Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Regent Seven Seas Cruise around the British Isles and Ireland

June 5 to June 16 2016 – Regent Seven Seas Cruise around the British Isles and Ireland
Sunday June 5/16 – Lakefield – Toronto – Air Canada 856 to Heathrow – London, England
Left Lakefield at 9 AM for Lunch with Gramma and Grampa Marsden in Toronto and Katie and Davis Whitehead joined us. Davis is almost 18 months and has just started to walk on his own – adorable. Left for the Toronto airport at 2 PM and parked the van in the Economy Park n Fly lot. On the 6:35 PM flight for England with 7 hour flying time. No sleep. Arrived on time at 6:30 AM.
Monday June 6/16 –  Heathrow Airport London, England to Southampton, England to board Regent’s Seven Seas 700 passenger Voyager ship.
(Don doesn’t like the overnight flight east so he is tired today.)
Through Customs and no Uber ride available so we took the bus.
So we find the Bus Terminal at Heathrow and purchase our tickets to get to Southampton port which is over an hour south of London. The tickets cost 54 pounds = $100 Canadian. It took at least 2 hours since we had to go to all the terminals at Heathrow – which is really spread out and through some little towns like Winchester. We arrived at the Southampton Bus Terminal and figured out our way to the ship – 2 mile stroll with our luggage but the weather was very nice. We arrived at the port terminal about 11:45 AM and boarding started at 12 so we were some of the first passengers on the ship and we went right to lunch. We had time after lunch to check out the ship, organize our trips and dinner reservations, exercise classes and unpack before the emergency drill at 5:15 PM. We had dinner in the Compass Rose Diningroom at 6:30 PM. It was still light at 9 PM but we had to sleep anyway. 7th Floor midship Room # 734. (category F…2 cat. Upgrade)
Tuesday June 7/16 – Day at Sea – Sunny and 20 degrees C
Up at 7 AM for shower, then breakfast, Stretch class at 8:30 and then a lecture by Christopher Griffin –  retired Irish Professor who taught English literature in Washington DC. “Destination Britain and Ireland” Lunch in Compass Rose. Another lecture in the afternoon – Good Friday Agreement, Irish Immigration, etc. 9:30 PM Broadway Show with dancers and singers. Sundown at 10 PM – sailing north. Don busy collecting Regent Points for t-shirts through games and trivia. Free Internet on board.
Wednesday June 8/16 – Newcastle (Tyne) England – Mostly sunny and 18 degrees C
On Excursion “Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Fort” at 9AM with Guide Sue. Hadrian’s Wall was built under the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122AD. It was a stone wall 8 to 10 feet wide and 18 feet high in places that stretched across Northern England 150 miles for protection from the Barbarians of the North (Scotland) – the Picks. It was built by a force of 15,000 men in under 6 years. Milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts punctuate the route and the landscape of Whin Sill, the rock on which much of the Wall was built and quarried from.
Our first stop was at Heddon-on-the-Wall which has the longest and best preserved stretch of Hadrian’s wall.

Our next stop was Chesters Roman Fort and Museum – Britain’s most complete ruins of a Roman cavalry fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It has Britain’s best preserved military bath house. On site is a Victorian Museum of John Clayton’s monument collection from his 40 years of saving Chester Fort. Without John Clayton’s passion, much of Hadrian’s Wall would have vanished forever. He purchased and excavated a large part of the wall to save it from destruction. Now it is protected by English Heritage.


Don at the kissing gate. The ruins were fenced off to protect them from animals. Bath House heated from furnace outside of building and hot air piped under floors.
Back to ship for a late lunch. Mary took a tour of the ship’s Bridge with 2 other passengers. Tour conducted by Ship’s Second Mate Sante. The Bridge was located at the front of the ship on the 10th floor.
Hallway party at 6 PM. We meet North Texans – Scott and Lindy(Ranchers), Teresa and Randy(Banker) and had a very nice dinner in the Compass Rose with them. (Sea Bass Special).
