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There’s an old adage that states “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Captain Ravera and his crew aboard the beautiful Tahitian Princess maintain the old world charm of cruising that is so terribly missed on many of the other cruise ships. Granted the mega-ships offer more activities and if that is what you are looking for it’s wonderful but if you miss the attention to detail, a slightly slower pace and fine dining with a service staff that is at your beck and call the Tahitian Princess is where you would want to be.

This is our 2nd cruise aboard the Tahitian Princess and I must say it felt as if we were coming home again. Captain Stephano Ravera, who is probably the most popular and most loved captain aboard any ship in any fleet in the world, continues to be visible and welcome all of his passengers to his “Beautiful White Lady.” Once onboard it doesn’t take long for you to lose your passenger status and quickly become part of the Tahitian Princess family. What continues to resound in my mind is the captain’s constant remark that he treats his guests as he would want his parents to be treated on any given cruise.

On July 7th we boarded the Tahitian Princess in Dover, England. We had arrived at Gatwick Airport on July 5th since my husband, the “Crabby Old Guy”, and I don’t like to take the chance of having our luggage arrive late and not have it with us when we board. Dover is a quaint little port town and you have the option of staying at a local B&B or the Ramada Inn. We chose the Ramada Inn which is about 4 miles from the town and we were not disappointed with our choice. The town of Canterbury, which may have a few more hotel options and a bit more scenic, is about a half hour away by cab or bus and is perfect for a day trip if you have the time.

Our embarkation went smoothly and we boarded the ship at 11:30 AM and the cabins were ready, cleaned and open to all passengers. We dropped off our carry-on luggage and went to the buffet to have a delicious lunch. After lunch we returned to our cabin to find our luggage in our room which was a nice surprise. There is no doubt the Tahitian Princess operates like a fine tuned instrument and the Captain and crew seem to anticipate all of their guests requests even before being asked. Our muster station was in the lounge and we were told that it makes it much easier for the passengers to have a place to sit comfortably in the event that they would ever have to remain at the muster station for an extended period of time. It was absolutely lovely to sit on the balcony facing the White Cliffs of Dover and watch the locals’ fish from the pier prior to our departure.

July 8th was a relaxing sea day and at mid-afternoon 25 members of the Cruise Critic Roll Call met in the Library for a Meet and Greet. Captain Ravera and the Passenger Services Director, Giacomo Manfredi, stopped by to welcome us all to the ship. Pictures were taken and ideas on excursions were exchanged and as the norm in these days of technology internet friends met in person for the first time aboard the Tahitian Princess. That night was our first formal dinner and a funny anecdote was told by one of our tablemates. Apparently he was having some difficulty tying his tie so he stepped out into the hallway and fortunately for him an older gentleman and his wife were passing by. He asked the gentlemen if he could please help him with his tie. The gentleman stood in front of our friend and immediately tied a perfect knot. Our friend’s wife said “I thought you would have had to stand behind him to tie it” and he replied “Oh, no I do this every day…you see I’m an undertaker.” Once again, truth is stranger, or in this case funnier, than fiction.

July 9th we docked in the port of Dublin, Ireland. We opted to take the Princess shuttle ($5.00 a person one way) into town. Once there we took the “Hop On Hop Off” bus which loops the entire city while the bus driver gives a great commentary about this bustling, modern and beautiful city. We hopped off at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and after a visit there back on and back off, at the Kilmainham Gaol (the now closed infamous 19th Century city prison), for a quick tour. After these rather contrasting views of Dublin, we found a traditional Irish Pub for a lunch of fish-and-chips and, of course, ‘a wee pint’ of ale. Shopping was next on our to-do list and then a trip back to the ship. (If you are not in the mood to tour another large city you may find a tour through the countryside more appealing and there are many fantastic ones to choose from.)

July 10th we woke to the melodious sounds of bagpipes from a bagpiper in full dress who had come to the pier to welcome the Tahitian Princess; a wonderful welcome to Scotland. So far Mother Nature has been considerably kind to us with unseasonably sunny and warm days on this cruise. We decided to take a Princess organized tour of the countryside in Scotland and try the high-road and the low-road and visit Loch Lomond! At 8:30AM a charming kilted Scotsman, named John, escorted us onto the coach with a hearty handshake and smile and our adventure began. We drove through the lowlands to a wool factory and sheep herding demonstration. The demonstration was give by a burley, sun-worn shepherd. We were all so amazed at the ability of the border collies to rein in the sheep. Of course, a few of us (including me) couldn’t resist volunteering to help out the shepherd with a little exercise in herding. Since they train the dogs first by herding geese the shepherd thought it would be an interesting as well as an entertaining sight to have six of us tourists try to herd the geese. Well, after chasing a gaggle of geese all over the field and working up a sweat we decided herding should definitely be left to the dogs and the shepherd.

After a short drive we were taken to a local hotel for an American/Scottish lunch. It was fine but unfortunately with all of the marvelous local foods to sample we had a rather nondescript chicken and vegetable plate. The one item of local cuisine was the dessert, a wonderful dish made of oats, cream and honey topped with fresh raspberries. From there we were off to the highlands. This area of the countryside is amazing, and a more beautiful sight I can’t imagine. Experiencing the towering mountains that overlook lush green fields covered with purple heather was definitely a beautiful site which I will never forget. After experiencing our full sized tour bus driver expertly negotiating the narrow windy highland roads going up the mountains I was really thankful we hadn’t decided to rent a car and drive it ourselves. Now I know for sure where the term Braveheart originated. We also made a brief stop at a farm for a quick visit with Hamish, a Highland Bull. Hamish, a local movie star with Harry Potter film credits to his name, stood tall and proud with a rack of curled horns that was most impressive and the hairiest face you’ve ever seen. I had a chance to feed Hamish some fruit and Hamish returned the favor by “sliming” me as my 8 year old grandson would say. All in all it was quite an experience.

Next on our tour was an hour’s cruise on beautiful Loch Lomond and then a return ride to the ship. I would definitely recommend this tour to everyone.

After returning to the ship we were informed that, unfortunately, the pesky Norovirus that seems to love cruise ships so well was now discovered onboard. The Tahitian Princess crew was efficient, effective and professional while following full procedures to contain the virus. So as seasoned cruisers we began to wash and wash and sanitize our hands as we went to and from activities and meals. The efforts of the crew were taken to heart and while a bit inconvenient at times we all complied with the containment procedures and carried on having a relaxing time of it.

July 11th the entire ship awoke to the news at 7AM that there was a medical emergency and a passenger was being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Glasgow. The Royal Navy and Air Wing conducted the transfer both swiftly and efficiently. The nature of the passenger’s illness was not announced but we were assured that it was not due to the Norovirus. Fortunately, there were no new cases of the Norovirus reported today and it seems that only 10 passengers were stricken with the virus. If all goes well we shall drop from a red alert to yellow in the next few days and everything will go back to normal. Despite all of this commotion, the professional way it was all handled did not significantly impede our ability to have a relaxing and scenic cruise up the coast of Scotland.

We are traveling up to that part of the world, just below the Arctic Circle, at that time of the year when the sun is visible almost the entire day – the Midnight Sun. So, yes indeed, the sun is beginning to set around 9:30 PM. It is very odd to be finishing dinner at the late night seating just as twilight begins. By the time we reach our northern most point we should have less than 3 hours of night-darkness.

On the bright side the casino will finally open today since the UK does not permit gambling in their waters.

[ Photos of our trip will be posted when The Crabby Old Guy and I return home later this month so keep checking The Savvy Old Lady web site for some fantastic shots!]

Joan Giorgianni
The Savvy Old Lady