August 10, 2005
by R & E Holloway
My wife and I (60/62) booked this British Isles cruise in April 2005 and learned a lesson, book as soon as you can with a deposit, other wise the price or offers change. Cruise lines are now like airlines, capacity controlled values.
We have been to Alaska with Celebrity (Infinity) and Mexico with Princess (Sea Princess ) in 2001 now we are finally in 2005 on a cruise we have wanted to do for a long time.
We live on Vancouver Island, Victoria in Canada, so 10+ hours later via Air Canada and 8 hours ahead time zone, we arrived in London for three nights and Southampton for one night prior to the cruise. It is a great way to go and be relaxed. Stayed at London Hilton Euston and Novotel Southampton, great hotels for about 65 GBP (pounds) a night, about $125 CDN. For August, good rates as we prepaid back in April. Also stayed at Novotel Heathrow for 1 night on way back, it is isolated on airport row if you want to walk around.
Arranged for Imperial Cars Southampton to drive us from London to
Southampton to the pier next day and return to London. Great service and value for not dealing with taxis, tubes and buses.
Arrived 12:45 at pier and with express check-in onboard within 15 minutes, gave a few pounds to the luggage porter, bags onboard about 1 hour later. Bypassed the photo hounds while boarding except for security picture to match your cabin card. The ship had about 2,800 passengers with 700 Brits, 1,700 US and rest of us around the world.
Food choices were great on the buffet and Horizon was well run. It does take awhile to find food choices on different islands but not long. Plenty of seating though tables for 2 or 4 are limited. We chose 2nd seating fixed with a table of 8 which soon became 6, very good company.
Ports were: Southampton & sea day, sea day, Dublin, HolyHead Wales (Tender), Belfast, Grennock (Glascow), sea day, Orkney Islands Kirkwall (Tender), Queensbury, Edinburgh (Tender), sea day.
It of course rained a bit once we got to Wales and Northern Scotland but if you have a sweater, light jacket and umbrella (brolly), not an issue. Lots of fun, countryside was wonderful and beautiful.
We took basic tours in most of the ports and walked around in Greenock and Kirkwall. Currency is GBP everywhere except Euros in Dublin and the ship now has machines that convert your monies for you, great feature. Entertainment was great with local talent brought in in some ports, bagpipes greeted us in Greenock , a band in Belfast and a local youth music group in Wales. The Welsh in Holyhead were great greeters and made us feel welcome.
Staff on ship were friendly and our cabin staff including dining staff were fantastic. It is a large
hotel on water, if you accept that then its hard to fault the services.
We will come back to the UK, especially Wales and Orkney and Southern England. Get out into the countryside,
Only blip was food costs in London, for us its 2-1, what you pay locally becomes same but in GBP, outside of London it is less expensive.
We considered this cruise as a wonderful way to sample, like a buffet, the British Isles. Course I do admit to being born in UK but had not been back since 1968,
the year I was married. It was wonderful.