by Joe Reynolds
September 7, 2004
We flew out of New Orleans using a Celebrity Package since comparison airfares were much more due to the return city was not the same as the arrival city. We arrived in London Gatwick and were met by our previously arranged driver Steve Knibbs firstname.lastname@example.org and taken to Sir Christopher Wren Hotel in Windsor for a fee of $128.27 (exchange rate of $1.83/GBP). There are cheaper ways to do this, but with 6 pieces of luggage it seemed worth it.
We visited Windsor castle and toured around Windsor until departing the hotel by taxi to go to Heathrow Airport where we joined up with the Celebrity transfer to the ship in Dover, England on Sept. 7th. We had received e-tickets for the cruise which means we did not have any luggage tags. We had only one sample tag, but I made tags using a copy machine and laminated them for endurance. I was happy that I had done this as I turned my luggage over to a truck with several hundred other pieces of luggage in it. Surely the ones with luggage tags identifying them as going to a certain cabin would get there sooner than ones without tags. I would definitely recommend making your own luggage tags rather than depending on someone to find your luggage without a tag and have to use a cross reference to find out where it was suppose to be delivered. The instructions had stated that you would get tags at the pier to put on the suitcases. I am thankful I did not have to go and find my luggage at the pier to put a tag on it. I did here one gentleman asking a Celebrity agent where he could get tags to put on his luggage. I didn't stay around to find out how he came out.
We had been aboard the other Millennium class ships before and knew right where to go, so we grabbed our glass of champagne and headed to the room. We had cabin 7202 which was very comfortable and our friends had the inside cabin just across the hall. We visited on the veranda several times, but on a transatlantic crossing the veranda is not used that much.
As usual we had to get our dining reservations fixed. Celebrity always drops the ball on this one, and puts the strain on the dining room staff and the passengers to get fixed what they thought had already been arranged. Miami has a problem here. They have finally gotten the captain's club pre cruise specialty restaurant reservation problem fixed.
The San Marcos dining room is still as pretty as it was in 2002 and we really enjoyed our tablemates. The four of us always travel together but enjoy having others at our table and mix in so we can visit new people. We had a couple from New Jersey and a couple from England as our very nice tablemates.
I don't know what it is, but I always try to order the fish on the first night and it is always dry. Maybe hake is supposed to be dry. The rest of the time the fish was very good. Buffet dining topside was very good as well as the rest of the nights in the restaurant. The Ocean Liners specialty restaurant should not be missed and is something we always enjoy.
We sailed to LeHarve France, our first port, arriving on Sept. 8th, and our friends had made arrangements for a rental car which we picked up and set off. We got over the Honfleur bridge then headed for the coast road rather than to Caen. It was a pleasant drive and we stopped in a small town Trouville that was having a rather large festival and did some shopping.
We visited the Beaches of Normandy, Sword, Juneau, Gold, but did not get up to Omaha and Utah beaches. We did visit the Pegasus Bridge where gliders landed to capture this all important bridge. For our return trip to the ship we followed a tour bus for the best route back and that was a stroke of luck, since it would have taken us two more hours to find our way back. I don't think renting a car was a good idea here since even with maps one can get turned around. The highway markings were not familiar and that can make it difficult. It would be OK to just go to Honfleur but all the way to the Beaches is kind of far by rental car with many opportunities to make mistakes along the way.
Sept. 9th we sailed for Cork, Ireland, arriving at Ringaskiddy dock for Cork on Sept. 10th at 7:00 AM and departing at 6:00 PM.
We had a pre arranged tour with 15 of us and it worked out well. We visited Cobb, Charles Fort and Kinsale in County Cork, where we had a wonderful lunch. We visited a museum that had exhibits of the Lusitania that sunk not too far from Cork. The town nestles between the hills and the shoreline on the estuary of the Bandon River.
Sept 11th we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, still a part of England. We set out on a small tour with about 15 people (about $25/person) for the Giant's Causeway. This is a natural rock formation with many myths associated with it. We passed along the Antrim Coast road seeing several Glens. We visited the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and did cross it. Very safe as long as there are no high winds. It does lead you to a rock that has some dangerous cliff edges. The path does have some unstable stepping areas. We visited a museum which depicted the exodus of Irish to the United States and elsewhere during the potato famine. There is a tribute to the Lusitania sinking.
While in Belfast, the captain of the vessel determined that the weather in Iceland would be too bad to off load passengers by tender and rather than wave to Iceland as we passed by, he decided to go to Vigo, Spain a city just north of Portugal.
As we sailed toward Vigo, we had a medical emergency and the captain announced that a helicopter cable evacuation would take place off the bow of the ship. The collapsible fences were lowered and two persons came aboard and then one left and the other went up with the basket carrying the patient. We later learned that the patient expired at the hospital.
Vigo, Spain is a port city located in the Province of Galicia. It has a very strong Celtic influence and is not visited by North Americans very often. We walked into town from the ship dock. This is a tiered city and walking up was somewhat tiring.
We set out from Vigo across the Atlantic for the six day run to NYC arriving past the Statue of Liberty about 5:30 AM. During the transit we enjoyed eating at the Ocean Liner's restaurant and had several afternoon performances of entertainers as well as night time performances. The casino was busy as usual. Computer classes in Photoshop were offered and were quite busy.
Arriving in NY we used the double deck Grayline tour busses to tour around the sites and also saw the show Lion King at the very pretty New Amsterdam Theater.
It was a good trip except for missing Iceland.
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