Bantry, Ireland

2019 HAL World Cruise

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

 

On June 14, 2017, the MS Prinsendam sailed into Bantry Harbor.  She was the first cruise liner in 30 years to do so!  At the time, the Bantry Bay Port Company Harbour Master, Captain Paul O’Regan, stated that not only Bantry, but the whole of West Cork was planning to grow tourism (especially the boutique cruises or expedition cruises) over the next few years.  He expressed his belief that these smaller ships, able to access smaller ports, could provide their passengers with a richer onshore experience.  I don’t know how well the tourism campaign is doing for Bantry, but hey, the MS Amsterdam sailed in this morning with 1300 passengers ready to eat, drink and spend their money!!!

Bantry is small town situated at the head of a very large inlet.  It is remote and surrounded by hills except for the 30-mile sea inlet that is named after it.  The landscape is magnificent.  Take a look at the photos:

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Nearly 2 years after the cruise industry rediscovered the beauty of Bantry, we arrived aboard the MS Amsterdam.
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This is a tender port and the locals put their own harbor boats into service to bring passengers into town quickly. They also provided a shuttle service to transport everyone to the town center only 1/2 mile away!!! Very nice.
The town is surrounded by hills making the view very picturesque.
The town is surrounded by hills making the view very picturesque.
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The Bay is also home to a thriving mussel industry with the mussel farms dotting the harbor.
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We have been told that these floats hold long strips of rope. The mussels attach themselves to the rope and as the colony grows, the float sinks deeper into the sea. that indicates the mussels are ready for harvesting.
And that's when the mussel harvester goes into action!
And that’s when the mussel harvester goes into action!
We rode the shuttle into town and were droped off at the town center.
We rode the shuttle into town and were dropped off at the town center.
We walked through town.
We walked through town.
We stopped in a few shops.
We stopped in a few shops.
We visited Ma Muphy's Pub and shop.
We visited Ma Murphy’s Pub and shop.
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The bar did not have an extensive display, but the atmosphere was very warm and friendly.
And the music scene was quite unexpected!!!
And the music scene was quite unexpected!!!
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Continuing our exploration,we came across Blackrock Terrace. Built by creamery owner, William Warner, in 1886, it was home to the business people of the town.
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William Warner was himself a businessman who pioneered a blend of butter for the export market. He had dairies for blending and preserving; sawmills and a joinery for making the butter boxes and firkins (barrels); and he started the Bantry butter exchange
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This is the Bantry House built in the 17th century.  It has expanded over the years and has belonged to the same family since 1750.
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As we walked back to the tender dock, we spotted the Bantry Bay Inn with O’Donovans Pub.
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Hey, this is a town that KNOWS mussels!!! How could we resist?!? Well, we couldn’t!!!
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It was a lovely meal; this was a fun port; the cruise was spectacular; and we thank you for joining us on on this adventure. Here’s to you!   Cheers!!!

Now, we are on the way home!!!

Now, we are on the way home!!!

 

Bantry was our last port-of-call on this 2019 World Cruise.  We are now on our way back to Ft. Lauderdale and the conclusion of this adventure.  Thank you for joining us in the fun.  We are eagerly planning the next venture.  Perhaps you’ll join us for that, too?!?  We’ll keep you posted!!!

Cobh (Cork), Ireland

HAL World Cruise

Monday, May 6, 2019

 

Cobh (once known as Queenstown) is a charming port city at the mouth of the River Lee in Cork Harbor.  From here, over 2.5 million immigrants said good-bye to their homeland and left in search of a better life in the United States during the years 1848 to 1950.  Because the harbor is one of the largest and safest anywhere, capable of taking the largest vessels afloat, the great Transatlantic liners used to come in until the 1950s.   Cobh was the final port-of-call for the ill-fated RMS Titanic.   Cobh also was involved in the rescue efforts of the Lusitania when she was sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Kinsale in 1915.  The survivors were brought here and many of the victims are buried here.  Cobh is the gateway to Cork (the second largest city in Ireland), as well as to Waterford (the city of Crystal) and Blarney Castle with the famous Blarney Stone.

