Iceland/Ireland Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse
5/10/16 to 5/22/16

Due to the length of the review, it is in 4 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 -
Embarkation from Southampton, England, Ship, Dining, Entertainment, Activities 
               Ports of Call:  St. Peter Port, Channel Islands 
Page 2 - Ports of Call:  Cork, Ireland; Akureyri, Iceland
Page 3 - Ports of Call:  Isafjordur, Iceland; Reykjavik, Iceland Day 1
Page 4 - Ports of Call:
  Reykjavik, Iceland Day 2; Belfast, Northern Ireland


Cork, Ireland
We had visited the port of Cobh, Ireland (the port for Cork) back in 2004 while on a British Isles cruise.  We really enjoyed Ireland and hoped to return one day for an extended land visit.  We never got to do that; but we were looking forward to seeing other parts of Ireland during this port stop.

I had forgotten what a lovely port Cobh was with its brightly colored houses and lovely architecture.


We pulled up to the old terminal building ahead of the 10:00 AM scheduled docking time.  I had hoped that we would, since we had an eight-hour tour planned for the day that would take us quite a distance from the port.   A mural had been added in 2012 for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sailing.  Cobh was the last port it stopped at before heading out to sea and disaster.


For some reason, the ship didn’t get cleared for quite some time; and when it did, the lines to leave the ship were quite long.  This was not good.  We had a tour out to Killarney and a section of the Ring of Kerry with a large and highly rated company called Paddywagon Tours (  We met the other two couples that were going with us, Barbara & Charlie and Don & Liz, in the Martini Bar.  When we finally got to the terminal, we all looked for a sign with my name on it to no avail.  This was very disappointing, since we were already running late.  There was a large Paddywagon tour bus loading next to the terminal, so I asked the representative where our guide and van were.  He looked at a list and said he would need to make a phone call while he was directing people that were on the large bus tour.  After standing around for a while, he came back and said that there had been a problem and that we could get on a different bus to be taken to a van to take us on our tour.   By this time, it was 11:00 AM and there wouldn’t be enough time to have the tour we expected; plus, no one wanted to risk not getting back to the ship on time to head for Iceland.  After another call to the office, he said that they would give us a refund of our deposit and we could have a free tour to Blarney Castle and  Cork.  With this being Barbara & Charlie’s first trip to Ireland, they were fine with it; as were we, since we had not been to Blarney Castle either.  But Don and Liz had been to Ireland several times and had no desire to see the same things again. 

I was so disappointed that I couldn’t give our group the tour I had arranged.  This had never happened to me before and I was quite embarrassed by this.  I also wasn’t that thrilled about going to Blarney Castle, since I had seen photos of the castle itself and I had no desire to kiss the Blarney Stone.  Oh well, such is life; we would just make the best of it.   We set our expectations very low.

Rather than a van, they loaded us into what they call a Hopper Bus that holds around twenty-five people.  It was quite comfortable, especially since there only the four of us and two other couples on it.

Our tour guide was Damien.  He was a very friendly jovial fellow.  A typical Irishman!  He did try to make our tour most enjoyable and he succeeded.

Our first stop was the Blarney Castle (, which was originally built in 1210; but this structure was built in the 1480’s.  It was an old castle.  We pulled into a parking lot next to the Blarney Woolen Mills, where we would visit later.  From there, it was a pretty good walk before we could finally see the castle.  My goodness, it was much more impressive than I had expected and the grounds were very nice.


While walking around to the main entrance of the castle, we came upon some entrances into the castle basement and dungeons.  They were not a place I would want to reside in.


I was really enjoying the visit so far and was blown away at how pretty the gardens were; and I would only be able to see a small section of them, since the grounds are huge. 


In addition to the main castle there was a cylindrical lookout tower nearby.

As I walked around the castle, I had to take photos from the different angles, since every shot was different.


When I got to the back of the castle, where the entrance was, I could look up and see the area where the Blarney Stone was located.  It was a long way up to the top.  There was activity going on with people hanging upside down to kiss it.  I was still not interested in doing it. 


I figured I might as well see what was inside the castle entrance.  The floorplan on the wall showed that there were lots of steps up to the top.  I couldn’t believe that people were waiting in line to pay to do that.

