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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Re: MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 01 Aug 2020 09:05

grannyM wrote:
hazel20 wrote:Excellent Geoff.
I learned some new things on your tour of Dublin.


Late as usual Geoff but just had to add to what Hazel said about your first day in Dublin.

I have been to Dublin many times to visit relatives and tracing ancestors for my family tree. I have enjoyed every visit and seen most of the city and around places in the Greater Dublin counties but never been on the Walking tour. If T and I go again we will definitely do that. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this and seeing your photographs. I have had a lovely time this morning recalling memories of my sentimental times there. Thank you for this and now look forward to your 2nd day ship's excursion. :clap:


Thank you so much Hazel and Marie. I would certainly recommend the walking tour to anybody visiting Dublin in the future, the guides are very knowledgable and you get to see a lot of different sights. There were a dozen people in our party but a few people joined us after we had started, but it always stayed intimate and the guide was always happy to answer any questions. Here is a link to the tour company :-

https://historicaltours.ie/

Currently the cost is 14 Euros per person, although they are not being held at the moment due to COVID-19. Much cheaper than a cruise ship excursion and, in my opinion, much better and more personal.
Geoff

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Re: MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby Camela » 01 Aug 2020 16:04

Another latecomer (have had two days of distance socialising!!). Dublin is relevant to our family as both our grandfathers were born there, sons of Army personnel. My first full time job was as a star struck teenager with Aer Lingus. We've visited many times on business and one son did research at Trinity College for his Masters degree. Thanks for the memories Geoff.
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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 02 Aug 2020 07:55

Day 5 – Saturday 26th May 2012 - Belfast, N. ireland

This morning found us in the port of Belfast, Northern Ireland. We rose at 7:00 am, showered and dressed and then went for breakfast to the Palms Cafe, the first time we had tried this venue. At 8:40 am we assembled in the Neptune Lounge for our full day excursion to Giant’s Causeway. We were soon taken down to the quay where we boarded coach (No. 6) and our guide Patrick introduced himself to us.

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Patrick, our guide, on the coach.

Soon after leaving the port we passed the newly opened “Titanic Belfast” permanent Exhibition building and then drove to Larne, where we took the coast road north towards Portrush. It was a lovely sunny day with blue skies and the Antrim coastal scenery was absolutely beautiful and reminded us a little of Chapman’s Peak drive in South Africa, although not quite as rugged or dramatic. Patrick proved to be a very good guide and was very knowledgable about the areas we passed through.

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Passing the “Titanic Belfast” Exhibition building.

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A lovely coastal drive on a gorgeous day.

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Driving through some lovely little villages.

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We stopped for a comfort break at the idyllic little fishing village of Carnlough. There were several small charter fishing boats in the harbour that could be hired – I will remember this in case we ever return to the area. There was also a plaque in the harbour remembering the 9 crew of the “SS Peridot” who were lost in a storm in 1905. Most of the men came from this little village.

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The little harbour at Carnlough.

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One of the charter fishing boarts for hire in Carnlough harbour.

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The plaque to remember the loss of the “SS Peridot” in 1905.

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Back on the coach we drove through this very short tunnel.

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Beautiful scenery at every turn.

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Fabulous deserted sandy beaches. Could this really be N. Ireland in May? It looked more like the Mediterranean.

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I must return here with my spinning rod and lures. Poached sea bass...Mmmmm!

We halted our journey to take photographs of the Carrick-a Rede rope bridge. The bridge is 20 metres long and 30 metres above the sea and joins a small island to the mainland. Local fishermen have built rope bridges here for over 350 years to enable them to fish for salmon from the island. The island is currently owned and maintained by the National Trust. We would have liked to have walked across the bridge, but our busy schedule for the day did not allow this.

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The island reached by the rope bridge.

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Apparently the bridge wobbles and twists as soon as you step onto it.

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Definitely not for people with vertigo!

It was a lovely morning, with a temperature of 23° C and we were seeing Northern Island at its best. Our next stop was to photograph the ruined remains of Dunluce Castle, a 13th century castle, the seat of the Clan McDonnell. It was built over the ruins of a Viking fort and is reached by a bridge from the mainland and would have been a formidable fortification in its time.

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Approaching Dunluce Castle.

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Such a pity that the castle was not maintained.

At lunchtime we stopped at the ‘Royal Court Hotel’ at Portrush. We went into their large function room and were given a superb silver service meal with complimentary wine. I had melon to start with, then tender roast beef with all the trimmings and then finished with pavlova and coffee. It was a lovely meal and we really enjoyed it. It was such a lovely clear day that we could see the coast of Scotland from the hotel’s car park, as well as the islands of Rathlin, Jura and Isla.

