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.