Thursday, September 21, 2017

Scotland and Northern Ireland 2017, Part six...


The big clock, where everybody meets up in Glasgow...


And another British nanny sign!

In March 2016, when we took our Hebridean Scotch Whisky tour, The Spirit of Scotland, the train station had a couple of bars that were about to close.  They were open for our visit, but they had little stock.  We sat up in that bar for a couple of hours and drank beer until it was time to meet the ship.  Although the train station still has a place for beer drinking, we wisely opted to go to a restaurant outside of the station.  I think maybe next time, instead of meeting the coach, maybe it might be better to simply go to where the boat is.  A three hour ride on a coach isn't all that much fun, even when it's Hebridean Island Cruises offering it.

I think we were the first ones from our cruise to get to the train station.  Our guide, Bryan Hogg, was next.  He was easy to spot because he was wearing a kilt and had the telltale Hebridean luggage tags on his bags.  Hebridean Island Cruises employs qualified guides for each of its cruises.  Bryan lives in Edinburgh and is a freelance guide (and a marvelous one at that).  He guided our cruise and is also guiding this week's cruise.  Here's a link to his blog, which is probably more interesting than mine is.  It looks like his isn't as updated as often, though.  He's also on Facebook, though I don't see a link to a business page.  We really enjoyed having Bryan as our guide this week.  He's very friendly, funny, and relaxed... and he also knows a lot about Scotland and Ireland.  


Just so you know, it's not free to pee in the train station.  It costs 40p to pee...  


The view from our seat on the coach.



Bill is excited because the Brits have lap and shoulder belts on their buses.  You're supposed to wear them because the Brits are pretty strict about safety.  However, I will go on record as being naughty all week because the damned things were too uncomfortable.  Bill was a good boy, though.  I'll be sure to give him a cookie later.

After all of the folks who had arranged to be met at the train station were accounted for, we collected our lanyards, which basically served as our identification all week.  Wearing them around the neck identified us as members of the Hebridean Princess cruise, which allowed us admission to activities and coffee and tea breaks pre-arranged by the ship.  Yes, that's right, the ship pays for your coffee breaks when you're aboard Hebridean Princess.  You don't pay admission fees to the activities arranged by the cruise line, either.  In fact, you don't have to pay for anything once you get aboard, unless you want something from the tiny gift shop.  It's probably the only cruise ship on the planet that does not require passengers to hand over a credit card immediately upon boarding.

We stopped at the airport to pick up a few other people, including a couple of perfumed ladies who acted as if they were long lost sisters.  They sat in front of us and immediately started chattering quite loudly, which quickly became annoying because I was also trying to listen to Bryan talk about points of interest on the way north.  I'll also admit that Auntie Flow was putting me in a foul mood.

I noticed a spunky looking lady sitting across from us who had a can of gin and tonic.  I immediately thought she was cool as she sipped it.  I wish I had had the same foresight.  I ended up moving to another seat just before the rest stop and the lady with the gin and tonic congratulated me!  Below are a few pictures I got of our rest stop...





Looks like a nice town to stop in for a visit.  Maybe another time.  One of the passengers, a guy who is still aboard this week, purchased an ice cream cone during our stop.  He made everyone laugh when someone asked him if the ice cream was good and he said it was "Dee---light--ful!" in a very comical British accent.  All week, he was cracking us up because he was very comfortable in his own skin and not afraid to use a bib (a man after my own heart, for sure!).




The two pictures above are of Inveraray Castle, as we passed it on the way to Oban.  I wish I had gotten a shot of it on the way back to Glasgow, since the weather was a lot nicer that day.  Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the bus! 

We arrived in Oban at around 6:00pm or so.  It was raining and rather grim outside, but there was still a piper out there waiting to welcome us properly.  It was at this point that I learned our purser was to be the legendary David Indge, who was our purser on our second Hebridean cruise in 2012.  He truly is fabulous!  Queen Elizabeth II has been on Hebridean Princess twice and she liked Dave so much that she reportedly specifically requested his services during her cruises.  I can see why she liked him so much!


Here's a brief clip of the piper.  He piped each party aboard, though some had already arrived at the ship before the coach got there.  Bear in mind that the Hebridean Princess carries, at most, 49 passengers at a time.  I think there were 45 on our cruise.


Here's a shot of Oban that I took as we waited for the obligatory muster drill...


And here is an obligatory shot of Bill in his life jacket.  I do this every time we cruise.  I think this may be one of the better shots of him in his life jacket.

Most nights on Hebridean Princess, passengers dress up a bit for dinner.  On the first night, it's permissible to dress casually.  That's because there's a lot to do once you get on the ship.  Before the muster drill, you have to unpack your stuff and leave your bags to be stowed during the cruise.  Depending on how light you travel, unpacking may or may not be a chore.  It usually is for me, because I am incapable of traveling light under any circumstances.

Another thing to know about Hebridean Princess is, again, almost everything is included, including booze.  That means you can drink all you want and no one will be making you sign any chits and you can try all sorts of stuff.  

After the muster drill, it was time for dinner.  You can see below that we tried both the red and white wines with dinner... and had a little bubbly, too.    




I had duck, which was lovely with potatoes and green beans...


Bill had salmon on top of potatoes and garnished with broccolini.

There was more to this meal, but it was one of the rare ones that I didn't photograph completely.  I guess I was just overwhelmed by the abundance of excellence.  Our waiter last week was a friendly young Polish lad named Mariusz.  He took very good care of us... almost as good care as the bar staff!  

Stay tuned for part seven!

4 comments:

  1. With our ten day cruise coming in a couple weeks, I should probably start fasting now...

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    1. I would recommend it. Either that, or plan lots of walking.

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  2. We are planning on the drink package for our 12 night Mediterranean cruise next summer on Royal Caribbean. It's $55 a day, but they do have specials - we are keeping our eyes out. My thought - with the price of their drinks I can drink $55 by noon, never mind all day. It includes specialty coffees as well. I do like the idea of not having to worry about the drink bill at the end of the cruise. That's what we mostly spend extra money on when we cruise.

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    1. Yeah, I like my booze, which is one reason why I like cruises with booze included. And I like cruises where there is no emphasis on tipping.

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