August 04- 05, 2012 – Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, meaning “town of the hurdled ford”, is the capital and most populous city of Ireland. The English name for the city is derived from the Irish name Dubhlinn, meaning “black pool”. Dublin is situated near the midpoint of Ireland’s east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and the centre of the Dublin Region.

Originally founded as a Viking settlement, it evolved into the Kingdom of Dublin and became the island’s principal city following the Norman invasion. The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century; it was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire and the fifth largest in Europe. Dublin entered a period of stagnation following the Act of Union of 1800, but it remained the economic centre for most of the island. Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, the new parliament, the Oireachtas, was located in Leinster House. Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland.

The City of Dublin is the area administered by Dublin City Council, but the term “Dublin” normally refers to the contiguous urban area which includes parts of the adjacent local authority areas of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin. Together, the four areas form the traditional County Dublin. This area is sometimes known as the Dublin Region. The population of the administrative area controlled by the City Council was 525,383 in the 2011 census, while the population of the urban area was 1,110,627. The County Dublin population was 1,273,069 and that of the Greater Dublin Area 1,804,156. The city’s population is expanding rapidly, and it is estimated by the CSO that it will reach 2.1 million by 2020.


We arrived in Dublin around noon and will stay overnight with departure at 5PM on Sunday. The afternoon of our arrival we have a “City Tour” by coach and a stop at Dublin Castle for a tour. We felt this would help us get orientated to the city. The weather was surprisingly good. We had sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s. I am not posting a large number of photos for two reasons. I have had a great deal of difficulty with the post because the photos will not format properly. Also for the most part the weather has not been conducive to obtaining good photos.

The second day, we planned to get a hop-on, hop-off bus but although it was cloudy there was no rain. As a result we decided to walk the town. The ship supplied a shuttle bus from the pier to the center of town, about 3 miles and 15-20 minutes ride. After arriving in town we walked around St. Stephens Green since it was not yet open. We then began to make our way west in the city towards the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate. I knew Guinness was an institution in Dublin but did not realize just how important it was to the city. Author Guinness obtained a 9000 year lease in the mid 1700 for about 65 acres of land in the city where the present brewery is located. Through the years Guinness has contributed greatly to the development of the city and its parks as well as housing and employment.

We enjoyed the brewery tour and also a couple of pints while looking out over the city in the Gravity bar atop the Guinness Storehouse. As we left the Storehouse it began to rain and we got quite damp on our approximately 2 mile walk back to the bus pickup. Along the way we stopped to have a traditional fish and chips lunch.



Dublin Castle Gate.


In town we were seeing zombies everywhere, young people dressed in tattered clothes and covered with blood. Only later did is see a sign which was promoting a “zombie walk”.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral




Christ’s Church

There are so many old and beautiful buildings after a while you almost take them for granted. It is hard to believe that most of them are between 800 and 1200 years old.



It is neat (and useful for out of towners) that they remind you on the pavement which way to look for traffic.




Here we are enjoying a sample before reaching the Gravity Bar where we had our full pint.

All in all it was a great day but could have been made better if the weather coorporated. England and Ireland are certainly places we hope to return for a more full exploration someday.

Tomorrow is a sea day and on Tuesday we will be arriving in the Faeroe Islands. I am looking forward to this out of the way location and just hope the weather is good.



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August 03, 2012 – Plymouth, England

Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the south coast of Devon, England, about 190 miles south-west of London. It is situated between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound. Since 1967, the City of Plymouth has included the suburbs of Plympton and Plymstock, which are on the east side of the River Plym.

Plymouth’s history goes back to the Bronze Age, when its first settlement grew at Mount Batten. This settlement continued to grow as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until the more prosperous village of Sutton, the current Plymouth, surpassed it. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony – the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America. During the English Civil War the town was held by the Parliamentarians and was besieged between 1642 and 1646.

Today the city is home to around 250,000 people, making it the 19th most populous city in the United Kingdom. It is governed locally by Plymouth City Council and is represented nationally by three MPs. Plymouth’s economy is still strongly influenced by shipbuilding, but has become a more service-based economy since the 1990s.


We came into Plymouth harbor early and the weather looked typical of what we have been seeing, cloudy and rainy.


Today we had an excursion to the coastal town of Polperro on southeast Cornwall coast. Polperro is located about 25 miles west of Plymouth. Polperro is a beautiful harbor fishing village with a population of just over 5000. Today its major industry is tourism due to its beauty and location. It is popular for both native Great Britains as well as foreign visitors.

The coach ride revialed beautiful countryside with rock walled, lush green fields. Many sheep and pig were also seen.



The village was very lovely with narrow winding streets. There were many opportunities to sample the fares the area is famous for. For lunch we had a local patsy, a pastry filled with beef and potatos. It was quite good and very filling.

