Part 1 of my blog ended with us leaving the port of Cobh and heading for Dublin – so let me pick up from where I left off.
We docked in Dublin early in the morning and I had no immediate plans for the port, Dublin was one of my “free” days, so I jumped on the shuttle bus and made my way into town. I had visited Dublin when I was a child and a lot has changed since then – well, I thought a lot had changed! It was a pleasant city, lots to see and do and a great park right in the heart of it all. I must admit that I didn’t spend a long time ashore, only a few hours, but it was enough time to explore where I wanted to and I managed to clock up 4-miles on my fitbit.
Belfast was our next port and the one that I was most looking forward to. It didn’t disappoint. I had a leisurely morning onboard before leaving Boudicca and spending the afternoon on a “city drive and Titanic Belfast” excursion. My main reason for booking the excursion was because of the visit to Titanic Belfast, but I actually really did enjoy the city drive. The journey through West Belfast was very interesting indeed. I can’t really describe it to you, but it had many scars from the political problems that have gone on over the years. We also took a drive past the Peace Wall – Protestants on one side and Catholics on the other – and that was somewhat of an eye opener. Even now, the police still close the large gates between the two sides if they anticipate trouble and in July every year during the Orange Walk. It was a real look at the city and how the past is still very much a part of the present. Belfast city was very nice, but given its modern appearance today and the fact it was a hive of activity, it was quite difficult to imagine what these exact streets had been like in previous years – the Europa hotel was bombed 28 times and as the courts of justice were also previously a main target for car bombers, they were surrounded by high metal walls and an army of CCTV cameras! Before we left the city and made our way to the Titanic museum, we stopped at the Titanic Memorial Garden in the grounds of the City Hall and that was a very moving experience. There are large metal plaques in the garden that are etched with the names of every single person that was lost on the night of April 15, 1912.
Finally, we arrived at Titanic Belfast and it was absolutely fantastic. I would highly, HIGHLY recommend that you visit if you ever find yourself in Belfast. The museum itself is actually at the top of the slipway where Olympic and Titanic were both built and launched, it really was something incredible to experience – with the help of the museum and its technology, you could really envision what it would have been like back at the beginning of the 1900’s. I don’t want to say too much about it as I don’t want to spoil it should you decide to visit yourself, but there are 9 exhibits in total and you literally go from Belfast’s history right the way through to Titanic’s design, build, fitting out, launch and ultimately, sinking. There’s even a short ride which lets you see the build from the point of view of the actual shipbuilder and right at the end of the exhibit you can watch a short movie showing footage from the seabed where the ill-fated vessel now rests. We only had 2 hours at the museum, which is just enough time to get through all exhibits, but I would recommend that you go it alone (it’s only 5 minutes away from the port) and take maybe 3 or 4 hours there so you can REALLY see it all and also visit Nomadic – Titanic’s first class tender which sits just across the road from the museum itself.
Our next day was spent at sea and it was a glorious day! The sun was shining, it was warm across all the open decks, and we had the pleasure of sailing through the Hebrides for most of the day. What more could one possibly ask for?
Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands was absolutely beautiful! I went on an island tour in the afternoon and it was fantastic, such a picturesque place! I would definitely think about going back there but maybe for a longer stay. We spent about 3 hours driving to different places, but we stopped for photo opportunities here and there. We observed the spot in Scapa Flow where the HMS Royal Oak lies – apparently, at low tide, she sits just 5-metres below the surface of the water. We also visited the Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness and the cliffs at Yesnaby.
On Thursday we arrived in Invergordon and the sunrise was spectacular! It was an early start as I had a RIB ride at 8am. It was pretty cold, but we suited and booted and off we went in search of marine life and birds. We didn’t even make it beyond Boudicca in the harbour when we spotted a lone Common Dolphin swimming around. We watched him for a while before moving on and coming across Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphins, various species of bird and even a few seals. It was the second best excursion of the trip for me and I didn’t want it to end. I think we spent about 2 hours in the RIB, which is quite a long time compared to some of these tours.
Today we are in Rosyth and I am having a ship-based day, getting my hair cut later this afternoon and I must pack as we arrive back in Newcastle for disembarkation tomorrow. I have had a wonderful time on Boudicca and the weather has been fantastic in every port, not a single drop of rain! I still have so many other things to share with you from this trip, so keep an eye on my blog for more Boudicca posts in the future!