More edits coming on this post.

This morning we awoke in Belfast.  Dale went to the Café for a light breakfast and to work on the blog.  Margaret slept in after her faux birthday celebration last night.

We decided to go to La Veranda for lunch.  We sat on the back deck and had beautiful weather.  The food was good and we had a nice chat with one of the restaurant managers named Alen.  He was from Croatia and he shared his thoughts with us about Oceania versus Regent and other subjects.

At 1:15 we went to Constellation theater and left the ship for our bus #22.  The Pubs of Belfast tour kicked off with our irreverent tour guide showering us with one story after another of the history and current situation regarding Belfast and Ireland.  Throughout you never knew what you could believe as fact.  In fact, at the end of the tour he said there are two histories of Ireland, one that is true and one that may not be true.

In any case, our guide, with his very Irish accent, went off once in a while on a tirade of sorts but it was all in good fun.  The bus took us on a quick tour of the city and then dropped us off in the middle of town.  From there we walked the rest of the way, getting stories along the way from our guide.  We stopped for about 30 minutes at a pub where we all got one drink (a pint of beer or a glass of wine).  Then, more city tour and another pub where we got another pint.  This was at a pub that is the oldest building in the city having been built in 1721.  Hard to believe that this is really the oldest building in this part of the world.  We figured that the city had been sacked a few times and all the buildings burned/destroyed.

Throughout our tour it was surprising to learn how many famous people came from Ireland and Belfast. But, the most interesting to us was the things that were invented here including Guinness beer, color photography, trans-Atlantic calling, a cure for leprosy, the tractor (a guy named Ferguson who also developed the first formula one race car), the submarine, the tank, the guided missile, the ejector seat and a heat exchanger that revolutionized alcohol making.  This same technology also was the pioneering effort in air conditioning!  By the way, Dale checked all this out to make sure it was true and it was.

Back on the Explorer we had our afternoon in suite snack (large shrimp) and a drink and called Michael and Karen that we met last night.  We planned to take a look at their room and them ours since our next cruise had their Concierge D format and they were thinking of upgrading to our Penthouse A.  We had fun looking at each other’s room and everyone liked both!

We had decided to go to La Veranda (called Sette Mare at night) for dinner.

Pictures coming later.

 

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Today is a sea day when we will be sailing by islands off the coast of Scotland as we head to Belfast.  The plan was for Margaret to sleep in and Dale would go to the Café, get a cappuccino and work on the blog.  But, by the time that Dale quietly (he thought) got dressed, Margaret popped through the sliding door with her robe on and insisted she was up for the duration.  Dale tried to talk her into going back to bed but to no avail.  He went down the elevator to Deck 5 to get going.  After all, he was dreadfully behind on the blog despite doing his best to take notes every day. Without that, it was probably hopeless.

Yesterday, Dale and Margaret had talked about doing another cruise on the Explorer.  There was one from Lisbon to Cape Town that went down the West coast of Africa.  Africa and Asia are the last areas that they would like to do to round out their world explorations.  Although they had come close to booking a cruise in those areas something always came up to prevent it from happening.  They were planning on meeting with the Cruise consultant on Saturday but Dale happened to pass by her office heading to the Café.  The door was open so he stuck in his head and asked if she was available.  She said she was booked the entire day but was actually available now!

Turns out the Africa cruise a year from November is nearly booked!  She signed them up for Concierge C class, a smaller room than this cruise and no butler but still quite nice.  They also went on the waitlist to upgrade to the larger room and for the post cruise land tour in Cape Town which included a safari.  Margaret was quite happy and impressed that Dale had taken the initiative.  If he hadn’t, the cruise would likely have filled up before they had a chance to meet with the consultant.

