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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore: Sights to see, things to do & where to shop

Dover, England

Southeast of London, it's said that the "real" England of Dover beckons. The picturesque villages, castles, and stately mansions with formal gardens set in the lush rolling Kent countryside belie its strategic importance to the defense of Great Britain. Beneath the famous White Cliffs of Dover lie a labyrinth of Secret Wartime Tunnels where Vice Admiral Ramsey and Sir Winston Churchill masterminded the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.


Arriving by plane, Gatwick airport is a forty-five minute drive by car and Heathrow airport is about an hour and forty-five minutes from Dover. Both airports have frequent trains to London for connections to Kent. A recent innovation is charter flights to London Manston airport, just thirty minutes by coach from the Dover cruise ship terminal.

For passengers arriving pre-cruise or planning an English holiday following their cruise, the Dover area has much to offer in the way of historic sites. Dover Castle, an imposing Norman fortress, was built to protect the south coast of England from invaders. Inside the castle, visitors can experience a reenactment of the "Siege of 1216" and a recreation of the Tudor Court preparing the great keep for the arrival of King Henry VIII. Deep within the adjacent White Cliffs, the Secret Wartime Tunnels are a testament to the bravery of the English people and the vital role played by Dover Castle during World War II. Throughout the tunnels, the drama of England at war is reconstructed through sight and sound during a tour through the Command Center, the Anti-Aircraft Operations Room, the hospital and operating theater, the Repeater Station, and Telephone Exchange. At the height of the war, there were more telephones inside the tunnels than in the entire city of Dover.

Cross the moat for a stroll through the elegantly furnished private royal apartments of Walmer Castle, a Tudor Rose castle and favorite of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The formal gardens are delightful, particularly the one presented to the Queen Mother on the occasion of 95th birthday. It's said she was particularly pleased with this gift because people had always given her flowers but she'd never before received an entire garden. The tearoom serves delicious homemade scones and cakes.

Described by Lord Conway as "the loveliest castle in the world," Leeds Castle is surrounded by 500 acres of lovingly tended parklands. Built over a thousand years ago, the castle was both a Norman stronghold and residence of six of the medieval Queens of England. Lovingly preserved by Lady Baillie, its last private owner, it is a "living castle," displaying collections of medieval and renaissance tapestries, antique furniture, paintings, and porcelains. Tours pass through the Norman Cellar, the medieval Queen's Rooms, the Henry VIII banqueting Hall, and the Chapel of Edward I. Exhibiting the rich and varied life of this magnificent structure, the walk continues through the twentieth century phase of the castle when it passed from royal ownership. An innovation of Leeds Castle is its accessibility for visitors with disabilities.


Bargain hunters flock to De Bradelei Wharf in Dover and McArthur Glen Designer Outlets in nearby Ashford, two designer outlets that boast 30-50% off retail prices on fashions and house wares. Antiques and porcelains can be found in shops tucked into village nooks and crannies. Don't leave without a tin of authentic English tea.

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