I savor a luxury cruise, but I jump for joy over a trip on THE WORLD, the largest residential ship in the world. It’s almost 650 feet long, has 11 decks, and only 165 suites. The 250 staff members treat all residents and guests like royalty. The ship circumnavigates the globe annually and features numerous guest lectures, excursions, expeditions, workshops, musical performances, and classes along the journey. Being members of the travel group, EXCLUSIVE RESORTS, Scott and I have been fortunate in being able to vacation aboard The World on several occasions. Our latest trip was to Scotland to travel the British Isles by boat.
We began our journey in Lerwick, Scotland, Britain’s northern-most town, and part of the Shetland Islands. As we drove the wind-blown meandering road from Sumburgh Airport to the ship in Holmsgarth Pier, I spied my first Shetland pony. Although the ponies appeared to roam wild, I found out that they are owned and cared for by local “crofters” (tenant farmers) who live and work in isolated farmhouses spread throughout the treeless hills. Along with my brother and his wife, we boarded the ship and headed south with plans to hit the Shetlands, Orkneys, Inner and Outer Hebrides, and lastly, Ireland. The captain had 700 islands to choose from in our 2000 miles of rugged coastline, and he would select our destinations according to weather and swell size. As the Atlantic Ocean began pounding we were on our way and a true adventure was ahead of us.
Of the 100 islands making up the Shetland area, only 16 are inhabited. Our first stop was Fair Isle with 50 residents. I believe ALL of them came out to greet us in their rec center. They brought out their famous hand-knit Fair Isle wool hats and sweaters for us to purchase, along with some art and sweet treats. I loved the designs and Joselyn and I were delighted to purchase matching Viking wool hats. Although a bit scratchy, they more than made up for it in warmth and unique style. Plus, despite his last name, I am married to a Viking!
We completed our day by hiking the sea cliffs on Fair Isle and chatting with some steers and sheep that were bundled with fur ideal for the Scotish climate. I, of course, was also bundled in about 7 layers.
After braving some high swells, our next stop was Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands. As our ship approached the island, the magnificent spire of the 12th century St. Magnus Cathedral came into view. We accompanied the EYOS expedition professional photographers on a photo-taking trek that day. When the Scotish rain started pouring down, however, we bailed and decided to spend the afternoon onboard. Our “team of 4” took these shots that day:
Several of the next cruise days were spent taking zodiac boats through stormy seas to and from small islands and exploring the landscape in drizzle and downpour. I quickly learned that being cold or wet, and hiking are not on my list of thoroughly delightful activities. The botanical gardens at Inverewe had some interesting foliage, however, and I was holding my own in the rain until we all got lost and almost missed the last zodiac out.
While onboard, we dined in exquisite style with top-notch gourmet food. My companions also got to sample Scotish delicacies like reindeer heart and moose salami…. I passed on those. We acquired vast knowledge while fully participating in Scotch whiskey lectures and tastings. We stumbled our way through distillery tours and began to finetune which flavors were our preferences; peat, caramel, honey, green apple, bitter oak, vanilla. In taste tests, it surprised me to learn that I apparently have the best “nose” of the four of us. I guess 5 sinus surgeries later, the darn thing finally works!
Our trip coincided with Passover, so we joined friends onboard in celebrating our heritage.
My favorite isle was Tobermory, because it was colorful, occupied with shops and people, and because we didn’t have to take a wet zodiac to get to the dock. We decided to have dinner at a pub in town but first, we stopped for a pint of Guinness in the bar. We were all pleasantly surprised when they started passing around the free pizza. My kind of place.
One day the three “adventurers” decided to go out kayaking. I decided to stay cozy onboard and read in the spa and to treat myself to a mani-pedi. The kayakers needed to wear “dry suits” which resembled those darling outfits worn by luge competitors in the Olympics. Joselyn’s neck was so severely torqued as they stuffed it into the hood, that it remained tweaked for days. Nevertheless, they still out paddled all of the competition.
Scott was particularly looking forward to our visit to Lagavulin distillery, and it didn’t disappoint. Later when stopping into the 12th-century Benedictine Abbey on Iona (where many Scottish kings are buried), the God of light paid him a visit, as evidenced in his photo.
The music on our trip was delightful….I just love those bagpipes. On several occasions, we got to watch local musicians strut their stuff. Here’s a sample.
The British Isles are rugged landscapes with steep cliffs, strong winds, intermittent precipitation, and fierce surf. Solitude is guaranteed. The islands have been occupied by the Celts, Romans, Vikings, Normans, English, Scots, Welsh, and Irish. Hardy folk set up shop here and call it home. By the time our ship reached Dublin, I felt as if I had stumbled upon Manhattan during rush hour. I left my sea legs onboard and I headed out for a night of merriment before returning to the California city life I know and love.