Cork originated in the 7th century but came into its own in the 17th century, experiencing its “golden age” by providing butter to the ships plying the North Atlantic.  During this period, the city expanded, the economy flourished, and many grand Italianate residences were built.  Cork’s most famous building is the church tower of Shandon at St. Anne’s Church.  The Butter Museum, the Cork Butter Exchange and the Firkin Crane Center are all part of the “golden age” of butter.  Today, Cork is home to the Beamish and Crawford Brewery, Murphy’s Irish Stout, and major industrial presences such as Pfizer, Apple, Logitech and even Amazon.  Take a look:

 

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We are passing Cobh on our way to Ringaskiddy at Cork. In the past, we have docked in Cobh. It’s a lovely port and the gateway to Cork as well as Blarney Castle. We suspect that ship, visible on the far left, is the reason we are going on by!!!
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Cobh is an interesting town. There is a small Titanic museum at the dock , there are lots of pubs, boutiques, and charming buildings.
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Cobh’s dock is right in town. There’s a Titanic Museum and cafe attached to the terminal. Look closely (just right of center in the photo), the White Star Line Ticket Office still has the ruins of the tender dock used by the Titanic.
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But Cobh is not where we are. We have docked in Ringaskiddy outside Cork. Another commercial port where it is necessary to shuttle into town.
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So shuttle we did. And we passed lots and lots of cows in beautiful green fields along the way.
The Cork City Hall is our shuttle drop off point.
The Cork City Hall is our shuttle drop off point.
We crossed the River Lee and set out to explore Cork.
We crossed the River Lee and set out to explore Cork.
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Our first stop is the Shandon Bells & Tower at St. Anne’s Church. St. Anne’s, built in 1722, is one of the oldest churches still in use.
The bell tower is open to visitors.
The bell tower is open to visitors.

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St. Anne’s is one of a very small number of churches retaining their original 18th century bells.

Visitors are allowed to ring them!!!
Visitors are allowed to ring them!!!
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After all that hard work ringing bells, we stopped at The Linen Weaver Pub (of the Wetherspoon chain) for lunch.
Nicely repurposed building and an extenxive bar and food menu.
Nicely re-purposed building and an extensive bar and food menu.
Well stocked, you get the impression it's very popular!
Well stocked, you get the impression it’s very popular!
Rog ordered a Beamish Irish Stout.
Rog ordered a Beamish Irish Stout.
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Ahhh, the afternoon libation is pretty good–robust and satisfying! Went well with the Irish stew.
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We checked out the shopping. Shopping is both quaint and cosmopolitan. There are several charming pedestrian areas.
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Actually, its a bewildering maze of pedestrian areas! but hey, there’s a Starbucks!!!
The Downtown area seems to have its fair share of modern department stores.
The Downtown area seems to have its fair share of modern department stores.
There are also shoping malls.
There are also shopping malls.
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Following lunch, our next stop is the Butter Museum to learn about this very important product still admired worldwide.
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This is the Butter Market House (now apparently a B&B). Cork butter merchants introduced and enforced a strict system of quality assurance which made Cork butter internationally recognized for quality.
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The Firkin Crane , designed by John Benson and opened in 1855, is a part of Cork’s original butter exchange.
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At the end of the day, our final stop is The Oliver Plunkett Pub. Known for their live music every night, they provide every genre to suit everyone’s tastes!
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They even provide enough beers on tap to suit everyone’s tastes!!! (this is only 1/2 of the taps.
Rog chose a Rockshore Irish Lager.
Rog chose a Rockshore Irish Lager.
Spotted this sgn as we were walking out.  Cute!!!
Spotted this sign as we were walking out. Cute!!!
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Walking back to the shuttle pick-up, we passed the English Market. A marketplace since 1788, it predates most other markets of its kind. Even Barcelona’s Boqueria did not start until 80 years later!!!
And we say good-bye to Cork as we prepare to sail to our final port.
And we say good-bye to Cork as we prepare to sail to our final port.

 

Our next and last port is Bantry, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland

2019 HAL World Cruise

Sunday, May 5, 2019

 

Dublin, the capital and most populated city of Ireland, is a lively port that satisfies the tastes, and expectations of most tourists.  Located at the mouth of the Liffey River, it was originally founded as a Viking settlement in the 9th century.  Today, it is among the top 30 cities of he world according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.  The city spreads over the broad valley of the Liffey River and sweeps around Dublin Bay.  Trinity College is the most famous landmark.  It was founded by Elizabeth I in 1591 and is noted for the Book of Kells.  The Temple Bar district on the south bank of the Liffey, has a mixture of food, drink, shopping and music all located on narrow, cobbled streets.  There are a gazillion museums, amazing parks, dazzling architecture, and great shopping.  It is impossible to see it all in one visit, but a HOHO can hit most of the top sights.