This small harbor actually had a lock which allowed for dry docking. When the tide was low the lock could be closed. When opened and the tide was in the area was flooded and the boats could reach the sea.

The village consists hills filled with houses, some almost defying gravity.




We took this trail to one of the highest points in the village for a wonderful view of the bay.

Kay humors me often by accompanying me into pubs to obtain a local brew. This pub the Blue Peter Inn was full of wonderful ambiance and the bar keep was glad to assist me in selecting my drink.


I decided on a “Sharp’s Own”, a beer brewed in Cornwall in the old “real ale” fashion. It was a dark, malty brew served at about 50 degrees and hand pumped. The real ales do not have enough carbonation to force dispense from the spigot. It was wonderful. I could have easily had 3 pints instead of the one I limited myself to. After all I did have to find my way back to the coach for the return trip to the ship. I will remember this brew and attempt to reproduce it when I return home.

We will be in Dublin tomorrow and one of the things I look forward to is visiting the Dublin Brewery.

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August 02, 2012 – Southampton, England

Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated 75 mi south-west of London and 19 mi north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest. It lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water at the confluence of the River Test and River Itchen with the River Hamble joining to the south of the urban area.

The city represents the core of the Greater Southampton region, and the city itself has an estimated population of 239,700 Southampton combines with Portsmouth to form a single metropolitan area; with a population of over a million this makes the region one of the United Kingdom’s most populous metropolitan areas. The city’s name is sometimes abbreviated in writing to “So’ton” or “Soton”, and a resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian.



We arrived in Southampton with weather alternating between rain and sunshine; sometimes within a five minute period. This was pretty much the pattern for the day. It is very difficult to know how to dress! Our guide who took us to Salisbury and Stonehenge said the British, especially here in the southern part of the country, were peculiar about their dress. Since the temperature doesn’t vary a great deal year round here, the locals dress according to the season not the weather. She said, just because you see a local wearing a t-shirt and shorts in August and it’s raining and 58 degrees doesn’t mean he is not cold, it’s just that he is dressed for the season… I am not sure I could ever get accustomed to this weather.

We left early and journeyed through several small towns and villages and finally through Salisbury before reaching the Salisbury plain and finally to Stonehenge. The scenery was beautiful even if the weather wasn’t.

Stonehenge is on the Salisbury plain, much of which is owned by the military and leased for farming. There is very little around the site except for a parking lot and a few vendors. From the parking lot you pass under the highway to reach the relic. The crowds were huge, partly due to the Olympic overflow from London.

The relics themselves compromise only a small area, but as our guide explained the original builders utilized the entire plain and similar stone circles extended for miles and miles. Some are smaller and others much larger. Stonehenge is famous simply because of it relative state of preservation.

Here are just a couple of photos of Stonehenge. I was surprised that I was able to get pictures with few people in them.

Kay, Janet, Carl and I walked out to some of the burial mounds, only about a 15 minute walk. Again the weather turned nasty and we got wet before getting back. Fortunately we were prepared!

After leaving Stonehenge we returned to Salisbury where we were able to walk the grounds of the Salisbury Cathedral and explore some of the town. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside the Cathedral. I believe you could probably spend half a day inside. Visiting this place brings Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth to life.



In this detail you can see the beautiful Gothic architecture.. Also seen is the scaffolding alongside the building. Apparently restoration is underway almost 100% of the time


Some of the other local buildings were quite interesting as well.

On our return to Southampton, we asked our guide if we might be let off in town to walk back to the pier. She and the driver were very accommodating, but we were surprised that we four were the only ones who wanted to make the 20 minute walk. After leaving the bus we walked over to High Street to make our way back. On High Street is located The Bargate. This was originally part of the original wall of Southampton and a guild meeting place.


We also passed the anchor of Queen Elizabeth II, a monument on High Street.


We cut across Porter’s Lane and walked along part of the old city wall. Adjacent to the wall we stopped at the Platform Tavern where I had a pint of their microbrew “Dancing Man” this was a real ale, a style which almost disappeared but has been resurrected in Gr. Britain by a few devotees. After having the opportunity to sample one, I am glad it survives. Real ale is cask conditioned and has no added carbonation. It is not filtered or pasteurized. Due to the low carbonation, it must be hand pumped from the cask to the glass, and is served at about 50 degrees. It was an excellent brew.



After a very satisfy satisfying day, we had an excellent dinner and retired early. We will be in Plymouth tomorrow.


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July 31, 2012 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The city’s status as the capital of the nation is governed by the constitution. Amsterdam has a population of 790,654 within city limits, an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,289,762.[7] The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.