Irish Magician/Comedian show at 9:30 PM.
Thursday June 9/16 – cloudy/sunny and 17 degrees C – Edinburgh (Newhaven) Scotland
Up early for 7:25 – breakfast in room - call to Tender to Port of Leith. We were anchored in the Firth of Forth. Our excursion “Royal Mile Walking Tour” in Old Edinburgh.  The historical heart of Old Edinburgh is known as the Royal Mile. It runs between Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse (Palace).  Bus dropped us off at Edinburgh Castle but we were too early to go in and there was a lot going on there with setting up for the upcoming Royal Tattoo. Edinburgh Castle was built over centuries beginning in 1130. It is built on an old volcano. This castle is where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth in 1566 to the future King James VI of Scotland, who also became King James I of England.
We walked up High Street and learned about life in the old city from a very knowledgeable guide – a borough needed a church, a market area, a jail and a townhall. He showed us how the house frontage was narrow but the building went back a long way with courtyards behind. There were many passageways called – close or wynd or pend.
We stopped at St Giles Cathedral which was about midway. This impressive cathedral dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and is famous for its crown spire. The cathedral is adjacent to Parliament Square. Charles II of Scotland on horseback monument in front of Court House.
Passed by one of the oldest houses with its upper levels protruding over the street since taxes were levied on the street level.
We ended at Palace of Holyroodhouse. (Holyrood – Holy Cross – on the site of an abbey)
This is the British monarch’s official residence in Scotland. It is closely associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Queen Elizabeth spends one week in the summer in residence here. We enjoyed an audio tour inside and there are 10 acres of gardens surrounding it and hills in the distance.
Back on bus and then tender back to ship for late lunch. Played golf, crocket, trivia in afternoon and Stretch Class. Great dinner in Compass Rose. Played Name That Tune in Voyager Lounge with Dutch Maaike piano player and team of Steve and Joanne from San Francisco, California (Boston) and Lorie (newly retired project manager from IBM) and Richard (Fire Chief) from Texas. Dusk at 10:30 and light again at 4:30 AM.  
Note – Tide change in the 4 hours we were out on tour. This was our only tender port. Tide goes in and out every 12 hours – 10 metre change.
Friday June 10/16 – Sun and Clouds - 16 degrees C – At Sea over the Top of Scotland
Up at 8 AM for Stretch Class at 8:30. Breakfast at 9 and then Lecture at 10 AM on “Belfast as Part of Ireland and the UK: The Historical Background” and again at 2:30 PM “Dublin and the Republic of Ireland”.
Don did Photo Scavenger Hunt with Lorie and Richard and got 1st Place for more Regent Points.
Quiet afternoon with needlepoint and Tea Trivia at 4:30 – first place today. Had Seven Seas Society Cocktail Hour in Theatre before dinner. Dinner in Prime 7 at sharing table with 2 Florida couples – one couple owned gas/convenient stores around Tampa and the other couple sold his share of a big company and lived around Melbourne, Florida – East coast. Quiet evening.
Saturday, June 11/16 – Sun and clouds and 17 degrees C – Belfast, Ireland
Up for our morning excursion of the Ard’s Pennisula and Grey Abbey. (Ard is the Viking word for Hills). Our first stop was in a little seaside village of Donaghadee where we had some free time to wonder the streets and then have Irish Coffee at Pier 36 – pub, restaurant and hotel. Donaghadee had a lighthouse on the edge of a sheltered harbour. Copeland Islands can be seen from the shore.
We passed through the Village of Millisle where 100 Jewish children were sheltered for the 4 years of WW2.
We continued on to the Grey Abbey Ruins. Grey Abbey was a Cisterian Monastery in the 1200s which was destroyed by fire in the 1500’s by the Irish so British troops could not use it as a base. The land is now owned by the Montgomery family and their residence (Rosemount) is behind the ruins.