As I got closer, I saw that what appeared to be a ticket booth was actually where people were buying photos of themselves kissing the Blarney Stone.  The cost was around €12 per photo.  I was pleased that there was no extra cost to actually go into the castle, so I continued waiting in the line.

The view of the turret and gardens from the photo area kept me occupied while the line slowly moved into the castle.


I entered the large room where there was the below sign.  Since the stairs seemed pretty safe with a railing and wide steps, I decided I might as well at least go part way to see what all the fuss was about.  The room itself did look like it had seen its best days many centuries ago.


At the top of the wooden stairs, the stone circular staircase began.  Now this didn’t seem too safe or particularly easy to climb. 

Every so often there would be a small landing where there was a small room in terrible disrepair.  I was really surprised the lousy shape the castle was in.  This is probably the top tourist attraction in Ireland and it didn’t appear to being taken care of. 


The higher up we went, the narrower the steps became.  In some parts there were metal railings to hold on to; but the narrower sections just had a vertical rope to grab.  My wide physique was not very compatible with these narrow areas.  I was not enjoying this at all.  Why do I do these things?  It was quite a challenge to take a photo of the steps while clutching onto a rope for dear life.

Then I came to a window where I could look out and get a nice view of the area.  I bet it was even better at the top, so I continued on.  Not that there was an option to go down if I wanted to.

As we got closer to the top, there were more open areas to look out onto the grounds.  I was starting to enjoy this much more.


At last we came to the final steps to the top.

Once there, I could look down into part of the castle; as well as see where the people were being held to kiss the stone.


The views out to the surrounding area was also quite nice, as expected.  Now that I had made it to the top, I was enjoying the castle much more.


I could also look below to see where the steps back down were.  Behind me, lots of people were anxiously waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone.


I got a photo of Charlie and Barbara who were a few people ahead of me, who did not choose to kiss the stone.

As I got closer, I saw where the stone kissers were being held so they could be upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone.  They did seem to be enjoying themselves.


 I know you are thinking that I decided to kiss the stone; but there was no way I was going to kiss that thing after all the stories I had heard about it.  Plus, the only potential benefit of kissing the stone is that it is supposed to give the gift of eloquence.  At my age, who needs eloquence?

The walk down was much easier, since there wasn’t a line of people on both sides of you; and the metal railings to hold on to were much better than the ropes that we had most of the way going up.

Once I got down to ground level, I was quite glad that I had gone up to see the Blarney Stone.  It was an experience I won’t forget.

I then began a walk to see more of the gardens.  I came across a specialty area called the Poison Gardens.  There were some plants whose names I recognized as poisons; but then I saw a marijuana plant that was contained inside a cage to keep curious people away from it.  I didn’t realize that it was a poison.


There were many paths to take in the gardens; but the signs were not helpful, since they sent most people into a dead end rather than the attraction the signs had directed them to.   But the gardens were still quite pretty and I even found a small waterfall.


There was one unusually shaped tree that appeared to have had been polished by people sitting on it.

I was getting frustrated trying to find some of the places on the signs, so I gave up and decided to return to the parking lot.  When I first entered the castle grounds, it seemed like it would be pretty easy to get back to the parking lot.  Somehow I got totally lost and couldn’t even find the castle to use as a landmark.  I did get an unplanned extended tour of the gardens though.   I tried to follow the exit signs; but I didn’t know which exit I was needing to get to.  I finally found some workers that told me where to go.  I was ready to stop walking.


I was never so happy to see an outlet store.  Especially since they also had a restaurant and I was in need of a meal. 


I texted Carol and she was already in the restaurant.  I asked her for recommendations.  She said the sandwiches were very good.  That sounded great.  When I got it, I was surprised at how good it was. 

After lunch, I walked through the shop.  It is a pretty large place with much more than woolen items.  Living in south Florida, we have no need for more heavy warm clothing.  I decided to get a couple different types of chocolate to have on the ship, since I was already in the shop and had not had an opportunity to support the Irish economy. 



