July 2016 - 12 Night British Isles (London Roundtrip) Cruise on Caribbean Princess
Fun, well-organized cruise
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South Queensferry (Edinburgh), Scotland
Edinburgh is beautiful but so crowded in the summer. We didn't even try to go to Edinburgh castle when we saw the hoards of people waiting to get in. The Mercat Edinburgh Underground tour was really fun, but you will want to get reservations early. Also, leave the ship early because it takes forever to get into Edinburgh since you have to wait for a tender from the ship and then get a shuttle bus or train from South Queensferry. We had planned to take the train, but they were on strike, so we were stuck with the shuttle bus. The last bus left Edinburgh at 4:30 pm, so our time in town was limited. The independent shuttle was still way cheaper than the ship's excursion bus for doing Edinburgh on your own, though.
Le Havre (Paris), France
A lot of people say to skip the long drive to Paris, but I disagree if you have never been to Paris. Yes, it was frustrating to have so little time, but we were able to see the beautiful city, and we had a really good tour guide who provided interesting information on the history and local landmarks along the way, so it wasn't a boring ride at all. Our afternoon there let us get a sense of the city and helped us to decide whether we want to try to go back (a definite yes!) So if you have never been to Paris, definitely do the excursion.
Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
We skipped the drive into Glasgow and did one of the highlands tours instead, which was a great decision! We especially enjoyed stopping at the woolen mill and seeing the herding dog demonstration. The scenery is dramatic and stunning!
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Titanic Experience was excellent! Also, be sure to go to Victoria Square, just a short walk from the Visitor's Information Center downtown. It is a typical shopping mall, but it has a glass dome on top that you can climb up to and get a gorgeous 360 panoramic view of the city for free!
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Absolutely go to Skara Brae and Skaill House - one of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world! Dress warmly if you go; it was July when we were there, and the wind coming off the water was bitterly cold.
It is not an official excursion, but I highly recommend visiting Kilmainham Gaol, just an easy taxi ride from city center. We learned so much about Ireland's struggles for independence and got to see where so much history happened. Also, be sure to eat lunch in a pub and have a pint of Guinness!
Cobh (Cork), Ireland
If you take the Blarney Castle excursion, skip the long line to kiss the stone and explore the gardens instead. We had only two hours there, and those who wanted to kiss the stone spent almost the whole time in line. I am so glad we went through the gardens and wooded trails instead; it was unbelievably beautiful (even on a misty, rainy day) and just what I expected Ireland to be like. I almost expect to see fairies and leprechauns in the mossy glens and leafy trails.
Get the anytime dining! We sometimes got back late from our excursion or wanted to eat early to catch a show, and the flexibility was great. We were usually seated right away, and while usually asked if we wanted to share a table, we were always given a table for two right away when requested.
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