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Our coach at the ‘Royal Court Hotel’, Portrush.

After luch we were driven the short distance to the Giant’s Causeway, where we had three hours of free time. Our guide explained that it was about a 20 minute walk from the Visitors Centre down to the actual causeway, but there was a shuttle bus available for those people with mobility issues. He did however advise us that there would be quite a long queue for the shuttle bus. As I had spinal column damage that has left me with no feeling in my lower legs I decided that I would stay at the Visitors Centre. The causeway is not the best place for anybody that has balance problems, so I settled for a sit down with a coffee and a big ice cream at the Centre. Chris set off walking down towards the causeway.

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The walkway down to the Giant’s Causeway.

Rumour has it that, 61 million years ago, in a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the area, molten lava poured from narrow fissures in the ground, filling in the valleys and burning the vegetation that was growing there. This layer of tholeiitic basalt lava cooled rapidly and, in the process, it shrank and cracked evenly into polygon shaped blocks, forming columnar jointing beneath the surface. Around 15,000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age, when the land was frozen, sea ice ground its way slowly past the high basalt cliffs, eroding the foreshore and helping to form the Giant’s causeway.

However…..the REAL explanation is that that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool laid the causeway to provide a path across the sea to Scotland, to engage in battle with a Scottish giant named Benandonner. Once across, Finn realised that Benandonner was somewhat bigger than him, so retreated home, begging his wife, named Oonagh, to help him. Oonagh disguised Finn as a baby and placed him in a cot. Benandonner arrived at Finn’s house and, seeing how big the baby was, decided not to wait around to fight the father. Benandonner therefore retreated back to Scotland, destroying the causeway as he went.

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The Giant’s Causeway.

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It definitely would not have been suitable for me.

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Most columns are hexagonal, but some have four, five, eight or even ten sides. They generally measure about 30 cm (12 inches) across.

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This structure is known as the ‘Organ Pipes’.

Chris returned to the Visitors centre in the shuttle bus which I was pleased about as Chris’ knees are giving her problems and it was a long uphill walk. She told me that, there had been no queue for the bus, despite what we had been told.

The coach collected us from the Visitors Centre at the agreed time and we started back on our journey to Belfast. We took the faster M2 motorway route back to the ship – much faster but not nearly as scenic. It had been a really good excursion, one of our best, with great scenery, interesting sights, great weather, an interesting anf informative guide and a delicious meal – everything a good excursion should be. We arrived back at the ship at 5:30 pm, tired but very happy. We loved Antrim and would like to go back there with our own car and spend a holiday there.

Before dinner we went to the Coral Club to see the ‘Crew Cabaret’ show – this is where the (non entertainment) crew put on a show for the passengers. There are many very talented singers amongst the hotel, bar, waiting catering and engine room staff. I would urge anybody to go and see the crew’s show when on a ship – on some ships they are better than the professional entertainers.

The Captain told us that he had visited the 'Titanic Belfast' exhibition and said that he had found it very interesting and had learnt a lot. Hmmm! How not to proceed at full speed when there are icebergs about perhaps?

We had dinner in the Thistle Dining Room – it was Tropical/Smart casual dress code – so I wore one of my £2.50 Hawaiian style shirt that I had purchased in American Samoa whilst crossing the Pacific on the “Sapphire Princess” in 2008.

After dinner we went to the Neptune Lounge to watch the show ‘The Heat is On’ with the ship’s singers and dancers. As usual it was excellent.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Continued tomorrow ………………..
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby Gillzajoker » 02 Aug 2020 10:01

As usual, I posted a comment yesterday, admiring your photos and saying how much I enjoyed learning
about the history, etc., but there it is, gone!

What a fantastic excursion this was - wonderful scenery at every turn, well captured by your trusty
camera, and the icing on the cake was the Giant's Causeway. Of course YOUR version is the true one,
I'm sure. And haven't you been lucky with the weather! :D
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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 02 Aug 2020 10:28

Gillzajoker wrote:As usual, I posted a comment yesterday, admiring your photos and saying how much I enjoyed learning
about the history, etc., but there it is, gone!

What a fantastic excursion this was - wonderful scenery at every turn, well captured by your trusty
camera, and the icing on the cake was the Giant's Causeway. Of course YOUR version is the true one,
I'm sure. And haven't you been lucky with the weather! :D


Thanks very much Gill. Yes, it was the best May weather I think we have ever experienced in the UK and Ireland. The cruise could have been so much different if we had experienced bad weather.
Geoff

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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 03 Aug 2020 07:48

Day 6 – Sunday 27th May 2012 - Day at sea

Today we had another day at sea. After breakfasting in the Thistle Dining Room we went for a walk around the decks and then Chris went to see a demonstration of ice carving whilst I rested my legs. We then met up and had another walk on the decks, where we saw a pod of dolphins frolicking in the calm seas.

