We were up early this morning, around 6.45am. Looking out of our window, we could see that the Borealis was slowly making her way up the Belfast Lough to her berth for today. The sky was dull and grey, and a brisk wind blew a few spots of rain against the glass.
We got washed and dressed and went up to the self-service Lido restaurant for breakfast. As tonight was formal night, we spotted the ice buckets containing bottles of cava for us to mix with our breakfast orange juice to make Buck’s Fizz, which is exactly what I did. A nice start to the day. 😊
Once we’d been fed and watered we returned to cabin 3326 and got our coats, hats and sturdy trainers on, made sure we had our cruise card, credit cards and phones, then made our way to the Neptune Theatre to await the call for today’s excursion to the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. The last time I’d visited this impressive landmark was in 1985, and Trevor had never been, so we were looking forward to it.
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a geological marvel consisting of over 40,000 interlocking helix-shaped basalt columns, a result of intense volcanic and geological activity going back an epic 60 million years. Much myth and folklore has come about as a result of this wonder of nature, and in a short while I’ll tell you the story of Finn McCool. 😊
In the Neptune Theatre we didn’t have long to wait until our tour was called, and we all trooped down to the gangway on Deck 1 and disembarked the Borealis. It must have been high tide because the ramp was quite steep. We proceeded through the cruise terminal and were directed to the waiting coaches outside. Once aboard, our genial guide introduced himself as Mallarkey in his rich accent and our bus set off for the 90 minute ride to our destination, soon leaving the city of Belfast behind us.
We passed through the little towns and villages and rolling green countryside, Mallarkey pointing out anything of interest. After about an hour, the coach pulled over and allowed us all off for a ‘photo opportunity’. At the edge of a cliff overlooking the restless Irish Sea we could see the ruins of an ancient edifice – the 16th/17th century Dunluce Castle. Mallarkey told us that the castle was inhabited in turn by the feuding McQuillian and MacDonnell clans. What a picturesque place! We could imagine the castle 400 years ago, a fantastic lookout over the sea with the crashing of the waves on the rocks, the wind in your hair and the cries of the wheeling gulls. Today it was raining as well as very windy, so the photos I took were not as clear as they would have been on a bright, sunny day. That’s the good old British weather for you. 😊
Back on the bus we continue on our way and soon arrived at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre. We were advised we had about one and three-quarter hours here to have a look around, so we decided to visit “the stones” (as they were referred to) first; after all, that’s what we’d come for.
The distinctive basalt columns that form the causeway were about a mile away, along a winding, undulating path along the sea. We each had audio guides and when you reached a post with a number on it, you pressed the appropriate button on your audio device and held it to your ear, like a phone, to listen to the commentary. The strong wind gusted at us and pushed us this way and that as we made our way along the path, which was steep in some parts. What an amazing, rugged landscape; wild and free, the roar of the surf in our ears. I breathed in great lungfuls of the bracing salty air, and looked about in wonder at Mother Nature. It was one of those places where you felt as if you were the only person in the world.
The landscape became more rocky and we started to see signs of the famous helix-shaped columns, like a lot of giant pencils. Some of the braver souls (including Trevor) decided to climb up onto the stones, but I stayed behind and took some great photos; it was too windy for my liking to be climbing over rocks, some of which looked wet and slippery from the gusty squalls.
Anyway, I mentioned earlier on I would tell you the tale of the giant after whom the causeway was named… As legend has it, Northern Ireland was once home to a giant named Finn McCool (also called Fionn Mac Cumhaill). When another giant – Benandonner, across the Irish Sea in Scotland – threatened Ireland, Finn retaliated by tearing up great chunks of the Antrim coastline and hurling them into the sea. The newly-created path – the Giant’s Causeway – paved a route over the sea for Finn to reach Benandonner.