At the assigned time we rejoined the bus.  Damien told us about where we would be dropped off in Cork and our schedule while there.   As we were coming into town, I took a quick photo of a large church up on a hill.  Damien said that it was the Cork Cathedral.

Driving toward our destination, the bus came down a street that was so steep.  I was glad the bus had good breaks.  I couldn’t get a photo, since I was holding on for dear life.  We finally stopped on the street along a river.  We were right in front of Paddywagon’s Cork office.


Damien told us that the main Cork shopping area was on the other side of the river.  That is where Carol, Barbara and Charlie headed off to.  I asked Damien how far away the cathedral was.  He said it was just around the corner and up the road some.  I was surprised because it seemed quite far from where we were.  But I rarely pass up the opportunity to see large cathedrals, so I headed that way.  When I got around the corner, I couldn’t see the church, so I pulled out my iPhone map to make sure I was going in the right direction.  It didn’t look that far away, but the hill had a good incline.

I took a side street that appeared to be a more direct route to the cathedral.  I came upon a rotunda by the name of Firkin Crane, a rather strange name.  It is a described as the Home of Dance, where dance classes are held and shows performed.

Further down the street, I came to the Church of St. Anne Shandon Bells Tower.  This is apparently quite a tourist attraction, since it is a landmark and symbol of the city of Cork.

Further up the street after making a few turns, I came to the cathedral. It was large building; but it looked more impressive from below looking up at it on the top of the hill than standing right in front of it. 


The interior was quite different from what I expected and rather pretty.


Along the side of the church, they had tombs of former bishops.

After I had taken all the photos I wanted, I headed back down to see if I could find the rest of the group.  The main shopping area of the city had some very attractive buildings as well as a wide pedestrian walkway along the street.



After my walk, I was interested in having a pint of Irish beer.  I found an interesting place named Le Chateau Bar that was established in 1793.  It looked like what an Irish pub should look like and they had so many different types of beer on tap.  I picked one called Franciscan Well, based on a customer’s recommendation.


After my beer, I walked around some of the side streets; but since I wasn’t shopping for anything, I went back to where we were supposed to meet the bus.  On the way, I saw the steep street that we came in on. 


We all met up and walked over to where the Hopper Bus was to meet us.  Damien wasn’t with the driver; but we didn’t need him to provide any assistance on the way back.  It had turned out to be a much better day than I was expecting.  I really enjoyed the tour and the weather was most pleasant.  I had received a very nice apology letter from the fellow I had been dealing with for over a year before the cruise from the main Paddywagon office.  He admitted that it was just a human error that should never have occurred.  In addition to the deposit refund and free tour we had just had, he also offered us a free tour the next time we are in Ireland.  I do feel good that Paddywagon did everything they could to make up for the error and I will certainly recommend them and use them in the future.

When I returned to the ship, I took another photo of the Cobh with its lovely cathedral.  I wish that I been able to see the interior.  Others that did visit the cathedral said it was quite nice. 

We now had two sea days to get ready for the cruise’s main attraction, Iceland.  We couldn’t wait.

At Sea
On the second of two sea days, we got a preview of coming attractions.  After dinner, I looked out our veranda and saw the snow covered mountains of Iceland.  I couldn’t believe that we were so close.  Needless to say, I got out my camera and iPhone and snapped away.  It was just too exciting to be able to see Iceland the day before we docked.  I was stoked!


Akureyri, Iceland
The big day had come, we were finally going to be docking in Iceland.  This country was the main reason we booked this cruise, especially since we would be able to tour Iceland for four days.  After crossing over the Arctic Circle during the early morning and then crossing back down to get to Akureyri, which is 60 miles south of the circle, we were supposed to be docking at 9:00 AM.  We had been told that we should get up early to see the entry through the fjord.  It was not mentioned in the Celebrity Today brochure; but Damian told us at the show that we should be on deck around 6:30 AM if we wanted to see the beautiful entry.  I didn’t need to be told twice.  I woke up before my alarm clock went off and was on deck 14 by 6:15 AM.  It was extremely cold, due in part to the very strong winds. 