We watched tapes of the lectures on the UK.  It gets really complicated so we won’t attempt to go through it all.  But here are some interesting points:

  1. The Romans never made it to Ireland despite taking over all of England and the Southern part of Scotland for hundreds of years.
  2. In the 900’s Viking settlers from Norway landed in Ireland but quickly assimilated into Irish customs and religion. Several other rounds of takeovers happened over the years including the Norman’s taking over about 75% and putting it under their control along with England.  Like England, their history is complicated.
  3. Ireland is a bit larger than the state of Virginia with a population of 5 million. 80% are Catholic.  Dublin has about 25% of the total population.
  4. Surprisingly, about 40% of Northern Ireland are Protestant and 40% are Catholic.
  5. Ireland is split into two “countries”, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (Southern). The North is primarily Protestant and, while being a separate country, is a part of the UK.  However, their parliament also has representatives from the South so they can make joint decisions about issues that affect the entire country.
  6. Representatives from all parts of the UK vote in making decisions for issues only affecting England, including the independent Republic of Ireland.
  7. Ireland is not a member of NATO and considers itself to be independent. However, they supply soldiers to the UN around the world.
  8. The Republic of Ireland has a flag with large vertical green, white and orange stripes with a star and crown in the middle. The Northern Ireland flag is white with red horizontal and vertical stripes.  When you look at the former flags from Scotland and the UK you will see that the UK flag is a combination of all the component countries.  A picture of his will be below.
  9. The Titanic was built in Belfast when it was a major ship building city and is a major tourist item there.

Once again Margaret wanted to have lunch at Chartreuse.  We were now a regular fixture at this restaurant and were greeted by everyone personally.  Lunch was great, including our favorite Pouilly Fuisse wine that is only available there.

At 4:30 Margaret met Allen and Beth in the Observation Lounge to play the Trivia game.  Dale went to the Galley Tour with the Compass Rose Executive Chef.  He met up with the Trivia group when the tour was finished.  He was asked “What is the body of water that is off a particular lighthouse in Saudi Arabia.  He knew the correct answer, “The Red Sea”.

We went back to our suite at about 5:30 to see that our butler Lachmi had put spread some flowers around the table where our appetizer tray was placed and had also placed a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket.  Margaret had told him that she was “celebrating her birthday” today and he did this to help her celebrate.  When he came by she told him the truth but he was still anxious to help her carry out her faux birthday.

We were invited to have dinner with Daniella, the Executive Concierge that we had met in the smoking lounge on the pool deck a couple nights back.  We accepted and met her and her other guests at Compass Rose at 7:15.  The other couple, Michael and Karen, were from Las Vegas and San Clemente.  He was an inventor, having patents for some very basic and important items like cell phone, system for cars auto parking and many others.  Very interesting couple and we all had a good time.  Daniella is from Tijuana, Mexico and has worked her way up to an important job on the ship in 5 years.

We went to the smoking lounge but nothing was going on there so went to the room.  When we entered we were surprised to see about a dozen multi-colored balloons stuck to the ceiling around the room!  Lachmi wanted the birthday celebration to continue.  We took a picture and then watched a movie, had a hamburger in the room and went to bed.

More edits and pictures to come.

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This post is not complete or edited.  This is only a place taker post.  Will be completed soon.

St. Andrews

Dale had breakfast in La Veranda, Margaret in the room.

Tender ride took about 40 minutes.

James 6/James 1 united Scotland and England to become Great Britain.

Confusing history.

South Queensferry/North Queensferry.

More edits and pictures will be coming soon.

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This isn’t complete and unedited.  Put here for a place taker.

We slept well through the storm last night.  The Explorer is a very sturdy ship and we barely felt the rough seas.  The captain said that we made great time and we looked out to reasonably clear skies and lots of sea-borne windmills as we traversed the English Channel.  Waking up at 9:40 (Dale thought) we called for room service breakfast.  Somehow, Dale’s phone ended up an hour ahead for the real time but we ate breakfast, both took showers and both watched different movies.  It’s nice having two 50” widescreens!

Which brings us to the shower.  Wow!  The best shower ever.  Left and right triple heads, rain shower head above and a hand wand.  The shower is at least twice the size of the standard one on the other ships and you don’t have to step into it.  The sacrifice?  You don’t have a tub which we didn’t use anyway.  Fantastic!

At noon we headed down to the French restaurant Chartreuse.  They no longer have lunch at the Compass main dining room so you must eat at La Veranda, Prime 7 or Chartreuse.  We finally got the fabled Pouilly Fuisse, Margaret had some wonderful Hamache and half chicken and Dale had some veal.  Great service, nice surroundings and a 2 hour lunch.  Judy and Franco had trained us well!

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