However, this turns out to be a bad idea as Benandonner is a massive giant, much bigger than Finn! In order to save himself, Finn retreats to Ireland and is disguised as a baby by his quick-thinking wife. When Benandonner arrives, he sees Finn disguised as a baby and realises that if a mere baby is that big, the father must be far larger than Benandonner himself!
Following this realisation, Benandonner rushes back to Scotland, tearing away as much of the Causeway as he can in his haste to put as much distance between Ireland and himself as possible. And thus, the myth of the Giant’s Causeway was born. 😊
For anyone who has never been, it’s most definitely worth a visit. And for those who have already been, it’s worth another visit. 😊
Once we’d arrived back at the visitor centre, cold and windblown, we decided to have a small snack and a cup of coffee in the café. The queue was quite long and didn’t seem to move at all; apparently they had a “new system” which none of the three ladies gathered around the till had learnt how to use yet. Eventually we got served though, and we sat down and enjoyed our hot coffee while looking back over the photos we’d taken.
Then it was time to board the coach once again, for the one-and-a-half hour return journey to the Borealis. We arrived back at 1.30pm, just in nice time for lunch.
Dumping our bags in our cabin and divesting ourselves of our coats and hats, we hotfooted it up to the Lido restaurant where I enjoyed some cold meats and salad washed down with a glass of crisp white wine. We then enjoyed a post-luncheon power nap to make up for our early start this morning.
Afterwards we pottered around the ship for a while before it was time to start getting ready for the Captain’s Welcome Party at 5.15pm. We really love the formal evening; the time for some glitz and glamour and the chance to dress to impress. I wore a long burgundy dress with a sequinned bodice, and a matching sequinned jacket. I paired it with a distinctive Murano glass beaded necklace and a pair of killer heels. To save having to faff around with my hair which never looks good at the best of times, I donned a gorgeous platinum blonde wig, cut in an inverted bob style. Trevor looked very handsome in his dinner suit and dark blue cummerbund and bow tie and, thus attired, we proceeded along to the Neptune Theatre and bagged a seat in the front row. An attentive waitress approached with her laden tray of champagne, martini, gin and tonic and sherry, and we each took a glass of fizz.
On the stage a string trio were playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D and all around us (most of) our fellow passengers looked very elegant in their sartorial splendour. I say “most of” because there are always one or two people who flout the dress code and turn up wearing chinos and polo shirts (and that’s just the women!) 😊
Captain Victor Stoica (who was the same captain we met on the Borealis last year) came onto the stage to the strains of Anchors Aweigh! and introduced his fellow officers, as our waitress kept out glasses topped up. This is cruising – where else do you get that sort of experience? We just love it. 😊
Afterwards the Neptune Theatre slowly started to empty out as everyone made their way to the various restaurants for first-sitting dinner. Once again, we enjoyed a splendid meal in excellent company, enjoying listening to each other’s anecdotes and tales. We were almost the last ones out of the restaurant, and the waiting staff dropped subtle hints by changing the linen and setting all the tables near us with fresh glasses and cutlery. 😊
The entertainment tonight was called “Legends of Las Vegas” and featured the Borealis Show Company, who gave us a colourful, all-singing-all-dancing energetic performance. As ever, it was a great show and we enjoyed it a lot.
Then it was up to the Observatory for the trivia quiz at 10 o’clock. When we got there, we saw a familiar blast from the past, entertainment host Hubert Greaves. We’d first met Hubert on the Braemar 11 years ago when we cruised the Amazon. He was a great host who was a dab hand at playing the steel drums. We also met him on the Balmoral in 2012 when we participated in the memorable Titanic Memorial Cruise. It was lovely to see him again. 😊
We met up with our table-mates Mark and Jan, Andy and Kal and once again called our team “Three Counties”. We did worse than last night, scoring 11/15. Then we just remained in the Observatory, chatting, laughing and enjoying the cocktails until well after midnight.
Once again we slept very well, despite the obvious motion of the Borealis as she fought her way determinedly through the waves towards our next exciting destination. We had a full day at sea to look forward to tomorrow.