Amsterdam’s name is derived from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city’s origin: a dam in the river Amstel. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were formed. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam located in the heart of Amsterdam, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010.



















We had tours planned for both days in Amsterdam and we have port days for six days in a row. As a result I do not have much time to post. Our tours here were with our travel agent, Cruise Specalists and our ship escorts Henk and Lucia Barnhoorn who are originally from The Netherlands.

In the two days we visited the city of Delft which is famous for their blue porcelain. We were fortunate to visit one of the few shops which still make and decorate the pottery by hand. Most today is printed or screened designs. We then visited The Hague and in both city we enjoy a walking tour.

The second day we visited a tourist area which demonstrated the making of wooden shoes and cheeses. We also had the opportunity to explore an actual windmill and understand it purpose and the way it operates.

I apologize for the haphazard presentation of the photos today but it is all time would allow. Anyway my formatting has been presenting challenges in my post. They look fine in Word, but when posted to WordPress the formatting changes. Anyway I hope you enjoy the photos. We are in Southampton on Thursday.




Lucia demonstrates the proper way to eat raw herring


Another beautiful sunset….


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July 29, 2012 – Bergen, Norway

Bergen is a city and municipality in Hordaland on the west coast of Norway. As of 24 June 2012, the municipality had a population of 265,800 and Greater Bergen had a population of 391,000, making Bergen the second-largest city in Norway. The municipality covers an area of 465 square kilometers (180 sq mi) and is located on the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen. Trading in Bergen may have started as early as the 1020s, but the city was not incorporated until 1070. It served as Norway’s capital from 1217 to 1299, and from the end of the 13th century became a bureau city of the Hanseatic League.

Bryggen Complex of early 1700 buildings a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We arrived in Bergen in the early morning. Since we didn’t have a scheduled tour we took our time in leaving the ship. We debarked around 9:00 AM and walked Bryggen on our way to the Funicular Station. We were fortunate to have a beautiful clear day in the low 60’s. Our plan was to either walk or ride the funicular up to Mt. Floyen, depending on the line for the tram. Fortunately there was NO LINE so we paid the 40 Kroner each for a one way ticket.

The arriving funicular… Much different to those in South America.

The view from Mt. Floyen was beautiful and we were surprised at the size of Bergen.


Kay enjoying the view.

We did not have any specific plans other than to do some hiking and see the countryside. After looking at a map we decided to hike to Brushytten. It was described as a 1.8 km walk from the top station on the funicular on a grit road and path through undulating woodland.

Signs were everywhere but Brushytten was not listed. In after a brief conference we all decided to go to the right.





The description was accurate and the hike was very enjoyable; the forest was lush.

We reached Brushytten to discover that there wasn’t really anything there except another beautiful small lake, more trails and a “pop shop”.

Now our decision was whether to continue on another trail or return. Since we had been gone just under an hour, we decided to hike up the mountain ahead of us.


Carl contemplating the hike ahead.

It took about 45 minutes to reach the top but we stopped and enjoyed the view several times.


On one of the peaks a cairn had been erected and to celebrate our accomplishment on reaching the top we felt obligated to add our rock to the pile.


Carl makes his contribution…

As we journeyed back down the mountain, we took a minor path to shorten the distance. This trail was shorter but required some finesse in the navigation.

After getting back to the funicular, we decided to continue our hike down into town instead of riding the tram. The trail was very nice and passed through a park like area with beautiful old growth trees.

At the end of the path we then navigated through the streets and stairs and got to enjoy some of the residential areas of Bergen.

Once back in town we explored the Fish Market and did a little shopping while making our way back to the ship.

There was a street entertainer who was very good. He traveled by bicycle and pulled a trailer with his equipment including a 12 volt battery to power his amplifier.

After we returned to the ship, I downloaded my GPS tracker which I carry to record the locations of my photographs. I was surprised to find that we had walked 10.2 miles. Well I guess we want need to walk the decks today for exercise…

As we sailed out of Bergen, we had a rare treat. There were several rainbows but I was able to catch one where I could photograph both ends from “sea to sea” in one photo.


The photo is not nearly as impressive as the real thing, but perhaps you can get the idea.

Tomorrow is a sea day, but there are several good lectures in the Exploration Speaker Series we plan to attend. One on Charles Lindberg and Beryl Markham and another titled “Cruising Across the Famous Lore & Legends of the Seven Seas”. There is also a lecture on upcoming ports. Lunch on the Lido tomorrow features a “Fish Market”, which will consists of a variety of grilled fish and seafood along with all the accruements. Looks like there will be plenty to do.