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Chris watching the dolphins

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The sea was like a millpond. We could hardly believe how lucky we were with the weather. It is never like this when I go boat fishing in the English Channel!

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The ship has a very tidy forecastle and it is accessible for passengers. It also has a couple of deck games painted on the decking.

Our walk ended on the swimming pool deck where we had a glass of wine each (in plastic glasses – ugh!)

Between her construction and 2008, the “Braemar” was a considerably shorter ship. In 2008 she was cut in half at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in hamburg and had a new 102 ft section was inserted into her (the “Balmoral” had a similar extension also in 2008). Chris and I have sailed on a few ships that have been extended and are not great fans of this modification. It slows the ships down and so they can be delayed in reaching ports if long journeys are involved.

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A model of the “Braemar” as she was prior to 2008.

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A file photo of a ship cut in half ready to receive the new section.

At lunchtime, for a change, we ate in the Grampion Dining Room on deck 8, which has large picture windows giving excellent views over the sea. Like the Main Dining Room, we could choose between waiter service or the self service buffet. This dining room is (I believe) mainly for Suite passengers in the evening, but is open to all passengers for lunch.

In the afternoon Chris went to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a lecture about the history of the ‘National Trust’, whilst I settled down with my Sony reader for a good read. After the lecture we met up and then went to the Palms cafe for afternoon tea.

Before dinner we went to the Coral Club to see the ship’s singers and dancers in a show ‘Oh What a Night’ - again it was first class entertainment. Before the show we had talked to dancer Jane Hubberstey, who came from Liverpool and was a lovely girl (in every sense). She was absolutely passionate about her singing and dancing and it was a joy to speak with her. She told us that the group had two more cruises after ours and then they were having a long holiday as the “Braemar” was going to be used as a floating hotel during the forthcoming Olympic games – and the singers and dancers were not required.

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The singers and dancers in action…..

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…… and posing for a group photograph.

After a dinner in the Main Dining Room we went to the Neptune Lounge to see a show by singer Geoff Taylor, who was a BBC big band singer and recording artist. He had a rather similar voice to Frank Sinatra (we thought) and we really enjoyed his show.

After the show we had a nightcap in one of the lounges, listening to live music, before retiring to our cabin for the night. Tomorrow we would be visiting the port of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, a new destination for us.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Continued tomorrow …………………….
Geoff

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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby Gillzajoker » 03 Aug 2020 10:00

A nice restful day for you there, Geoff, to recharge the old batteries. Certainly agree with you about
the weather and wonderful sea! :D
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby Camela » 03 Aug 2020 12:43

I love that you and Chris will 'do your own thing' on board as we do, even occasionally taking different excursions. We have cruising friends who don't separate at all - each to his own - and the beauty of cruising is something for everyone.
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 03 Aug 2020 13:32

Camela wrote:I love that you and Chris will 'do your own thing' on board as we do, even occasionally taking different excursions. We have cruising friends who don't separate at all - each to his own - and the beauty of cruising is something for everyone.


Thank you Gill and Camela. Chris and I perceive a cruise ship as being a very safe environment and so are quite happy to do our 'own thing' whilst aboard. Likewise, we also believe that the ship's excursions are also as safe as they can be - you are in a fairly large group and are with experienced local guides as well as (on some ships) representatives from the crew. So we are quite happy to split up if necessary, although we mostly take the same excursions, simply because we are very like-minded. :D
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MEMORIES (No. 4) - "BRAEMAR" - UK & IRELAND - 2012

Postby judgegeoff » 04 Aug 2020 08:01

Day 7 – Monday 28th May 2012 - Kirkwall, Orkney Islands


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When we woke up this morning we were in the port of Kirkwall’ in the Orkney Islands. As we were booked on the ship’s ‘Skara Brae and Skaill House’ excursion, we went to the Palms Cafe for a quick buffet breakfast. After breakfast we assembled in the Neptune Lounge for our tour and were then led down to the gangway where a coach was waiting for us. Once all passengers were aboard we set off.

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Looking back at our ship it looked as though she had a black hull – but it was an optical illusion – there was another ship (with a black hull) moored in front of us!

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Aboard our excursion coach.

