from a floating map in the dock. Each day viewers watched Fred make the jump across from England to Ireland, secretly hoping that he would miss and fall in…or maybe that was just my twisted mind! Seeing as the Dock was right next to us, I dragged Beven around to take a few photos and reminisce…
Liverpool definitely scored as one of my favourite British Isle ports.
This evening’s entertainment was The Liar’s Club. Beven has reformatted this a little to now be 4 officers and 4 words. Tonight was Beven, Edgar (Beverage Manager), Quentin (Chief Financial Officer) and Judi. Each of them are getting more elaborate with their definitions and adding more props and pictures. A fun evening as always.
Belfast, Northern Ireland – 1 September
My morning started with the gym and meeting Beven for breakfast in the World Cafe, then after a couple of hours on my laptop we caught the shuttle bus into Belfast town centre. It’s only about 10 minutes from the ship and runs regularly, courtesy of the local authorities.
It was another chilly day, but fortunately still not raining. We were dropped outside of the Tourist Welcome Centre and a guide jumped on to give us a few pointers on what there is to see in the town. We headed in the direction of the shops as we had a few bits we wanted to buy – another tie for Beven, some more shoes for me. As we walked down the main street, we could smell smoke and see crowds gathering around a fence blocking the street. When we got to it, we saw what would have originally been a magnificent building completely destroyed by fire, just the shell remaining. This building used to be Primark and apparently took nearly 3 days to get the fire under control.
After picking up a new tie for Beven we asked a local guide (group of people in the main square offering tourist advice) for a recommendation for a good pub lunch and he pointed us in the direction of a little laneway, Pottinger’s Lane and we went into the award-winning Morning Star. We walked through the open bar area to back restaurant section. Here you can find a buffet option serving roast dinners or you can choose from the menu of traditional pub fare, but with the benefit of them having their own in-house butcher, so the steak menu is impressive to say the least. We ordered bangers and mash and a steak with pepper sauce and we were very happy with what arrived! The steak was served on a sizzling plate so we dove into that first before it cooked too much (we are both lovers of our steak cooked rare) and the Cumberland sausages were delicious with the onion gravy, topped with crunchy pieces of onion. Absolutely recommend you try this place if you’re ever in the area!
Back on the ship, following Port Talk we attended Dick Rosano, one of the guest lecturer’s seminars; ‘Is it Scotch or Whisk(e)y?’ which was an interesting analysis of Beven’s favourite drink! From dinner, we watched Matt host Trivia in the Explorers Lounge and then we all went to the Guest Entertainer, Stephen Williams’ magic show – impressive for a 23-year old who had lost his suitcases on the way to the ship so had to create a new show from props he could pick up in port – he did a great job!
Ullapool, Scotland – 2 September
We didn’t arrive into Ullapool until after midday which gave guests the chance to watch this spectacular sail-in. I have to admit, I took many photos myself, even having been to Scotland many times as a kid to visit family.
A special brunch had been arranged in the pool area for the guests, with beautifully carved fruits and various food stations offering every type of food you could want. The cast performed a couple of songs to add to the ambiance, it was a really lovely morning.
Beven had a busy day so I got the tender over to Ullapool myself to check out this little village. I bought Beven some little bottles of local Scotch from a gift shop and then took a tour around the town, winding my way to the very tip of the island. It was crazy windy and quite chilly, but the view was spectacular and definitely worth the short trek!
I went to port talk when I returned and then changed for the evening to watch my favourite of the ship’s shows, the Variety Performance – Stage and Screen. We grabbed a freshly made pizza in the World Cafe between performances and then ended up in Torshavn after to celebrate the fabulous show with the cast.
Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland – 3 September
Beven had a midday ‘Welcome Back’ (happy clappy) today, so we jumped onto the short shuttle bus early so we could have a look around the town together, with a plan to get fish and chips in the dock…but the restaurant didn’t open until after we had to leave, so we switched for a hot chocolate instead! It was actually a really yummy one, with little marshmallows that you could suck through the small opening in the take away cup!
I had booked myself onto a tour today to see the Shetland ponies – yes, I’ve seen a few hundred in my life, being from England, but I thought it would be fun to see them in their home-land, and they’re always cute, right? It was a nice tour, we had a couple of scenic stops on the way to the farm to take in the scenery and were given some history on the islands. Shetland has been part of Scotland for 550 years, previously being part of Norse. Fishing is the single biggest contributor to their economy and the region is made up of over 100 islands, although only 16 are inhabited year-round. They are mostly a rural population, with only 9,000 of the total 23,000 population living in mainland Lerwick. Most children have to go to weekly boarding schools due to their remoteness.