Over the years, we have been here often and much of what I’ve described can be found in the old blog posts from mid-August 2018 (look in archives).  I’ll also slip-in some old photos at the end of this post.  But, today, I’d like to tell you about Merrion Square.  Since we were here for only the day, we made this our dedicated sight to see and walked all over the area until we stopped for lunch and a libation before returning to the ship for the sail-away.  Have a look:

 

We docked at Alexandra Quay, an industrial area, and shuttled into town.
We docked at Alexandra Quay, an industrial area, and shuttled into town.
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We followed the Liffey from the port to the drop-off point at Merrion Square. Here, we are passing the Samuel Beckett Bridge.
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The Famine Memorial to the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1849. About a million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. The population decreased by nearly 25%!!! One third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food.
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Merrion Square was created in 1762. The Duke of Leister,having built a palace here, wanted to attract the aristocracy to the area. Over the next 30 years, Georgian townhouses, following strict guidelines,were erected on 3 sides of the park.
The Duke's palace, Leister House is now the Parliament.
The Duke’s palace, Leister House is now the Parliament.
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The Duke of Leister built this amazing palace in the 1700s. When he created the park, it was set up as a private retreat accessed by residents of the square only. This sounds very much like Gramercy Park in New York City!
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This is the Eternal Flame Memorial/Defense Forces Memorial 2008 designed by Brian King. It is a recent addition to the park. Local artists come to display and sell their artwork on the fence.
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This Statue of Oscar Wilde is in Merrion Park because the author and dramatist was raised in the townhouse at #1 Merrion Square.
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Number 1 Merrion Square, the childhood home of writer and dramatist Oscar Wilde, is now owned by the American College Dublin.
Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, lived at #58.
Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, lived at #58.
Number  82 was the home of poet & playwrite William Butler Yeats.
Number 82 was the home of poet & playwright William Butler Yeats.
Number 30 was the home of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.
Number 30 was the home of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.
And # 56 is currently the home of designer, Louise Kennedy.
And # 56 is currently the home of designer, Louise Kennedy.
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This is the Merrion Hotel where the doorman kindly directed us to the Doheny & Nesbitt Pub for lunch. Good advice!!!
Doheny & Nesbitt at 4-5 Lower Baggot St. was established in 1867.
Doheny & Nesbitt, at 4-5 Lower Baggot St., was established in 1867.
They have a pretty good selection of Irish Whiskey!!!
They have a pretty good selection of Irish Whiskey!!!
And a nice selection of beer on tap.
And a nice selection of beer on tap.
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This is a snug. Originally incorporated in pubs for ladies, and perhaps others, who did not wish to be seen in a drinking establishment.
Inside the snug you can see the window to the bar for ordering replenishments.
Inside the snug you can see the window to the bar for ordering replenishments.
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Rog is enjoying a Smithwick’s for his afternoon libation. Note the modernized bar behind him. Admirably, they paid strict attention to retaining the original fixtures, decor and atmosphere.
Smithwick's is an Irish Ale.
Smithwick’s is an Irish Ale.
Lunch was Bangers & Mash with peas.
Lunch was Bangers & Mash with peas.
Sandy had mussels in a white wine sauce.
Sandy had mussels in a white wine sauce.
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Some of the original bar area is partitioned (like a snug) for only a few patrons to occupy. The gentleman occupying this one, graciously took our picture.

And here are some of our old photos of Dublin:

Ha'penny Bridge over the Liffey and leading to the Temple Bar area.
Ha’penny Bridge over the Liffey and leading to the Temple Bar area.
Merchant's Arch:  pathway from River Liffey to Temple Bar
Merchant’s Arch: pathway from River Liffey to Temple Bar
The Temple Bar in Temple Bar
The Temple Bar in Temple Bar
Mansion House:  the Mayor's Residence.
Mansion House: the Mayor’s Residence.
Christ Church
Christ Church
Kilmainham Jail
Kilmainham Jail

 

Next, we’re off to Cobh (Cork), Ireland.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

2019 HAL World Cruise

Saturday, May 4, 2019

 

Belfast was already a substantial settlement in the 17th century, but during the 18th and 19th centuries, it boomed as a commercial and industrial center.  Industries such as linen, rope-making, tobacco, heavy engineering and shipbuilding thrived.  By the end of the 19th century Belfast had even, albeit briefly, surpassed Dublin as the largest city in Ireland.  However, Belfast, as well as much of Ireland, became embroiled in religious disputes nearly from inception.  Records indicate that as early as 1791 meetings and discourse were taking place.  By 1921, the civil disputes in Ireland seemed to be resolved with the creation of the “Government of Ireland Act 1920”.  Belfast became the capital of Northern Ireland.  Sadly, rancor endured and culminated in “The Troubles”, that period of civil conflict that raged from 1969 until 1998 when a peace agreement was reached.

