Southampton, Dublin & Crossing The Pond

Southampton

Nikki and I went various directions in Southampton. We get to go on tours as ship escorts, who then report back to the ship on the quality of the tours. We also help out with stickering folks who are going on tour. It’s a nice fringe benefit, fun, and a nice way to interact with guests. But . . . it means we go in different directions, which is fine by me because it enables me through Nikki’s report and photos to be in two places at once.

Nikki went to Stonehenge and the ancient city of Salisbury.

Stonehenge was erected around 2500 BC as burial ground, part of a complex of Neolithic and Bronze age monuments including several hundred burial mounds, the meaning of which archeologists are still trying to determine.

Salisbury was inhabited since Inhabited since the Neolithic period and the 700-year-old Salisbury Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest English cathedrals. The old city of Salisbury is one of the “off-the-beaten-path gems” of Southern England.

I went to visit HRM Queen Elizabeth at Winsor Castle. Unfortunately the Queen was out, but her staff graciously showed us around . . . and I do mean graciously. Winsor attracts hordes of tourists and since it is a royal residence, often the Queen’s weekend get-away place, and is a museum of the Royal Collection, of course there is a lot of security and guards. But, unlike were this in the US, everyone was so polite, courteous and helpful, it was very much like you were visiting as a guest of the Queen. It was like they thought that you can have security without necessarily being rude, a concept nonexistent in the US. You could walk into a room with 3 Rembrandts, a Vermeer and two Rubens, and nobody would think of walking beyond the ropes and the “guards” , which weren’t even called that, who might have told you not to touch the paintings had you dared, were primarily there to give informed answers about the artwork and history of Winsor. It was very different!

Needless to say, it was interesting and the tiny sample of the Royal Collection of artwork and treasures was stunning. Winsor is the castle that had the great fire in 1992 that destroyed some major rooms in the Royal Apartments. These have been beautifully restored and if it wasn’t for the woodwork which hasn’t aged yet, you would never know these rooms had been destroyed. Somehow they were able to find craftsmen who could work in wood, stone and paint to recreate the damaged sections of the castle.

Originally Winsor was a wooden castle built by William the Conqueror. Over 900 years the castle has evolved and changed according to the times, tastes, requirements and finances of successive Monarchs. Today it is the largest castle in the world in continuous occupation since 1070. Inside the castle is 484,000 sq ft (44,965 sq m)

Guards stood, and changed, and marched through the castle with Disney-like precision, a reminder that the Royal Family is, after all, a giant tourist attraction. Even the Queen’s Own ice cream carts and souvenir stalls, although undeniably tacky, had a Disneyesque feel and left you wondering if these people might really need the money.

Rumor is that when . . . or is it if . . . Charles ascends to the throne, that he will move things from Buckingham Palace to Winsor to have more control and put his unique stamp on things. I have a hard time imagining the new currency . . .

The Aussies on board tell me that they love the Queen, but that if and when Charles comes to the throne . . . “he’s a dull bloke” . . . that Australia, Canada and perhaps other members of the Commonwealth will bolt.

Dublin

No Dublin, much to the dismay of every Aussie and Kiwi wanting to be Irish for the day. And much to my dismay as well. Strong winds prevented our docking in Dublin. Second port we’ve missed. Safaga because engine problems delayed us, and Dublin because the weather wouldn’t cooperate. It happens. Unfortunately.

Crossing The Pond

So we had 8 sea days in a row, a little much by anyone’s standard, including mine, and I like sea days even though they mean a lot of work for me. If there was any plus missing Dublin, the Beatles tribute band, “Beatle Celebration”, originally schedule to leave in Dublin was forced to remain on board. They came onboard in Southampton, intending to do shows two nights and leave in Dublin . . . and ended up staying 8 days, with only clothes for 3 days. Personally, I think not calling in Dublin was a plot by the cruise director to shanghai the best act we’ve had so far. These guys look like the Beatles, play like them, and interact with one another on stage like the Beatles. The ship couldn’t get enough of the “Beatle Celebration” so the guys ended up playing 10 shows, including one just for the crew.

The final night we had a “White Party” up on deck, and the deck was jammed packed. Except for New Year’s on the ZUIDERDAM it was the best at sea party I’ve seen. The whole ship was dancing. Looking over the band at the crowd you could see a bunch of middle-aged folks and “seniors” who had forgotten the years and were reliving their youth. It was wonderful! One lady said to me the next day, “Richard, for a few moments last night I reversed my age and was 28 again. But this morning me arthritis was acting up again and, unfortunately, I felt 82, but last night it was magic!” And it was!

As we crossed the Atlantic on the “Great Circle Route”, just before midnight one evening we passed directly over the final resting place of the TITANIC. It was interesting because DAWN PRINCESS left Southampton from Ocean Terminal, Gate 4, the very place from which the TITANIC sailed on its doomed voyage. Also DAWN PRINCESS is about the same length and width as the TITANIC. The day we were to cross over the grave of the TITANIC one of the bridge officers put together a PowerPoint presentation that was shown on the giant screen up on deck. He recounted the final hours of the TITANIC and talked about the similarities and differences between TITANIC and DAWN PRINCESS. Most of the modern safety design and practice of ships today, and the SOLAS regulations came about because of the TITANIC tragedy. One difference, other than the fact that we made it and they didn’t, the most expensive suite on TITANIC in today’s money would have cost $100,000.

* * * * *
One of the things I criticized on ROYAL PRINCESS was the floral arrangements that at times were mostly dead despite the fact that we were sailing in the tropics where tropical foliage and flowers were abundant, and the Christmas poinsettias that stayed drooping in public areas until after Valentine’s Day. Well, believe me, on the world cruise on DAWN PRINCESS it is a totally different horticultural and floral world. This is the only ship I’ve ever been on that has beautiful live green plants everywhere. And there are beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers around the ship. There are two florists on board who keep everything looking perfect and guests can purchase fresh floral arrangements from the florists. Very nice and very much what one would expect from Princess.

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