On our return to the ship we had a photo stop at Stormont – Northern Ireland’s Parliament Building which sits on a hill of 400 acres once owned by a Rev. Cleland – a tax collector / Presbyterian minister of Mt. Stewart. There was a bagpipe band competition on the grounds.
We also learned that the port is reclaimed land. The H&W large yellow cranes in the Harbour were involved in the building of the Titanic and there is a new Titianic Museum that sits above the shipbuilding dry dock where it was manufactured.
Tom Hanks owns 80% of the Titanic Studios in the Belfast Harbour and visits often to produce and direct movies there. Bombardier has a factory in Belfast Harbour area. Belfast is promoting tourism now that there is less violence?
Back to the ship for a quick lunch and I was fortunate to catch the afternoon excursion to Mt Stewart which was in the same area as Grey Abbey. Don stayed on the ship. We didn’t actually get into Belfast at all.
On our bus ride to Mt Stewart, we stopped at Stormont again – closer to the building this time. Our guide mentioned that in WW2 this building was covered in tar and cow dung to hide it from bombing raids of the Germans. Northern Ireland was engaged in WW2 as part of the United Kingdom but the Republic of Ireland remained neutral but Soldiers did enlist there and fought. At this time Northern Ireland is about 50/50 Protestants and Catholics. No shops are open on Sunday mornings so people can go to church.
Mt Stewart House and Gardens – Elegant Neo-classic estate house of the Londonderry family since the early 18th century (now owned by National Trust). Lord Castlereagh resided here during Napoleonic times and the house contains a wealth of historic memorabilia. First created in 1921 by Edith, Lady Londonberry, the gardens feature a magnificent collection of exceptional trees and shrubs and unique and unusual plants. It has a micro climate and tropical plants can survive here because there is no snow or frost.
The house was passed on to Mairi – one of Lady Edith’s daughters (Lady Mairi noted to be a pilot and a cigar smoker) (Mairi Mairi Quite Contrary sculpture in Gardens) and now passed on to her daughter, Rose – in her 70’s now. Rose and her husband (surname Lawrence) live in Mt Stewart for 6 months and Venice for the other 6 months.
Mt Stewart House had just gone through a 7.5 million pound restoration that was almost completed.
Rhododendrons were blooming all over the gardens. Took lots of pictures.
On our return to the ship we drove along the Strangford (meaning strong current) Lough – tidal lake. Saw the Scarbo (soft rock like limestone) Tower built by local people – as a folly? – like moat castle in Donaghadee. Drove through town of DunDonald and back to ship by 5:30.
Delicious dinner with our Texan friends. Relaxing evening.
Sunday June 12/16 – Cloudy with some sun and 16 degrees C – Dublin, Ireland
We left at 8:20 for a bus excursion of “Dublin Highlights”. Our first stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1220 and now designated as the Anglican National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and the largest of Dublin’s cathedrals. It is still a working church. According to tradition, Saint Patrick used a nearby well to baptize converts to Christianity and a small church was built marking it as a sacred place in the heart of Dublin.  Falling into disrepair after centuries of fires and the elements took their tolls, the grand church was fully restored in the late 19th century by the famed Guinness Family.
Jonathan Shift’s Pulpit – He is best known as the author of Gulliver’s Travels. He was Dean of the Cathedral from 1713 to 1745 and is buried under the Cathedral floor. He had a famous sermon entitled “upon sleeping in church”.
The next stop was Trinity College – Ireland’s oldest university. Granted foundation by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. (A Protestant college until 1970.) In the Old Library is the Book of Kells, a renowned artifact of early Christianity. Created by Celtic monks circa 800 AD, the ornate book contains the four Gospels of the New testament in Latin and is one of Ireland’s national treasures. The main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, is nearly 65 meters in length and houses around 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books.
We had free time to wander around the streets of Dublin and ventured to try and find a firehall for Don to buy a Dublin Firefighter t-shirt. We did find a firehall but unfortunately they did not have any t-shirts for sale.