After taking some photos on deck 14, I headed down to my favorite forward position on the ship on deck 12, right in front of the spa.  It is a great location for photos; but there is no protection from the wind.  It was brutal and painful to stay there.  I didn’t last long.

I headed back up to deck 15 forward.  The way the ship is designed, if you stand back from the front of the ship, the wind goes over you and it is actually quite comfortable.  I hung out there for quite a while and then moved around the ship, since we were getting closer to the port.


I even found someone that offered to take my photo.  I had been taking photos for lots of people who wanted their picture with the snowcapped mountains.  As we got closer to the port, we could see that Akureyri, a town of over 18,000 people, was in a lovely setting.  We could see the airport runway in the background.  The mountains close by didn’t leave a lot of room for pilot error.


We had a tour arranged for the day for us and three other couples with a highly rated company named Taxi No. 17 (   I did not think that Carol would need her scooter on any of the tours we would take in Iceland, but the company said they had plenty of room for it and there was no problem taking it if we wanted to. They were right, the van was equipped to handle scooters a lot bigger than the little one of Carol’s.  It was a very comfortable van with an effective sound system that allowed everyone to hear our guide’s comments.


Our tour guide for the day was the owner of Taxi No. 17, Auðun.  I am so glad we chose his company, since he did just a great job and he was such a pleasure to be with.

He first took us on a short tour of his city.  It was much newer looking than I had expected.  It was a nice place.


They had a very large modern looking church up on a hill.  I took a quick run inside to check out the modern interior.


As we were driving we passed by an unusual statue.  It was made in 1901 by Iceland’s best known sculptor.  It is of an outlaw carrying his dead wife and young child.   After I looked at the photo when I got home, I realized how dramatic it was.


 Auðun pulled over so that we could take photos of the Eclipse at the dock, which looked so nice in the bright sunshine.  I used one of the photos on the front page of the review.

He then took us up a mountain to his lovely home, where we were able to get photos of the area from above.


I was most impressed with what great shape the roads were in.  I remember too well how many pot holes were in the roads from the freezing water when I lived in Pennsylvania.  All the roads we drove on that day in Iceland were in perfect shape.  I don’t know what kind of material Iceland uses for their roads; but it is good stuff.

We were driving through areas that were the result of volcanic activity.  The land that wasn’t covered with snow was covered in lava.  We were early in the season and we saw that the first lake we passed was still iced over.


One of the main attractions in Iceland are waterfalls.  Since we absolutely love any waterfall, we were really looking forward to seeing as many as we could.  Two of the top ten waterfalls in the world are in Iceland.  Number seven on the list is Gullfoss, which we would see on a Reykjavik tour.  Number 8, Dettifoss, is normally seen on tours out of Akureyri; but Auðun had told me when I booked the tour that we wouldn’t be able to go there because the roads to it are snow covered until around June 10.  I was very disappointed that we would miss it; but we would see many others while in Iceland.   The first one was Godafoss, which means waterfall of the gods.  As we drove up to it, we could see that this was a lovely one.  When we got out of the van, we had to walk through snow to get a close view.



What a beautiful place.  We were loving Iceland so far.  I had to take a photo of Carol in front of Godafoss for the review.

When we left, Auðun took us down the river to see the lower falls area, which was also worth seeing.

Our next destination was to Lake Myvatn.  The area is just gorgeous.  Much of the lake was still frozen; but there were areas of beautiful aqua water.





Auðun told us that we could walk along the path which would end up at the area where there was a store and more importantly restrooms.  In order to really see the beauty of the area, I had to walk it.


There are areas of pseudo craters, that appear to have been volcano craters; but aren’t.

We passed by some interesting formations on the way to our next destination, along with some beautiful terrain.


Not far from Lake Myvatn, is an area called Dimmuborgir.  It is most fortunate that I don’t have to pronounce the Icelandic words in a review.  The dramatic structures created from lava are one of Iceland’s most popular natural tourist attractions.   It is really an unusual area.




It also has caves that are used by the Icelandic Yule Lads.  They were originally supposed to be sons of trolls; but in modern times are Iceland’s version of Santa Claus.  During Christmas time they hang out in these caves and kids visit to see them.


We really enjoyed walking through this park.  It is quite unique and beautiful.




