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The Good and Bad of The British Isles

We arrived at LAX to start our adventures through the good and the bad of the British Isles. Through check in and security quickly. Dinner at Border Grill. Then we got onto the plane which was about 1/2 full. Empty seat between Kevin and I. Fell asleep almost immediately (recipe: Tylenol PM and 2 melatonin). Woke up and asked Kevin (who hadn’t gotten any sleep) how much time was left, which was only two more hours. 
Arrived at Heathrow and got through passport control quickly. Retrieved our bags and waited for our car service.

We waited some more. And continued to wait. Finally after three phone calls, they guy showed up. Car park was a zoo and we definitely took the scenic drive to our hotel. Checked into our hotel in Whitechapel (Hyatt Place). Small room but perfectly equipped for our stay. Dropped our stuff quickly and caught an Uber to have dinner with my cousins Ed, Chris and Andrea (and Pippa too!) at Oka in Marylebone. Was so good to catch up and reconnect. Caught an Uber back to the hotel for a few hours of precious slumber. 

Lorraine Kohagen

Day 3: Amsterdam

Day 3: Woke up at 5:15 am to get to Luton airport for AMSTERDAM! Walked to the tube station only to find out that the tube wasn’t running due to a disruption. So…called an Uber and off we finally went. We had been told to get to Luton 2 hours early but arrived an hour and a half early to discover a near empty check in and very quick to go through security.

Starbucks for breakfast and a somewhat long wait in the queue at the gate but we finally got on the plane. 50 quick minutes to Amsterdam. Passport control dude looked like a young Jonathan Quick. 

Found the bus and off to Keukenhof we went! Breathtaking, stunning and just WOW! Every flower lavished over. My pictures do not do this place justice! Did a good amount of walking to see everything. Added ducks and geese to my repertoire of “Who’s hunngrreeee?” (IYKYK).

More Travel Adventures Through The British Isles

Short bus ride back to Schiphol airport and a longer security line this time. Easy Jet proving not to be so easy. Asked to queue to get on the plane and stood there for 30 minutes. Then another 2 hours on the tarmac. Into Luton 2 hours late. Found the train back to London and had to sit outside St. Pancras for 20 minutes whilst another train couldn’t move. Stupid, tiresome, exhausted. Walked to the Renaissance hotel for dinner (Booking Room,
Scott and Susan!) only to find they’d stopped serving food. McDonald’s it was. Uber back to hotel and passed out!

Day 4

Slept in. A lot. Caught the tube to Borough Market (first time for Steve, Sandy and Kevin!). Took a lap to get our bearings and off to Monmouth Coffee for the best flat white ever! Got some pastries, sausage roll, Pimm’s and finally a toasted cheese sandwich from Kappacasein, which we all shared. Ended up at a local pub. Decided to head back to the hotel for a bit to rest and made plans for dinner and a nighttime bus tour of London. Dinner at a local Greek restaurant – Hungry Donkey. Very yummy. Headed to the bus on the tube and enjoyed a chilly bus tour complete with a 35 minute delay due to an accident on the embankment. Back to hotel in Uber. Crazy traffic. 

Day 5:

Up early to do our proctored online Covid tests for the cruise. Had brunch at Pimlico Fresh (very yummy!) and then over to Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush for some shopping (got a spiffy new raincoat!). Stopped at a Tesco for our British groceries (candy, tea, shower gel) and back to hotel for a bit. Went to dinner in Spitalfields at The Hawksmoor. VERY GOOD SERVICE AND AMAZING FOOD. 

Day 6:  British Isles Cruise Day

Up early to get onto the cruise. Grabbed a Starbucks and a cab and headed to Waterloo station where we caught the train to Southampton. The four of us crammed into a cab at the station over to the cruise terminal. Arrived on time for our embarkation however the check in process hasn’t even started yet. Apparently, the inbound cruise had a number of Covid cases and the ship was getting thoroughly cleaned. Finally onto the boat, which was of course a madhouse with everyone trying to get into the lifts (elevators). Got into our cabins (which were right next to each other), met our steward and unpacked. 