Our local guide was named Jack Drever and he was very distinctive as he was dressed in a long black raincoat and sported a yellow straw hat. The Orkney Islands are situated very northerly and, whilst we had lovely sunny weather whilst we were there, Jack told us that it had snowed just a week before our visit. It is usually very windy on the island (although not for our visit) and consequently there are very, very few trees. We actually passed a small wooded area that had been planted by a local landowner and Jack told us that many of the local population would often visit the area for a walk, as it was so unique in their barren landscape.

We also got a good view of Skapa Flow, the main British navel Fleet base during WW1 and where the captured German Fleet were scuppered at the end of the war. Jack told us that the scrap metal from the German ships is very valuable, because it is desired for medical and research use, as it was submerged before the nuclear age and is therefore free of even miniscule radiation (caused mainly as a result of nuclear weapons testing).

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Scapa Flow.

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Very odd to be in a treeless environment.

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No problem with noisy neighbours!

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Our guide, John Drever.

Our first stop was at Skara Brae – a 3,000 year old Neolithic village that has been excavated. After leaving the small visitor’s centre we followed Jack as we walked around the excavated village. The excavation was such that the buildings looked as though they had been built underground and the excavation work had removed the roofs, so we were able to look down into the buildings. But this was because the ground level had built up over the intervening 3,000 years.

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Looks like the roof has been removed!

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One of the early houses.

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The actual house.

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Another house.

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Who knew that IKEA was 3,000 years old?

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Another view of the house.

The settlement predates Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza, but were built over the ruins of an even older settlement. It is not, at present, possible to excavate these older buildings without destroying the newer (?) buildings, but the archaeologists are hopeful that this may be possible in the future.

There are ten separate buildings to see, nine of them being homes, but one is a workshop.

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The workshop.

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The inhabitants used quite a lot of stonework, especially thin slabs, to construct beds, tables and storage units etc. - a sort of Flintstones version if IKEA! It was a very interesting place to visit and we were pleased that we had chosen this tour.

From Skara Brae it was only a short walk to Skaill House, so the party followed Jack to the house. But my legs and back were troubling me, so I walked back to the visitors centre where I could sit down with a coffee in the little cafe there. Chris continued on the tour which included a guided tour of Skaill House.

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Skaill House. The people in blue are Hurtigruten cruise ship passengers who are issued with coats!

Skaill House is the largest mansion in the Orkney islands and was built by George Graham, Bishop of Orkney in 1620. Since that time, all 12 of its Lairds have been related and have contributed to the history and collections of the house. The 7th Laird, William Graham Watt, discovered the nearby ancient settlement of Skara Brae in 1850. The artefacts include items relating to Skara Brae, an unusual Norse calendar and a tea service used by Captain Cook on his third and last voyage.

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The house’s sitting room.

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Grrrrr!!!

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The dining room table laid for dinner.

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Captain Cook’s crockery.

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Delicate fans in a cabinet.

I was reunited with the tour party at the Visitor’s Centre and we were driven to ‘Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle, not dissimilar to Stonehenge, but much larger and with only vertical stones. It is believed to be between 4,500 to 5,000 years ago. Most of our party, including Chris, walked over to inspect the stones, but I was still in pain, so stayed on the coach talking to the driver, Martin, who was a recreational sea fisherman like myself.

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The Ring of Brodgar. Not easy to visualise it as a ring from the road.

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A very big circle, 341 ft in diameter and originally having 60 stones although only 27 remain (over the centuries farmers had removed the other stones).

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Huge stones.

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We then returned to the ship, passing several other sites of stone circles. There had been more circles but farmers had removed them to ease ploughing. Now, of course, they are protected by law. It had been a really interesting and enjoyable tour.

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“Braemar” berthed at Kirkwall harbour.

We had a 3 course lunch in the Thistle Dining Room and then caught the complimentary shuttle bus into the nearby town of Kirkwall, about a 10 minute journey. We then walked to the St. Magnus Cathedral which was built in 1137, although it was added to over the next 300 years. The Cathedral is a splendid example of Romanesque style – oddly it is not owned by the Church, but by the Burgh of Kirkwall, and it has its own dungeon!

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The front facade of St. Magnus Cathedral.

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The side of the Cathedral.

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The interior – Norman arches.

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A colourful stained glass window.

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A statue of St. Olaf holding an orb and an axe. He was King Olaf Haroldson and was responsible for converting much of Norway to Christianity. Unfortunately he tended to do this with the sword (and axe) rather than by the word. He was killed in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 AD.

Around the corner from the Cathedral are the well preserved ruins of the Earl’s Palace. This palace was built in 1607 by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney, using forced labour. He falsely aquired the land by accusing the real owner of a crime and having him executed. However, the Earl of Caithness, supported by royal troops, laid seige to the palace and Patrick and his son Robert were taken prisoner and subsequently executed themselves. Unfortunately the palace itself was badly damaged in the seige.