The ponies were totally adorable of course. My mission to get a selfie with one of them was achieved, after taking about a hundred to get it! Happy days!
Back in time for Port Talk, dinner in World Cafe and then it was Beven’s show in Star Theatre, which he smashed as always. Drinks and dancing with guests in Torshavn afterwards.
Invergordon, Scotland – 4 September
Today, the beautiful Shore Excursions Manager, Judi, had us booked on a tour together to the Glenmorangie distillery. As you probably realised, Beven is a fan of Scotch, although I am not. However, I found it really interesting as they took us all around the distillery, explaining each part of the process to create their Scotch to be unique from any other type. Originally a family owned and run company, Glenmorangie is now owned by the Moet & Chandon company which has allowed them to expand further by using local farmers to assist with ingredients (barley being the key one). Following the tour, the guests were invited to try a sample of their Scotch before perusing the gift shop – where we may have purchased a few sample bottles for Beven to enjoy!
Leaving the distillery, we were driven through quaint little villages until we reached Durnoch for lunch in the Courthouse – average at best. We realised how spoilt we’ve become with the food on Viking Sun!
We were back in time for Beven’s port talk and the evening’s show was Stephen William’s encore – still without his suitcases, and again, an impressive show.
Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland – 5 September
Edinburgh isn’t the easiest city to get to from the ship. We had to tender over to Leith, and from Leith there is a shuttle bus (about 30 minutes) to get into the town centre. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Edinburgh not in rain – and I’ve been a few times. The castle dominates the city but with the restricted time we had, we didn’t do the hike up to it. We went into a few shops, with this being our last main British port and returning to the more expensive Baltic cities from here onward, and Beven bought a new pair of black shoes to wear with his suits around the ship.
We asked the shop assistant for directions to a good place for lunch and she advised of a street not too far away which was lined with pubs and bars. I loved the name of one of them – Shoogly Peg! Apparently this means that if your coat is on a ‘shoogly peg’ you’re probably about to get fired, or you’re about to be in trouble! We should probably have eaten in there instead of choosing the slightly busier one opposite where we had a very average lunch before heading back to the shuttle bus and returning to the ship.
This evening was the FABBA FOUR show; I watched both performances with dinner in between as usual. It was the Stage Manager’s birthday so drinks had been arranged in the theatre after the shows to celebrate with his team and the cast.
Orkney, Scotland – 6 September
Orkney is an archipelago in Scotland. Somewhere I certainly wouldn’t have bothered to see if not on a cruise, and probably wouldn’t particularly care to see again!
Beven was booked onto an exclusive Scotch tour so I took the tender over to the village with Samuel (one of the Production cast) for a wander and some lunch. We had both missed breakfast, and a crew member had mentioned that there was a great bakery here so we set off on a mission to find it. The first one we found looked more like a corner store with a deli at the back, selling a few breads and pastries. Surely not the one, so we left and continued to walk on. We stopped at a beautiful old church to take a look – and found several other guests inside taking photos, so did the same. With the help of trusty Google, Samuel reckoned he had located the correct place, so off we went in the opposite direction, down little lane ways and pretty parks with streams running through until we came across the bakery…which was worse than the previous one! Very disappointed, we walked back out and returned to the town to have lunch in one of the little cafes instead. It wasn’t a great lunch, but we ate and went our separate ways to stock up on some last British treats before returning to the ship.
It was the Captain’s Farewell this evening in the Star Theatre and with the clocks going forward an hour, an early night for us.
Bergen, Norway – 7 September
Finally this cruise has almost come to an end. It’s been a strange one, being in my homeland, but not the greatest ports, and a group of guests who didn’t seem particularly happy most of the time. We were really lucky with the weather which definitely helped ease the pain-points of the numerous tender ports – never a winner with guests.
I really like Bergen, it’s a pretty port with shops and cafes all around the harbour. We went into the town for a walk, with the plan of getting some lunch, but it really isn’t a cheap place here, and seems pointless paying for an expensive meal when we could eat an equally good (if not better) one on the ship for free…so after a couple of hours of wandering, we returned to order room service and settled down to enjoy a movie together in our cabin.
As this is an overnight port, the local act, Tors, a violinist, is the evening entertainment. He doesn’t speak a word, but is a fabulous player and performer and always receives a fantastic applause.
The current guests depart tomorrow morning…and the new ones will join. And so the cycle continues…
As always, please let me know any feedback, questions, or just say hi, I always love to hear from you!
Until the next installment…!