Back to the ship for a late lunch. Quiet afternoon. Supper in Compass Rose. 9:30 Show was Alan Kavanagh – a Dublin guitarist/singer performing Irish songs including Danny Boy.
Monday June 13/16 – Mostly cloudy with some showers 17 degrees C – Liverpool, England
Got on as standby for Liverpool Highlights tour in the morning (Don stayed back – still on one tour a day schedule). On our drive around Liverpool, we passed by 2 soccer stadiums – an expansion for the Liverpool Team was almost complete – to increase its capacity to 54,000; iconic buildings at the pier area including the converted old warehouses of Albert Dock. Our first stop was at the Museum, Library and St George Concert Hall on the hill.
Our main stop was at the Liverpool Cathedral – Britain’s largest Anglican Cathedral was started in 1902 and it took almost 80 years to complete. It was designed by 22 year old – Sir Giles Gilbert Scoot who came from a cathedral building family. It was originally to have 2 spires but was redesigned to have just a Central one which is 331 feet high. Sir Scott other claim to fame was the design of the famous red telephone booth.
in 1951 was the first ringing of the Church Bells. Sir Scott to did not live to see the completion of the Cathedral but his granddaughter was the first baptism. It had a “Ladies Chapel” on one side which suffered damage in WW2 – all the stained glass windows were destroyed but have since been restored. During our visit there were preparations happening for a youth mass that afternoon and a small children’s choir was practicing.
Got back to the ship for a quick lunch before the afternoon tour “In the Steps of the Beatles”.
We had a fantastic tour guide who was a Liverpool teenage fan in the Beatle era and now an expert resource on the Beatles – also custodian of John Lennon’s and Paul McCarthney’s boyhood homes. The tour’s first stop was besides the “Hard Days Night” Beatle Hotel on Mathew Street where the famed “Cavern Pub” is – where the Beatles played 292X. The original Cavern was destroyed but has been remade like the old one (maybe ½ size) and there is live music played there daily. We got to go down into it.
We walked around that area a bit and saw the “Eleanor Rigby” sculpture – lady sitting on a bench, the gold records and special bricks in Mathew Street and Grapes pub where the Beatles hung out after their sets at the cavern – the cavern at that time did not serve alcohol.
Back on the bus we toured by Lewis’s Store where Paul McCarthney worked (under Father Mackenzie), by Strawberry Fields Gate ( a Salvation Army children’s home near John Lennon’s boyhood home in Woolten), down Penny Lane , to John Lennon’s boyhood home and the Art School he attended.
Our final stop was at a Beatles Museum in the port area. We had an audio tour and then returned to the ship.
We were back in time to play Tea Time Trivia and the lecturer Christopher Griffin and his daughter Deardra joined us and we won 1st place. Then we did a Galley Tour of compass Rose conducted by the Main Chef. Dinner was in Compass Rose and then watched the 9:30 show of “come Sail Away” – A Tribute to the 1970’s. Wavy night in the Irish Sea – had calm seas until now.
We also had to remember “Gerry MARSDEN and the Pacemakers” while in Liverpool. On the morning bus tour, the tour guide played a tape recording of the song for us as she spoke of the ferry system in Liverpool. Pop Art giant and Sgt Pepper album artist Sir Peter Blake created the Everybody Razzle Dazzle design for one of the ferries.
Everybody Razzle Dazzle is the third in a series of Dazzle Ship commissions to mark the centenary of World War I.


Tuesday June 14/16 – Cloudy mostly and 15 degrees C – Cork (Cobh), Ireland
Late excursion at 9:30 so had time for 8:30 Stretch Class. Our tour took us to Lakemount Gardens – a private garden of 1 ½ acre around a family home – the husband who was the gardener recently died so this garden may be open for tours for much longer. Then we drove on to the restored Jameson Distillery in Midleton to learn the history of Jameson Irish Whiskey and that it is triple distilled. Don was one of 8 in a whiskey tasting and received a certificate for his participation. We saw the fully operational water wheel and the copper pot sill that holds 32,000 gallons, the largest in the world.