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The ruins of the Earl’s Palace.

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It would have been a beautiful building.

Across the road from the palace is the Bishop’s Palace, looking rather like a defensive Norman tower. It was built around the same time as the Earl’s Palace and was the home of various Bishops of Orkney. It fell into ruin in about 1320.

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The Bishop’s Palace.

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The ruined palace from the rear (very close to the Cathedral).

We then did some shopping in the town’s centre – there were some nice shops selling locally made and woven products, before catching the free shuttle bus back to the ship, where a piper was playing us back aboard.

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Trees are so scarce in the Orkneys that they will go to great lengths to keep them.

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The piper.

Chris decided to take some photographs of the ship leaving Kirkwall but, as she walked down the corridor outside our cabin, she felt a sharp pain in her foot. She had picked up a piece of a broken wine glass with her flip flop and the wound was bleeding freely. A passing member of the crew advised her to go to the Medical Centre in case any glass had been left in the wound.

We attended the Medical centre, on deck 2, where an Eastern European nurse told us that in order to get treated we would have to pay a £30 consultation fee plus the cost of any dressings or bandages etc. When I protested that it was due to broken glass left on the corridor carpet and not Chris’ fault, the nurse said that we should pay the fees and claim off our holiday insurance. I rang the Hotel manager and advised him of the circumstances and he agreed to waiver the charges. Chris was then treated by the doctor who cleaned the wound, checked there was no more glass and then dressed the wound and gave Chris some painkillers should she need them (she didn’t).

Although we were happy with the medical treatment, I was not happy with the initial response we had received at the Medical Centre, so I requested a meeting with the Hotel Manager, Joachin Schertz, and he agreed to meet me in the reception area.

Whilst we were waiting for Mr Schertz, we noticed that a representative of our Travel Agents, Ocean Travel, was sat in the area, so we spoke to him whilst waiting. When Mr Schertz arrived he told us that it was Fred. Olsen’s policy to to charge passengers for all treatment, regardless of cause, and passengers should claim back any costs from their travel insurance. He was very rude and abrasive and when I asked him if, whilst on deck, we were hit by a piece of rigging falling, if we would be expected to pay for treatment – and he replaied that we would!. He told us that we were lucky as he had waived the charges as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ and we should be very grateful that he had done so. We explained that we were not looking for compensation, or for somebody to blame, but had merely tried to get treatment for an incident that was not my wife’s fault. He then told us that flip flops were totally unsuitable footwear to use on a ship.

Fortunately the representative from Ocean travel had overheard the conversation, was disgusted with the Manager’s response and took the matter up with Fred. Olsen on our behalf. Eventually he sent me a copy of an email he had received from Fred. Olsen’s Customer Relations Manager in reply (it was clear that it had not been intended to be seen by our eyes). In it she apologised for the attitude displayed by the ship’s Hotel Manager, she knew him well and believed that he could be more than a little defensive when dealing with such matters. She believed that much of his perceived sternness purely came from his Germanic cultural background.

It went on to say that usually such matters would have been dealt with by the more appropriate Guest Relations Manager (GRM) who is trained to be more sympathetic in all that they do. Regretably the ship was without a GRM on this particular cruise, so perhaps Mr Schertz was feeling the strain of being more involved with guest queries and complaints than he would normally.

She went on to tell the Travel Agents that the Hotel Manager’s role rotas are published several months in advance, so if Chris and I were to consider a future cruise on the ship, she could advise the Travel Agents when Mr Swertz was onboard, in order that we could avoid travelling with him again (a very odd response I thought). She also added that she could see no reason why flip flops are not a suitable footwear to use during the day on board one of their ships.

Unfortunately (as usual), the response failed to answer my main point, which concerned guests being expected to pay for medical treatment when the incident is not the fault of the passenger and could argue to be negligence by the cruise company. In 2011, whilst on a cruise with Royal Caribbean, the cruise company had broken one of our suitcases whilst transporting it to our cabin. They had taken the case away and repaired it, with the promise that if we were not happy with the repair they would replace the suitcase. It annoyed me that Fred. Olsen had treated my wife worse than Royal Caribbean had treated my suitcase!!!

After dinner in the Thistle Dining Room we went to the Neptune Lounge to see the singers and dancers in the show ‘Rock Around the Clock’. As ever, it was excellent. Tomorrow we would be visiting the Scottish port of Invergordon.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Continues tomorrow ....................….
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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