Day 7: St. Peter Port, Guernsey

Day 7: Docked in Portland, England and off to the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and the swannery. Gardens very beautiful but not nearly as stunning as Keukenhof. Swans seemed very used to the humans being in their space. There were quite a few nesting mums with their mates (one tried to nip me!). None of them wanted any good yummies from me (IYKYK). Swans were really beautiful. We got to see them being fed (similar to how I call the cats when I have treats). Took a lovely scenic drive back to the boat. We played a music trivia game in one of the lounges and our team won a bottle of champagne (which we left for our steward). 

We opted to not get off the boat but just to relax. Sandy and I went to the spa and got wonderful, overpriced hot stone massages. Had Princess’ version of afternoon tea in the dining room (disappointing). First of two formal nights and I had a very delicious steak! Went to see one of the comedians perform. He sucked so we snuck out about 10 minutes into his schtick. 

Day 8: Cobh, Ireland

Ireland is so green!

Wow, Ireland is very green! Hopped on a train tour we had booked ourselves into Cork and from there boarded a bus to Blarney Castle and Gardens. Absolutely beautiful! We stayed in the gardens while Kevin climbed the 100+ stairs and kissed the Blarney Stone. Did some more walking around the gardens and over to the little village for some lunch and shopping. Back on the bus for a city tour of Cork as we made our way back to the ship. Had a quick but lovely tour of St. Colman’s cathedral before we boarded the ship for more British Isles adventures. 

How can you tour the British Isles and not see castles?

Day 9: Dun Laoghaire / Dublin

First off, the Irish use waaaaayyyy more letters in words than what they sound like. Dun Laoghaire is pronounced “Dunleary”. Anyway, we slept in and relaxed before boarding the water shuttle (tender) to shore for our afternoon bus tour of Dublin. Got onto the bus, which at the time had no a/c running. Sandy asked the driver to turn it on and then all the old folks on the bus said they were too cold and he shut it off. Needless to say, we were a bit miserable with no air flow in the back of the bus.

Dublin was a bit of a disappointment on our British Isles trip. Looks a lot like Downtown LA. Stopped briefly at St. Patrick’s cathedral to take some pics from the outside and over to a park where there really wasn’t much to see (although we did get 10 minutes of fresh air). Back to the dock where the queue for the water shuttles was crazy long. Luckily, it moved and we returned to the ship. 

Day 10: Holyhead, Wales

No excursion planned and Kevin needed to charge his spinal implant so Steve, Sandy and I decided to head out and see what Holyhead had to offer. Well, this took a bit because one of the water shuttles had an engine malfunction and had to be rescued by two of the other water shuttles. We finally got onto a shuttle and over to the dock. Walked up a long walkway and followed the others into what we “thought” was town. 2.6 miles and a hilly route later we returned to the dock after only finding a couple convenience stores, pubs and a charity shop. Oh well. Added seagulls to my repertoire of “Who’s hunngrreeee?”Found out that if we would’ve headed the other way, we would’ve stumbled upon an old castle. Played Musical Trivia again and won wine stoppers (Steve had the winning answer of Spring Awakening). 

Day 11: Greenock, Scotland

The Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel: Highly recommended on a tour of the British Isles!

Woke up early and had breakfast to prepare for an all day excursion. Boarded a bus (with a/c) to Falkirk where we did the tour of the Falkirk Wheel (look it up – it’s pretty cool!). Arrived later than planned due to our driver and tour guide being unaware that the bus wouldn’t fit down one of the roads. We were quickly herded onto one of the boats (Steve almost didn’t make it). Great tour though! From there, we went into the town of Stirling for lunch, shopping and sightseeing.

Back on the bus to head back to the ship. Absolutely stunning scenery on the way back. Wanted to just enjoy the countryside but the tour guide was WAAAAAYYYYY too chatty. His “it’ll just be half an hour” or “just a few minutes” turned into an hour and 20 minutes. We were the last tour to board the ship. Second formal night and a fabulous dinner! Saw a different comedian who was quite funny!

Day 12: Our Only Day at Sea 

Up early to do our Covid tests to get onto the plane and relaxed quite a bit. Played trivia again – who knew Adele’s last name??? Not us. Packed up the suitcases. Last dinner in the dining room. Drama with Covid test results. Some got them, some didn’t. We were the unlucky ones. Angry passengers at guest relations, who were of no help. Finally got our test results around 11pm. 