On return to the ship I spent an hour wandering around the village of Cobh (pronounced Cove). I climbed the steep hill to reach the Cobh Cathedral famed for its carillon bells.
Cobh was also a port where many Irish immigrants (from County Cork) left for America. There is a statue of Annie Moore – a 15 year old Irish girl with her 2 younger brothers. She was the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island in New York City Harbour and there is a statue there of her as well.
Nearby Cork is known for the many pharmaceutical companies there – and the most famous product being Viagra. It is the European headquarters for Apple Inc. and the home to Heineken Brewery that brews Murphy’s Irish Stout.
Back on the ship was the 3:30 Lecture of “Celtic Films”, Tea Time Trivia, Stretch Class and Staff Show at 6 PM. Dinner in the Prime 7 with our Tea time Trivia mates. 9:30 Celtic Show. Another wavy night.
Wednesday June 15/16 – Cloudy, some showers and 16 degrees C – Plymouth, England
Excursion at 9 AM to Slapton Sands and Dartmouth with old fellow guide who was a war historian but not too good on directions – or the bus driver either since we got lost twice and was not able to walk around the centre of Dartmouth since we ran out of time.
At Slapton Sands, American tours trained for the Normandy landing since there was a similar beach on this coast. British troops were also training and there was poor communication between these forces resulting in British troops firing on American Troops – over 700 deaths resulted – this fiasco was covered up for 40 years.
There is an amphibious Tank that was pulled out of the water years later and restored by a local pub owner (Ken Small) who wrote a book about the tragedy “The Forgotten Dead”.
There was another disaster further up this coast of an army group practicing for a beach landing in the night and they thought they were close to shore but in fact were on a sandbar about a mile offshore and all drowned since they were loaded down with their equipment.

We went on to the Best Western Dartmouth Golf Hotel to have Devonshire Tea – scones with cream and jam and tea.
Then on to Dartmouth for just a tour around in the bus. We saw the gates for the Britiannia Royal Naval College entrance. Also Christopher Robin had a bookstore in Dartmouth in his adult life and never stocked his father A J Milne’s Christopher Robins (Winnie the Pooh series) books. We got back to the ship after 2 PM.
Played Afternoon Crazy Golf and Tea Time Trivia for the last time. Don traded in his 116 Regent points for 7 Regent t-shirts and I went to Stretch Class. We had dinner at Signatures, packed our suitcases and spent a little time listening to Beatles songs in the Horizon Lounge.
Thursday June 16/16 – Sunny and 17 degrees C – Southampton, England
Up early with breakfast in our room and disembarked from the ship at 7:15 AM for our last excursion (we paid $200 each but used our $100 Shipboard Credit so $150 each) to Windsor Castle and then Heathrow Airport in London to catch our 6PM flight home. This solved our problem of getting to the Airport on our own and we got to see Windsor Castle!
We had a very knowledgeable guide for this excursion. Windsor Castle is close to Heathrow as we could see by the planes flying low overhead. We were fortunate that the queen was in residence at Windsor Castle (queen’s flag flying) and it was Ladies Day at Ascot – so fancy hats around.
We toured the State Apartments (no photos allowed), Queen Mary’s Doll House exhibit, and St George’s Chapel with an audio tour. We were fortunate to see the Changing of the Guard from the State Apartment windows.



Left Windsor Castle at 12:30 PM. Dropped off at Heathrow Terminal 2 to catch Air Canada Flight 859 to Toronto at 6 PM. Flying time of almost 8 hours and arrived in Toronto around 8:30 PM. Through Customs and shuttle to Economy Park n Fly and home to Lakefield at Midnight. Fell into bed. Great Trip!




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