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July 28, 2012 – Alesund, Norway

Ålesund is a town and municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It is part of the traditional district of Sunnmøre, and the center of the Ålesund Region. It is a sea port, and is noted for its unique concentration of Art Nouveau architecture. Ålesund town is the administrative centre of the municipality as well as the principal shipping town of the Sunnmøre district. Ålesund municipality has a population of 42,982 as of 2010, while the greater Ålesund area has a population of 47,772.


We again arrived in port early and I was able to get a few interesting photos coming into port.



Alesund is an unusual city in regards to it’s architecture. Due to a tragic fire in 1904 almost the entire city was destroyed. As a result reconstruction was done in the then popular Art Nouveau style. The vast majority of buildings are of this style.



Also as can be seen, the majority of streets are paved with cobblestones. Alesund is a very beautiful city.

We did not schedule any excursions today but planned to hike (climb) to the top of Mt. Aksia for a view of the city and surrounding areas.


In a number of places and ways the city fathers never fail to point out that the way is steep, 418 steps to be exact and that doesn’t include the areas which are incline only!


Our trek begins… the climb actually wasn’t too bad. It was not nearly as difficult or long as our climb in Molde.



The views were great and we all agreed it was worth the effort.

After our morning exercise, we just enjoyed the sites of the city for a while and then returned to the ship for lunch. We would have liked to eat in town but it was just too EXPENSIVE. At one restaurant the price for a 225 gm (about ½ pound) hamburger and fries was 200 Kroners, about $32.00. A beer was about $12.00.

After lunch we did return to town for a little souvenir shopping. During this trip we did stop at a McDonalds and “borrowed” their free internet to make a few Skype phone calls. At McDonalds you could get a Quarter Pound hamburger for about $13.00, a little less expensive.

We sailed at about 5:45PM and enjoyed dinner onboard. After the show around 9:30 we were able to see the best sunset so far on the cruise.


Bergen tomorrow, our last port in Norway…

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July 27, 2012 – Geiranger, Norway

Geiranger is a small tourist village in Sunnmøre in the municipality of Stranda in Møre og Romsdal county, in the western part of Norway. It lies at the head of the Geirangerfjord, which is a branch of the Storfjord. The nearest city is Ålesund. Geiranger is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and has been named the best travel destination in Scandinavia by Lonely Planet. Since 2005, the Geirangerfjord has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Seven Sisters waterfall is located just west of Geiranger. Norwegian national road 63 passes through the village. This third biggest cruise ship port receives 140 to 180 ships during the four-month tourist season. Several hundred thousand people pass through every summer, and tourism is the main business for the 250 people who live there permanently.


File photo of the Seven Sisters Falls. Better than any I had…

We arrived in Geiranger at about 9:00 AM, but we were in the fiord for several hours before arrival. I was up at about 5:30 to get a few photos. The weather looked like it was going to be another overcast rainy day but fortunately it cleared and was very bright and pleasant. Because the fiord here is so deep we were unable to have any internet service or TV. That is why my blog post is a day late.

View up the fiord coming into Geiranger

Looking back at the Seven Sisters Falls from ship level

We scheduled an excursion with Holland America this morning to travel from Geiranger to Mt. Dalsnibba, a 4,900 foot high overlook about 10 miles distant by road. This was a tender port which all cruisers dread, but as tender ports go this was a good one. The ship docked very close to town and the ship operated three tenders so the transfers were fairly painless.



A view of the town of Geiranger and the fiord from the tour bus window as we were just leaving the town.



The view a little farther up the road. In this photo you can see the Maasdam peacefully awaiting our return.



As we neared the top of Mt. Dalsnibba, the snow increased.

Our guide told us that people were skiing until three weeks ago. The road we are traveling is one of two roads into the town. This one is closed all winter due to the danger of avalanches. The final two miles to the top of the mountain is a toll road which is only open three months of the year but the view is worth the trip.



Note the curving roads. Our guide said there were over 80 curves from town to the mountain top. Many of them were truly hairpin curves.

This lake, located at about 4000 ft is frozen most of the year. I believe its depth is almost 600 ft.

Kay and I at the top of Dalsnibba



Here you can see the town and fiord from Dalsnibba. Note the speck in the water on the left; that is the Maasdam from 4900 feet elevation and the water under her is 600 feet deep. It is hard to imagine the power of the glaciers that formed the Norwegian fiords.



On the trip back down from Dalsnibba we had a relatively rare treat; reindeer in the wild.

Back in town, the four of us with the ship in the background.


A few homes of the local residents of Geiranger.

Overall this was a very nice stop. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the town is so small it is impossible to get lost.

We got back to ship in time for dinner than we watched the movie “The Hunger Games” which was shown in the main showroom. It was ok, but the movie was not nearly as good as the book.

At 10:00 the Pilipino Crew performed their crew talent show. As always it was enjoyable.



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