Well it’s the chance you take. If you find excursions other than the cruise ships, and you’re late back to the ship, oh well too bad so sad you’re on your own to get to the next port. But it’s these other excursions that are much cheaper and sometimes better especially to be part of a small group rather than a huge bus load.

Before I went on my Caribbean Princess British Isles cruise, I did my homework. One of the fantastic stops on this cruise was Belfast. I searched the Internet, using websites such as Trip Advisor and felt fairly confident Belfast City Tours would be a good choice although I might have felt hesitant to put a 20 GBP deposit online. Two couples from the United States were the first to pre booked this tour and with me as a fifth wheel, the price got cheaper.

Tommy, our taxi driver and guide, was at the dock to greet us with a sign written with our names. It was still in the back of my mind hoping Tommy will get us back to the ship on time. What can I say; it’s the worry wart in me.
The day started off cold, grey and it didn’t get any better. Our first stop was to see Royal Portrush golf course from a distance. This was the only golf course in Northern Ireland used in the British Open. It’s also the home of 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.

We shivered overlooking toward Deluce Castle dating back to the 13th century. The roofless castle hangs almost at the edge of the cliff. Part of the kitchen collapsed into the sea. According to legend, only a kitchen boy survived since he sat in the corner where it didn’t collapse. The castle is well preserved. Hats and gloves were a necessity on this day but the gorgeous view of the waves crashed on the rocks was worth the teeth chatter.

We passed by gorgeous cliffs between Deluce Castle and Giant Causeways. Since these cliffs are similar to Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, it was along here the Americans practiced for D-Day.

We arrived at the visitor’s centre of the Giant’s Causeway. It was a short debate whether to walk for 20 minutes to the Causeway or bus it. The wind and cold made me bus it. For only 2 GBP return I spend more time admiring these 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that are believed to be a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Or you could believe the legend of giant Finn McCool making a walkway to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner.

Benandonner was much larger than Finn. Finn tried to think of a way out of this fiasco so Finn’s wife had a plan. When Benandonner came over, Finn was disguised as a baby so Benandonner thought if the baby is this big, how big is his father? Benandonner fled back to Scotland ripping the Causeway behind him so Finn wouldn’t follow.

Our next tour was Bushmills, a 400-year-old working distillery. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures during the 45-minute tour. It was nosy inside so I tried to listen to our guide but my mind tended to wonder a bit. After the tour, we went to the Bushmill’s pub for a free sample of one of several types of whiskeys.

It was lunch time and everyone was hungry. We huddled in the small Roork Kitchen restaurant located in Ballintoy Harbour, a cute place that it is said it could pass for an Aegean harbour on a good day.Everyone but me ordered Irish stew. I was the outcast and ordered ham and cheese sandwich with crisps (chips). The stew was good but salty someone said.

The scenery was still spectacular along the rugged coastline despite the gloom of the weather. Tommy whizzed by making his way back to Belfast. I felt a little depressed as I wanted to stay here longer.

Built in 1888, the Belfast City Hall has the Titanic Memorial erected to commemorate the lives lost on April 15, 1912. It’s a poignant statue of a female personification of Death or Fate holding a laurel wreath overhead of a drowned sailor saved by a pair of mermaids. The statue was unveiled in 1920.

Tommy made an unscheduled for a few moments at the new Titanic Museum opened in April 2012. You would need at least two or three hours to fully appreciate the museum. Not far is the dockland where the Titanic started its fateful journey.

What a fantastic day this was despite it being the coldest, windiest and wettest of my 12-day cruise! And Tommy got us back to the ship well before we cruised away!

Websites:
Belfast City Tours: http://www.belfastcitytours.com/references.html
Princess Cruise Line: www.princess.com
Trip advisor: www.tripadvisor.com

Destination: British Isles, Northern Ireland