Most of the politically motivated violence in Belfast has disappeared since that Good Friday Agreement in 1998.  Today, Belfast is considered the safest city in the UK and that may be attributable to its desire to excel in the area of tourism.  Belfast exhibits a sense of optimism with new hotels, restaurants, and shops opening at, what they say, is an incredible rate.  A major boon to tourism may be the attention paid to restoration and renovation of the historic Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the city.

We have tried to visit Belfast on several other cruises only to have the port call cancelled for weather-related reasons.  You can imagine our delight to finally get here!!!  I hope these photos will show you what a charming city this is:

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We are docked at Stormont Dock in Belfast Harbor. This is where ships transiting the port stay for the day and shuttle their passengers the 3 miles to City Hall in Donegall Square.
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We crossed the Lagan River as we shuttled to Donegall Square in the city center of Belfast.
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On the way, we passed St. Georges Market. It is Northern Ireland’s largest indoor market and a major attraction. Farmers’ markets are on Saturdays; variety goods are sold on Fridays and Sundays. It was closed today–bank holiday.
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The shuttle dropped us in Donegall Square at the Visitor Information Center which is conveniently located right across the street from City Hall. Do note the microphone and speaker set up at the gate for a “Speakers Corner”. And it’s in use!!!
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The Royal Irish Linen Warehouse of the firm Robinson & Cleaver 1886-1888 is another of the lovely renovated buildings on Donegall Place.
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A quiet view of Donegall Square shortly before a parade began (today’s a bank holiday.) Note there are no people lining the street as would be the case for a parade in any U.S. city. We had no clue until the sound of a marching band caught our attention
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This is just a corner of the Scottish Provident Institution–another beautiful neoclassical building in Donegall Square. Today, it has been renovated as a 5-star serviced office business center.
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This gorgeous building is the Marks & Spencer Department Store. Built in 1888, it was originally the Richardson Sons & Owden’s Warehouse. It was described by Oscar Wilde as “…one beautiful building…beautiful in color…and very beautiful in design.
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That 2-story bridge across the alley connects Marks & Spencer with this building and the Cafe Nero. We were having a cappuccino at the time the parade came by so we did have a ringside seat.
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This is the Titanic Memorial at City Hall. The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast (completed in 1912) at the Harland & Wolff shipyards where the Titanic Belfast Museum now tells of the history and the doom of that luxury liner.
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The Grand Opera House is on Great Victoria Street. This is an example of Georgian architecture but with a slight oriental twist.
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The Crown Bar, aka Crown Liquor Saloon, is famous, not only for its Victorian architecture but also, as the very first gin palace in Belfast. It is located at 46 Great Victoria Street.
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The Crown Bar was purchased by the National Trust in 1978 and restored after the bombings at the Europa Hotel (across the street), during The Troubles, caused serious damage to the building.
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Inside one of the The Crown Bar’s snugs, were three gentlemen who kindly allowed me to photograph the cozy space. Snugs are behind carved wooden doors, guarded by gryphons & lions, complete with match-strike plates and bells to summon more refreshment.
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We did not know reservations were required to occupy a snug, so we were content with a cozy table by the fire on the second floor. Rog’s libation is a Guinness.
Guinness is the local brew of Ireland and is produced in Dublin.
Guinness is the local brew of Ireland and is produced in Dublin.
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We left the cozy atmosphere of The Crown Bar and crossed the street to the Europa Hotel.
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The Europa Hotel is a 4-star hotel on Great Victoria Street across from the Crown Bar. Opened in 1971, it became the “most bombed hotel in Europe” and “most bombed hotel in the world” after suffering 36 bomb attacks during The Troubles.
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As we walked back to the shuttle stop, we took a last photo of City Hall as seen from Donegall Place.
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And in no time……we are back to Stormont Dock and on board the MS Amsterdam ready to sail away.

 

Our next stop is Dublin, Ireland.