Day 13: The Last Day of Our British Isles Adventures

Up super early to board our bus to Heathrow at 7:45am. Able to get a lift straight down with all our bags and a quick process to get onto the bus. Oddly enough, No one checked our tickets for our transfers to Heathrow. We probably could have just snuck on and not pay the $60. Oh well. Hour and a half to the airport. Arrived three full hours before our flight which was good because we spent two hours and 10 minutes in line just to check in and check our bags.

Kevin and I made a mad dash upstairs to get through security and run to the gate. And it was far…like running from Terminal 1 to the Bradley terminal at LAX. Time for a restroom stop but no time for anything to eat or drink and straight onto the plane. I had a row all to myself. Incredible service on the plane and thanks to global entry we were through customs at LAX in under a minute. 

My Thoughts on Princess Cruises

So, this was our first time cruising with Princess (the Abrams’ 2nd). Some issues/deficiencies/positives we encountered:

The medallions you wear are cool. They get you into your room, back onto the boat, pay for merch, order drinks etc….when they actually work. Same with the Medallion app on the phone. Worked fine for me but hardly at all for Kevin. To whomever got my Bloody Mary at breakfast that one morning, I hope it was good. 

The plumbing in our bathroom was terrible. The first night, the toilet wouldn’t flush at all, so maintenance had to come. They said it was fixed. On the second night, we hear the toilet flushing BY ITSELF! I get up and see that the entire bathroom is flooded. Maintenance comes again and are there til after midnight. Said it was fixed. At 6am, I found that to be false and had to head downstairs to guest relations to report it again and use the public restrooms down there.

It was finally sorted later that day (they had to replace pretty much the entire toilet). We also had issues with the shower going from ice cold to scalding hot. Complained about that too. It finally got resolved on day six of our cruise. Princess did us a solid and gave us a whopping $50 compensation for all of this. 🤦🏻‍♀️  We had no working toilet for almost 24 hours and that was the best they could do?!!!?

Some of the shore excursions that we bought through Princess were misleading. We were told that we had to bring local currency for any purchases we made in Scotland. That turned out to be false. We had no local currency with us as we were able to use our cards everywhere in England. Princess charges an arm and a leg to exchange currency. Also, advertising that you’ll be on an air conditioned coach should be that it’s air conditioned the entire time.

Covid and Travel

They need to work out the whole Covid testing thing a lot better. We had entered all of our travel information onto our online accounts well before the ship even left, yet they still had no record of us needing a Covid test to go home.

Again, we had entered all of our travel information weeks before the cruise even left, yet when it came time to assign disembarkation groups, the Abrams had the correct one and we had one an hour and a half later! Off to Guest Relations again so they could put us on the early one we needed to be on. If we would have stayed on the one they assigned us, we wouldn’t have made our flight home.

My Review

On the topic of Guest Relations, which unfortunately we had to visit quite frequently, they were just inefficient and at times, rude. While we understand that the issues were not their personal fault, they need some more training on how to positively communicate. Many times we received contradictory information from the GR folks, our steward and other crew members. 

Our cruise included the internet package. Service was spotty but did work…if you were trying to just text or google something. It seems like the internet frequently just died. 

Cabin Service Was Good

On the flip side, cabin service was great. The food was mostly good. We also had the beverage package. Drinks were very good and there was a big selection.  We had breakfast in the buffet most mornings and they had a varied selection of different items each day. Cabin size was adequate with a very large closet and cabinet. Decor seemed a bit outdated and there were a lot of surfaces that were either cracked or peeling. The balcony was nice and our steward was able to open the door between ours and the Abrams’. The bathroom was teeny tiny. The clientele on the cruise was mostly retired/seniors with a few around our age sprinkled in. We maybe saw 3-4 kids the entire time. 

Compared to Holland America, which was the last cruise line I was on in 2019, Princess is just not as nice. Holland America was a bit more classy, and we had far fewer issues (maybe 1-2 the entire time). The cabins were more spacious and well appointed. The crew were all gracious and easy to communicate with. 

Maybe it’s due to the pandemic, but we were not very satisfied with Princess at all. 

About our guest author: Lorraine Kohagen loves to travel and keeps a daily journal of all of her travels. Her bucket list includes visiting Poland, Ukraine (eventually), Greece and Romania – all places where my ancestors came from. When she’s not traveling, Lorraine is heavily involved in the marching arts as an adjudicator and educator.

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Zanne is the Founder, Editor, Administration, and Publisher of WhereGalsWander along with the title of Chief Trouble Maker. Blame her for everything.

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