Since it was lunchtime, we headed off to one of the few restaurants around.  When in Iceland, you don’t want to put off eating or using the restrooms, because the next one might not be available for an hour or two.  The main lunch item and what Auðun recommended was soup and Geysir bread.  It was most delicious and really hit the spot.   The Geysir bread is cooked in the earth by the geothermal heat.  We had heard that Iceland was expensive and sure enough, the small lunch cost about $14.  The total meal with two soups, a beer and Coke was about $40.  


After lunch we continued our drive through interesting terrain.  We even saw a large volcano crater.


Auðun pointed out a small geothermal power plant.  These are quite common over most of Iceland, since it is such an active volcanic area.  Not far from it we could see some geothermal activity.

We then continued the drive through a very desolate area covered with snow.  I asked Auðun where we were headed to.  He said that since the weather had been warmer than usual, the road to Dettifoss was open and we were heading to the waterfall. 


I could not have been more thrilled.  Missing Dettifoss had been my one disappointment about taking an Iceland cruise so early in the season.  We had really lucked out.  When we arrived at the parking area for the waterfall, we were told that we had to walk through the snow to get to it.   And there was a lot of snow to walk through and a lot of people going with us from other tours. 


The sign on the path let us know our progress and that the total walk was one kilometer or .6 miles.  The worst part of the walk was a downhill section, which was quite challenging.  There wasn’t a lot traction on the snow.


When we finally arrived at Dettifoss, we knew that the walk was worth the effort.  Dettifoss is the strongest waterfall in Europe.  It is 330 feet wide with a 150-foot drop.  It was most impressive.



The viewing platform was quite crowded with everyone trying to get the best view.  Downriver a rainbow shined above the turbulent water.     I have also included a video, since it is much more effective in showing the power of the waterfall.


We then had to walk back through the snow to the parking lot, with memories of what we had just seen dancing in our heads.  It had been exhilarating.

On the drive back to our next destination, we passed by some aqua pools of melting snow.

Auðun pointed out an unusually shaped volcano in the distance.  It was the Herðubreið volcano.  The name stands for broad-shouldered.   He said that it was the national monument of Iceland.  It was 43.5 miles away and we were able to see it quite clearly.  It looked very close.  The air in Iceland is very clean.

Our next stop was at Námafjall Hverir, a very active geothermal area.  It was quite large and had many bubbling pits and areas with steam coming up through the earth’s surface.  The yellow color comes from the large amounts of Sulphur.  We didn’t need to see the color to know it was a high Sulphur area, since our noses detected the easily identifiable smell well before we saw it.  The last photo shows the water bubbling up in one of the pits.





We then drove up to a scenic viewpoint over Lake Myvatn.  We got a nice view of the volcanic terrain and a view where we could see 90% of the large lake.   


Not far from the viewpoint Auðun, pulled over to a geothermal area where metal covers were on the ground.  He told us that this is where they cooked the Geysir bread that we had eaten for lunch.  The bread is cooked in these types of ovens for 24 hours before it is ready to serve.

Our last stop for the day was at the Myvatn Nature Baths (  We had heard of the Blue Lagoon baths near Reykjavik, but not these.  We stopped there to see the baths and for a restroom break.  There wouldn’t be another place to stop for an hour and a half after we headed back to the ship.  We were most impressed with this facility.  It was very modern and clean.  The warm blue water was very appealing.  I understood why these spas are so popular. 


On the way back we passed by another geothermal power station.  The blue waste water from the plant looked like the thermal spa we just came from.  This is the same type water as is used in all the Icelandic spas.

I admired the landscape as we drove back toward the ship.  Iceland is quite different from anywhere else we have been.



When we passed by the lake we had seen earlier in the day, we saw that the ice had melted.  We found out that this day had been the hottest day of the year at 61 degrees.  The forecast had only been for a high of 48.  I guess that summer was arriving in Iceland and most of the snow would be gone soon.  I was glad that we were early enough to see Iceland with snow.

We really enjoyed our day and thanked Auðun for a great tour.  After dinner, I went outside to see if we had left the fjord.  I was rewarded with a beautiful scene.

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